Here’s another take on the Joker from my days at Sourcerer. Enjoy, and round out your week with some well-deserved madness!
Hello, everybody! Sorry to get this one out late, but life is busy and I’m going to be falling back on previous work for the remainder of the week while I get caught up with other things. Here is my first post about the Joker from Sourcerer:
Good day, everyone! Welcome to the latest entry in my relatively new column here at the Thoughts on diversity in Nerd Culture. For today’s brief post, I wanted to point out a trend that I’ve noticed in older pieces of speculative work and leave you all with a few questions. Shall we dive right in?
The idea that fans of science fiction are, on average, more tolerant toward racial and cultural differences among their peers is an old one, though an idea I have found very little written about. In my own conversations, this is usually traced back to the original Star Trek and its first televised interracial kiss between Nichelle Nichols and William Shatner, and such episodes as the classic “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” available in its entirety on YouTube (if you have a free hour and a knowledge of what was going on in 1969 when this originally aired):
The title of this new series within the larger column on diversity is actually drawn from my experiences with Star Trek and how one can argue that learning to see humanity in colorful aliens does in fact make you more likely to see someone who doesn’t look like you as a human being. For this first part, I will look at characters with green skin.
Star Trek – the infamous Orion slave girls
This is an odd choice, I know. Given how incredibly sexualized Orion women generally are as a rule in Star Trek, it is almost baffling to realize that they hold all the power within their culture. Either way, is there ever a question that these women are intelligent, emotionally complex beings?
DC Comics – J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter
Originally a sort of Silver Age alternative to Superman, the Martian Manhunter is oftentimes the conscience of the Justice League. He has even been referred to as saintly in his moral character. He carries with him the emotional weight of hailing from a culture that destroyed itself through racial strife and warfare, and his time on Earth is spent largely in the pursuit of peace and security. It bears noting that a science fiction-themed team that lacks visible racial diversity oftentimes does include a green member, exemplified best by the Martian Manhunter (voiced perhaps purposefully in the Justice League cartoon by the great Carl Lumbly) and the next entry in this list.
Dragon Ball Z – Piccolo
The Namekian character Piccolo is a complex being who starts out as a villain but, through his own sense of honor and dignity, is changed by the respect and forgiving natures of his former enemies into one of Earth’s greatest heroes. Always portrayed as an introspective character, it is fascinating to watch the shifting of Piccolo’s moral compass as time passes.
And that is my list for today. What do you all think of it so far? What do you think of the central ideas of this week’s entry? Do you think this sort of practice in some speculative fiction to effectively trick the less tolerant into being more tolerant has merit? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below, and be sure to be on the lookout for the next entry in this column.
As many of you likely already know, Marvel announced out of nowhere that Thor is going to now be a woman. I by no means believe this is a permanent change, but I do want to talk about it and what it means, here in my first improvised post in my new column at the Thoughts.
While I am in favor of increasing and improving diversity in comics and all media, constantly switching the identities of and replacing characters is not the way to do it. There are a lot more examples of this that I will return to, but for now the matter at hand.
Have we given up on Sif? Valkyrie? Even Dani Moonstar (a Native American mutant) when she became one of Hela’s Valkyries? There are already existing female Norse-themed characters in the Marvel Universe.
Why do this instead of further developing already existing female characters? There is a wealth of them at Marvel.
Why revisit an idea that’s been tried before and didn’t really catch on? For those of you who remember the Earth X storyline from 1999, you’ll also remember that Marvel’s answer to Kingdom Come sported a female Thor, transformed by some trickery of Loki’s.
And speaking of Loki, did the female Loki (Loki possessing Sif’s body) from Straczynski’s run on Thor lead to this in some way or influence it at all? Just examining possible leads here.
And again, why get worked up over some change that won’t last past the next Avengers film? The status quo always wins in comics.
I can sort of see the strategy here, but the market doesn’t really work the way Marvel may hope it will in this instance. You can’t take the existing fanbase of a wonderful title, throw a change like this on them, and expect it to be accepted without question just for the furthering of an arguably noble cause. I doubt Thor: God of Thunder will lose a huge percentage of its readership over this, but there is still some alienation that will occur. But I trust Jason Aaron on this one so far.
And this brings us to the circular trap of identifying with a character. When you undo a male, white character so that a non-white, non-male audience can identify with him or her and then expect the white, male portion of the audience to accept the change and see the character in the same light, you’ve basically undone the reason for the change to occur to begin with. Rather, would a stronger course of action be to encourage everyone to simply try to understand someone who is different from them and move forward from there? I think that is a stronger place for creating new characters and building up existing ones.
I leave you all with these questions. Let me know your thoughts below.
An afterthought: people thinking this may be a threat to Chris Hemsworth’s role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe need to think on how much it would likely cost to pay him out of the remainder of his contract. There are also legal concerns with violating such an agreement.
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