Variety & Expansion
How changing the way we think of Diversity & Inclusion can help us conjure new understanding and add more originality to our stories.
Variety is about normalizing diversity.
For the purposes of creating diverse material, I think of variety as the overarching goal. There are subtle differences between our idea of "variety" and the connotations "diversity" evokes. Variety in terms of things, people, and choices that are different and distinct in character is the perspective I come from when diversifying material. Diversity, although similar, requires a preconceived standard for which to base its "difference".
In the United States, we live in a society where white is considered one of the standards, the norms, and the "centers". Using the term diversity without addressing its problematic nature robs artists of the freedom to expand outside of what they normally consider diverse. When the center of the story takes place in a community in which the majority of people are not white, how do we authentically diversify? To do this, the standard must be reexamined.
Even when the story is Euro-centric it's beneficial to step outside of that vision and consider how it is affecting character interpretation. It's difficult to separate character perspectives from Euro-centric values and experiences when you're creating from a space centered around this kind of societal standard.
In terms of character, anyone who is non-white, non-male, non-cis, non-hetero, non-able bodied, and/or non-able minded is thought of as "diverse". Again, here we compare difference to a standard, driving home the point that white skin is normal, able-bodies are expected, and male is the ideal. Using this as a default puts diverse characters into an "other" category that further separates them from the scripted world as well as from each other.
Expansion as a form of inclusion.
As I speak on diversity and inclusion, I can't help but feel that the conversation often ends with the idea that diverse characters need to make themselves at home in someone else's world. Similar to the assimilation that was expected after integration, diverse characters often find themselves needing to belong in unfamiliar communities with no room for authentic self-expression. This is a problem reflected within production teams and networks when it comes employees with various backgrounds feeling a sense of belonging. If someone cannot bring their whole self to work, they are not free to create, lead, or grow within the institution. Inclusion implies accepting someone into your world.
What if we were to expand our perspective so that it included the viewpoints of all of our characters and employees?
Often, we forget that our worldview is bias and unique to us. Expanding our frame of mind to make room for another viewpoint is key. This way, the lens through which we tell stories will open up to infinite possibilities.