art, movies, music

Diversity in Fiction: Finding Better Ways

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(Note: Here’s to Junicorn — June being Unicorn month, according to someone on Twitter. God bless them.)

So, last night we watched the new animated movie, Sing. From the previews, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was a little nervous, to be honest, since lately there have been far too many “kids’ films” that have not-so-subtly delivered heavy-handed messages. But Sing is a breath of fresh air.

The basic plot is of a down-on-his-luck theatre owner who really needs a smash hit to keep his stage open. He decides to host a singing competition, but his assistant screws up the advertising flyers, and an incorrect prize amount is listed, which of course leads to massive misunderstandings.

This film is so much more than slapstick of a talent show gone wrong.

A variety of characters join the show — a 1940s New York City-ish mouse, a pig housewife, an introvert elephant, a punk-rocker porcupine, a gorilla from a gang family — and they all bring their own lives with them to the theatre. The housewife has a big, rambunctious family to manage. The elephant has major stage fright. The porcupine has boyfriend concerns. The gorilla has a criminal father. These are all characters that learn to overcome their personal challenges and grow, individually and as a group.

No spoilers, I promise, but this is a great movie. You can watch it with your kids — there are no overtly political moments, very little inappropriate humor (and it’s fleeting), no bad language, and some truly wonderful themes about facing the music (ha, not sorry) for your choices, and still rising above obstacles in your path.

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Something I really liked about how the characters were portrayed to show diversity was the simplicity of it. They were all different species of animals, from varying social/economic backgrounds, so it was clear without being annoying. Nobody spelled it out that there may be some prejudices going on due to someone’s class status or gender or taste in music, but that sort of thing was addressed seamlessly, as a natural, flowing part of the story. Most of the show participants banded together, regardless of where they came from, based on a love for music and theatre. That was heartwarming and inspiring.

Lately, so many political and social platforms in the real world have been about yelling that more tolerance is needed. Well, here’s a radical notion, folks: Stop shouting and just do it. Practice what you preach and quit preaching to your own choir. Actions speak louder than words.

This idea has come to me: If we stop pushing what makes us different, and focus on what makes us the same, doesn’t that create more tolerance?

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Advertising our differences, then claiming that we don’t want to be treated any differently based on our race/religion/ethnic background/occupation/education level/favorite type of music, is beginning to feel a bit backwards.

If we’re supposed to be a “melting pot” society, but all stay separate from each other due to fear of offending somebody else’s culture/art style/cuisine/language/fashion, doesn’t that defeat the point?

Fiction that accurately and respectfully portrays origin without judging someone for it is currently rare and precious. Let’s hold up Sing as the monument to true acceptance that it is.

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3 thoughts on “Diversity in Fiction: Finding Better Ways”

  1. Ah yes, this reminds me of something Morgan Freeman said about “just stop talking about it”. Agree with you so much here!! I definitely agree- it’s so much better to reflect the melting pot of people’s identities rather than focus on what makes people different.

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  2. Omg you always say the best things…and I totally agree. Especially with this “but all stay separate from each other due to fear of offending somebody else’s culture/art style/cuisine/language/fashion, doesn’t that defeat the point?” THAT GETS ME ALL THE TIME. Like differences should be celebrated. I am 100% for that. But we shouldn’t let them divide us. Also I feel like the climate at the moment is that people are often too scared to embrace other cultures too much in case of appropriation? *I* don’t even know what you can and can’t do half the time. 😳🙈 So yes we all should practise what we preach basically. This is a lovely post and I really want to see Sing now…even though I never have time for movies. 😂

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    1. You should totally make time for “Sing.” It’s so worth it.

      Cultural “appropriation” makes me sick. It’s basically another way of increasing fear and hate, by some stupid politicians (who are idiots and we need to wake up and recognize that already) having the gall to suggest we aren’t smart or caring enough to respect each other’s cultures, basically. I’m ready to tell all of it to go hang, honestly.

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