Internalize Equality by Broadening Fantasies
One of the most common arguments I hear against increasing diversity in speculative entertainment is that fans don’t want to experience stories that resemble the real world–they want to escape it. Allowing fictional worlds to be populated with anything less than the most attractive characters would work against that desire.
Of course, the collective definition of attractive tends to be white and thin. But I don’t want to talk about our society’s colossally messed up sense of attractiveness today. I’d rather focus on the restrictions we try to put on each other’s fantasies.
I’m not referring to the genre Fantasy. That is an entirely different topic. I’m talking about the fantasies that populate our minds. Fantasies that slip in and out of our lives as wishful thinking, daydreams, or (ahem) erotic stimulation.
No matter how tame or wild a fantasy is, the main character in it is always you. You might weigh ten pounds less or be a couple inches taller, but you’re still you.
So when I see speculative entertainment catering mostly to the fantasies of white men, I feel left out. I feel like my fantasies don’t matter, or that I must be messed up for having a fantasy that doesn’t involve me starving myself so that I can please a boyfriend.
I’ve always had curves. Even when I was in the best shape of my life in college, I was still had way more flesh then the scrawny women you find on magazine covers. Seeing how super-thin people are worshipped by society has always rubbed me the wrong way because people of all shapes, sizes, and colors manage to find people who think they’re beautiful. A search on my local Craigslist reveals that there were at least twenty ads for men seeking “big, beautiful women,” and those are just the ads that were posted today. More searching shows that the spectrum of people’s fantasies is much bigger than the entertainment industry leads us to believe.
If catering to the fantasies of women, minorities, and people with different sexual orientations is just too hard, couldn’t we at least broaden the fantasies produced for men so that they reflect what men actually want? Why can’t they include curvier people like me? Or women of color? Clearly, there are men out there who fantasize about them.
Having read plenty of Dan Savage’s advice column, I’ve seen how people tend to get confused when their fantasies (especially sexual ones) don’t conform to the norms perpetuated by Hollywood. Men who are attracted to bigger women tend to flay themselves into being attracted to thin girls because that’s what they’re “supposed” to do. Women who are drawn to small men convince themselves that what they really want is a hunk with watermelon-sized muscles.
I understand that there’s no way speculative entertainment can cater to every personal fantasy a fan has. The human capacity for imagination is far too vast for entertainers to accomplish that and pay their bills. But I feel that at the very least, we should acknowledge that the spectrum is bigger than what it is currently portrayed to be.
I’m sure there are geeks who would find female comic book characters with realistic proportions to be appealing. I’m sure there are geeks who would think a black Dr. Who would be hotter than a stack of pancakes. I’m sure there are geeks who would jump over the moon if they saw a transgendered character (who isn’t a stereotype) guest star on Supernatural or True Blood.
One of the most honorable goals of the geek community is our collective goal of making everyone feel welcome, and if we’re ever going to fully realize equality, I feel that we have to make room for the expression of the diverse fantasies rolling around inside our heads.
Who knows, if you give someone else’s fantasy a chance, it might become one of your own.