I am a giant nerd. I love Star Wars, and cartoons, and comics, and video games. And one thing that I hate about modern nerd culture, is how whenever there is a movie with minority characters in it, people hate it.
I think a good recent example is with the Star Wars sequel movies. I by no means think they are good films, but the backlash that they received upon being announced, with the leads being a woman and an African American man? That was a bit much. People, especially on the right, claimed that it was some sort of “Leftist Plot” and that “The Feminists were destroying Star Wars!” They also made the claim that they always make when faced with more representation in the media: “This is Virtue Signaling!” The same thing happened when Star Trek Discovery had openly gay characters, and when Marvel Comics made Iron Man’s successor a black woman, and when Netflix made a She-Ra reboot with “Non-Feminine Characters.”
So firstly, what is virtue signaling? According to people on the right, virtue signaling is when a person or entity acts progressive, so that they look good, when they really don’t mean it. Sounds simple enough, right? When a company changes their logo during pride month, that’s virtue signaling. When Bud Weiser spends more money on a Super Bowl ad about how they donate water to disaster areas, then the cost of all the water they have donated, that’s virtue signaling. So if the definition is so clear, what is the problem? Well, the issue is that people on the right think that by merely having a female character, or an openly gay one, or a one who is a minority, a company or creator is virtue signaling. Ignore Star Trek’s openly leftist bent, and utopian socialist themes, obviously them having gay characters is just to look good. J.J. Abrams didn’t have a creative vision that he wanted to fulfil, obviously he just wanted to show off how “progressive” he is.
So I think the issue with this is obvious. We can never really know the intentions of a creator or author. For all I know, J.J. Abrams did just want to show off, without truly holding progressive ideas in his heart of hearts. But that’s the thing, I don’t know, and I never can. We never can really know the intentions of a creator, so dismissing a piece of media due to what you think the intentions are, is absurd. Not to mention that even if they don’t truly believe in what they are writing, having more representation in the media is not a bad thing. If a person goes to a protest, but doesn’t “truly” believe in its cause, they are still helping the protest.
So what about the claims of there being some insidious leftist plot? Equally bunk. When the new She-Ra Cartoon came out, people on the internet raged that “Femininity is under fire!” and “It’s not OK to be a woman anymore!” all due to the character redesigns. Suddenly, when a show has female characters that are not perfect hourglasses with huge busts, it’s a leftist plot to destroy womanhood. Personally, I think that the real intention was to show kids that it’s ok to have different body types, and to teach little girls that they have more to aspire to be than a barbie doll. But hey, maybe it’s not that the creator wanted to empower a new generation of children, maybe it’s instead that there is a massive shadowy cabal that wants to undermine the meaning of femininity and cause society to collapse, by making a progressive kids show. I think we can all see why this idea is idiotic.
The same is true for Marvel Comics. Maybe them having a black superhero is because they want to have more representation in comics to reach a wider audience. Or maybe it’s secretly because the studio has been infiltrated by an evil conspiracy that wants to destroy society by having less straight, white, male, role models for children. I think we all know which of the arguments makes more sense, and it’s not the second one.
So personally, I hope we get more representation in the media, and in nerd culture. Not because I’m part of a scheme to destroy the world as we know it, but because I love things like comics and movies. And I think more people should be able to enjoy them. It’s not some kind of plot, culture is just changing. and people should try to change with it.