Discrimination sucks. Racial, sexual, intellectual, etc… it sucks. But discrimination is part of human nature. Everybody discriminates. Even the people who hate people who discriminate. They really need to pick up a history book or go to school or something. The most serious problem with discrimination, though, is the way it is applied (and how it is countered).
Should we show kindness to everyone? Yes. Do we have to like everyone? Nope. Do we have to tell everyone that we like everyone? Nope. Unless we’re super famous and want to make even more money. Doing so would be lying.
In my opinion, overrepresentation is a massive issue. It’s the way film and game industries tries to compensate the community for apparent discrimination. We’ve all seen videos where the sidekick simply has to be of African or (country-dependant) native descent. The world is swamped with videos and games like that. And we push that even further: the film industry is swamped with powerful women. Even when it doesn’t have to be. Not really sure why people advocate so strongly for leading female characters when there’s such a massive (and hooked) audience for Fifty Shades of Gray, but that’s another story altogether.
Do I have anything against African/native/female strength in film or games? Nope. What I’m against is games and film going out of their way to try and make such aspects fit. You don’t carve open a body simply to replace a functioning heart with another. Bodies go through initial rejection of the new part: “[medical science faces] problems of transplant rejection, during which the body has an immune response to the transplanted organ, possibly leading to transplant failure and the need to immediately remove the organ from the recipient”. The most obvious examples of this happening are when characters are remastered. Battlestar Galactica. Classic sci-fi series. The original TV show had a really good character named Starbuck. He was best buddies with the captain’s son, Apollo, and they went on many cool adventures together. A nice example of male comeraderie. For the new series, though, not only did Starbuck lose all of his characteristics, but he also underwent a dramatic sexual change. By some bizarre change of circumstances, Starbuck went from a cheerful, cheeky fellow to a violently aggressive young woman. Both characters are plausible and interesting in and of themselves, but neither needed to replace the other. I was devastated yesterday when I saw the trailer for Fantastic Four (2015) – Johnny is quite different. Obscenely so. In the original take (which really didn’t need patching), Chris Evans played a happy-go-lucky, cowboyesque Johnny. What was wrong with that? Purely the fact that he was white? Well, if that was what changed the character, that’s discrimination in and of itself. It’s also disappointing, because Chris Evans really did a fantastic job with that role. Sigh…
It doesn’t have to happen. Take a look at Game of Thrones – no transplant was made there. HBO usually handles fantasy very well. Does Eddard Stark’s captain of the guard come from the Carribean? Nope. If he did, a huge chunk of the story’s flavor would be lost. The cultures in George Martin’s world are largely racist. Transplanting characters for the sake of “political correctness” is a dangerous snare. I’m all for starting a story with many cultures and both genders planned in, but if we go back over a story and pick-and-replace characters purely to diversify things, that’s bad. A book where dinosaurs simply don’t exist shouldn’t add dinosaurs because a dinosaur complained of being underrepresented. (I’m not picking on Michael Crighton here.)
Oh, and the most amusing thing? People don’t need to pick on books or films or games for discrimination. There’s several million games and films to read, and there are too many books in the world to count. If you don’t like something, why discriminate against the author or studio? Go read, watch, or play something else!
In conclusion: if you want to make a story that promotes wider diversity, awesome. That’s great. But seriously, don’t just go around replacing characters in existing stories to do so. It’s way better to create a new story (yes, they do exist) than to rewrite old ones with transplanted characters. You can’t just use the same story model that perfectly fits one gender/race for everyone.