Diversity isn't a Four Letter Word

I decided as part of the scope and focus of the blog that I wouldn't use it to discuss political topics. So, today, instead of using recent events in Indiana as a launching point for this discussion, I will instead use this insanity from the director of the new Final Fantasy 15 video game. He says...

"Speaking honestly, an all-male party feels almost more approachable for players," Tabata told GameSpot in a recent interview. "Even the presence of one female in the group will change their behaviour, so that they'll act differently. So to give the most natural feeling, to make them feel sincere and honest, having them all the same gender made sense in that way."

I think we can safely assume that the new Final Fantasy isn't going to pass the Bechdel Test. That's pretty unfortunate, for a number of reasons.

  1. I really love Final Fantasy as a series of games. Granted, the past several (all numbered 13 coincidentally) have been moderately terrible, but I've always viewed them as really incredible story telling platforms. It's really disappointing that they are moving in this direction. The relationships between the party members always make for interesting tension and story development, particularly if there is a love story there. They are missing out on a huge opportunity here, if nothing else.
  2. This is a really unfortunate trend that continues pretty much everywhere even in the 21st century. You find it on TV, in Movies, in books, and in video games (not to mention in real life). Even the big, mega blockbusters are absolutely guilty of this. Marvel, for all its money and power, has no female lead cast anywhere, and it will still be several years before the Captain Marvel movie comes along. When the new Star Wars cast was announced initially, there was only one female cast member in the 'new' cast. Oh, and I think she might have been a princess. (Yes those are both Disney movie examples. Sorry) This has been improved upon recently by expanding the cast list.
  3. Finally, the entire point of a cast of characters is to change the behavior of your party. A story is successful IMHO because of the actions and reactions of the characters in it. I read stories almost exclusively for the character development. When the person responsible for implementing a story says he doesn't want his characters to react, I find that immensely troubling.

I recently talked about changing your perspective and why this is so critical as a writer. This applies to character as well as your setting and world building.

My novel has four primary POV characters in it. Three of those four are women. One of those three is African American. This is a stretch for me. I am neither female nor African American. I didn't do this to be able to punch my ticket and say "Yep, Diversity! Hooray!" I did it because I think these characters have something to add to the story. I think they have their own stories to tell, and because they are inherently different people than me, these aren't stories I know right off the bat. I get to grow with these characters and learn about their lives, about their challenges, and about their wants and desires. All of which are necessarily different than my own. I think that's awesome.

Because I have a gender diverse cast of characters, I get to experiment with tropes that are super over done in new and unique ways. I have a damsel in distress, except he's not a damsel. I have several super badass fighters that can absolutely throw down and hold their own without any help from anyone, and they are women. I think these things make my story stronger. I think these things make my story more honest. I think these things make me a better writer.

If you haven't tried writing outside your comfort zone, try it. Maybe you won't publish the first attempt, but seriously, try it. It's a great exercise. When you're writing your character back stories, really look at who you've got in the cast of characters. If it's a first person POV that might be tough to write from another gender. But that's ok. If you have a cast of several characters, ask yourself, what would happen if this one was a woman instead of a man? What if that one was gay, not straight? What if that one wasn't the same ethnicity as the other characters? You never know, it might make your story that much more interesting (and appealing) for yourself and your readers.