I mean how am I supposed to feel if I see a movie set in the future and there aren’t any black or brown people in it? How is a child supposed to feel? It’s like someone’s saying, “I don’t like you and I don’t want you to be here, so I’m creating a world where you don’t exist.”
That’s a comment in the discussion of this fantastic post on Racialicious – NOCs (Nerds of Color) – a comment that sums up the basic problem of representations (or rather, the lack of them) of marginalised bodies in science fiction. Marginalised bodies are hardly represented in sci-fi at all unless they are a fetishised token marking a step along the hero’s journey.
It made me think too about the lack of representations of people with disabilites and of the blue and pink collar working classes in most future worlds, replaced by worlds filled with robots and “replicators” instead of an exploited human underclass and where disabilities are just tech-magicked away. Then my thoughts moved on from sci-fi to what we see in popular culture generally, where movies and bookcovers are literally whitewashed when they are based on the lives of people of colour, or how most movies continue to be made with character roles for many men of various physical types (the hero, his wingman, the geek, the funny fat guy, the weedy rogue) but just one eyecandy role for one kickarse babe.
Women’s bodies, of course, are the most frequently fetishised token representation in popular culture, in fact so frequently tokenised that people mistake the tokens for the actuality and resent women characters who do not fit the fetish. (There’s also some great comments on the Racialicious thread from WOC nerds and how they find themselves treated almost like mythical creatures in the nerd/geek community.)
At the core, all these fictional worlds are saying: “I don’t like you and I don’t want you to be here, so I’m creating a world where you don’t exist”. That’s not just refusing to be PC. That’s blatant exclusion.