One of the things that was heartbreaking about going into a bookstore is that it’s Mission Impossible when it comes to finding diverse works. Rather than discovering a black Harry Potter, a gay Artemis Fowl, or a trans Katniss Everdeen, we’re subjected to the same old mediocre tropes and bigotry by cis-straight white people for cis-straight white audiences.
But when it comes to solutions, I believe in taking one’s power back. Or as the kids say, don’t talk about it, be about it.
Enter My Media Litmus Test.
I always appreciated the idea behind the Bechdel Test and I wanted to do something in that spirit that was custom fitted for me. The Media Litmus Test is a set of questions posed before I even entertain watching a television show, movie, reading a novel, a comic book, etc. Said media must meet one of the requirements, by answering yes to one of the five questions.
Question 1: Is the lead or central protagonist a person of color?
Question 2: Is the lead or central protagonist an LGBTQ?
Now if the title in question has already failed to pass the first two checks, it’s not looking good but it doesn’t mean it’s automatically eliminated. There are three saving grace questions I’ll pose then.
Question 3: Is the writing exceptional?
And by exceptional, I mean would I as a fellow writer be impressed? By exceptional, I mean is it on some Octavia Butler, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Joss Whedon, Russell T Davies, JK Rowling level of exceptional?
Question 4: Is there eye candy?
Because if the eye candy is pretty enough I might be willing to overlook a lot but there better be some smoking eye candy?
Question 5: Does this project feature Gina Torres in any shape or fashion? Because if the Goddess herself is involved, game on!
No? Nada? Then chances are I won’t be reading or tuning in.
“Oh but Denny,” many of you say, “You’re being SOOOOOOOO unreasonable?”
Am I? Am I really?
I missed the law that was passed that declared I am obligated to support any and all straight white media that passes my way. I missed the part where my personal decisions about what media I choose to view affects anyone else.
However you tell some fans why you have legitimate issues with the new regime running Doctor Who or why you think Game of Thrones is a train wreck they act like you just assaulted their first born or something.
And then when you voice how you’re sick of minorities being denigrated and erased, mofos look at you like you’ve lost your mind. Like in the 21st I’m supposed to be grateful for table scraps, of one dimensional token sidekicks and racist homophobic caricatures. I should be grateful and have faith and trust and wait for things to gradually get better. I’d be better off waiting for Godot and waiting to exhale.
But answer me this, how many straight white people do you know go out of their way to view media where they aren’t featured as the primary or central protagonists? How often do they seek out QUALITY media (and no BET and Bravo don’t count), that features POCs and LGBTQs with RESPECT? How often do you see them going out of their way to better learn about their brothers and sisters of different ethnicities and different orientations?
Exactly. Just like I thought.
There desperately needs to be more diversity in the media. While my options are immensely limited, the fact of the matter is I do have options, thanks in large part to the world wide web.
While Hollywood continues to hemorrhage money and can’t understand why most of its movies are tanking, they still have yet to figure out why series like Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl, the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers and Unwritten Rules have been a huge hit.
Keep your crappy NBC dramas, my must-see TV Thursday is reserved for Olivia Pope on the hit series Scandal. My Friday nights are with a sexy dame known as Nikita.
Keep your Nu Who, I’ve got seasons of Torchwood, the Sarah Jane Adventures, and the RTD era of Who that are not getting old anytime soon.
While some of the comics I’m reading are often to critique in how NOT to storytell, there are so many shitty titles that I’m happy I’m not reading: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, pretty much everything in Marvel. In fact the only thing I am reading and enjoying are Ultimate Spider-Man (Miles Morales), X-Factor, any Storm-centric X-Men issues (the goddess still gives me life), classic Midnighter and the vintage Cassandra Cain. And less I totally geek out, I won’t mention how much I live for Kevin Keller.
I can read high fantasy plays that feature leading queer black and Latino protagonists.
And for stuff that I want to see but is not out there yet, well, I just write and publish my own stuff.
So no, I don’t have to settle and I’m not going to settle, and I couldn’t be happier with my choices. I’m being sufficiently entertained, the art is challenging me and transcending me as art should but more than that, I’m supporting marginalized media.
If the media can’t pass one simple test, then it’s not really worth my time. And time is one resource I refuse to waste.