Attention Straight, White, Cis Men: This Is How You Do Representation
Hey, guys? I really like The Adventure Zone. Like a lot. And as it happens, the show is entering the final stages of its first campaign. Basically they’ve been building for two years to a massive showdown between good and evil, and given our current shitty reality, it feels like some sort of wonderful gift. If you have not binged the back catalogue yet, you still have time. The new episode drops on Thursday, and I sincerely feel like this is an important step in my adulthood.
But I’m not here just to fangirl praise all over the McElroy brothers. I’d also like to present them as examples of being decent human beings. See, even though the Brothers play a biweekly D&D game clearly set in a fantastical world far from our own, they’ve managed to acknowledge people who are not strictly white, straight, and usually men.
I know, right?
This is a feat so unimaginable, most of our favorite fantasy and history shows/movies just can’t accomplish it. Christopher Nolan figured out how to flip a goddamn semi in the middle of downtown Chicago, but putting a non-white, non-male character in Dunkirk was still beyond him. This is the power the McElroys have harnessed.
And before I go any further, I need to explicitly state that three white, straight, cis guys in their 30s should absolutely not be the speakers for people of color or the LGBT community. We need more minorities telling their own stories in basically every genre. The McElroys, for all of their wonderful traits, are not white saviors, and are not playing at it.
What they’ve done instead is offer the best response to the myriad demands of “But this is a sci-fi/fantasy/historical tale. How can I add characters that wouldn’t realistically be in this story!?” The big secret? The one this whole, gushing post has been building to? You just do it.
You introduced characters who are gay or transgender, and then you develop their personality. You know, like how you’d treat people? You acknowledge an important facet of who they are, and then you move on. Being gay is an element of who they are, it informs some of their relationships, but it isn’t the only thing about them. Trans characters have entire story lines that aren’t focused on their gender identity. And when your fandom does the heavy lifting of introducing people of color into the story (because oral storytelling as a medium usually doesn’t dictate skin color unless it’s integral to the story), you say “That drawing is pretty fucking cool,” and don’t freak the fuck out, people-who-lost-their-shit-about-Rue-and-Hermione.
Basically, we’re well past the time where characters of color or queer characters have to have a reason to be introduced. If your story manages to introduce dragons, spaceships or the entirety of the British Navy, but can’t introduce a single non-white male? Well then you’re just not using your imagination.