Diversity, Discernment, and Doritos

The title of this post is not a trick. It will actually involve Doritos. Not tangible, edible Doritos, but theoretical ones which are philosophically relevant and still quite delicious. (In theory, at least.)

Normally, I try to steer clear of internet controversy. There’s enough of it going around these days without me adding fuel to the inferno. And I don’t intend to fire up any heated debates now. (Take note, commenters.) But given various recent events in the realm of film and geekery, I believe now is an appropriate time to gently poke the Giant Rainbow-Hued Bear of Diversity and Political Correctness.

*shrug* It had to happen sometime.

In the last few weeks, diversity has been an even bigger deal than usual, which is saying a lot. First, director Bill Condon decided to announce that the character of LeFou in the Beauty and the Beast remake would be gay—a choice which he, his employers, the news media, the film’s cast, several foreign governments, and the rest of humanity quickly came to regret. Then, actress Pearl Mackie revealed that her character on the upcoming season of Doctor Who, new companion Bill Potts, would also be gay. Hordes of delighted commenters took the opportunity to use the “It’s about time!!!” pun as frequently as possible, while everyone else struggled to remember the last time Steven Moffat created a straight female Doctor Who character. Finally, Marvel Comics’ vice president of sales David Gabriel announced that their recent push for diversity had hurt their sales. This annoyed Marvel higher-ups, since the Tumblr-wide apoplexy which followed Gabriel’s comments distracted from their big announcement that Peter Parker would be replaced as Spider Man by a neo-pagan gender-non-binary potted plant. (Look for All-New, All-Different, All-Pagan, No-Pronouns Spider-Plant #1.00000 at your local comic book store.)

There are more examples, of course, like the belated, twenty-three-hour-long I’m-With-Her ad that is Supergirl Season 2, but space prohibits me from delving further.

My views on each of these controversies vary. I’m at a loss to explain why Disney thought anyone cared about LeFou’s orientation. I guess that’s 2017 for you. I tend to agree with reviewers who suggested that the innuendos in Beauty and the Beast would have made less of an impact had Condon simply kept his mouth shut. (Full disclosure: I have not seen the film for myself yet.) Homosexuality in Doctor Who certainly doesn’t shock or surprise me. It seems odd that this is being trumpeted as a big milestone for the show—after Captain Jack and Madame Vastra, I’d have assumed Doctor Who owed nothing more to political correctness. I can only hope Series 10 will put plot over politics for the most part, but as Doctor Who is far from a Christian show, I don’t expect it to follow the same philosophies that I do in my own writing. Marvel has been so rabidly political for so long that I’m surprised anyone from the company was willing to admit what everyone else has known for years about the cause of their drop in sales. Their recent works stand as a lesson in how not to handle diversity: avoid bludgeoning your readers with it on every page.

I love Doctor Who, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about media discernment for Christians. I only recommend the show once I’ve established that the person I’m talking to doesn’t think I stand behind every message it teaches. And ultimately, each individual should make their own decisions regarding media discernment, with prayer and careful consideration. This is especially true when children are involved. As an adult without kids, I choose to watch and read certain things which present philosophies or lifestyles I disagree with, but that doesn’t mean I think someone else is wrong for choosing not to. (And believe me, there is a long list of things I won’t watch or read.)

So where do I stand on the topic of diversity? In order to answer that question, we have to sort out what’s under the umbrella of that word.

Diversity of races and cultures?

I’m all for it. You’ll see it over time in my Beaumont and Beasley series as I continue to explore the books’ fairy-tale-based universe.

Strong female characters?

Absolutely. Lady Cordelia Beaumont, the female lead of my debut novel, has been praised as a strong female character, and I will continue to represent layered, complex women as the series progresses. That said, I’m also a big believer in writing strong male role models, as men are all too often dismissed as selfish, sex-obsessed pigs in modern fiction.

Diversity of religions?

I’m a conservative Christian, but that doesn’t mean all my characters have to be as well. Nick Beasley, the male lead of The Beast of Talesend, is an atheist (for now). Cordelia is an agnostic. Future books will explore multiple religions besides the counterpart to Christianity that exists in the Afterlands. I enjoy writing characters with varying worldviews.

Diversity of sexuality?

My views on sexuality are defined by the Bible, and the Bible is very clear that sex and marriage should be between one man and one woman. It’s also clear that gender lines are distinct and should not be crossed or blurred. As a Christian, I can’t and won’t promote lifestyles which God has deemed spiritually harmful. So LGBT characters will never feature in any of my stories.

To those who object to this view, citing a lack of diversity, I must respectfully ask—doesn’t diversity, by definition, include opposing views? Are conservative Christians not part of the diversity you claim to uphold? Because if they are barred from the table, then those who call for them to be silent are the ones contradicting diversity.

I don’t hate or fear people who follow lifestyles I don’t agree with. As a Christian, I believe in showing Christ’s love to all people. But the thing about love is that sometimes it requires you to tell somebody they’re wrong.

I’ll leave you with this analogy. Suppose you had a friend who, for some bizarre reason, believed with all his heart that Doritos were lethally poisonous. You’d probably think he was crazy, or at least misguided. Now, suppose he saw you reaching for a Dorito to munch on…and didn’t stop you.

Would you say, “That was very loving of you! I really respect you for having enough tolerance and respect for my point of view to not tell me I shouldn’t eat this Dorito!”

On the contrary, you’d probably wonder why your friend didn’t mind letting you eat something he believed would kill you. In fact, you might even start to wonder if he was your friend at all. The wackiness of his beliefs, from your point of view, would be irrelevant in this scenario. The real question would be whether your friend truly loved you or not.

You might think believing in the Bible is crazy. But given that I do believe in it, can you truly fault me for not promoting things that the Bible says are harmful?

Diversity implies dissent. Love implies truth. Diversity without dissent is not diversity—it’s just stifling, Orwellian homogeneity. Love without truth is not love—it’s fear of offense masquerading as politeness.

We, as conservative Christian storytellers, belong to the full spectrum of diversity. And so long as we remain civil and gracious in our dialogue, we do not deserve to be silenced. We accept that the world is full of people who disagree with us, and we seek to be respectful to those who hold opposing views. Is it unreasonable for us to ask that we be shown the same courtesy?

Thank you. I’ll get off this soapbox now. Man, I’m hungry. I wonder if there are any Doritos left…

Comments (10)

  1. Daley Downing April 4, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    This is indeed a very hot button topic these days. There are a few things where I disagree with you – but I won’t start on where, since I don’t think it matters, because I wholeheartedly agree with your view that you should be able to hold thoughts or ideals that may not jive with someone else’s. And I definitely feel you when you mentioned that people who only want to hear from those who agree with them are in fact shutting down the diversity discussion themselves.

    As a parent, there are certain things that I don’t want my kids exposed to, that other parents would disagree with me and let their kids watch/read/whatever without concern. But what bothers me more is that my kids may only be exposed to one viewpoint on particular issues when they’re in society. I don’t consider it acceptable – in a civilized culture – for my son to be told that he should/shouldn’t believe this or that, especially when the issue is subjective (religious beliefs is a big example). And also, I’m trying to teach him that you can be friends with someone and love them and not agree with everything they believe in or think. All I ask is that others show him the same respect.

    • Kyle April 5, 2017 at 5:28 pm

      Thank you! Yeah, respect is what I try to push for above everything else. That’s why I generally avoid getting into big debates with people about these subjects–not because I’m afraid to address them, but because such arguments tend to bring out the worst in people (myself included). Contrary to Sesame-Street cliches, we don’t all have to agree with each other (or even like each other). But I think we can at least treat each other with civility.

      • Daley Downing April 5, 2017 at 5:48 pm

        Civility is what really clinches it for me. When a book/show/movie really pushes only one side of anything in your face, I don’t consider that civil at all, and that’s when I opt out.

        • Kyle April 6, 2017 at 12:04 am

          Absolutely. I’m willing to listen to anyone (or read an author) who wants to present an alternate point of view in a polite, considerate manner. But when they start talking as if I HAVE to accept their worldview, and insist that it’s the only one that’s even on the table, I’m done.

  2. Kate April 4, 2017 at 10:50 pm

    So, I had a reply, but it was getting really long and rambly and pointless, so let me just say that, as a Christian and writer, I really appreciate this post. I’m still working out how to draw the line between “[sin] exists and I acknowledge that it’s part of the world” and “I’m endorsing [sin] by including it in my story”, so it’s great to see how someone else approaches the issue.

    • Kyle April 5, 2017 at 5:23 pm

      Thank you! I’m very happy you liked it. The issue still gives me headaches, and I kind of hate posting about it because I’m never sure how my thoughts will be received (even among Christians), but I felt like now was an opportune time to make a few comments.

    • Daley Downing April 5, 2017 at 5:46 pm

      Kate, I think you’ve hit the crux of the biscuit, as they say. There’s a *huge* difference between including sin and endorsing it. If you include sin in your story and explain that there are consequences for it, that the character needed to do something stupid to achieve growth, then that’s good storytelling. Especially since it’s realistic. I often have my characters make mistakes, to demonstrate that they’re not perfect and that’s okay, that there might be consequences they don’t like for their actions, and the power of forgiveness and personal growth.

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  4. Arielle Bailey May 17, 2017 at 5:22 am

    Well said, Kyle, well said. Also, on-point snark. 🙂

    I agree, I think that the most important thing to have when navigating the morass of any of these issues is respect, plain and simple. I may not agree with someone’s views, I may be convinced that they are wrong, I may even feel the need to talk to them about it, but the key is to remain respectful because they’re humans, too, and created by the same God I serve. He loves them as much as He loves me and one way I show that love is to remember that we’re all equal before Him and I’m not better than they are just because I know or believe the truth in one area and they don’t yet.

    Good post!

    • Kyle May 17, 2017 at 8:14 pm

      Thanks, Arielle! 😀 Glad to hear you liked it! And I agree; respect is definitely the most important thing to maintain in these interactions.

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