The word “diversity” gets thrown around so many times online nowadays that it’s almost started to lose its meaning. Some books, TV shows, and movies get criticized for lacking diversity, while others are attacked for making a specific point to include characters that belong to a wide range of races, genders, and sexualities. With all this controversy, it’s easy to lose sight of what diversity actually means and why it’s so important.
The truth is that no society is completely homogenous. Within any community, whether it be a school, workplace, town, or country, there’s so much room for difference and variation. Whether you’re consciously aware of it or not, your community is undoubtedly full of people that belong to different genders, races, and sexualities than you do. Although most stories tend to be about white people, or men, or straight people, or cisgender people, or all of those demographics at once, people who don’t fall into those categories still deserve to see themselves represented in the stories they read on the page or watch onscreen.
Regardless of whether your story is meant to be as realistic as possible, or whether it’s a fantastical epic set in an alien world, having a blandly homogenous cast of characters does it a disservice. The complexities of race, gender, and sexuality can add layers of excitement and intrigue into your story. Plus, regardless of whether or not your readers or viewers directly identify with the specific races, genders, or sexualities represented in your story, there’s still something to be learned from reading about different kinds of characters than the ones typically portrayed in today’s media landscape.
Once you cast aside the uproar surrounding the concept of diversity, the kernel of meaning in the very center is actually quite simple: society is not homogenous, and a story that tries to pretend otherwise isn’t doing itself any favors. Representing people that belong to different backgrounds and identities is a great way to give your story the flavor and complexity it needs, and as an added bonus, the members of your audience that rarely see themselves represented in the media will appreciate your work even more!