SDCC 2019: Creating Your Own Narrative
Over the past weekend at the annual San Diego Comic Con, I had the fortune of sitting in several amazing panels. On one hand, a lot of these panels were (selfishly) catered to my personal interests, but they were also simultaneously empowering messages to all creators out there.
In today’s media landscape, things are changing. We have films and shows that are featuring more and more diversity, and more studios are hiring actors of color and diverse backgrounds. Of course, things could be better, and after sitting in on these panels, I have hope that the creative minds out there in the entertainment field will continue to expand the sorts of stories we see.
One of the panels I sat in was “The Future of Film is Female.” It featured Alicia Malone as the moderator with Jacqueline Coley (Rotten Tomatoes), Julia Hart (Fast Color), Rachel Morrison (Black Panther), and Gale Ann Hurd (Terminator) as part of the impressive panel. The panel touched upon how men (especially white men) can be good allies to women and to creators of color, but we also looked at how women in film create spectacular indie movies that tell unique stories. These films often do well at indie festivals, but most importantly, they connect with people. They focused a lot on how women and creators of color often aren’t held to the same standards typically given to white men — how women and creators of color often aren’t given a second chance if they might have underperformed the first time around. However, there is no shortage of diverse creatives; it’s just a matter of giving them space and opportunity to tell their stories. In the end, the panel emphasized that they aren’t trying to push against the mainstream, white men creatives, but rather they want to lift women and creators of color to the same playing field and make space for everyone.
Another panel I attend was “Geek and Sundry: LIVE” which featured prominent members featured on the Geek and Sundry channel. This panel focused on table-top role-playing games (TTRPGs), with Dungeons & Dragons being the one most people know about. While seemingly, this may have no link to the theme of creatives telling their own stories, it actually is all about that! A summarized quote from voice actress and Geek and Sundry host Erika Ishii shows this: that in TTRPGs, the players get to create the stories that they want to see, stories that the mainstream never chooses to showcase. It isn’t uncommon to see characters of diverse backgrounds all throughout various TTRPGs, and this is such a great way for representation in stories.
Lastly, to tie this all together is the “Super Asian America” panel featuring Andrea Walter, C. B. Lee, Wesley Chu, Alyssa Wong, Jake Choi, Vinny Chhibber, and moderated by Mike Le. This panel took place fresh after the news about Marvel’s Blade with Mahershala Ali and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings with the star-studded cast of Simu Liu, Tony Leung, and Awkwafina. It was noted that maybe five, 10 years ago, we would not see something like this announced at Comic Con, and with the panel full of Asian-American creators and actors, it was reassuring to hear that sometimes the stories that people need to hear are the ones that have not yet been told. Author C. B. Lee essentially encouraged people to just create, even if you think that there is already someone out there who has created something you think already exists. Just create because there is only one you, and your story is unique and deserves to be told.
Obviously, this is a very condensed summary and take-away of each of these amazing panels, but I was drawn to the common theme that I found in all of them. For a long time, mainstream media didn’t always reflect stories, cultures, or characters that showcased how diverse the audience was.