How Representation Can Enhance Appeal

Whenever a work of fiction comes out that contains representation of someone other than a white cishet male, privileged fans claim that there is no reason for the character who is of a marginalized identity to be of that identity (but conveniently never raise that same question for white cishet males in the media). They will raise complaints of “forced diversity” and claim that representing underprivileged groups will somehow hurt the work in question. This is absurd.

Movies like the new Star Wars films, Black Panther, and Wonder Woman show that movies don’t have to center a white guy to be successful. Here’s the thing. Most people consume fiction and many of those people are part of at least one marginalized group. Currently, most fiction caters to privileged identities (white people, men, cis people, straight people, etc.). This means that when a work of fiction caters to a marginalized identity, it’s a breath of fresh air for people of that identity. They are given an additional reason to see that movie, read that book, etc. This isn’t a guarantee that the work will do well of course. It still has to be a good work of fiction.

An example of a work of fiction appealing to me partly because of representation would be the series Sense8. The premise is interesting on its own. It’s a high concept science fiction show about 8 people all over the world who are telepathically connected. However, the deciding factor that caused me to try it was the quality trans and queer representation. One of the main characters is a queer trans woman played by a trans actress, which isn’t something that I see happen nearly enough. Her character is portrayed very well and the challenges she faces are interesting to watch. While Sense8 is arguably not the best example of this given its premature cancellation, it did earn itself a strong enough fandom that there was a successful campaign to get a concluding movie made. I would argue that creating something with such a passionate fanbase is itself a success.

Most of the fiction I consume nowadays has either a diverse cast or a protagonist who is marginalized in some way. As a member of multiple marginalized groups, I want to see more representation outside of cishet white men. And you know what? There are lots of people like me in that regard.