Diversity in art is a good thing, but when diversity starts injecting itself into art for the sake of diversity, it starts to just look silly.
There have been numerous examples over the course of time, but some of the more egregious examples of forced diversification with different races have happened lately. For instance, a recent controversy came when the new God of War Ragnarok trailer dropped and it was seen that the Norse jötunn Angrboda, the wife of Loki, was a black girl. Someone of African origin seems a bit out of place in the midst of a story set in Norse mythology.
Naturally, people couldn’t help but speak out about it, causing GoW’s Narrative Director Matt Sophos to defend his position by calling it an “interpretation.” Fair enough. The story does involve a Greek demigod and son of Zeus as the father of Loki, but then Sophos had to go and add this in his rant in choosing to make the character of African origin instead of Scandinavian.
When addressing the accusation that doing this was a political move, Sophos affirmed that, yes, it is political.
“As a writer, your job is to tell stories that are compelling & relatable,” he said. “You bring pieces of yourself to stories and your opinions shine through. So writing is *always* political—it’s just usually only called that if the politics aren’t agreed with.”
“It’s not accurate to Norse mythology/doesn’t respect the culture.”
Hoo boy. The big one. Let me start with this:
God of War is our interpretation of mythology, not history—Norse or Greek. We tell a personal story with the backdrop of gods, Giants, etc. through our lens. 5/11
— Matt Sophos (@mattsophos) September 13, 2021
We’ll come back to that in a moment because before we move on I want to address a race swap that’s even more ridiculous.
The BBC decided to make a psychological thriller surrounding the historical figure, King Henry VIII’s second wife, Queen Anne Boleyn. For some reason, the BBC decided to make Jodie Turner-Smith, a black actress, play her in the drama. An odd choice to be sure, and one that got people questioning why such a casting choice was made.
Giving a Norse mythological figure that never truly existed black skin already didn’t make a lot of sense, but now we’re going well into the territory of laughably try-hard when we’re doing it to well-documented historical figures.
Why was the decision about Boleyn made? No one is coming forward to say why Turner-Smith was chosen, but they do like to dance around it by saying that, personality-wise, she and Boleyn are a lot alike. Okay, but you can deduce the real reason based on what they’re avoiding saying, and thing everyone else who did things like this, like Sophos, already has told us.
Let’s run with these two examples and point something out that should be obvious; this isn’t about telling a good story, it’s about pandering and point-scoring and both are equal parts insulting and racist, and not even towards white people.
Firstly, these writers and creators believe they’re racking up favor with minority groups when they do this. Why? Because the ideologically social justice-heavy groups they belong to say they are and they’re backed up by online social justice mobs who defend them. These are the same social justice mobs who claim to fight the capitalist white patriarchy from their iPhones.
They’ve convinced themselves that decreasing whiteness in popular media and handing it over to minority groups is a morally good thing to do and nothing says you’re one of the good guys like thrusting a black actor or character where it makes no sense for them to be so. It earns them praise from their social justice-laden peers.
Do minority groups actually appreciate this level of pandering, though?
The mobs definitely do and there are those out there who enjoy seeing it to be sure, but many seem to see it for what it is; using minority communities as a way to virtue signal for a sense of self-gratification.
There are tons of minority characters out there that can be built upon and have stories told about them, and there’s also the opportunity to create more characters that people will fall in love with. Instead, they lazily race-swap a character for cheap approval points. As black culture critic Eric July labeled it, it’s “sloppy seconds” and white folks giving the black community a “hand-me-down” character.
“White folks saying ‘we already developed this character for decades, merchandise is out there, generations of people have grown up understanding who this character was…now we can pass this character to you even though everybody knows the original ain’t you,” said July.
Perhaps if it was done with creative intentions in mind, this wouldn’t be such a bad thing and at least the race-swap would be an honest retelling if it had more to do with a good story, such as the story of Anne Boleyn retold through the lens of a modern setting like a corporation.
It’s just political pandering by a group of artists that think they need to play the white savior to minority communities who don’t get enough “representation” despite there being a myriad of Black, Hispanic, Asian, etc. characters to choose from.
There is no “creativity” behind it. The same people who cast Anne Boleyn as a black woman would never hire Chris Evans to play Shaka Zulu or Tom Hanks to play Martin Luther King. If they made Black Panther a white man there would be legitimate anger from fans who would, first and foremost, wonder how a character of African origin suddenly became European. We know people would get upset about a race-swapped Black Panther because someone already experimented with this concept on the internet.
Whoever made this needs to get arrested pic.twitter.com/lDDUkfzhoh
— BLURAYANGEL (@blurayangel) August 21, 2021
It’s just more using of minority communities to virtue signal and people are seeing through it. I imagine as time goes on, more and more people will see this for what it is too, including in minority communities who will begin to wonder why they haven’t touched more on actual African/African-American characters or stories and continue to get these hand-me-down race-swapped characters.
The answer to that question is equally inconvenient to the social justice community and deserves its own article. Stay tuned.