I Wish Social Justice Would Treat Diversity in Nerd Culture Like the Power Rangers Series

By:  H.T., Podcast: Kuroi And Youth

As of right now, an Elseworld’s story is being developed about if the Joker became sane and railed a social media campaign against Batman and Bruce Wayne and called out how Gotham’s social ills could be solved more by investing in its people rather than trying to turn the town into a police state with a crazed vigilante running around.  And I agree.  One of the long pointed out observations of many Batman fans is that Bruce Wayne could solve much of Gotham’s issues if he created jobs and infrastructure for the city rather than embezzling billions in his private war on crime.

But of course, the complaint is that “Social Justice is infecting nerd culture and taking away the fun” and on some level, I can see the argument for this.  On one hand, part of the reason Gamergate still has such a strong following is that it was gamers feeling as though an agenda was being pushed in games that sought to put politics before fun in games by people who did nothing but judge games for a living or made mediocre games for a living.

At the same time, once you cut through the sensationalism and people jumping on the convenient narrative train, you realized there are real issues such as harassment of women in the industry and the fact that not enough is done to reach out to potential candidates for the gaming and tech field.  As much as that asshole who got fired from Google believes women aren’t cut out for the industry, if more was done to legitimately foster female talent for companies, he’d more than be talking out of his ass.

One of the ways the tech field is such a boy’s club is the perception that tech is only for the highly intelligent and rejected by the opposite sex.  But, In recent years, the push to normalize the teaching of coding to everyone, including young women is dispelling this myth.  And yes, some guys feel threatened.  So, they blame it all on “Social justice”.

Let me say that there are times when social justice does impede something from being better in the name of making it more socially aware.  One example is an article about how Wizards of the Coast plans to make Dungeons & Dragons more LGBT friendly.  While this is perfectly fine, this tells us nothing if at all that the game has been improved.  Speaking as a black man, I don’t mind seeing more black characters in the franchises I love, but when your promos tell me more about “Hey we got our first black _____” rather than tell me about the story, I get frustrated as this screams pandering more than treating me like a fan who would watch this either way.  But again, this goes to the nature of capitalism as it relates to advertisement.  Basically, if the advertisers can get you to buy something regardless of quality because of an outside reason, they’ll take that angle and work with it.

This goes to what I wish would happen with social justice in its fight for diversity at it relates to nerd culture:  treat it the way Power Rangers does.  The Power Rangers franchise, for 24 years has kept the cast of each season pretty diverse.  Could it improve in its representation?  Yes.  But this raises the question of who decides if something is diverse enough?

This goes to why so many nerds feel as though social justice isn’t to be taken seriously as they portray themselves to be.  When Marvel started to change out their heroes with POC, they didn’t sell it as just another change, they literally sold Sam Wilson as Captain America as the Captain that stood up for #BlackLivesMatter.  This not only assumes that this angle is popular enough to sell comics but also that enough of the fan base cares.  I won’t lie and say comic book fans are mostly apolitical, but when you take beloved characters and take them down such a divisive road that you alienate fans, one has to debate if this change was needed.  This also leads to the issue of the fans who are for these changes but don’t care that sales are down for said character’s latest book.

The issue with social justice included in nerd culture is not so much that it’s there, but that it eats away at the egalitarian values nerd culture at least TRIES to uphold.  I say try as many black nerds can attest to nerd spaces where they faced clear as day racism.  But the fact is that what is a well meaning attempt at getting franchises to show more people of a certain race, nationality, sexual orientation or gender has turned essentially into websites pumping out articles every week complaining how this popular franchise is underrepresenting a certain group, and then both sides of the debate go to war.  One side, the neckbeard Kekistans and the other  esoteric SJWs that wish for a world that literally can’t exist without lack of free will or martial law.

Which goes back to the point I made earlier:  who gets to decide if something is diverse enough?  The fact is that over time to make something diverse is good but when the focus is put increasingly on making it diverse more than keeping the show good, eventually something gives.  It’s pretty easy to have a POC or someone who is a member of the LGBT community.  But when there’s a push to get characters with highly intersecting identities to be shown on screen, eventually all the time to develop all of the characters or the narrative of the show’s story suffers a bit.  Why?  Only so much can be put into the world & the world they inhabit.  This also leads to the issue of deciding if these characters, being who they are in terms of race or sexuality or gender, are normalized in the world of this story.  Star Wars is an example of a world where gender nor race in terms of humans really matters as we see women in roles of leadership, frontline combat as spies and commandos, along with people of color having key jobs in their world.  But is this diverse enough?

Fact is, to try and figure out how to make something more diverse shouldn’t have precedence over if this is written well.  In the end, you can have a trans character in a movie without the need to make every interaction with the character serve as an exposition into their journey as a trans person.  Same with someone who’s black, or gay, or of a certain religion.  Diversity doesn’t mean these characters have to be tied solely to the thing that makes them different.

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