There’s really a great post (and comments) on screenwriting, films and race on the Artful Writer in reaction to a piece on Complications Ensue. I think it’s a great debate with a lot of different viewpoints being expressed. Exactly the kind of dialogue that brings forth new perspectives.
I am conscious of gender, race and sexuality in the scripts and stories I write. Tokenism usually comes across as patronising, but I try to reflect the diversity in life that I encounter. It’s that simple.
Sometimes characters turn up as white or Indian, gay or straight, and I work with them. I don’t consciously say “oh, why not make character x a certain race or sexuality”. When I need a character I go through many different permutations of what the character is meant to express. Sometimes it will be a male Microsoft wage-slave, and other times it will be a Harajuku girl.
As a woman I’m often disappointed with how my gender is portrayed in mainstream Hollywood movies. The way to change this is to write fascinating, exciting female characters in my scripts. Not just the leading gal. The small characters, the one who support the leads, or appear for a scene or two.
People (no matter what their gender, race or sexuality) are complex. Everyone has a secret inner life. This really fascinates me. I love listening to people and discovering those incongruous details that make them unique. It’s easy to consider in my above examples that the Harajuku girl might be the more interesting person, but if written properly, the whitebread programmer could be the most gripping character in a script. Those are the types of people I try to evoke in my writing.
I’m not saying I succeed all the time. But that’s what I aim for.