By Guest Blogger Jen Finelli
Do we see more people of color in romance, or in scifi? How about romantic sci-fi? Does it matter?
Let's hear your opinions in the comments below. It's something we need to talk about.
See, within the last few years #representationmatters, #weneeddiversebooks, and other hashtags have surged in popularity on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram as the world becomes more conscious of the need for racially egalitarian representation in media.
Showcasing people of color in fully-fleshed roles, rather than type-casting for minor roles by race, creates a social and cultural environment that’s conducive to inspiring dreams, better behavior, and kindness in everyone.
When we see people like us doing great things, our mirror neurons record that, and it's like we're practicing for doing great things ourselves.
That makes it that much easier to actually transfer that programming to our motor cortex and get greatness DONE, you know?
I’ll never forget Whoopi Goldberg’s story about the first time she saw Uhura on Star Trek, and went running to her father: “Daddy! Daddy! There’s a Black lady on TV and she ain’t no maid!”
"Science fiction has a unique power to promote representation because of its speculative nature"
Science fiction has a unique power to promote representation because of its speculative nature: sci-fi inherently asks, what if?
What if robots became indistinguishable from people? What if we develop deep space travel?
What if knights and cowboys fought with laser blasters and glowing swords, and their enemy was a terrifying black-masked asthmatic who wielded invisible fields of power?
Science fiction, more than any other genre, offers the ability to comment on the present while entertaining, because by its very nature it looks to possible futures we haven’t explored yet.
Sure, you can say as a sci-fi author myself I’m partial, but it’s a known fact that Jules Verne’s inventions inspired many of the underwater and air transportation inventions of the 19th century.
Star Trek inspired tablet computers, universal translators, and a whole slew of other cool things we have now.
In recent years, science fiction has been extensively used to comment on relationships between human beings: on the other end of the spectrum I've also seen sci-fi used to justify hatred against Asians, or imperialism. There's no questioning the power of a genre that exists by asking questions.
"I'd like to know why we don't see more people of color falling in love in science fiction."
So what if we asked more questions about our romantic relationships?
When you google science fiction and romance, there's a lot of erotica type stuff that comes up, and I remember reading about sci-fi that imagined a species with some whole quantum penis situation.
Those aren't the kinds of questions I'm talking about.
I want to ask questions relevant to how we think about love today, specifically within the context of race. And even more specifically, I'd like to know why we don't see more people of color falling in love in science fiction.
I mean, the genre has its classic pairings in film, from Han and Leia, to recent heartthrobs like The Hunger Games teeny-boppers.
It may surprise you to know this, but based on my studies of population demographics, I've discovered that peeps of European descent aren't the only humans to fall in love!
Gee golly, who woulda thunk.
" ... if our science fiction is to be truly socially scientific, shouldn't the main characters of the future be mostly Black and Hispanic?"
In fact, extrapolating current demographic trends over the next three hundred years, soon most of the people falling in love WON'T be white.
White Americans and Western Europeans have begun to population control themselves out of existence, and efforts to push this control on other races have largely failed with the death of the Malthusian demographic theory we all learned in high school.
It's a theory still flopping around there, the whole idea that we should avoid childbirth, but it's dying, and it's going to die with the populations that choose to abide by it.
The people falling in love and having babies right now are Paraguayans and folks living on the African continent. So if our science fiction is to be truly socially scientific, shouldn't the main characters of the future be mostly Black and Hispanic?
I'm being a bit digressive, transgressive, and satirical here—I have nothing against Han, or Leia, may the Force be with them. But it does seem a little ridiculous that the genre that's supposed to reflect the future fails to take basic population trends into account when predicting its protagonists.
So how does this logic translate to film?
"However you spin it, though, the fact stands: movies affect us. We wouldn't watch them if they didn't."
There was a young woman who confided in my pastor, back in college, that a terrible thing happened when she asked her long-time boyfriend about marriage.
As a Christian, she had certain ideals regarding marriage and sex, and she'd wondered why he seemed to avoid the subject. He shrugged, “Oh, we can't get married. I could never marry a Black girl.”
The rejection she felt echoed in her self-image, until she began to ask herself: was she ugly because she was Black? She didn't see people like herself as models, or as beautiful leads in film.
So Black either didn't exist or...was it ugly?
We're coming full circle back to the first paragraph here. We all know that young girls, and even grown-ass men and women, internalize the beauty standards set by romantic films.
We just like to debate about to what extent, and of course there's a chicken vs. egg situation with societal change vs. attitudes in film (which comes first?).
However you spin it, though, the fact stands: movies affect us. We wouldn't watch them if they didn't.
We feel for the characters in love, and we walk in their shoes. It's all well and good for us to feel for the white singles with chiseled jawlines and quirky girlfriends, but if we want to understand the real world its time to walk in the shoes of the young Asian married man, or the slightly overweight Black businesswoman.
Which means, quite frankly, that we need you to create romantic science fiction films and stories.
We need you to start making awesome sci-fi with fully fleshed, diverse characters who love each other.
That's a lot more work, but it makes a major long-term change. You can always get back to being a fan later.
Right now? If we want to live in a future where we all love and understand each other, we need to start writing futures where we all fall in love.
See you in the comments.
Editor's note: The 7th Matrix encourages all comments that foster civil conversation. We reserve the right to delete comments and ban users who engage in disrespectful conduct toward fellow members of the community, our staff, and guest writers.
About the author: Jen Finelli is a world-traveling sci-fi author who's ridden a motorcycle in a monsoon, escaped being locked in a German nunnery, discovered murals and poetry in underground urban caves, explored jungles and coral deserts, and hung out with everyone from dead people and prostitutes to secret political influencers and Senators. She reviews science fiction at TangentOnline.com, and she keeps a romance column at mysweetaffair.com, where you can find out all about the #blasian rom com she wrote. Yell at her on Twitter @petr3pan!