As a writer and lover of fictional characters, I find myself thinking about diversity a lot. When I’m watching a TV show or reading a book, I tend to think about the diversity of the characters, and wonder if there is enough diversity or if the writers could have done more to represent different kinds of people. I gravitate towards shows that have more diversity. In my own writing, I create a lot of LGBT characters and characters of different cultures with different abilities and disabilities, because I think representation is important and I think that characters are more interesting when they are unique in a lot of ways.
I mostly focus on race, gender, sexuality, and appearance when I think about diversity. I probably focus on sexuality the most, seeking out shows, books, movies, and games with LGBT characters. The main reason I do this is probably because I’m bisexual, so I’m always looking for characters that represent myself and my community. Ever since I’ve known what shipping was, I started shipping male characters with other male characters or female characters with other female characters that aren’t canonically together. Some fans hate on other fans who do this, saying that we’re being ridiculous, but I don’t understand why. Shipping is harmless and doesn’t have to match the canon.
Another thing that people tend to criticize is when a show has “too much” diversity. People often accuse writers of pandering to liberal readers/viewers because they added an LGBT character or had an already known character come out. These characters are often called “token” characters. I think that a lot of the time when people accuse writers of writing in a token minority, the character they wrote in is actually well-written and important to the plot and therefore not a token character.
I have seen a few examples of characters that were added just for the sake of adding a minority. One episode of Once Upon a Time brought in Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz as a character and put her under a sleeping spell to be woken up by true love’s kiss. She received this kiss from Red Riding Hood, a.k.a. Ruby, a character who was somewhat prominent in the first season but rarely appeared by this point. The reasons that Dorothy was a token character are that she only appeared in this one episode, and her relationship with Ruby had almost no development. The next time the show introduced an LGBT character was 2 seasons later with Alice from Wonderland. She mentions a few times that she has had a girlfriend, but her main purpose in the plot has nothing to do with her sexuality, which is why she’s a better character.
Before I start, I need to point out that I don’t think the hit TV comedy “The Office” is actually anti-gay: not even a little bit. I knew picking such a provocative title would definitely catch the eye of a casual reader, if not simply for the rage it would incur for defaming such a beloved show. “The Office” actually enjoys one of the most diverse casts that a such a popular show has had. From a gay accountant to a black executive in the company, “The Office” dips its toes into many diverse pools. How does it handle such a great amount of diversity?
The diversity of the employees at Dunder Mifflin, Scranton branch is the topic of many an episode. For example, the first episode of the third season, entitled “Gay Witch Hunt” somewhat reveals what its contents will be given the title. Oscar Martinez, a hispanic accountant at the paper company, is outed as being homosexual by Michael Scott, his boss, after Oscar complained to HR about Michael using gay slurs as a joke. The remainder of the episode has the rest of the office employees scrambling to determine how to react to this news. The ever inept Michael does about everything wrong he could in handling this information. As previously mentioned, Michael spread the news of Oscar’s sexual orientation around the office without his consent, effectively coming out of the closet for him. Not sure what having a gay coworker meant, Michael then sent his number 2, Dwight, on a mission to determine his course of action; Dwight’s uninformed ideas about gay people led him to watch gay porn because that is what Dwight’s perception of gay people was. Later in the episode, Michael called for a conference room meeting to do some damage control, in which he kissed Oscar in front of everyone else to prove he is okay with people of the homosexual persuasion. As he did this, he singled out one particularly anti-gay employee that “it doesn’t spread”.
The reactions of each employee to the news of Oscar’s homosexuality could very easily be reactions people outside of the television world would have. There are those who think it is funny, there are those who are indifferent, and then there are those who are against it wholeheartedly. However, in the end, they all realize that knowing this information about Oscar does not actually change the person that they have known for so long. He remains a valuable accountant and friend to many of his coworkers, despite what misconceptions about gay people they harbor. This theme is an incredibly common one found throughout recent media, and is definitely one we can all take to heart.
I have been a fan of Doctor Who for several years, but haven’t actually seen that many seasons, so being forced to sit down and watch the first season of the rebooted series was really nice, and stirred up a lot of emotions. I’ve never really been a hard-core fan, it was more of a family activity to watch Doctor Who. But I got into it late, during Matt Smith’s run, and have only watched a select few episodes of the seasons before him. I had only seen maybe half of an episode of season 1, so the 9th doctor was fairly new for me. As I went through the season I felt more and more attached to him, and was really sad when he regenerated, though I was also excited to see Tennant as the doctor, because I have often heard that he’s the best.
The character I love the most in the first season is Captain Jack Harkness. Bisexual and pansexual characters are hard to come by in the media even today, and bi/pan men are represented even less. So I was excited about Jack’s character right off the bat. It’s fun to see how smooth he is with everyone he meets, and he is this confident, fun character most of the time. But I also love that he cares so much about people and especially about Rose and later the doctor. He may be a rogue, but he put his life on the line multiple times to right a wrong or to save others.
You also get to see just how much he cares in episode 12, “Bad Wolf,” when the doctor and Jack believe that Rose was disintegrated. This was probably the most heart-wrenching scene in the entire season for me. I knew that she wasn’t really dead, because I knew that she was still a companion in the next season, but watching the Doctor shut down because he thinks she’s dead and it’s his fault, and similarly watching Jack scream at the programmers that they killed her and breaking down after several episodes of only really seeing his confident devil-may-care persona, it was just such a moment. I had to pause the episode to take that in while I was watching it.
I’m actually pretty sad and mad that the doctor and Rose left Jack in the last episode of the season, and it’s not addressed after that, as if we’re just supposed to be okay with it. To be fair, I don’t think Rose remembers that she brought him back to life, and the doctor has no idea. So I’m not mad at them. I guess I’m mad at the writers. But I suppose they were setting up for Torchwood, which I’m definitely going to watch. I just wish Jack was in the second season traveling with Rose and the new doctor. I read that he doesn’t return to doctor who until season three, when Martha is the companion. I’m not ready to see the look on his face when he realizes that he won’t see Rose again.
The character of Captain Jack Harkness has been a fan favorite since his debut in the episode “The Empty Child”. With his wit and flirty nature, he won the hearts of fans. So much so that he got his own spin off show, “Torchwood” in 2006 and ran until 2011, directed by none other than Russel T. Davies. The show got mixed reviews in the early showings, but soon became a fan favorite and moved up from BBC 3 to BBC 1. Even earning itself a comic series, multiple novels, and two audio dramas. In all of which, the coy captain and his small team of investigators explore and solve cases involving the extraterrestrial and human alike. Unlike Doctor Who, Torchwood is aimed at an older audience. Exploring sexuality and other adult themes throughout the series. Creating a larger audience and giving the writers more freedom.
So why is Jack such a big deal? For one he is one of the only openly LGBT characters on the show. Although we never get a true label it is obvious that Captain Jack Harkness is interested in more than just human women. On more than one occasion we see him flirting with men and women of both the same and a different species. So why do we care? While media is getting better at including gay and lesbian characters, they often times fail to include bisexual and characters that prefer not to be labeled. Therefore, the inclusion of his undefined sexuality is important to those who are questioning their sexuality and to those who already have it all figured out. As a viewer, it was very refreshing to see a character what wasn’t just gay or straight. It is important to represent those who are bisexual and don’t always see characters that they identify with on television. LGBT youth are more likely to be bullied and commit suicide. Representation matters.