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The Problem with Tokenism


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Lately media has been better with creating more representation for gay characters, especially in TV shows where there is more time for characters to develop and grow. However, movies and books still have issues when it comes to proper LGBT representation.
It is not so much representation that is needed but how the LGBT person in film is treated outside of it. Often times directors or writers pat themselves on the back for representation that’s barely shown and pride themselves for a job well done when they did not even do anything. It does not help that many of the supposed gay characters only have two seconds of screen time or a panning shot of them holding hands with the partner at the very corner of the screen.
One of the worst offenders in this case is J.K Rowling who claimed Dumbledore was gay after finishing Harry Potter. Her announcement that Dumbledore was gay after the books were finished and her refusal to include any gay scenes in the sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them makes it seem as though Dumbledore being gay was an afterthought. At that point it’s better to make him straight.
At the same time when there is a character that is gay the creator should not pride themselves for including a gay character. It only seems as if they are trying to be diverse for the sake of diversity.
Video game director Taro Yoko is a prime example of diversity done right. His most recent game NieR: Automata includes many gay characters. Each of these characters were written in a way that made them relevant to the story while also not writing in a way that makes their entire personality just that they are gay. In fact, the interactions between the main characters and those that are gay are played off as a ‘normal’ relationship and are not the focus of their character.
“I never intended for them to appear as special,” says Yoko in an interview from Grimoire Nier. “I’m not trying to say “Don’t discriminate” or anything like that, just “People like that exist. It’s simply the way the world works”.”
It is not hard to create a gay character. However, making a character gay for the sole purpose of trying to be diverse without giving them a proper personality is not the right way to do it. It only tokenizes them. Creators should put more effort into the gay characters that they make in their series instead of making them simply into background characters so that their movie is diverse.

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The Problem with Tokenism