Picard Season 3

Ryujin

Legend
The problem as I see it is that some (not all) of these characters are primarily defined by being XYZ in the story, as opposed to it being part of who they are. Well-rounded characters are usually better characters.

On a separate note, are you supposed to give a poorly written character a pass because they are XYZ? Sometimes I feel like you are, and I'm having a hard time understanding it.
A poorly written character on a poorly written show gets a pass. The whole show doesn't.
 

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billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
Speaking of the Orville, and I believe it was referenced above, Charlie from season 3 was an excellent character. She was a lesbian, and that was certainly referenced, but her character arc was specifically about how she dealt with the loss of her romantic interest in regards to her feelings of anger and hatred towards Isaac and his people, ultimately leading to her coming around and forgiving Isaac and a heroic sacrifice.
I dunno, you sure her Wesley-like, prodigious understanding of higher-dimensional geometry wouldn't disqualify her as well-written among some critics around here? This is why being well-written, boring, likeable all tend to be questions of taste and opinion.
 

Ryujin

Legend
You see a lot of accusations of queer baiting because there's a brief, in-passing reference to something that indicates a character is LGBT+. For example, Sulu having a husband and child in Star Trek: Beyond or a same sex couple of supporting characters in Rise of Skywalker. You just show it as a normal thing, you get criticized for not making it central enough. You make it central, you get accused of tokenism by the other side. No winning.
Funny thing about Sulu having a husband in "Beyond"; George Takei didn't like it.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
The audience didn't like them. It's just that if they're a minority character, some people (usually white men) rationalize their dislike with words like "token", and whilst that's perhaps unhelpful, again, it's a symptom, not a cause.

I don't think being a minority is as much of a bar to the audience liking them as @Paul Farquhar seems to be, by the way. Like, let's look a situation where Michael is white, and otherwise everything is identical. Would people like the character more? I don't think so.

So you could say "All you're arguing is misogyny is stronger than racism", okay what we made Michael a white man, and gender-flipped Ash and so on? Would people like the character then? No. I still don't think so. But what would change is people would call the character "boring" more and "token" wouldn't come up.

....and if sand was water, I'd drown in the Sahara.

Look, it's great and all to imagine hypothetical worlds that have these "flipped" characters and people make the exact same complaints, but somehow ignore the issues. But ... we don't have those hypothetical worlds, do we? We have an actual world, an actual world in which we constantly have people complain about female characters, and POC characters, and queer characters, and so on. A world where, for the most part, certain people (like Scott Bakula) are just considered a boring part of a forgettable show ... you know, the one that torpedoed Star Trek as a television series and a network ... while other people (Sonequa Martin-Green) are constantly pilloried as tokens and Mary Sues and the entire show is rubbished, despite helping launch a streaming service and ushering in a new golden age of Star Trek shows.

Again, that's not to say there can't be valid criticism of characters- something I'm more than happy to engage in. But the use of the word "token" or the idea that we need to cater to the prejudices of bigots is not something I'm particularly comfortable with. Finally, these are concepts that actually hurt real people- every time someone makes that "token" argument, there's another character that might not get written. There's another actor that might not get a role.

If you think Adira is boring? That's fine. Do you think Adira is too .... Wesley-like? Okay! But let's stop with the "token" argument. It's offensive.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
Funny thing about Sulu having a husband in "Beyond"; George Takei didn't like it.
He didn't like it because Roddenberry had written Sulu as straight and George wasn't keen on changing that, even if it was a personal homage to him. That said, it wasn't like Roddenberry would have had much of a choice in that anyway considering he couldn't even successfully have a woman as Number One.

To an extent, I both agree and disagree with George. Making a character gay or straight isn't simply a switch to toggle whenever you want. A character written as gay should be written intentionally, from the beginning, as gay. That said, as I mentioned before, it wasn't like people had a lot of freedom to do that back in the 1960s and still get it in front of certain audiences like we do now (or HAD a few years ago, at any rate here in certain parts of the US). So I'm OK with some degree of reinterpretations here and there, though there are some cases I think could have been better (for example - if they were determined to pick an original X-man to be gay, I would have gone with Hank, not Bobby because Bobby was an enthusiastic girl-dater back in the day while it was Hank who wasn't that interested and then got flamboyant as he came out of his over-intellectualizing head - so he even had an ongoing out-of-the-closet metaphor going on. Now, had Bobby come out as a bisexual who has periods of grooving on women or men depending on where he is in his life, that would have been a better fit with his history of dating Zelda and Lorna, plus bisexuals are horribly underrepresented...).
 

Ryujin

Legend
He didn't like it because Roddenberry had written Sulu as straight and George wasn't keen on changing that, even if it was a personal homage to him. That said, it wasn't like Roddenberry would have had much of a choice in that anyway considering he couldn't even successfully have a woman as Number One.

To an extent, I both agree and disagree with George. Making a character gay or straight isn't simply a switch to toggle whenever you want. A character written as gay should be written intentionally, from the beginning, as gay. That said, as I mentioned before, it wasn't like people had a lot of freedom to do that back in the 1960s and still get it in front of certain audiences like we do now (or HAD a few years ago, at any rate here in certain parts of the US). So I'm OK with some degree of reinterpretations here and there, though there are some cases I think could have been better (for example - if they were determined to pick an original X-man to be gay, I would have gone with Hank, not Bobby because Bobby was an enthusiastic girl-dater back in the day while it was Hank who wasn't that interested and then got flamboyant as he came out of his over-intellectualizing head - so he even had an ongoing out-of-the-closet metaphor going on. Now, had Bobby come out as a bisexual who has periods of grooving on women or men depending on where he is in his life, that would have been a better fit with his history of dating Zelda and Lorna...).
It was simply offered as an interesting aside, given that Takei is one of the most vocal Gay advocates on social media, and has a husband.
 


Clint_L

Hero
I interpret the tokenism argument to often be about lack of effort - when a character of an underrepresented community is included and used as little more than a repository for stereotypes, or when a production seems to be doing the bare minimum and then patting themselves on the back - say, including a Black cast member but doing little to address the problem that virtually none of their production crew are from underrepresented groups.
 

Finally, these are concepts that actually hurt real people- every time someone makes that "token" argument, there's another character that might not get written. There's another actor that might not get a role.
Like, twenty years ago, that was totally a valid argument. Maybe ten too.

Now? I don't really see that happening. Even non-binary characters are increasingly appearing on shows, albeit usually in minor roles (c.f. The Diplomat, Will Trent, etc.).

You're warning of backsliding, and I just don't believe that is going to happen without major societal issues entirely unconnected to how Star Trek is discussed. Especially as people with conservative social values keep proving they're absolutely terrible at making shows with mass appeal.

I don't really buy that pointing out characters are tokens is inherently offensive, especially as it can absolutely include white male characters, and has - Token White - TV Tropes - but I do think it should be used more cautiously than people are in this discussion.

(I instantly thought of the Desmond's example myself)

But the problem is, people often claim a character is a token when they aren't. And I think this is the problem here. This was the point I was trying to make, which I apparently didn't make well enough for you to understand. Let me lay it out, maybe it'll make more sense:

1) Some characters genuinely do fit the definition of "token" - Token Minority - TV Tropes

2) Some characters do not.

3) If people don't connect with characters, they tend to rationalize why they didn't connect, rather than simply going "bad character" or looking closely at the writing issues.

4) Unfortunately one of those rationalizations, usually but not exclusively from white people, particularly men, is that a character is a "token".

I don't think any Disco characters actually are "tokens" (except if we're counting like, cyborg representation, in which case I'd argue we'd had two) - indeed Lorca was perhaps closest, before they revealed he was a major weirdo (which didn't take long). Certainly Michael wasn't, nor Adira. Adira's problem was absolutely one of rationalization - because the character didn't have much depth and people didn't connect with them, and the most salient point about them, to a least some people, was their non-binary-ness, people tended to rationalize them as a token. Personally the most salient point was their Wesley-ness, for me!

So I guess I sort of agree overall - people should think carefully before using the term. But I don't think it's entirely without value as a descriptor.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I interpret the tokenism argument to often be about lack of effort - when a character of an underrepresented community is included and used as little more than a repository for stereotypes, or when a production seems to be doing the bare minimum and then patting themselves on the back - say, including a Black cast member but doing little to address the problem that virtually none of their production crew are from underrepresented groups.

I don't disagree with this, but this is a problem with all characters ... as I keep saying, it's only underrepresented communities that have this additional burden that they face.

I think @billd91 did a great job earlier when he was analyzing the issues with the X-Men- the problem wasn't so-called "tokenism," or the inclusion of a gay character, it was that the writers did a bad job with the characters that they had! And you can make this point (consistency of characterizations) without resorting to the "t-word."

Since we are going into another writer's strike, I think that Heroes is a good example. Among the many problems with that show after the first season was the problem with inconsistent characterizations; instead of being character-driven, everything was plot-driven and the characters abruptly changed personalities depending on the needs of the plot.

To move this back into the issue that we are discovering- Adira may not be the best character ever, but they are actually a pretty decent character, and they are not a token- their issues are really explored over time, and it intersects in interesting ways with both their relationship (with Gray) and with the later questions of identity (with the ship's computer).

And this is, to some extent, an echo of issues that we are facing today- this is what all good Star Trek has done ... to re-examine our current issues by putting some "sci fi future-y" gloss on them. To the extent people today think that this isn't subtle, as pointed out previously ... Star Trek has never been subtle.

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