February 16, 2016

Underrepresented Love?

        Back in December two generations of our geeky family, including an assortment of brothers, sisters, children, and nephews, saw “Star Wars VII” together and enjoyed it very much.  I haven’t bothered to do a review of it, but I’ll just say that I’m cautiously optimistic about this new trilogy!  I was, however, disappointed that Han and Leia hadn’t lived happily ever after in the time since “Return of the Jedi,” and that’s when it hit me.  There are now seven full-length movies in this franchise, and we have been shown only a single instance in the entire known galaxy of a happy marriage: Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru.  (It doesn’t end well for them, of course, but their relationship seems to be solid enough.)  When other groups are depicted in fiction in such disproportionately low numbers people object, and rightly so.  It’s crazy to show a universe (especially our universe) that includes only white people, or only straight people, or only one or two token women, for example.  We speak up loudly against underrepresentation in the media, tokenism, and the Smurfette syndrome, in which men come with a range of personalities, and then there’s “female,” a single adjective that consists solely in being attractive to all the other people, where people = males.  It may be an uphill battle, but the battle is underway.  There has been progress, so although there’s still a long way to go, it’s clear that somebody’s hearing the clamor.  Look at “Star Wars” in relation to race and gender: “A New Hope” includes one female and no non-white humans (as far as I can recall - there might be someone in the background somewhere), but each subsequent film includes a few more, until “The Force Awakens,” where two of our main characters are not white males.  This is great progress… But happy marriages?  After Owen and Beru’s slaughter launches Luke into his adventure at the beginning of the first Star Wars movie ever made, we never see another happy relationship on screen again.  In the neighborhood of Valentine’s Day it seems appropriate to make a fuss about this.
        Happy relationships are not a tiny, obscure minority.  They are common around the world, among every economic class, every race, in every neighborhood.  Sadly, not everyone lives in a happy relationship, of course, but everybody knows people who do.  So why is this particular demographic group so disgracefully, wildly underrepresented in fiction?  It’s true that drama requires conflict, so all sorts of conflicts are disproportionately common in fiction.  In our household we like detective stories, and I’m willing to accept that disproportionately unhappy families may be necessary in that genre to provide sufficient motives and red herrings to keep a murder mysterious.  But why can there not be solid relationships portrayed on the sidelines, at least?  And in a galaxy far far away, why should there not be more happily committed couples?  I think it’s time that champions of healthy romantic relationships step forward to demand more representation in the media!

[Pictures: Jack Sprat and His Wife, Rosie, rubber block print by AEGN, 2001;
Love Tree, linocut by Farah Shah, 2016 (Image from her Etsy shop Farah Shah).]


Mo's Stash said...

Hi Anne, I couldn't find an email for you, I would love to try and make a papercut from your jack sprat image. It was the one that led me to your blog a long time ago now. It would only be a personal project but I might want to post pictures of it to show my friends on FB. Would you have any objection? Thanks, Mo.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Hello, Mo,
Thanks for asking. Yes, I think that would be fine. If you do post it around, I'd appreciate your crediting me with the design. And if you'd like to send me a picture I'd enjoy seeing what you come up with! My email is anne(at)nydamprints.com. =)