The Conservative Case for Diversity in Fictional Characters

Ha ha, April Fools. I’m serious.

Ok, only if we redefine our key word: “diversity.”

I don’t mean “you must include sufficient numbers of characters of each national origin and weird sexual fetish.” What kind of person would do something that trite and boring?

However, our characters shouldn’t all be alike. How they think, speak, and act should be influenced by their upbringing, even if they are from the same geographic area. Think of your high school, did the stoner dropout have the same cultural references as the clean cut jock? Of course not. Even within the military, an institution with a huge leveling effect on its members, you can tell the former cowboy from Texas from the former street kid from Brooklyn. Despite all the training designed to break them down and make them both alike, they are going to speak and act differently.

We should make this work for our story, not ignore it. “Generic big guy” can become “fifth generation military Samoan out to prove himself.” IF, AND ONLY IF, THAT MAKES SENSE IN YOUR STORY! It’s all white dudes from Kansas? Hey, good to go, run with the “soft spoken former offensive lineman, 300 lbs of beef and good nature” instead. Two generic big guys have become two entirely different characters, and will remain different (and more compelling) by recognizing what made them who they are, and writing them believably.

Does this mean writing to stereotypes? Sometimes, yeah. You don’t have to attempt to subvert or even avoid every trope, they exist for a reason. A Korean kid whose parents pushed him into med school? You don’t say. But how does he feel about it? Resentful? Or did he embrace it, and thank his parents for setting him up for success?

Many right wing authors instinctively recoil from “diversity” after having been clubbed over the head with it. But swinging too far in the other direction is a mistake. We don’t want a homogeneous grey goo culture that devours all uniqueness. Japanese culture should remain Japanese, even if they choose to adopt baseball and cheeseburgers. Texans should be free to be Texans, and New Yorkers to be New Yorkers, and Texans should get a good laugh when Brooklyn claims to make a good BBQ brisket. We don’t want our regional cultures to devolve into nothing but big box strip malls and billion dollar special effects movies, and we shouldn’t want our fictional characters to become the equivalent. Deploy culture with a purpose, use it to influence your characters’ actions and the storyline.

Everything sucks and I can prove it
Everybody dies, shuffle on, remove it
Individuals, indispensable
I’m the paradox deity vessel
…the other side holds no secret
But this side is done, I don’t need it

– Slipknot, “I Am Hated

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