They’re a minority for a reason.
This is a phrase I’ve heard time and time again, flung between fandoms and Twitter handles and Tumblr users in disdain; it’s a phrase that has sickened hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people (yes, there are people behind these computer screens) which makes me believe that this isn’t a game of Chinese Whispers. Somebody had the idiocy to utter those words. At first, I was cynical somebody could even say something as audacious and inconsiderate as that. Surely even if there is a bit of a problem with the ‘human decency’ side of someone’s brain, a phrase as offensive and ignorant as that cannot pass from brain to mouth. And yet it has, because the exact phrase has been uttered over and over, with understandably disgusted and appalled reactions to the phrase—for good reason!
I’m a minority. I am a minority in more than one sense, and I like to think that I matter to people in some way or another. Talking in terms of media, I am still a minority. My ethnicity is hugely underrepresented, as is my sexuality—and when ‘represented’, it’s often badly so or used for comic relief. What I think people have misconstrued, lately, is that minority does not equal LGBTQ. Minorities include men and women of color (that’s not just black men and women, but Hispanic, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian…the list is endless), individuals with disabilities (mental and physical disorders), individuals with varying religious beliefs, and individuals who do not fit the Hollywood frame of skinny, long-legged and blonde.
You may ask: why do you care about minorities so much? They’re called ‘minorities’ because they’re in the minority, so why are people making such a huge fuss about them?
I may retort, slightly bitterly, that there are nearly seven billion people in this world. A minority does not mean a group of ten gay people, or a meeting of six chronic pain sufferers in wheelchairs. Minorities may be the collective umbrella term, but minorities can manifest in numbers up to thousands, or hundreds of thousands—and still be in the minority. Minorities can be supported by those who aren’t, those who have the heart to consider them, those who understand what good representation is on media—and I guess that’s why this is so important to me, as a minority myself.
I confess, whilst television is not in a vacuum anymore, I do still watch television with a level of detachment. I very rarely get too attached to a character, and thus when representation dies—I’m upset, but I get over it pretty quickly. But that’s just me. I will take the cases I know most about, and the show that has kicked up the most controversy (though I endeavor not to ignore the recent ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘The Vampire Diaries’ disasters): The 100.
In three episodes (do I count episode eight as an episode?), The 100, in its unfortunate shock-value way (i.e. shock value for the sake of shock value to a point where it is really, really, really, really not shocking anymore) committed child slaughter (whilst they were sleeping. It appears cowardly genocidal tyrants like killing masses of people in their sleep on this show), killed a lesbian in a frame-for-frame comparison to Willow and Tara from Buffy (though I confess Mr. Whedon is a good writer) and also executed from point-blank range, a peace-seeking, loving, innocent black man, Lincoln, in one of the most graphic scenes I’ve ever seen on any channel. It took the phrase ‘torture porn’ to the next level—because that’s all it was, and it was disgusting.
Not that I want to see massacres of sleeping innocents on my television (or really this show at all, but gif-makers—you’re quick!) but I find it worrying how this season things took a heavy, racial, minority-aimed step into the dark abyss of no-hope. In episode five, the massacre of the three hundred Grounders wasn’t shown; in the recent episode, Ontari was not shown killing the Nightbloods (alright, I don’t want to see those innocent kids die—and I guess it was for ‘shock value’ because nobody guessed Ontari would kill those Nightbloods, right?). The Hakeldama one is most prominent in my mind. Led primarily by Pike and his gullible sidekick Bellamy, they mass-murdered three-hundred innocents. Only the aftermath—the field of the dead, very brief flashes of about two bodies, and a slow-motion entrance into Arkadia for the genocidal monsters was shown. I don’t know what this show implicates, in writing a scene that way—the same as when they shot Lexa straight after she’d consummated her relationship with Clarke. Maybe they didn’t want viewers seeing fan-favorites do an awful (that’s too kind—this is genocide—crimes that dictators and terrorists commit) thing, so it’s a little easier on the redemption arc when the tears and manpain starts.
It’s not enough. What happened on that field is by every single definition a war-crime and whether you like it or not, one of the war-criminals was Bellamy Blake, shooting to death sleeping Grounders with his rifle. The 100 won’t put Bellamy Blake through the Nuremberg trials. That’s a little too harsh—I mean, the genocide-committer’s a good boy at heart, isn’t he? It shames me to say this because I enjoyed his character up until this season, where his character’s 360 was the weakest, his ‘redemption arc’ nonsensically atrocious, his story-lines horrific and bland—and it hurts, because I did like Bellamy. But when every—single—critic absolutely loathes that story and thus him now; when even the esteemed Ms. Mo Ryan says on the Televerse podcast she can’t even face him as a character—you know you’ve assassinated that character. I’ll never truly understand the appeal of a ‘bad boy’ versus, you know, a decent and peace-seeking man but Bellamy’s not a ‘bad boy’. He is an irredeemable war-criminal with innocent Grounder blood on his hands—perhaps he’s too far gone, now, and any attempt to bring him back will just be laughable. Every single critic I’ve seen has ridiculed a potential redemption arc for this—this isn’t slapping someone in the face. This is genocide. I can’t emphasize that enough because I need to put real weight behind that word. Even when Clarke visited, Bellamy—a grown man—shouted and reminded an eighteen year old girl of everything she’d done, put all the blame on her because his poor twenty-three year old heart couldn’t handle it. A grown man reduced a teenager to tears, and then handcuffed her to be taken to Pike. There’s a worrying trend or I guess double-standard of audiences enjoying ‘bad boys’ suddenly doing one good thing and thus becoming amazing, whereas the badass Clarke—if she’s not physically fighting, but rather politically and cleverly fighting, i.e. using her brain—is seen as either useless for her political scheming in Polis or boring. Either way, it’s gone too far. When that decision is made, and the war-like (ethnic cleansing) execution of the black man is the source of such torture porn (who cares, right? But you can’t watch a white boy* commit genocide because we need to redeem him later) then it’s too far. When suicide hotlines need to be posted, it’s too far. When Lincoln’s only real screen-time this season involved a little with Octavia, then mostly inside a prison cell, and then getting executed—the implications are clear, and it’s—too—far.
This is my first article in which I will say that this next paragraph may trigger some of you (I apologize—and I also understand if you skip to the next paragraph or this article altogether), because when that episode aired, I confess—I didn’t watch it—but soon videos and gifs were being spawned on Twitter, and I saw the scene in its entirety. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. A black man, imprisoned all season long for doing no harm except being different—i.e. fall victim to a xenophobic tyrant—sacrificed himself to save Kane and allow for his escape whilst bravely condemning himself to his fate. The heroism of Lincoln’s actions and his burgeoning, enduring love for Octavia, his girlfriend, will not be forgotten—but neither will his death scene. It wasn’t shocking as much as it was depressing. In fact, the only thing that startled me, quite frankly, from this repulsive show is that Lincoln didn’t fall like a rag doll into a pit of freshly-dug mass graves like the horrors of Romanian and Serbian laborer camps—he fell into a muddy pond instead.
Why am I talking about The 100 again, when I’ve made it pretty clear I couldn’t care less for the show nor its lack of quality? I speak of The 100 because of the very real effects it’s had on real human beings: they are the individuals I care about. All over my Twitter I had horrified teenagers speaking of triggers and suicide—again—following Lexa’s death by mere weeks. E4, the broadcaster that airs the show in the UK, have done excellent jobs in providing viewers with warnings before the show airs that some viewers may find scenes distressing, and at the end of the program (E4 does this on principle—not just for The 100) they provide a helpful list of hotlines and websites in case anybody needs to seek urgent help for what they’ve just witnessed on-screen.
I’ve heard plenty of excuses (seriously, why?) too. One angered me: one compared the show to some American town (Detroit, I think it was) where gun crime is rife and minorities are killed aplenty. I argue the case that The 100 is set in a post-apocalyptic future where the ‘groundbreaking’ show-runner already stated factors like race and sexuality were nullified—so why compare real-life events to very fictional ones? Hasn’t the show-runner already smugly distinguished his world from the real one? Indeed, should it not be one television’s primary aims to offer escapism and hope in a world very deprived of it?
Recently there have been terrorist attacks in Pakistan, Brussels and Turkey; there continue to be attacks in Syria and bomb strikes; there’s a surging terrorist epidemic and under-reported massacres across Northern Africa. There is the existence of Donald Trump. There are people living with chronic, fatal lifelong conditions, battling each day. There are addicts spiraling into an endless abyss. There are young children diagnosed with rare forms of terminal cancer. There’s one suicide every forty seconds. There are LGBTQ teens being bullied both physically and verbally; both in real-life and online. There are people of color everywhere being harassed—again, physically and verbally, both real-life and online—for the color of their skin, the slant of their eyes, their religious beliefs and practices. It’s a dark world for hundreds of thousands of people and if you are in a position of privilege where you are blissfully ignorant of this, then I pity you and I implore that you read on it; that you be kind. If you are in a position of privilege and you simply don’t care, then I pity you for your inconsiderate nature and heartlessness. If you’re in a position of privilege and you contribute to such insults, bullying and petty behaviors in order to discriminate against these minorities even further—I only have the greatest sorrow for the hollowness of your soul, because I cannot imagine anyone with a heart that has the audacity to do such a thing.
Other excuses have ranged from “well, they’re a minority, so why should they be overly represented?”—and my answer to you would be that they aren’t overly represented, if at all, and that’s one of the biggest problems. My other part of the answer would be what you define representation as. Do you define it as simply sticking a token Asian on-screen? Or do you define representation as a good, realistic, down-to-earth portrayal of that minority?
Some may say: “well, I’ve been picked at by a minority so why should they deserve my time?”—and my answer would be: are you really that desperate to generalize an entire population for a few bad eggs, to masquerade your hatred? If I was hassled or bullied by a white person—and I have been—that doesn’t mean I hate every single white person on this planet. Quite the opposite! I have strong opinions on fascist regimes—I’ll plunder for the popular ones—such as Hitler, Mao and Mussolini—but do I hate every German, Chinese and Italian person for it? No! I shall not hold any person associated with that race accountable for a few’s actions—just as the concept of holding an entire community responsible for the actions of a few is an incredulous, despicable, and frankly a stupid idea. Is ‘an eye for an eye’ really the only policy you can draw here? Or would you prefer it if I proposed this: block or mute—or whatever you do on social media—for a few. And consider how many LGBTQ people there are on this planet. Consider how many POCs there are. Out of nearly seven billion.
Out of an impassioned piece on my anger and distaste of this issue, I do offer some things I wish not to do. First of all, my number one stance is to never tell anybody how they should feel. This includes people who quite simply tell others to “get over it”—be it over a fictional death or, will you believe it, real ones. Whatever you grieve for and however long, and however it may affect you—I shan’t have the pretentiousness to dictate that. You must consider that for as many minorities there are individuals who have co-morbidities such as anxiety and depression; grieving times and severity varies over this wildly heterogeneous population. Perhaps you don’t understand, and that’s fine—it really is—but please, I beg, for their sake, do not be inconsiderate and rude. It takes more effort and more of your energy to be hateful and spiteful than it does to simply be quiet or offer quick condolences.
I also do not wish to speak for all minorities. That, I hope, is obvious. As a minority of many myself, I can speak from individual experiences but as each of you on this planet is precious and different and unique—I cannot speak for your experiences. I cannot speak for the young lesbian teen still struggling to come out of the closet; I cannot speak for the Hispanic suffering of autism; I cannot speak for the black thirty-year old man in a primarily white neighborhood. Yes, those are scenarios I plucked out of my head—but the point is, is that we are so diverse on this planet. We are surrounded by a sea of color and love that is varied and bright. Why is that something that isn’t celebrated, but rather crushed upon? Bullied for?
I’ve seen teenagers getting bullied or getting into arguments with grown men and women about this issue. I’ve seen people accuse others of using the word ‘minority’ as a cover-up for LGBTQ. I’ve seen articles from reputable websites accusing mourning viewers of The 100 of only grieving the loss of Commander Lexa because the actress was white—and that they wouldn’t be mourning if the actress was black. I have a quick word to say on this, because clearly the journalist had perhaps not researched into the depths of why the community was angry. It barely had anything to do with the death, and nothing on the actress’ skin color; in fact, it had everything to do with the exploitation of vulnerable youth, alleged (and I think confirmed) suicides relating to the death; the year-long misleading of writers and show-runners in baiting the LGBTQ community in their supposed safe-zones by luring them into a false sense of security. And as Ms. Mo Ryan wrote here, the show-runner himself invited fans to watch the filming of the finale on the streets of Vancouver—where everyone would spot the iconic warpaint of Commander Lexa, thus throwing further oil into the already-alight pan—in a long-drawn game of trickery and masquerading so sick that it resulted in self-harm, tears, suicidal ideation and writers desperately tweeting suicide hotlines. I shan’t speak once more of how atrociously the death was handled because many articles have covered it much more eloquently than I shall, and this podcast is an excellent listen for further explanation.
In the space of about a month, there’s already been four LGBTQ deaths (three from the CW, one from AMC) and a graphic execution of a man of color (the CW…again). Again, articles have covered these deaths much more eloquently than I shall—for example, the girls from the Vampire Diaries, Denise from The Walking Dead, and Lincoln from The 100. A week or so ago, ‘MINORITIES ARE NOT DISPOSABLE‘ trended on Twitter. It was then when I saw people—grown adults, mainly—accuse teens of masquerading the word LGBTQ behind the word minority. And I have to say, with the uproar Lincoln’s death has caused on The 100, I think they’ve just been proven mightily wrong.
We know this now: TV is not just a weekly sit-down and family gathering. TV affects us in real life because people talk about it; people discuss it on social media; people get sucked into the hype and buzz. People seek escapism from their harder real lives; people seek solace in online friends; people seek online safe-spaces. Yet the Internet is a double-edged sword. It can offer both kindness and cruelty. It can offer understanding individuals, open-hearted people willing to listen—and it can offer delusional, petty bullies.
I only ask that you navigate Twitter and Tumblr and such with care (though I’m sure literally everyone’s more proficient at social media than I am) and never let those words, that you’re a minority for a reason, sink into your hearts. After all, you have very human beating hearts—same as everyone else. People may despise you for your skin color, your religion, your ethnicity, your weight…and you know what, in this world of billions, it’s easy for me to tell you to just not care about them. But I know as well as you that words hurt—that’s why people use them. That’s why insults are thrown around. That’s why hate-mail is sent. I can’t ask you to ignore all of that; I can’t ask anything of you. All I ask is that you know there are people in the Twitterverse, the Tumblrverse, the Facebookverse, the Periscopeverse—however many ‘verses there are (just not The 100’s, because you will die if you are a minority, sorry)—who care, ardently. There are people who are willing to talk and understand and reach out. There are people who empathize; who sympathize; who are rational, decent human beings. And just like minorities may never get the same representation on television as we’d like, because society has fooled itself into being progressive, bullies do not represent the general population. They represent a small percentage of cowards who dare only to attack young, vulnerable teens from behind a computer screen. If anyone has encountered such a being, then my heart goes out to you—but know that you will always be supported by the humane ones on this planet, and I think I can safely say that makes up the majority of people.
Meanwhile, I will pop on Person of Interest, in which the main male lead is permanently and chronically disabled, the male lead is never hyper-sexualized and does not do the same to others, the same-sex couple consists of a half-deaf cordial twerp and the other is a Persian badass with an Axis Personality II Disorder, and their detective on the inside is an overweight but honorable and dutiful cop. (Was that a ‘ding’? I think that was the sound of quality).
*As played by the show, in which this character’s younger sister is Octavia, and there’s been no indication with regards to Bellamy’s potential parentage. As Octavia is white (or Marie Avgeropoulos is at least half-Greek?) I would assume as siblings (certainly from the same mother) there’s nothing to warrant Filipino origin there. I’ve always fully known the actor, Bob Morley, has Filipino roots. The show, in its flashbacks with Octavia, young Bellamy was played by a white actor, Spencer Drever. I have since been assured via multiple platforms that Filipino children do not get darker as they grow older, hence the whitewashing of Bellamy Blake seems to remain a valid claim. Once more: this is not a slur on Mr. Bob Morley. I completely respect his pride of his heritage—especially coming from a minority myself, where I admittedly was not always comfortable in my own skin—and on a personal level, I wish the CW, Mr. Jason Rothenberg and the show had been willing to portray their main male lead as a man of color.
Thank you once more for reading. I understand now is a sensitive time for many, and I offer my condolences. I confess I don’t watch all the shows I’ve mentioned here but my heart does genuinely go out to anyone who’s suffered through this. Paradoxically, I find this statement uplifting and heartwarming: you are not alone. And I hope solace is found and social media used for good in this context. To end on a positive note, this smashing fundraiser has achieved over $112,000 as I write. Minorities, huh?
As ever, I’m on Twitter at @NicolaChoi or via the comments below—thank you.