The Adventures of The Everyday Fangirl welcomes fellow Fangirl Connie Shih as a guest blogger to talk about why representation, diversity and inclusion matters!
Take it away Connie!
Patty, thank you so much for the opportunity to write a guest today!
Why Representation, Diversity, and Inclusion Matter To Me: Having a Seat at the Table an editorial by Connie Shih
Representation, diversity, and inclusion have come to the forefront in recent years as hot topics in pop culture, fandom and society at large. They are multi-faceted, complex topics influenced by a number of factors including background, race and ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. Depending on one’s perspective, representation and diversity are either championed or derided as being too political.
In the pop culture realm, discussion and debate surrounding representation and diversity have intensified this summer with the record-breaking box office success of Wonder Woman, the announcement of Jodie Whittaker as the 13th (and first female) Doctor in Doctor Who, the diverse cast of Star Trek: Discovery, and the debut of the new Star Wars: Forces of Destiny animated shorts (with accompanying Hasbro adventure figure merchandise). Although welcomed and embraced by many, there has also been vocal and considerable pushback by some who believe that the spotlight on representation and diversity has detracted from the love of THEIR TV show or film franchise. These detractors perceive that inclusion is used to gate keep entry into fandom and franchise, and believe that representation and diversity do not matter.
In this guest editorial, I would like to provide a counterpoint to the belief that representation and diversity do not matter by sharing my story and perspective as a 42-year-old Asian-American woman with cerebral palsy who has loved the science-fiction / fantasy genre for 34 years. My intent is not to change minds, but rather invite readers to step out their own perspectives for a moment and consider things from a different point of view.
Having a Seat at the Table
Growing up in the 1980s, my two primary science-fiction / fantasy staples were Star Trek and Star Wars. I was first introduced to Star Wars as an 8-year-old with Return of the Jedi and to Star Trek as an 11-year-old with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Those two films were my entry points into both these long running franchises and in both cases I became an instant fan. The United Federation of Planets and A Galaxy Far, Far, Away captivated me and I wanted to absorb everything about them. My favorite characters from each of these franchises, at the time, were Nyota Uhura and Hikaru Sulu from Star Trek, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker from Star Wars. I was drawn to them all because I saw a bit of myself in all four characters: Uhura (female linguist and communications officer), Sulu (Asian helmsman), Princess Leia (empowering, take charge princess), and Luke (hero with unwavering belief in his father). In each of these characters, I saw a trait that I could relate to, or someone who I aspired to be.
As the Star Trek franchise continued with TV series The Next Generation, Voyager, and Deep Space Nine, my favorite characters were Dr. Beverly Crusher, Geordi La Forge, Keiko O’Brien, and Harry Kim. Once again, I saw a bit of myself represented in each of them, especially with Geordi. I think it was the first time I saw a character with a disability (blindness) in Star Trek. It was incredibly inspiring for me to watch his progress from helmsman to chief engineer of the Enterprise. All of these characters represented my seat the table.
Does that mean I didn’t like or identify with other characters within these franchises? No, of course not. In the Star Trek franchise, I liked many different characters based on their traits and story. For example, I liked Dr. McCoy for his southern gentility, wit, and sarcasm just as much as I liked Guinan for her wisdom. Seeing representation on screen added additional layers of relatability and personal investment to the story and franchise. When I do not see myself represented, I feel like an outsider looking in to a certain extent. Recently, I was struck by a quote from Dr. Mae Jemison (lifelong Star Trek fan and NASA astronaut) to Nichelle Nichols at the recent Star Trek convention in Las Vegas. Jemison thanked Nichols for being an inspiration and went on to say “You gave me and others permission to be in the room.” Think about that for a moment. Seeing Uhura on TV gave Jemison permission to be in the room. I was incredibly moved by her comment because I felt the same seeing my aforementioned favorite characters on TV and on the big screen.Bullied for Being a Fan
As much I loved Star Wars and Star Trek growing up, I mostly kept my love for Star Wars hidden from others until my mid-teens and early twenties. Why? Because I was bullied as a child (both verbally and physically) on more than one than occasion when attempting to share my love of this franchise with other kids. “You like Star Wars? You cripple. Don’t you know that Star Wars is for boys?” “Oh, you like Star Wars? Prove it. *proceeds with a litany of questions*” “Star Wars is for boys, not girls. You’re Chinese! Star Wars isn’t for you anyways. Go away!”
As a young girl, these questions stung like being swarmed by wasps. I cried myself to sleep several times. I just wanted to connect with other kids and didn’t understand why they were being so mean. My parents, bless them, tried to soothe me the best they could. They told me that I still had my imagination and the ability write and draw, so I should keep Star Wars to myself and have fun. I didn’t have Star Wars toys at the time, so I acted out scenes from Return the Jedi with my Barbie and Ken dolls, pretending they were Leia and Luke, respectively.
I also hid my love for Star Trek because there weren’t kids my age who liked it and I was already bullied for Star Wars, so why even ask? It was pointless and I did not want to be subjected to another round of heartbreak. It was not until several years later that I came out of hiding with Star Trek and Star Wars. One of my father’s work colleagues had a daughter ten years older than I. Despite our age difference, we had so many life circumstances in common including a love of Star Wars and Star Trek. I can’t tell you how genuinely happy I was to discover another girl who loved both of these franchises much as I did. The floodgates opened and we chatted for hours, talking nonstop about Luke, Leia, and Han and Sulu, Uhura, and Chekov. That was 30 years ago. We remain close friends to this day and still go to see Star Wars and Star Trek movies together. I consider her a science fiction / fantasy kindred spirit and I have her to thank for introducing me to other awesome franchises, such as Doctor Who, Babylon 5, and Stargate SG-1.
Being a Fan in the Present Day
Much has changed for the better over the past 30 years, especially for the Star Wars franchise. There are now also so many more entry points for fans of all ages to experience Star Wars across multiple mediums (film, animated series, books, comics, video games, virtual reality, and theme parks). Along those lines, I have to say it has been fantastic to witness the number of diverse characters grow exponentially, particularly with female characters. Star Wars now includes Padmé Amidala, Shmi Skywalker Lars, Rey, Ahsoka Tano, Maz Kanata, Satine Kryze, Bo Katan, Steela Gerrera, Korr Sella, Greer Sonnel, Hera Syndulla, Asajj Ventress, Sabine Wren, Ursa Wren, Norra Wexley, Shara Bey, Jyn Erso, Lyra Erso, the Nightsisters, Captain Phasma, Mother Talzin, Dr. Aphra, Ciena Ree, Rae Slone, Arihnda Pryce, Iden Versio, Rose Tico, Amilyn Holdo, and Kordi Freemaker. While their stories have been told (or will be told) in varying degrees, each of these female characters have been introduced in a medium. To say that I am thrilled is an understatement. In addition to female characters, there have been recent attempts to ethnically diversify with Finn, Poe Dameron, Saw Gerrera, Bodhi Rook, Cassian Andor, Baze Malbus, and Chirrut Îmwe. Of these characters, as a disabled Asian American, I connected to Chirrut Îmwe the most because it was refreshing to see an Asian character who wasn’t stereotypically portrayed as a villain and also overcame his blindness. There are now so many more seats at the table and I hope the trend continues because the galaxy is vast with infinite possibilities to tell stories from different perspectives.
As geekdom has become mainstream, it is easier for female fans to openly embrace their love of the science fiction / fantasy genre. While bullying and discrimination still exist, we no longer have to hide in shadows. I’m delighted there are companies and online communities such as Ashley Eckstein’s Her Universe (geek fashion) and Jamie Broadnax’s Black Girls Nerds that are thriving because they create spaces where all female fans can connect, step into the spotlight and be proud of their inner geek / nerd. There is also much more merchandise available for fans of all ages to purchase and enjoy. Collectibles, toys and games, action and adventure figures, kitchenware, bedding – all come branded with one’s favorite franchise. While the merchandise was prevalent when I was a kid, it is everywhere now. It’s a wonderful time to be a fan!
Into the Future
The futures of both Star Trek and Star Wars are bright with exciting, each with new projects on the horizon. In addition, both recently celebrated milestone anniversaries with Star Trek turning 50 last year, and Star Wars turning 40 this year. I consider both to be legacy franchises as the love for them has been generational. At the same time, we have started to see both (particularly Star Wars) evolve to reflect the society and times they reside in. As author John Knowles said, “Everything has to evolve or else it perishes.” I view representation, diversity, and inclusion (both on screen and off screen) as integral to this evolution, and believe that these three will help both Star Trek and Star Wars continue to stand the test of time. They have the potential to the present new stories to keep things fresh while still retaining the core characteristics of what makes the respective franchises appealing. Potential is the keyword because I acknowledge that representation, diversity, and inclusion alone cannot exist in a vacuum. Ideally, they should be coupled with quality storytelling that resonate with the audience and fans. This is something that the entertainment industry as a whole is currently struggling with, and is subject that is worth exploring in a separate article. Overall, representation, diversity, and inclusion DO matter to me because I believe that everyone has a voice, has the right to be in the room, and has a seat at the table.
If you have read this far, I want thank EACH of you for allowing me to share my personal perspective of why representation, diversity, and inclusion matter. I welcome all perspectives and the chance to dialogue with fellow fans. If you would like to reach out, please feel free to reach me at my twitter handle @connieshih. Live Long and Prosper and May the Force Be With You!
Some items of interest for further reading, listening, and viewing:
• Listen: Beltway Banthas podcast: Episode #36: Race, Representation, and Reconciliation
• Watch: Dave Filoni Speaks at the National Center for Women & Information Technology
• Read: Netflix Talks Diversity and Representation With #FirstTimeISawMe
• Read: Are We as Inclusive As We Believe We Are in Fan Culture?
• Read: Dear Hollywood: Five lessons we hope you learned from the success of ‘Wonder Woman’
• Read: Diversity in Movies Largely Unchanged Despite Increased Awareness, Study Finds
Connie Shih is a graduate student and teacher who loves astronomy and music, is an avid reader, and is a science fiction / fantasy nerd who loves Star Wars and Star Trek. She can be reached at her twitter handle @connieshih.
This fangirl is very saddened to hear of the passing of Leonard Nimoy.
There are many tributes to him including this fantastic one from Ian Doescher, which I just had to share!
Like so many others, Leonard Nimoy has been a part of my life and fandom for many years and in many ways.
Below are just two of them:
As Spock, he inspired me to think in a logical manner and to learn more about science and data analysis (my career).
As the host and narrator of shows like “In Search of” and “Ancient Mysteries“, he helped me to realize that there may be some mysteries still within the world or in the past that I was not even aware of.
I believe this clip from Star Trek Wrath of Khan conveys best what I want to say right now.
Basically, THANK YOU Leonard Nimoy for being a part of my life!
I leave you now with these two quotes that Leonard Nimoy as Spock would say:
“May You Live Long and Prosper”
“Boldly go where no one has gone before”
AtoZBlogChallenge Topic: Earl Grey Tea
One of my favorite teas is Earl Grey. I was introduced it as a young adult with the phrase, “Tea, Earl Grey, Hot“, spoken by the character, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Now a recent article from The Telegraph states that Earl Grey Tea has long term health benefits as well:
‘Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.’ Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the educated, sophisticated and diplomatic Starfleet Captain, knows a thing or two about perfect inter-galactic refreshment. Not only does the hero of Star Trek: The Next Generation prefer to drink this most delicately flavoured thirst-quencher in any galaxy. But now it emerges – with apologies to Picard’s old friends the Vulcans – that this bergamot infusion enables one to ‘live long [and prosper]’. For our current generation now learns that Earl Grey tea is more than just a pretty taste. The tea, served in smart households everywhere from Buckingham Palace, Downton Abbey, and even Nigella Lawson’s home (where it pops up in Earl Grey tea cakes), could also lower cholesterol levels and reduce the chance of heart disease, says new Italian research. Findings from the University of Calabria indicate that nutrients called HMGF (hydroxy methyl glutaryl flavonones), which are present in bergamot, worked just as well on the proteins which cause heart disease and ‘bad’ cholesterol as statins.
I am glad that one of my favorite fandoms not only introduced me to a great tasting tea, but one that is good for my health as well! Unfortunately, I cannot use a replicator to order a my favorite cup of Earl Grey tea, but I can order one of the versions shown below:
Officially Licensed, Star Trek, can of loose Earl Grey tea from Thinkgeek.com
Cracked.com has an interesting list of 27 Mind Blowing Statistics About Fictional Universes. I decided to share some of the Star Wars and Star Trek related info graphics from this list and provide some additional comments of my own!
Maybe physics works differently in a Galaxy Far, Far, Away and the technology replaces or compensates for these physic differences.
The quotes used in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (… “That’s no Moon! That’s a Space Station!” And “Look at the size of that thing!”) to describe the size of the Death Star, give me the impression that it was BIG! However, IMHO, anything that has a weapon that can destroy a planet is bigger, just for the scary capabilities, no matter what the actual size is!
And now we know why John Scalzi was able to write an award winning book based on this statistic !
I love to see Easter Eggs and shout outs like these and I hope the upcoming Star Wars films will include more!
Topic: Highlights in Fandom History – Beginning of June
Today, I will highlight interesting events in “fandom” history during the beginning of June (between June 1st and June 15th) for the following fandoms:
On June 4, 1977: Apple II, the 1st personal computer, goes on sale
On June 1, 1980: CNN (Cable News Network), the world’s first 24-hour television news network, makes its debut.
On June 11, 1982: ET The Extra Terrestrial, directed by Steven Spielberg, is released at the Cannes Film Festival.
On June 4, 1982: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is released in the U.S. and is credited with reviving interest in the franchise.
On June 12, 1981: Raiders Of The Lost Ark, directed by Steven Spielberg, with story idea by George Lucas and starring Harrison Ford, premieres.
On June 15, 1994: Lion King premiered in limited release.
I have accepted a challenge from Twitter User @kim_love who challenges all fangirls to answer one question a day via photos with the #FangirlPhotoADay hash tag.
The following photos answer the question for Day 5:
Question 5) 5 things your a Fangirl of!
I am a fangirl of the following 5 fandoms in alphabetical order:
A great post about being a hero in a virtual world, that can help someone be a hero in the real world. The examples used to illustrate this are from a few great episodes of Star Trek Deep Space Nine. Overall, a great blog article that I had to re-blog!
Lately I’ve been trying to pinpoint exactly why I game. Some people play for the challenge, but that’s not the draw for me. I think the reason I keep returning to games is that there are few things in life quite as satisfying as spending time in a fictional world where we are able to be heroes. That’s what children do when they play make-believe. And that’s what we adults do when we play video games… right?
This brings me to one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — and my favorite bit of Star Trek tech, the holodeck. The episode “Our Man Bashir” takes place almost entirely in a holo-program that Dr. Julian Bashir has been escaping to during all of his free time, apparently. The program casts him as a suave spy — an obvious James Bond type — taking down bad guys and getting the…
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A-Z Blog Challenge Topic: Wedding Gowns In Fandoms
I have always been interested in the wedding gowns and how they are shown in various anime, manga, science fiction and fantasy fandoms. Some of them are traditional white wedding gowns with a veil, while others are not. Below are some example of the wedding gowns that can be seen in these different fandoms:
Fandom: Star Wars
Title wedding gown from: Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Live Action Movie
Title wedding gown from: Star Wars The Courtship of Princess Leia, Expanded Universe Novel
Title Wedding Gown is from: Star Wars: Union, Expanded Universe Comic
Fandom: Sailor Moon
Title Wedding Gown is from: Sailor Moon, Anime TV Series
Title Wedding Gown is from: Sailor Moon Volume 18, Manga
Title Wedding Gown is from: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Live Action TV Series
Fandom: Rurouni Kenshin/Samurai X
Title Wedding Gown is from: Rurouni Kenshin (Samurai X): Reflection Anime OVA
Fandom: Emma: A Victorian Romance
Title Wedding Gown is from: Emma Volume 10, Manga
Fandom: Pirates of the Caribbean
Title Wedding Gown is from: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Live Action Movie
Title Wedding Gown is from: The Castle of Cagliostro, Anime Movie
Fandom: Disney Animation or Fairy Tales
Title Wedding Gown is from: The Little Mermaid, Animated Movie
Title Wedding Gown is from: Cinderella, Animated Movie
Fandom: Mobile Suit Gundam
Title Wedding Gown is from: Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny, Anime TV Series
Title Wedding Gown is from: Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Anime TV Series
Fandom: Star Trek
Title Wedding Gown is from: Star Trek Deep Space Nine Live Action TV Series
Title Wedding Gown is from: Star Trek Nemesis Live Action Movie
Fandom: Scarecrow and Mrs King
Title Wedding Gown is from: Ship of Spies, Live Action TV Series, Season 2 Episode
Yesterday, I mentioned that I did not have a five year plan or goal. I thought about this over the last 24 hours and I realized that my life over the last fife years fits the opening monologue from Star Trek. The opening monologue sets up the Enterprise’s five year mission and without me knowing it I was using this monologue as a plan or goal for my own life.
The Star Trek opening monologue is:
Her five year mission: To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before.
Now let me show you how I came to the conclusion that this was my plan or goal over the last five years that I was not aware of!
To explore strange new worlds.
Over the past couple of years I have taken excursions into the desert outside of Las Vegas and I can confirm that I have found some strange new worlds that I was unaware of. And here are some pictures of my adventures to prove it:
To seek out new life and new civilizations.
About five years ago, I took a trip to Japan and I can tell you I found new life and new civilizations that I have not seen before. Here are some pictures from this adventure:
To boldly go where no man has gone before.
I have to admit this one is a little harder to find a link, but I have attended many different types of conventions over the last five years. My adventures at these conventions are not places that “no one has gone before”, but I do “boldly go” to many of them throughout the year. Therefore, at least part of this monologue is accounted for in my past adventures. Below are some pictures of conventions I have attended over the last five years:
So, you may think that you do not have any long term goals or plans, but like me, you may have already fulfilled some of long term goals without realizing it.