We need to talk about a discrimination going on right now in science fiction and fantasy.
There has been a lot of talk recently about representation in science fiction. Is this character male or female? What shade is their skin? What are their attractions? Is there any other measure by which they are different from some hypothetical average of a selected population grouping?
And if you have any objection to the character, it is because you hate seeing the aforementioned feature being shown on screen.
Well I don’t hate those characters for being minorities, because I’m here to tell you my favorite of all science fiction characters were the ones even more minority then them.
See, as one would learn if they were woke and properly educated in the nuances of grievance studies, those that have privilege are often unaware of that privilege and in this instance those celebrating the new stars of recent science fiction have overlooked a privilege they possess over even more disadvantaged people: existence.
Yet of late more and more aliens seem to be squeezed out from their place on screen in favor of humans of varying features. Why do storytellers insist on discriminating in favor of those who actually exist? Yes, I am here today to argue for the rights of the alien and the fey and demand their return to the screen instead of having their roles go to humans.
For an example of how bad this problem is getting, let’s look at the Star Wars movies which have been the subject of much debate (the main movies, no cartoons, tie-ins, or Ewok films). And just like the Bechdel test, we’ll also have a test, we’ll call it the Burroughs test. Just like the Bechdel version this test is simple: Do we ever have on screen 2 visibly non-human characters that are named and able to speak, discussing something other than a human or Earth? So with this in mind, let’s see which alien characters were introduced in each movie and whether it passed the Burroughs test with new characters or old ones.
C-3P0, R2-D2, Chewbacca and Greedo are named and speak. Darth Vader counts for half since his armor gives him a kind of schrodinger’s alien status. Burroughs test pass? Yes – 3 of those 4 characters are seen playing and discussing a game in the movie.
EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Yoda is named and speaks. Bobba Fett again counts for half. Lobot is not named on screen nor speaks and scholars are still debating whether cybernetic humans are eligible for the scale. Does it pass? No.
RETURN OF THE JEDI
Jabba and Admiral Gial Ackbar are named on screen. Wicket and Nien Nunb are not named on screen but do have speaking roles. Pass? Vague, since the Ewoks are shown talking but we don’t know what about.
We have Jar Jar Binks, Nute Gunray, Boss Nass, Watto, Darth Maul, Selbulba, Fodesinbeed Annodue, and some senators and bureaucrats all which at least speak and most are named. Pass? Yes, we see the Gungans talking about Jar-Jar.
ATTACK OF THE CLONES
Dexter Jettster, the camino cloners and the genoians as well as the separatist leaders all speak but not obviously named. Pass? No. Everybody is always talking about a human.
REVENGE OF THE SITH
General Grevious. Pass? Nope.
THE FORCE AWAKENS
Maz Kanata and Unkar Plutt are named and speak. Pass? Nope.
K-2S0 and Admiral Raddus (not-Ackbar). Bor Gullett is named but doesn’t speak. Some alien pilots and rebels speak but are not named. Pass? Nope.
THE LAST JEDI
We can’t say for certain given the movie hasn’t aired yet, but we can look at the toys. Chewbacca and Yoda have figures released, and Chewie comes with a Porg. It is unknown at this time if the Porgs can speak or are named. From the toys we see that there are at least two new characters…
Notice something? Every single one of the new figs are apparently human, and after the Force Awakens introduced the second fewest alien character of a Star Wars film. The movie between them, Rogue One, also had fewer. At least four additional characters have been released as toys which could have been alien. Why was Chirrut in Rogue One a blind HUMAN instead of a Miraluka? (Donnie Yen could still play the role) In fact, the most progressive film according to this scale was The Phantom Menace, which you may recall was when we first saw people’s existence privilege leading them to heavily criticize the alien characters in this film.
When did we become so obsessed with representation that we forgot to represent those who can’t even speak at all? I say give me a walking carpet or a sassy droid or a funny green man or even a goofy walking duck-rabbit (assuming you make that one less annoying) rather than another boring human – no matter what features that human may have.