Monday, April 30, 2012

Face off: Most Blatant Token

'Septa Token' photo (c) 2009, Lindsey B - license:

As you know one of the things we strongly believe is that inclusion is not enough.  Far too often what we see a cardboard cut outs reifying every trope possible masquerading as characters.  As they live out tropes rather than helping marginalized characters they actually hurt us because they present  prejudices and stereotypes as truth.

There are so many problems with them - not only because of the damaging tropes that these characters represent - but also because, repeatedly, this is seen as ENOUGH. When we complain about erasure, this is presented as the alternative. This is enough for the inclusion cookies - which means we’re not expected to demand more.

So, which pathetic excuse for being inclusive wins as the most blatant token?

Bonnie from The Vampire Diaries:  Bonnie is the classic White girl painted Black for the purposes of inclusion.  In the original books written by L.J Smith, the character Bonnie is White.  There is nothing about Bonnie that reflects her supposed African-American culture.  Though Bonnie is supposedly a strong Bennett witch, she exists solely to serve the protagonist Elena.  Whenever she is not need to perform said woo woo, Bonnie is thrust back into the plot box, not to be seen or heard from.  We know very little about her home life as her father is always out of town.  Her grandmother was killed in season one like the good Black witch that she was, and her mother disappeared again after being turned into a vampire.

Melissa from the Secret Circle: Oh, Melissa. Out of all of the witches, she is the one who is the least integral to the plot. In fact she’s the only witch who can actually disappear entirely for several episodes at a time - I assume she’s dumped into a plot box until she is needed, then she’s dusted off to help serve Faye, or Diana or the endlessly special Cassie. Which is, of course, all that Melissa does - serve. She has had one plot line only (the victim of a very pointless Voodoo priest) which turned her into a drug user. Other than that she serves - she’s Fay’s best friend, she’s Diana’s best friend, she’s everyone’s damn best friend. Need someone to help find a crystal? Ask Melissa to help. Need to help Diana run one of her endless parties? Call Melissa. Faye need a wingwoman? Call Melissa. Most telling of all this blatant addition is that she is the only character who seems to have no family at all. We’ve seen a grandparent and/or a parent from each of the other witches (except Jake whose parents are dead) and we don’t even know what family Melissa has left!

Magnus from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments Series:  Magnus couldn’t be more stereotypical if he was farting rainbows and unicorns.  We keep hearing that he is this great and powerful wizard and that no one should expect his services, but it seems that the moment Clary or Jace need something Magnus is on speed dial.  He hangs around to do magic when required and to parent the ever petulant, pouty Alec from time to time.  Heaven forbid we have a same sex couple as equal.  Magnus is the ultimate gay bff.  He whines about helping out, but comes through in a pinch, makes sure that he has a service to provide, and throws great parties.

Hank from Grimm. Hank had so much potential when the show began - a sidekick to Nick (well sidekicks are not ideal but he could have been more), as involved as he in all of the crimes and the increasing mysteries of the Grimm world. But as the series advanced and we got stuck on endless monster-of-the-week episodes, Hank was even sidelined as a sidekick, replaced by Eddie. He was increasingly unable to take part in the investigation because of Nick’s secret identity - but always there to do the groundwork at the beginning of the episode. Why he never questioned this, I’ll never know - didn’t he realise he was never there for the end? Didn’t he realise how much Nick was doing behind the scenes, while Hank was there, supposedly his partner, doing ground work? In the end, the most involved Hank got in the plot was as victim - who had to be saved by Nick - not a character in his own right, but a motive for Nick to act. The only storyline we had that even remotely involved him was him as a corrupt cop - and he was rescued then as well

T-Dog from the Walking Dead. Oh how we have spoken about this before. What is there even to say? If he has a speaking line in an episode it’s rare to say the least. He is the most useless, least seen man of the group, his opinion is never sought, his presence rarely noticed. We know nothing about him, he hasn’t done anything for a whole season except cut his arm (before that he was racially abused by Merle). He takes up space and is black for the camera - that’s all he is and all he does.

Hordor from Games of Thrones:  Hordor is neurologically atypical.  Game of Thrones has gone to great lengths with the character of Tyrion as far as disability goes, but it falls far short of the mark when it comes to Hordor.  Hordor’s real name is Waldor, but no one even remembers how he has come to be called Hordor, and I crack that up to the fact that he is seen as unimportant.  He is little more than a beast of burden to haul Bran from place to place.  When Hordor refuses down into the crypt in Winterfell, Bran is extremely impatient.  Basically, Hordor is expected to do what he is told.