This is me asking a question. It is a question that I don’t have an answer to. I know which way I lean, but I’m not sure that is the right way. Is there even a correct way to lean on this issue? Maybe, but I suppose I should actually explain what I am wondering about.
I am a fan of storytelling in a variety of formats. If you have spent more than five seconds on the homepage of this site you can probably tell that comic books hold a special place in my heart. I love ’em. But comic books have their problems. On of these is the issue of representation. People of color, LGBT, women. These are groups that tend to not only under-represented but often-times very poorly represented. That needs to change, and I think it is safe to say that it is changing. Creators and companies alike are aware that there is an issue that needs to be addressed not only in press releases but in the pages of the comics themselves. Is the problem solved? No. Of course not. But it is getting better. And I am all for greater inclusion, greater diversity in comics, in television, in movies, in story-telling. That is not my question.
My question started forming when I noticed a trend both in comments and in articles on websites concerning comics. There seems to be an existing feeling out there that for greater diversity in the product, the creators also need to be more diverse. And I agree with that as well. There are a host of different cultures, identities and beliefs in this little world of ours and I can only imagine how those different perspectives would result in different, and interesting varieties of art. It is shake-my-head a shame that it seems to be that a majority of those allowed to be creators in the English speaking world are white men. There shouldn’t be a color and anatomy test to determine whether or not someone has the chops to be an artist. Steps need to be taken to give the same opportunities to all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, there needs to be the possibility of becoming a creator. And I think there is a movement towards this mindset.
We are getting closer to my real question.
The trend comes from another trend I’ve noticed on those same internet locations as above. There seems to be a further belief that for a strong woman character, a female creator is needed. For a character of color, you need a creator of color. That is where I start to waver. I can see the point. Write what you know. But, at the same time, it gives me pause. That creators have to be similar in creation to what they are creating rings false. Can that experience be useful? No doubt. Is it necessary? It seems that some people think so. But that belief gives me pause.
I don’t like the idea that a certain gender or a certain ethnicity is a requirement for writing a character well. And that sentiment is out there. But is there any real difference in the notion that a woman will write a better Wonder Woman than in believing a man will write a better Batman? Aren’t both ideas limiting and insulting?
Maybe they aren’t. Maybe I am just being sensitive. I could understand that. I am a straight, white male. It is very possible that what smacks of prioritizing aspects of the creator is in fact a way of providing greater opportunity to a greater pool of artists. But then I think of the recent column on a major comic book website that (among other points I do totally agree with) basically said women creators are going to creator better stories with female protagonists than men. And it gives me pause. Not because of the suggestion that certain women can do things better than certain women. That barely merits a “well, d’uh.” I’m troubled by the idea that creator’s gender can be a way a determining the strength of that creator’s art. Or that it can be used to determine what that creator would be better suited for. That goes not only for gender, but also for sexuality and ethnicity.
So, that’s my question. Do those aspects of a creator matter? I know that experience informs art. But is that what determines quality?
I don’t like articles that fish for comments. But, honestly, this is a topic that I am curious about. I do want to know what other people think. I want to have that discussion.