Hi folks. I’ve gotta rant for a minute so I can get this out of my brain and focus on drafting today.
I actively put my money toward things I want to support. Books by authors of color, movies directed by women, video games with queer characters, and so on. And yet, when I dare say that I want to see a movie or buy a book because I want to financially support it, I often get this line: “I don’t care about any of that. I just want a good story.”
There’s a problem with this thinking.
It seems fine on the surface, right? Why shouldn’t we just support GOOD media, no matter who makes it? At the end of the day, we all want a good story. Of course we do.
The problem is that it assumes all creators are on equal footing from the start. It assumes all good stories receive the funding, industry support, advertising, and so on that they need to succeed, that good stories don’t get buried in flooded markets and go unnoticed because of who made them or who’s in them. It requires us to live in a society where there’s no racism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia, etc. influencing the decisions made by industry gatekeepers: producers, casting directors, professional reviewers, literary agents, editors, and ultimately the audience.
An author of color submits a book to a white agent, then gets a rejection letter that says they just couldn’t connect to the story. Sometimes it’s the fault of the story. We’ve all gotten that rejection before. But sometimes it’s that the white agent couldn’t connect to an experience outside their own, thus silencing that voice. A reviewer can’t connect to a movie completely dominated by women, with minimal male characters. Sometimes the story is weak. Sometimes it’s that a male reviewer can’t connect with being in the position women find themselves in every day. (Note, though, that many folks have no problem connecting to elves, wizards, trolls, and animated lions. A Black character in present-day America, though? Suddenly that’s difficult.)
This is not news to any marginalized person who works in a creative field. It’s not (or shouldn’t be, at this point) news to anyone in the YA and children’s publishing world, where the last four years have seen a huge push for better representation, and representation by #ownvoices authors (people with lived experience of whatever they’re representing). And some change can and should come from within, as is slowly happening in publishing. The structure of power within these media industries needs to shift.
Audiences need to change too, though. We vote with our dollars. That’s what we can do to change the industry from the outside.
So yes, if I have a limited pool of cash to spend, I’m going to spend it in a way that gives support to marginalized creators. Because their stories are good, and because they deserve the support that the industry denies them. That might mean I don’t see the latest awesome, critically-acclaimed movie written, directed, and starred in by straight cisgender white dudes. And I feel fine about that. They don’t need my support. I’ll see it on Netflix.
But you’re damn right that I’ve seen Wonder Woman twice, that I pre-ordered The Hate U Give and The Gauntlet, that I played Gone Home and Dragon Age: Inquisition. With the dollars I spend, I tell the industry, “Hey, this thing you did here? I like it, and I’m willing to pay money for it. Please give me some more.”
After all, broader perspectives and more diverse creative teams lead to new ideas and—dare I say it?—good media.
So, if you want good stories, consider being more deliberate with where you place your limited funds. Yes, this may help me in some ways and hurt me in others. If you buy my books because I’m gay*, genderqueer, or mentally ill, awesome. If you don’t buy my books because I’m white and you want to buy something by an author of color instead, also awesome. Either way, you’re shaping the future. High five, you.
And in the meantime, we can dream of a world where everyone’s works are on equal footing in the battle for the title of Good Story.