How Trump’s Fans are Proving Themselves Wrong on Representation
The fundamental conceit of this little corner of the internet is that stories can change lives. One of the primary ways they do this is by inspiring people to action. People are often inspired when they identify with a character who does something awesome and guess what, it’s easier to identify with someone that’s like you. That’s why representation matters. That’s how representation saves lives.
If you live in the same social spaces I do, the previous paragraph is taken as a given. People understand it. People know it. People try to educate and cajole and convince the creators of all the stories we read and watch to include people of color, gay folks, trans folks, and so forth. The disappointment and anger people felt when the folks behind Riverdale decided that Jughead was not going to be asexual—as he is in the comics—was palpable and so very sad. Would it have been that hard to have an asexual character? (spoiler alert, no it wouldn’t)
Of course, the world being as terrible as it is, there are those that think this is nonsense. They think representation is a stupid idea. They think calls for having more women, and women who are portrayed as real people, in video games would ruin the games. They think that having gay people or trans people in TV shows and movies is simple political correctness. In doing so, they deny the fundamental humanity of people who aren’t like them.
Many of these people are white men (like me) and many of them are fans of Donald Trump. I rather suspect that their fear of losing their privileged position, their fear of having to treat everyone else as a person is a big reason they’re fans of Trump. He says he wants to make America great again and doesn’t even bother to nudge nudge and wink wink. He’ll tell you outright that making America great means you don’t have to pretend that women and people of color and all the rest of them really deserve to be treated as people.
They think the notion of representation is nonsense.
And yet, they’re the perfect example of representation at work in the real world.
Being a Racist Douchebag Is Bad, Okay?
I’m old enough to remember when being a racist, sexist douchebag was a bad thing. I am old enough to remember when people kept their racist opinions to themselves. Sure, you had the hard core racists, the white supremecists, white nationalists, and whatever the hell they wanted to call themselves, but you didn’t often see just plain folks being racist in public. At least I didn’t, but then, I wouldn’t. I’m whiter than snow.
Nowadays, there isn’t a week that goes by without a video of a racist jackwagon making a scene in public. The most recent one I’ve seen involved a veteran speaking to his mother in spanish and getting called all the usual sort of vile names for doing so. It was embarrassing, depressing, and it won’t be the most recent example very long.
To some extent, this is a product of technology. I’m also old enough to remember when social media wasn’t a thing. Heck, I’m old enough to remember when the internet wasn’t a thing. But it’s not solely the product of our technology. Vandalism of a hateful nature and hate crimes themselves have increased significantly since the election.
That’s Representation Folks
When Donald Trump was elected, people who thought like him were encouraged to act on their thoughts and beliefs and take real actions in the real world.
They were inspired to take action by something they watched on TV.
That’s representation, folks. They’re a minority in our society and they quite rightly felt their presence wasn’t welcome in the public square so when they felt like spewing some racist garbage, they held their tongues. Now, they don’t.
That’s representation. I’m just a straight white guy, but it sure as hell looks like a textbook case of representation and it stands in direct contrast to the notion that representation doesn’t matter.
If a minority of racist, sexist assholes can be emboldened by seeing someone like themselves in the public eye, the same has to be true of minorities that aren’t inherently asinine. People of color, women, gay folks, trans folks, ace folks, disabled folks, they all deserve to have heroes in our movies and TV shows and the people that argue otherwise have proven themselves wrong.