Leader of the Resistance in Government
- June 15, 2017
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As already implied I went into it not knowing about the source material and unconsciously expected a more "natural" (for a lack of a better word) representation of our world, which why I noticed that basically everyone is gay/lesbian and in a mixed-race relationship.
"Never detrimental" was added because I feel lately a lot of media try to shoehorn those themes into their product and the results were less for it, but in this case it is shown and mentioned but doesn't take away from the story or acting.
I mean, let’s perhaps stick with “average” there.
Kris already made the very important point about fantasy and subculture. But I want to think out loud on the term “forced diversity” in a wider sense. Hopefully it helps to explain my point of view here, and why I commented in the first place.
Just for the sake of clarity, my interpretation of your comment was that you noticed the diversity and that the amount of diversity did not represent your own experiences in life. This did not reduce your enjoyment of the show, but it was sufficiently notable to be worth including in the review. Please do correct me if this is wrong, though.
With that being said, and while I’m sure not what you meant, one reading of the term “forced diversity”, particularly when linked to the term “natural”, is that what is “natural” is a straight relationship between people of the same race, and that a gay or mixed-race relationship is “unnatural” - and that these can only exist in media when “forced” into the narrative. The reason that I mention this, even if it wasn’t what you meant, is because I think that the term “forced diversity” (and the description of a largely straight and same-race relationships as “natural”) can carry a lot of insidious cultural elements and baggage. But, even leaving aside a more overtly unpleasant usage, the inclusion of the term “forced” is inevitably pejorative. You can’t really ever say that “forced diversity” is a compliment or positive thing. You can’t even really say it as a neutral thing. “Forced” implies, at the least, some kind of artificial or improper inclusion - the diversity did not belong there and it was wrong that it was.
So that’s the first distinction that I think is important - between “diversity” and “forced diversity”. The first is not inherently a value judgement; we can say that something had “good diversity”, “bad diversity” or simply “diversity”. But the second term is inherently a negative thing.
I also think that it’s worth toying out a distinction between a critique of “forced diversity” and “unrepresentative”. As noted above, the former carries all of the ideas that the diversity is somehow shoehorned in, improperly used or artificial. It feels inherently negative. The latter, however, can simply mean that what we’re watching doesn’t reflect everyday life. Which, as an evaluation of a TV show, can be a good thing, a bad thing or a neutral thing. It depends entirely on the show, whether it was attempting to portray itself as representative, whether being representative is actually a good thing or not in that particular context, and a million other factors. It may not be representative to have a show about American Big Law filled with Black, gay people. But shows about American Big Law are never particularly representative anyway - and would be really boring to watch if they were. So it would be accurate to call it unrepresentative, but it wouldn’t be a criticism to do so.
That’s not to say that I always think that the term, in-and-of itself, is harmful. And it’s important to recognise that diversity can be applied in harmful ways. Ignoring the existing baggage connected to the term, I can see the idea of “forced diversity” being a valid critique in some cases. To take an absurd example, imagine if someone made a historical documentary about Boris Johnson and having him be a gay, Black woman. This would add diversity, sure, but it would be very forced, since so much of what Boris Johnson did and does is tied to him being a straight, white, upper-class man. To take a more reasonable example, we could probably use the term “forced diversity” to describe American college or corporate brochures, where they round up the only two Black or gay people on campus/in the building and then put them in every other photograph, to try and pretend that there is more diversity than really exists. These are cases where the diversity has been forced, in both cases in a way that ignores or hides deep, structural inequalities.
Anyway, those are just my thoughts, and hopefully they explain my comment a bit more.