Deliberate Diversity for the Win

I just finished listening to Kieron Gillen’s recording of the “Comics Are for Everyone” Panel from the Dublin International Comics Expo. As Gillen points out in his intro, it’s a panel on diversity. Appropriately enough, the discussion ranges in a lot of different directions, all of which are worth hearing. Go. Listen.

Me, I’m going to try to focus for now. There were a couple of specific points made which dug into my brain and seemed to fit really nicely. I’m not entirely sure I can differentiate all the voices adequately, especially since it’s the first time I’ve heard most of them speak, so I’ll apologize profusely if I’ve got it wrong.

In any case, I think it’s Paul Cornell who comes out with the notion that being deliberate in one’s diversity choices isn’t something to hide. That, in fact, it’s a necessary component at present to working against one’s innate instincts against same.

And when one of the female creators on the panel (I believe it’s Emma Vieceli, but above-mentioned caveat in place) mentions that, for example, a lot of her fantasy writing when she was young had male protagonists–largely because that’s what the fantasy stories available looked like–I find it hard not to give a hale and hearty hell yes to the notion.

There’s another telling anecdote in the panel pointing out that those folks saying “character X just happens to be gay” in interviews are, in a sense, shutting down discussions of the very diversity they’re putting in their work. It’s there. Not being able to talk about it threatens to make it just as invisible as not having it in the first place.

We aren’t at a point where I can say “The doctor walked into the room” and just as many people reading that picture a black, gay woman (for example) as picture a white, straight man. And we won’t be until there are so many different kinds of folks in stories and images that our brains are as likely to select one of the former as one of the latter.

Let’s be clear: I don’t think your story has to scream and shout “Over here! Diversity!” Honestly, I’d rather it were more subtle than that, because it’s that kind of nuance that helps dig its way under the skin of our preconceived notions. Also: craft. But in order to do that, we have to think about diversity earlier rather than later. We have to consider it actively in order to implement it skillfully. And it was really exciting to hear from creators who are doing just that.

Okay, that’s only the barest scratching at the surface of the full panel, and not nearly as focused as I probably wish it were. I may come back and natter about more, depending on my ambition, but for now, do yourself a favor and listen to the whole thing. It’s absolutely worth it.

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