Saturday, February 27, 2016

On Not Reading the Comments (Or, For Real, I Shouldn't Have)

You're not supposed to write angry. It's pretty much the first rule of writing, right after your teacher tells you that there are no rules and right before he/she lists several. Don't write angry. Doesn't mean you can't write about the things that make you angry, just that...if you're fired up in the wrong way, you'll lose your objectivity and probably make your point less effectively.

I've had waves of anger about this particular issue on and off for quite some time, the most recent of which happened maybe an hour ago. Let's see if enough time has passed.

Recently, when asked about the possibility of LGBT characters in the Star Wars universe, The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams offered his enthusiastic endorsement of the idea. Let's be clear: this wasn't an announcement of an LGBT character, nor even a statement of intent to include one on screen. Rather, it was a statement of support of the possibility of non-heterosexual characters existing. In a fictional universe.

Right away, the comments on the piece I was reading started populating with rage. I shouldn't have read the comments. Nobody should ever read the comments. But I did, so here we are.

Filtering out the blatant and purposeful homophobia, which isn't worth addressing because nobody here has time now or ever, there was a lot of this (paraphrased, because to directly quote would mean going back into the comments):

"And we should care why?"

"What does sexual preference matter, it's STAR WARS"

"Why? How often is sex a motivator in the plot? We don't know about it because it's not pertinent. Will this character blurt it out in a fight? Making sexuality a device to appease a community? Really?"

Let's take that last one first.

Open depictions of heterosexual attraction run rampant throughout the Star Wars universe and media in general. Most of us just don't think about it because it is the societal norm. Han Solo didn't blurt out, "I'm attracted to ladies," in a fight. Instead, he openly flirted with Princess Leia and then just straight up smooched her before they directly declared their romantic love for each other over the course of two movies. Message delivered. And that became a big motivator. It's still driving parts of the narrative.

So. Don't tell me character orientation shouldn't be a part of movies unless you're going to argue that every straight or straight-presenting couple's presence is superfluous to the story and should be kept out of your face.

Now, let's take the other two comments, which are branches on the same tree, as it were.

When we ask, "Why should I care," or, "What does it matter," often what we are really saying is, "I do not care," or, "This does not matter to me." And you know what? That's okay. Really. It's okay to not care about stuff when other people do, just as it's okay to like/dislike something that others feel the opposite about.

The problem lies in the attitude that, because something does not matter to you, it shouldn't matter to anybody else either.

'Cause here's the thing: the subtext of, "This does not matter to me," particularly in this scenario, is, "This is not me."

I am a not a straight person. When I get to see my orientation fairly represented in the stories I love, it means the world to me. It makes me feel a little more seen, a little more recognized. A little more understood within the framework of the world at large.

There are so many types of people in this world, all of whom are real and valid and deserving of a place in our stories - not as tokens, but as heroes and villains and leaders and lovers, because that's who we all can be.

Media representation is something that gets taken for granted by the majority of us because we are fortunate enough to see ourselves on the page and screen all the time. It's why so much confusion arises when the whiteness or straightness or maleness of anything gets questioned - what's the problem? Good stories are good stories, right? What does it matter?

It matters when that story is not, "you."

And it's beyond time we start making space for each other.

Don't tell me the idea of a Resistance pilot turning his charm on another man at the bar or two gals holding hands in the background of a scene is an impossible and ridiculous concept in a world where a wee CGI alien fondly calls a Wookiee her, "boyfriend."

Let go. Open up. Consider the fact that just because it's not about you doesn't mean it isn't important.

And take a minute to think about why you're so upset about an answer to an award season question about something that hasn't even happened yet and, hell, possibly never will.

Try being upset that it's a question that still has to be asked at all.

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