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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Hollywood and Entertainment Socialism

"Give Elsa a girlfriend!"

"Have Cap and Bucky be a couple!"

"Make Link into a girl!"

These are all things that have come into mainstream consciousness (and across my news feed) over the past few months and they are all a part of what seems to be an emerging pattern in the social fabric of the entertainment industry: the idea that in order to bring equality to the representation of different social groups (whether because of gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation), established characters need to have changes made to them to identify them with said social groups.

I even saw a short video that used the example of two bowls of nuts: one very full (white, primarily male and certainly heterosexual characters) and one very small (ethnic minorities, women and LGBT characters). The argument being made was that even if you stopped adding nuts to the full bowl for awhile and only added to the mostly empty one, that it would take far too long to bring equality to the two bowls. Therefore, the only logical conclusion was that you have to take nuts from the bowl that's mostly full and put them into the empty one in order to bring more uniformity to them both.

This isn't a foreign concept; it's socialism in a nutshell. Only now instead of wealth or health benefits, we're applying the logic to the characters in our entertainment pantheon. Now I like to assume that those who support this logic have good intentions. However, there are problems with this line of thought.

For one, it takes absolutely no consideration for the feelings of those who are already invested in the characters as they are. Whatever attachments I may have for the heterosexual Captain America are brushed aside. After all, I've had my version of Captain America my whole life. What's wrong with someone else getting to enjoy him their way? It's the same argument we made as children when we wanted to play with a certain toy: "You've had it plenty! It's my turn!" While sharing is the right decision when the matter is as simple as the temporary possession of a child's toy, it's not good logic when we are talking about the social icons by which we collectively find and project our identities with. I'm sure it would be great for a married gay couple to revel in a romance between Steve Rodgers and Bucky, but millions of men like me are left explaining to our children why we can't go see the new Captain America movie.

Then people wonder why the backlash is worded "You're forcing your worldview upon me!" The answer is that, in fact, you are forcing your worldview upon me. You removed the element of choice when you decided to take something of mine and give it to someone else. In the children's example, you give the other child an equally cool and different toy to play with. If the original child complains, you can simply explain to him that he has his toy to play with. Both children have their hands on something that is uniquely theirs. At the movies, people can flock to the newest Marvel movie debuting their LGBT hero. That's cool, more power to them. I don't have to go, but I can if I so choose. Regardless, I still have my Cap movies to look forward to. If you choose to change Cap, then I'm either left at home watching a rerun of Civil War while you get to enjoy the new movie; or I go to the movies and watch a different character than the one that I grew up cherishing and end up grieving instead of enjoying the experience.

Now I'm sure that plenty of people simply don't care about my feelings. But the other problem with this is that, creatively, it's the lazy way out. It's relatively easy to retcon an existing character, especially when all cares about how jarring that change may be to the fan base is thrown out the window. It's much harder to take existing minority characters and use them better or to create new characters for minority groups to identify with. It's easier to make Link into a boy than to actually make Zelda a primary character in her own series. It's easier to make Captain America a bisexual than to have a new hero join the pantheon who was born gay (At least the pansexual crowd has the very popular Deadpool to look up to). The counter argument is sure to be that Hollywood won't or can't do that because it wouldn't sell to a mainstream audience. But if that character is done well and their story is will sell. Because history has always told us that a compelling story will always have an audience. The demand and expectation for excellence simply has to be there.

Culture would be richer as a whole if there was a wave of new stories being told from the varying perspectives our society has. Even as Christians, though we may disagree on the morality of certain things, we can benefit from knowing what the world looks like from a different point of view. But America seems to be settling for taking nuts out of someone else's bowl instead of demanding that the chef prepare some excellent new nuts for this empty bowl over here.

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