Diverse Character Representation Survey Results
It’s no secret that one of the biggest discussions happening in the storyteller’s world surrounds the issue of diverse character representation. The female-led Ghostbusters reboot was the subject of scorn from the get-go. Controversies erupted when Scarlet Johansson accepted a role as a transgender man, prompting her to eventually turn it down. Video games like The Last of Us featuring straight white male leads are the subject of unending criticism at the hands of journalists and gamers alike. Ruby Rose got the trifecta when she was subjected to a harsh backlash for accepting the role of Batwoman for being too gay, not gay enough or not Jewish. Authors have been viciously and vitriolically attacked by hate mobs some for the crime of either being too diverse or not being diverse enough.
Good storytellers think about what makes their characters breathe life into their story, and sometimes aspects of their identity, be it their race, gender or sexuality fit perfectly into that plan. When executed well, these characters can serve as a beacon to invite the readers who are invested in their stories to open up to a whole new world of understanding.
Unfortunately, many other storytellers who are concerned with the topic of diverse character representation engage in it in a particularly hamfisted way… and their readers see this. These characters can sometimes cease to be a rallying point for concerned readers, and instead are viewed as little more than the latest iteration of the token character.
How a storyteller chooses to deal with diverse character representation is ultimately up to them. Regardless, last month we decided to put together a survey and ask a random audience what they thought of characters representing their own identities.
We put together the survey via Google Forms and shared it on Twitter, and then on Reddit on /r/samplesize to ensure we weren’t getting a biased audience. We asked people to self-report their own race, gender, sexuality and areas of interest within storytelling mediums. We then asked them to rate how they felt about characters of their own race, gender and sexuality for four mediums: Film & TV, Novels & Literature, Graphic Novels & Comics, & Tabletop and Video Games.
To be clear, this survey wasn’t designed to tell you what to think about the topics presented, and the presentation of the results is certainly not meant to try to change anyone’s mind on these topics: As with anything else, we want the storyteller to tell their story.
The number of people who are mostly indifferent to the race, gender or sexuality of the lead in a film, book, comic or game are glaringly obvious, ranging from 50% – 70%. The margins outside of the center tend to be much less variable, ranging from 2% – 19%.
However, I would specifically like to draw the reader’s attention specifically to the statistics on LGBTQ+ characters. While in areas of race and gender, a vast majority of respondents are indifferent, with LGBTQ+ there appears to be much stronger feelings on the margins both for and against LGBTQ+ characters.
It is possible to break down this diverse character representation survey into the results of each demographic. However, as the sample size (83) was so small, we’d like to give it another go in the near future to get a better representative sample of the population. Some demographics were vastly over-represented, such as respondents who identified as white (4 in 5) and bisexual (1 in 5.)
The diverse character representation survey results can be downloaded as a single image here.