Story matters, on a fundamental level. Fiction reveals reality and can, in turn, change it.
I have a masters degree in children’s literature. Really. I studied how we use stories, often unconsciously, to teach our children about how they should behave in the world. I looked primarily at fairytales, since they get passed down through the years, changing as society changes.
Most of us no longer need the message from “Beauty and the Beast” that the “monster” your father makes you marry for business reasons will probably turn out to be a very nice guy, so you might as well make the best of it. And so the focus of the story changes to fit the lessons we want to teach now, about looking beyond outside appearances to see the good inside. Disney made it even more nuanced by making it so both Belle and the Beast need to grow and change—a much needed update for a beautiful story mired in awkward beginnings.
Anyway, all of this is just to explain part of why I find this article by Becky Chambers about gender in video games to be so compelling.
I’m not a big video game player, but I’m a huge story geek, and some of the coolest stories today are being told through video games. So yes, it matters a lot when large groups of people are left out of or marginalized in the telling of these stories.
I completely agree that we’ll know we’ve finally made it when there’s wide diversity in our protagonists—in games, in children’s media, in TV shows, in commercials—and it doesn’t strike us as odd. We’ll have made it when there’s no reason to talk about it. But we’re not there yet, and so it’s important to have these conversations until we get there.
Her personal experiences say more than my academic approach can. It’s a well written and interesting article. I hope you’ll take the time to read it.