We Are The Media We Consume
Lately I’ve made it a point to only read books or comics, watch television or movies, or play video games that prominently feature women in some way.
This is harder than it looks and I’m not the only one trying something like it.
It’s easiest with books, and even comics are seeing a surge in the diversity of their writers. I’ve got a huge stack of books with all women authors waiting for me to pick them up, ranging from nonfiction to urban fantasy. (Now if I only had the time to read them.)
Then there’s film and video games, and I start having to settle for just having a compelling female character in the cast. Most television shows leave a lot to be desired in the writer’s room. Film can be even worse, perfectly summed up by this year’s #OscarsSoWhite movement.
I’m not saying men cannot write stories for women, but it definitely is harder to find ones that do it well. Writers like Anthony Burch for the Borderlands series constantly talks about learning from his own work and aiming for inclusivity. DONTNOD Entertainment has consistently pushed stories that focus on women like Remember Me and Life is Strange. The directors for the Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the upcoming Civil War have probably handled the lone female lead, Black Widow, the best of all other Marvel films she’s appeared in.
The trick with all of this is that I have to be proactive in the media I consume. What I see advertised to me rarely lines up with this goal. Games like Call of Duty barely attempt to engage their players past point and shoot, and Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate finally features a playable female character alongside the default male. (Syndicate is not their first Assassin’s Creed to feature such a thing, but Liberation and Chronicles are not considered part of their main line-up.) Meanwhile, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel gave you the stock choices to play as one of two women, a cyborg man, or a robot.
Comic books are improving all the time. Kate Leth’s work on Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat! is a story by women for women and whoever else feels like reading it. Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Bitch Planet is making waves in all directions in the name of non-compliant women, and more importantly, provides feminist discourse in its back pages. The comics industry is having a period of being aware that what some publishers are doing is promoting diverse modes of thought without making a big deal of it. (Key word: some.) It’s a really great time to be a girl and be into comics these days.
What it comes down to is this, I have options. I have these options because people have been fighting for their voices to be heard, and the written word is a powerful thing. I have books to read and video games to play because someone out there listened to what their fans had to say and decided to do more than the default.
The very act of choosing what media I consume has the power to shape the future of what media is then produced, and the more people who pick and choose the medium will help shape the future faster.