What makes a “good” minority character?

I’ve seen a lot of buzz about this with movies like Star Wars (the new ones) and etc, and I’m just wondering what makes a good character that is in a minority group.

Is it the fact that they just happen to be X and there is a fully fleshed out and deep character to them? I think that’s what it is to me. That they are this deep and involved character who just happens to be black, Asian, etc. To me if you put the focus on the fact that they are a minority then you make them a cliche, or you make them a Mary Sue. That’s kind of why I didn’t like Rey in the force awakens, she seemed to have everything go her way. Overpowering Kylo Ren without any training was kind of the deal breaker for me. Even past male characters couldn’t do that without some level of training themselves.

I think that’s the main thing, and probably easier in a science fiction or fantasy movie built around a society that doesn’t share Earth’s ethnicities or stereotypes.

Well, Luke used the Force to thread two proton torpedoes into a two-meter-wide exhaust port after like 30 minutes of formal training, but I see your point. :slight_smile:

Also, Kylo Ren is an emotionally compromised hot mess at the best of times, and he’d just killed his father, with whom he had an exceptionally conflicted relationship. So, he wasn’t operating at 100%, either.

This gets really tricky. For instance, if you show a black guy playing basketball and an Asian doing math, you’re liable to be criticized for stereotyping. But if you try hard to show an Asian or black person doing something “other” than stereotypical roles, you’re also liable to be criticized for “tokenism” or “trying hard” to evade stereotype. Some people will claim that you are purposefully going out of your way to dodge stereotype and will be irritated by it. It’s often a no-win.

Overpowering Kylo Ren after he had been shot by Chewbacca and defeated Finn. And yet Luke Skywalker isn’t a Marty Stu even after being the one to destroy the Death Star despite the only combat experience he’s had in a flying vehicle was the Falcon.

Anyway, there are always going to be people who are unhappy no matter how you portray a character. At least in science fiction you don’t have to worry that much about not adhering to expectations. We don’t expect Finn to have the same experience as black Americans, right? I think you’re also perfectly safe having a black character who is good at basketball, football, or some other sport. Sometimes it’s okay to play with stereotypes like the scientific prowess demonstrated by the Harlem Globetrotters in Futurama.

While I don’t think you’re ever completely safe because someone will always find something “problematic,” I think you’re fairly safe by just writing characters that make sense and aren’t caricatures.

Or the other side of that where you try to cram too much in to make yourself seem progressive

Moderator Action

Since this is about character creation in works of art, let’s move this to Cafe Society (from IMHO).

I guess sci-Fi is a safer area to make it possible.

I was just reading an article about a character in Jessica Jones, season 3 (which I’m currently watching, up to episode 9) who I think is a great example of a minority character.

Jessica’s receptionist is a trans woman, played by a trans actress. But they never mention this fact in the show. She’s just…Jessica’s smart-ass receptionist. I didn’t even realize she was trans until I read the article.

That’s my definition of a “good” minority character: as **Machinaforce **said in the first post, somebody who’s a good character who happens to be gay, black, Asian, trans, whatever, but it doesn’t become their defining characteristic. Unless the show is specifically designed to be about the character’s status as a minority, I just want them to be an effective character same as everybody else.

Would it be like the aforementioned blowing up the Death Star?

Or winning your first real pod race against professional podracers? Or building that winning podracer from scrap? Or blowing up a Trade Federation battlesphere despite never having flown a spaceship before?

Why is it unbelievable when it’s Rey, and not Luke or Anikin?

She was also shown to be a highly skilled quarterstaff fighter.

Actually it was a buck and a quarter quarter staff, but don’t tell him.

Yeah, in the case of Rey’s “Mary Sue” characteristics in The Force Awakens. I don’t disagree that it seemed that she developed all of her abilities abruptly but they did show her picking up these skills along the way. She realized her Force abilities after Kylo Ren showed his, she already knew self defense and piloting from her life on the remote desert planet. Like it was said further up, nobody calls Luke a Marty Sue despite the fact that he’s some farm boy who gains the ability to do amazing things during A New Hope.

Part of it, I think, is in modern movie making tendencies – everything has to be bigger, faster, noisier, with more effects so there doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for characters to breathe and develop gradually like they did in years past.

Yeah in sci fi it the characters can be more free of cultural baggage other than what trolls impose on it, and be just the character who happened to be cast that part, even to some degree to gender (see some of the angels in Good Omens). Of course otherness and immigrant issues as issues can also be broached in the more abstract or metaphorical by using other fictional otherings …

In less fantastical fiction I think the main thing in the best cases is that the character is someone who can have their authenticity be appreciated while also highlighting how these aspects of otherness are still part of our shared humanity, strength, weaknesses, foibles, and desires, just filtered through different lenses of culture and experience.

Luke isn’t just a farmboy. He is described by Biggs as “the best bushpilot in the outrim territories”. He already has extensive flying experiance as a civilian pilot in his T-16 and spent his time hunting womp rats from it. That is the point of him comparing the trench run to hunting womp rats in Begger’s Canyon. He also balked at Han’s price because he feels that they don’t need another pilot, just a ship. He is not only using the force, he is combining it with his native skills as a pilot. All of this is established by dialog long before he does anything during the battle and does not come out of nowhere in his character development.

Kylo Ren was near death and had already fought Finn. Not sure how people miss this. They went out of their way to show how powerful Chewies bow caster was before Kylo took a gut shot from it. Rey beat a Kylo that could barely even stand before fighting Finn. And she has training, she has been on her own in a hostile environment since she was like 4.

They’re Buddhists.

OK, that was funny.

Biggs is biased

A t-16 is an airspeeder - a flying car. That doesn’t give him any combat experience. Womp rats don’t shoot back.

You seem to consider these two separate skillsets - but it’s made clear from conversation that Luke is a skilled pilot *because *the Force is strong with him (like his father). There are no “native” skills outside that to consider.

Yes, *dialog *- whereas we’re *shown *that Rey is a kick-ass hand-to-hand combatant early in the movie. What’s that saying about show vs tell?


Sulu in Star Trek- both George Takei’s version and John Cho’s version is another terrific example. Sulu is Asian, but it just doesn’t really come into play- he’s just an extremely competent character, without any silly mysticism or martial arts or anything like that.

I think the issue with Rey doesn’t have anything to do with her being a woman; it’s that she’s so astoundingly powerful despite having pretty much no training. I mean, Luke was getting zapped in the ass by the training droid on the Falcon while being tutored by Obi-Wan, but we get the impression that Rey could have just crumpled it up like a beer can without having to concentrate.

Eh, male characters get to be really, unreasonably good at whatever all the time and no one bats an eye, so I don’t see any issue this time,

I agree. I really liked the Ancient One in Doctor Strange, because the fact that she was a woman didn’t enter into it at all. She was just a ridiculously badass sorcerer, she knew it, and she didn’t apologize for it. It was refreshing. I get so tired of powerful female characters being brought down by emotional issues that male characters never have to deal with. I like well-rounded characters with flaws, but it pisses me off that so many strong women have confidence problems.