5 Bullshit Arguments People Make About Switching a Character's Gender/Race
A little while back I wrote an article about why I felt the next Doctor on Doctor Who needed to be female. Not why I wanted a female Doctor, but why things I had noticed in the show and in fandom demanded that a woman be given a chance in the lead role. And then I posted said article to the large Facebook fan page that I help administer to watch the arguments roll in.
There were legion. There were myriad at the very least, but they essentially boiled down to five basic, fallacious premises that seem to crop up whenever anyone talks about non-whiting, non-manning a famous character. Today, let's look at those five and explain why they're bullshit.
"The Character Has Always Been Gender/Race"
There is an actual logical fallacy named after this reasoning. It's called Appeal to Tradition, and it's utterly meaningless. There is no inherent worth in a thing being done the way it has always been done. If there were then getting a hamburger would involve a lot more than driving through McDonald's.
A side-step on this is the old adage of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". While not quite the same thing, it tends to miss a point. Long-running characters are often broken and fixed all the time. Why else would we have gold and silver ages of comics? Why else would series end and undergo rebirth? Why else would they reboot movie franchises?
What used to draw an audience 30 years ago doesn't necessarily draw a new audience now, and that's important because content creators are more interested in getting that new audience and holding them for three more decades than trying to keep you. It's just a sound investment.
Being Race/Gender is Inherent to That Character
Sometimes this is true. Steve Rogers could probably never be anything but a hayseed-looking white male. That's part of who he is. He is the symbol of what the majority of World War II-era Americans considered perfection reborn into a more complicated and diverse world. Change his gender or ethnicity and you lose a lot of what makes him endure. Likewise, changing Wonder Woman to Wonder Man would remove virtually everything that makes Diana who she is.
But these are rarer than you think. If a disillusioned Steve Rogers was replaced in the role by a black Captain America to better fit America in the 21st century it would probably work great. If you want an example that goes the other way a white Al Simmons as Spawn would probably make no difference. Hell, the only real reason to have had a black man play Falcon in Winter Soldier was because of Sam Winston's reputation as an early black superhero. His race is not really an essential part of his character as much as his status as a pal to Cap that can hold his own and help him feel the soldierly camaraderie of his past days.
You have to remember that for a very long time the people creating all these iconic characters were all for the most part white men, and because writers are all inherently lazy they made all their heroes white men like them. In almost 90 percent of the cases with a white male protagonist that's as deep as the subject of race gets in the case of someone like Superman.
This story continues on the next page.