July 08, 2020, 11:19:48 PM

Author Topic: "Level" of Diversity in books  (Read 2150 times)

Offline Yora

Re: "Level" of Diversity in books
« Reply #15 on: November 20, 2019, 03:39:20 PM »
Having recently explored some ideas with mental problems related to magic has given me a new perspective on the idea that "historical accuracy" is a valid point for justifying low levels of diversity in stories set in historical settings or settings  strongly based on historic cultures.

I think when we're talking about diversity in media, the default concept we're instinctively think of first is ethnic diversity. Making purely an educated guess here, but I think the whole debate about diversity in media started about the consistent erasure of black people in works set in contemporary America. And because Americans are dominating the anglophone/international media community, and because this is still an ongoing issue, it has become the reference frame for all discussion about diversity in all forms of media. But when it comes to small focus fantasy settings or historical fiction, I don't think ethnic diversity is the appropriate default measuring stick for discussions about diversity in general.

I'm a white Northern European man, so I always feel comfortable with making sweeping assertions about viking stories. That it's also the reference frame of choice for white supremacists is unfortunate but in this case purely coincidental. I think this applies to all fiction set in any historic culture or a fictional culture that basically copies one.
Let's take our average, historically accurate!, medieval Norwegian village. Does it have pure ethnic homogeneity? Probably not. There's probably considerable numbers of foreign slaves. Irish, Finish, and Slavic slaves. Possibly one or two Moorish or Arabian slaves, but probably not even that. Or take medieval Poland. In addition to the Poles, you also have lots of Lithuanians, Germans, Czechs, Hungarians, and Jews. Plenty of historically accurate ethnic diversity, but they are all white. Intuitively, that doesn't satisfy our wishes for more diversity in fiction.
So you have your village were every single person is ethnically Norwegian with complete ethnic and cultural homogeneity. But that does not mean that everyone in this village is the same. Even in such a place everyone is different. Not everyone is either a brave warrior in prime condition or a silent subservient servant. There are lots of different people and even if one group of individuals has a virtual monopoly on power, they still have to interact with the other people all day, every day. The women, the children, the old, the sick, the mentally ill, the criminals, the outcasts. Even in this culturally homogeneous setting the Brave Burly Bros are just a small segment of the population. Not having any adopted Samurai or Persian warriors in this story is historically accurate. But neglecting to mention that 90% of the population exist or meaningfully affects events is not.

Just because you can argue that your chosen setting is historically accurately as white as the Oscars does not let you off the hook. That is one form of diversity that you can justifiably argue is not appropriate to the setting. But there's still a dozen other marginalized demographics which the same appeal to historical accuracy demands you have to include.
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

Offline Eclipse

  • Warning: this topic has not been posted in for at least 120 days.
  • Dragonrider
  • ***
  • Posts: 4819
  • Total likes: 2378
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: "Level" of Diversity in books
« Reply #16 on: January 15, 2020, 05:49:29 PM »
The f-f facebook group getting worked up about this. Much more civilised here 😉

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/books/2020/jan/14/stephen-king-oscars-diversity-criticism
« Last Edit: January 15, 2020, 05:58:38 PM by Eclipse »
According to some,* heroic deaths are admirable things

* Generally those who don't have to do it.Politicians and writers spring to mind

Jonathan Stroud:Ptolmy's Gate

Offline Bender

Re: "Level" of Diversity in books
« Reply #17 on: January 15, 2020, 07:02:14 PM »
Possibly controversial, but I do agree with Stephen King.

Stephen King:

Quote
“I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong,”

Responses:

 
Quote
The writer Roxane Gay tweeted that she was disappointed that King only believed in “quality from one demographic” and " It implies that diversity and quality cannot be synonymous"

Analysis from another website: "It almost seems as if King is saying that whiteness represents the default when it comes to artistic quality and that everything else is less than. But, again, it’s a confusing couple of sentences."

I see a disconnect between the tweet and the responses.

However, the fact that we do not have a high number of nominations from non-whites. This would better be addressed by picking up diverse movies that were not nominated and comparing them with the nominations to find out if this was a deliberate shunting aside or not.

I've had the same argument with colleagues on "Black Panther". Many considered it as a kind of pilot for diversity in Marvel. While I agree with this, it is also one of the worst marvel movies made till date.


« Last Edit: January 15, 2020, 07:28:42 PM by Bender »
"I shall hunt your firstborn children and laugh with glee as I tell them of your death in terrible detail, with many unpleasant adjectives!" - M-Bot

"Who needs science when you have a dragon?" - Neil DeGrasse Tyson in Sharknado 6

Offline Rostum

Re: "Level" of Diversity in books
« Reply #18 on: January 15, 2020, 07:54:54 PM »
Ahh we are back to the Equal Opportunities vs Equal Outcomes arguement.
I dare not comment being an old straight white male.

Offline Bender

Re: "Level" of Diversity in books
« Reply #19 on: January 15, 2020, 08:16:31 PM »
Ahh we are back to the Equal Opportunities vs Equal Outcomes arguement.

Actually no. I just wanted to know which acclaimed non-white movies has been missed.
"I shall hunt your firstborn children and laugh with glee as I tell them of your death in terrible detail, with many unpleasant adjectives!" - M-Bot

"Who needs science when you have a dragon?" - Neil DeGrasse Tyson in Sharknado 6

Offline Yora

Re: "Level" of Diversity in books
« Reply #20 on: January 15, 2020, 08:39:03 PM »
I think King is right insofar as there is no issue with diversity in art, but an issue with diversity in the entertainment industry.

All artists can create art, and that art needs to be judged on its artistic merits.

But getting the founding for expensive creations and access to distribution channels requires connections to the entertainment industry where relatively small group of people has massive influence that is based more around personal sympathy for the artists than the artistic merits of their works.
That's why someone like Winestein can do his things for decades with everyone grumblingly going along and keeping their mouths shut. If you want to get access to the industry, you have to be on the good side of certain people. Or be on good terms with other people who are on good terms with them and can give you a boost. When these exclusive gatekeepers have biases against certain demographics, that turns into a major problem where race, gender, and sexuality can be a much more determining factor than artistic merits.

If lots of white men get nominated for Oscars, that's not a problem with the Oscars judges. That is a problem with the movie industry giving preferred access to the resources to make movies to white men.
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

Offline cupiscent

Re: "Level" of Diversity in books
« Reply #21 on: January 16, 2020, 02:20:19 AM »
My biggest problem with King's comments is that it assumes he has seen all the art there is. Which obviously he hasn't. He can't have. No one has that kind of time. So what criteria has he used to decide which art he experiences and which he doesn't?

For most of us, we're consuming what the industry has decided we want. And that industry, as @Yora perfectly said just above, privileges white men. The point with drawing attention to the demographics of Oscar nominees is to say "why aren't we seeing the great art from non-white-male creators?"

I mean, look at what's happened to the Hugo shortlists over the past twenty years. Saying, "wait, where's the stuff from other people?" has resulted in discovering ("discovering" like James Cook discovered Australia) that there's a lot of quality being produced by those other people.


My second problem with King's remarks is the question of what "quality" means. Does it mean "this art speaks to me"? Because it's possible that art speaks to you more when it's made by someone who shares a lot of your life experiences. That doesn't mean it's better art.

Offline ScarletBea

  • Welcome party and bringer of Cake. 2nd-in-Command of the Writing Contest
  • Powers That Be
  • Big Wee Hag
  • *
  • Posts: 12161
  • Total likes: 6910
  • Gender: Female
  • Geeky Reading Introvert
    • View Profile
    • LibraryThing profile
Re: "Level" of Diversity in books
« Reply #22 on: January 16, 2020, 07:28:34 PM »
Cupiscent, I think you managed to explain what I've been struggling to identify.
I was agreeing that I look at art, appreciate art, regardless of the artist, whether they're female or male, black or white, and all the miriad groupings that people make, but I kept feeling I was missing something, which you described.

Who decides which art I can see?
Who curates museum exhibitions, publishes books, releases music? In a way, those people are the gateways, the barriers, since if art isn't shown or made available, the public won't be able to appreciate it, or not - anyway, make their own mind.
There has to be a wide enough scope of artists available to everyone, and those with the power have the greatest responsibility.
At home in the Fantasy Faction forum!

I'm "She Who Reigns Over Us All In Crimson Cheer", according to Peat!

Offline Bender

Re: "Level" of Diversity in books
« Reply #23 on: January 16, 2020, 07:40:16 PM »
Well, that's the reason it's done by a committee and not a individual. From what I can google, Academy has about 8000 members who are involved in nominations and choosing winners and it's all run by the accounting firm PwC.

Between these number of people, I presume we can get a good representation.
"I shall hunt your firstborn children and laugh with glee as I tell them of your death in terrible detail, with many unpleasant adjectives!" - M-Bot

"Who needs science when you have a dragon?" - Neil DeGrasse Tyson in Sharknado 6

Offline Rostum

Re: "Level" of Diversity in books
« Reply #24 on: January 16, 2020, 07:56:29 PM »
Also I believe (from Memory having not paid much attention to the Oscars for a decade) If Steven King Gets to vote it is only from the short list. The whole process is murky and open to abuse with studios submitting work to the long list and looking to apply as much influence as they are able to get their films onto the short list. The original idea was the organisation was so large (6000 members) and there were so many production companies it was impossible to rig. Now there are so few studios and budgets are so large I fail to see why the set up hasn't changed.

Online Peat

Re: "Level" of Diversity in books
« Reply #25 on: January 16, 2020, 09:45:28 PM »
For me...

1) King's not wrong. If you're witnessing good art, most of us don't think that much about the details of it. Kinda obvious tbh. And it doesn't speak about every aspect of art.

2) Cupiscent's kinda on the money on the things lurking around the aspects that King doesn't mention. Opportunity matters. And having art that speaks to you and your experiences matters.

3) I admittedly have big argument fatigue on this, but I don't really get the need for King to speak about this, or people to get snappy (not here) about a fairly milquetoast "I just want to talk about art" statement. This is, in the grand scheme of great art and a fairer world, small stuff. Concentrating on it takes attention away from the big stuff. All the words typed about what the Oscars were would have have been far better spent on what it could be, what could have been there.
This is the blog of Peat - http://peatlong.blogspot.co.uk/

Offline cupiscent

Re: "Level" of Diversity in books
« Reply #26 on: January 17, 2020, 02:37:43 AM »
Well, that's the reason it's done by a committee and not a individual. From what I can google, Academy has about 8000 members who are involved in nominations and choosing winners and it's all run by the accounting firm PwC.

Between these number of people, I presume we can get a good representation.

I was super curious about this, so I went and had a poke around.

Academy membership is gained by being sponsored by (two) existing members. Candidates have to have “demonstrated exceptional achievement in the field of theatrical motion pictures” to be eligible.

So yes, absolutely, it's possible for non-white-male people to get in. But they have to be not just allowed in by the existing people, not just judged for quality by the existing people, but before all that they have to be given opportunities to demonstrate that they deserve to be allowed in by the existing industry.

I'm somewhat reminded of Meryl Streep's fantastic comments on Rotten Tomatoes. A large body of contributors is no guarantee of diversity of viewpoint unless a genuine effort is made to ensure that body contains diversity of viewpoint.

Offline Rostum

Re: "Level" of Diversity in books
« Reply #27 on: January 18, 2020, 11:20:57 AM »
This from Will Gompertz at the BBC.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-51144669

I haven't seen any of these to comment, but was told Little Women was excellently acted but very preachy. It might be interesting to compare the 2018 and 2019 versions and see if anyone is making it again this year? I think this will work to its detriment as nobody needs 17 films  of the same book and it will probly lose out to something mediocre but new as bombarding the judges with yet another remake must affect a films chances eventually.