When a spaceship is seconds from exploding, it doesn’t matter if you’re gay.
When a werewolf has your scent and is closing in, being black doesn’t make a difference.
With 24 hours to solve a riddle before the hostages die, being a woman is irrelevant.
I like genre because it’s the best place to be inclusive. The characters in a genre piece rarely need to be a certain gender, race or sexuality, because usually the main concern is something fantastic, huge and overblown, way outside of the normal day-to-day activities of life. When my main goal in a horror movie is to scare people with a monster, and tap into commonly held anxieties or fears, the monster and the fears extend across society. Sudanese, Scottish and Sioux are scared of spiders. When I’m taking humanity to the farthest edge of the solar system and navigating what it means to be human, then lesbian, gay and transgender folks are all fascinated by first contact with an alien. When I want to create set pieces of action and get audience’s thrilled, women and men both need to shoot that gun or trip that switch to get to safety.
The exploration of gender, race or sexuality can play a prominent role in a story. In the world of your heavier dramas, explorations of the minutiae or injustice of society rely on such distinctions. Precious has to have a young black woman. The Danish Girl is all about the issues affecting transgender people. The beauty of genre, however, is that the issues we explore are insanely huge and other-worldly. A great example of how little social barriers truly matter in genre is the casting of CCH Pounder as Claudette Wyms in the FX corrupt cop drama The Shield. Her character was originally written as a guy, but CCH was such a powerful actor, the writers changed gender but deliberately kept the dialogue the same, ‘writing her as a man’. Claudette is a tough, respected detective, fan favourite and rad character. Just goes to show how little these sorts of gender distinctions mean.
The only thing stopping diversity of characters on the screen are the writers, producers, directors and executives who decide. When gender, race or sexuality matter so little in genre, its artificial bias that gets in the way. Everyone can kick arse – just gotta write ’em that way. Next time you sit down to type, think, “What would happen if I made him a her?”