Discrimination and Escapism in Interactive Fiction

Oooh, I love all the threads cropping up about inclusivity and escapism the last couple of days. This is fantastic and seriously what I come to these forums for.

Alright, you guys have talked about race, but because I’m a cisgendered white woman, I’m gonna broach another view of this subject.

In the gay/bi importance thread, I stated that I prefer a diverse cast. This is still true.

I want to cover something even more…difficult than race or sexuality or even physical disability.

For me, I’d like to find a balance for mental health, as it is something incredibly important to me. I’m someone with Borderline Personality Disorder as well as rapid-cycling Bipolar II Disorder. It is something I cannot escape, just as one cannot escape that they’re African, Asian, black, white, European, Hispanic, heterosexual, homosexual, demisexual, aromantic, asexual, genderfluid, transgender, etc. etc. etc.

It’s also something that can be EXTREMELY triggering for people, particularly when you get into things like suicide, rape, self-harm or anxiety or depression.

However, I also think it’s incredibly important to normalize these things, beyond just “lol Sera was feeling anxious that day” or “Ben was suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuper OCD over his project” (please never use OCD as a temporary thing. My youngest sister has yet to be diagnosed, but we’re fairly certain she has aggressive OCD. It’s difficult to live with, she’s difficult to live with, everything is awful when she gets compulsive. OCD can’t just be turned off so don’t use it as a temporary thing. Same goes for AD(H)D…)

This is something I’d really like to see opinions on. Everyone has an abundance of opinions on sexuality or discrimination based upon sexuality/gender/race, but I’ve yet to see people talk about the discrimination based upon mental health…

I want to see someone in a game or book fighting for the destigmatization of suicide attempts or stays in a mental ward. I want to feel the character’s sadness when he opens up about his suicide attempt in a group setting amongst friends…only to have one of his friends unable to look at him the same way. I want to see that friend attempt to learn and perhaps be unable to or unable to deal with the main character anymore.

I want to see mental health representation in a realistic, gut-wrenching way. I don’t fully feel like I can escape reality, when the main character doesn’t have remotely similar thoughts and feelings to myself.

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Representing neurodiverse characters is important to me, too.

As an author, that’s part of the human population. People with bipolar disorder, or OCD, or people who are autistic, absolutely deserve positive representation in our stories.

As a person, I’ve had a lot of family members, friends, and colleagues who have or had (some of them have passed on) bipolar, BPD, ADHD, depression, schizophrenia, and other conditions. That’s part of who they are, and the ups and downs are part of their personalities and their life stories. I want to include characters who reflect all sorts of people in my works, at least as much as I can.

Two resources I’ve found helpful for writing neurodiverse characters respectfully and accurately are ScriptAutistic, which is run by two autistic mods and also posts content from autistic followers, and ScriptShrink, which is from a psychiatric and psychological perspective. They both take queries.

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Our of our colleagues is losing the ability to see and talks with us about that with regards to their work environment. Discrimination in the workplace based on disability is also a very real thing, and (of course) needs to be treated with an appropriate level of sensitivity and research by aspiring authors.

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Psychological and psychiatric perspective. [ScriptMedic] (https://scriptmedic.tumblr.com) is the one you have to ask for medical advise (even when there is some overlap and scripmedic is better for questions about disability and not mental health). But anyway all the [ScriptBlogs] (https://scriptmedic.tumblr.com/thescriptxfamily) are good resources when you have questions to various topics (including one for lgbta+ questions ).

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Psychiatry is a branch of medicine, but fair enough, I’ll fix it! Thanks. (:

And yes, the Script family of blogs are fantastic. There’s also ScriptSpoonie, which I definitely shouldn’t have left out, whilst we’re on the subject of writing characters with health conditions that affect daily living.

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See this is a trope I increasingly do not get, discrimination usually targets the weak, the helpless, the vulnerable, such as the economically disadvantaged or minorities. Superhumans don’t neatly fit into that stereotype, for one most or at least enough of them have really useful superpowers that makes bullying or even provoking them extremely hazardous to even a mob of us normal humans and bullies tend to be natural cowards.
Superhumans are much more likely to become an ultra wealthy elite and/or celebrities than they are to openly be discriminated against. Really the most likely oppressors and bullies of superhumans, particularly in a modern or more advanced setting are other superhumans, not the general public.

This article explains it better than I can, at short notice anyway, under the X-men heading

Ahem, sorry for the sidetrack and of course authors are free to write what they want to write about even if it is a trope I find increasingly jarring the more superhero stories, comics and movies proliferate in the mainstream as of late.

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Actual power has nothing to do with who gets bullied/discrimanted against. Social status has.

If the social mood of the majority is that superhumans are the other, they would be discriminated against, until they forcible took over and enforced new cultural norms.

Of course, you could ask why they superhumans hasn’t banded together and just forcible put themself in power, but usual they either are not strong enough to have it be viable of have someone like Charles Xavier be the one in power of a huge group of the superpowers. (And marvel is of course even more complicated in that the mutants were never the only kind of superhumans, meaning that the violent take over were properly never an option.)

That literally has everything to do with who gets discriminated against.

Needless to say, let’s not get super off-topic on this thread. OP just needed answers regarding how to treat non-binary characters in regards to living situations - there are other topics on this forum discussing discrimination and representation that would be more suited to this specific conversation.

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Personally I think the question of whether or not superhumans would be realistically discriminated against isn’t relevant so much as the fact that that kind of metaphor story has been done before and I think we’re past the point of it having much if any cultural relevance. Bigots are going to see through the metaphor, and targets of discrimination already know that it sucks to be discriminated against so I’m not sure what we’re supposed to be getting out of it. :man_shrugging: I think the main appeal to it is just about making a story about being incredibly powerful into an underdog story as well, and the people with power are going to relate to those as much as the people who aren’t, whether or not they should.

But @trevers17 is right, posts about the validity of “superhumans as a minority class” stories ought to be moved into their own thread. Especially as I know that specific topic has come up before, but to my knowledge there hasn’t actually been a thread about it yet

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I meant actual power as in ‘force’. (Not my best expression, but I am ill today and don’t really have the head to explain myself properly.)

That said, I do agree with @HomingPidgeon that it has been over used.

That said. I think we have had this discussion before in this thread:

If people wants to continue.

Just:
Discrimination has nothing to do with logic and safety. People absolutely will poke a dragon, if they assume theý can get away with it.

Sorry about that, @Eiwynn could you dump those posts starting with mine a bit above this one into their own thread, pretty please?

The usual superhumans, particularly as a group as depicted in most superhero stories would be more than strong enough to do it. Of course, yes, you are probably going to have some superhuman failures either through their own stupidity or because they did not luck out and have useless “powers” that can occasionally make them targets for discrimination or targets of rage and frustration from even the more hateful normal bullies.
Anyway, like that article I linked noted, it would not just be superhumans as who support the superhumans if their abilities are or become indespensible to corporate bottom lines then in the modern USA corporate lobbyists and their super-pacs would pick up the slack in no time.
Again, yes, I can see how there might be some “loser” superhumans who either cannot, will not or simply don’t have any useful abilities to leverage, but that does not seem to be true for the vast majority of them in most cases.
Still even then the most likely people to bully them, as long as they are otherwise normal looking humans, would be other superhumans.

As this is specifically about superhumans I think it warrants its own thread, so as to not confuse it with the very real forms of pervasive discrimination all too extant.

Also very much this, I don’t feel superhumans are any sort of useful stand in for such things as anti-gay discrimination any longer. This is no longer the 40’s and 50’s folks the Hays Code is well and truly dead even in Trump’s 'Murica. :unamused:

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Seriosly, I linked to a former discussion, should we not take it there as to not derail?

Also, I read that article and I was not impressed.

Ah, thanks @Eiwynn

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Well the question is what exactly the “poking” is. I think the question of more influential society’s reaction is a fair one–I kind of agree with @idonotlikeusernames in that I think the utility and uniqueness of a superhuman’s powerset will make them more of a celebrity than a target of ire. But I also see the argument that superhuman’s sudden appearance would be reacted to with regulation and discrimination on a systemic level because of the blow to the status quo, as well as fear of what the superhumans might do if left unchecked. Probably the most realistic thing would be it becoming a very divisive issue, with some reacting with fear of the new, some reacting with excitement at the possibilities, and some reacting in defense of the superhumans’ general humanity.

But I highly doubt the day to day existence of a superhuman is going to be fraught in the same way it is for real world minorities. I’ll cede that maybe they might worry about an organized attack, if they’ve got particularly brave and particularly hateful neighbors. And almost definitely there’d be some isolation and social ostracization. But things like street harassment, being afraid to leave the house because the individuals in the city around them are actively and loudly hateful? People shout slurs at minorities in the real world because they don’t think the minorities will fight back. They aren’t going to do the same thing to someone who’s being discriminated against because they have lazer eyes. Hence,

being an apt comment. Someone harasses a queer couple or a homeless person on the assumption that they cannot meaningfully fight back. People aren’t going to do the same to someone who’s being discriminated against entirely because they’re too scarily good at fighting back

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That alone wouldn’t do those neighbours would also have to be very well-resourced, aka, rich.
And sure, some rich folks might be firmly on the side of the fearful or the bigots particularly when superhumans are still a new thing, however a lot more of their peers are likely going to be much more interested in seeing how they can use superhumans for their own gain and to pad their corporate bottom lines, thus superhumans would still have much more resources and more powerful advocates in their corner than any other oppressed minority has ever had.

Okay, well just like there may be some “loser” superhumans there may be a few suicidal idiots who may be crazy enough to attempt to charge superman out of bigotry and hatred…they’re not going to have much success.

And even that would erode rather quickly as soon as it became clear superhumans are going to be a lasting phenomenon, rather than a temporary fluke as the system and the status-quo are going to absorb and adjust to the new reality.

If we are talking the real world we have to talk intersectionality as well.

The rich, white, trustfund kid who gets a ‘cool’ power? Absolutely would not be targeted. A black-african american with pyrokinesis - he was just so dangerous.

And we also have to discuss when you actually fight back. In our modern world, a bigot might perceive it safe to target the powered because depending on the law in the situation he might know that the powered can’t fight back.

It’s the same as when a bigot makes a harmless “joke” in a workplace. If I were to hit someoone who does, I would be imprisoned, even if the joke was hateful. Hell, in some workplaces, even if I tried to hit back at the same level (ie. verbally) I might be told ‘You have no humor’ and be isolated and eventually forced to quiet my job.

Also did none of you never, truly come across a bully who would deliberately provoke you to lash out (even with violence)? Even if you were physically much stronger. Because I have come across those two or three times in my life. The kind of bully that knows that if they can get you to yell or punch you will be serverely punished? It is not even suicidal. They just, instinctively, know that social pressure is such that if you defend yourself you will go to jail and expect you to not want to go to jail and thus be defenseless even if you aren’t on paper.

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Depending on your powerset you are likely to have much more ways to retaliate than by throwing a punch. If you’re a celebrity? Get your backers to can that idiot from his job, that’ll teach them! And that is just one example. Do you have mental powers? Well then it is even easier to get the idiot to either back off or to give him the hilarious “suggestion” that maybe he should punch himself in the face.
But again, bullies are natural cowards and they don’t usually strike those who can retaliate and the reckoning does not have to be physical, in fact the best forms are not.

Overall this:

at the very least would remain very much true.

Then that is clearly no good place for you to work, in relation to the gay thing it has always been my policy, at least on the verbal level, to give as good as I have to take whenever I can get away with it. In fact making others laugh at instead of with a bully is a good way to get them to back off.
Now if I were employed at a place that is always, automatically on the side of that bully no matter what then that is clearly not the place for me to work.
If it is a place that I am forced to work at then that is slavery and if you do that to actually powerful, as in super-powered people that status-quo situation is simply not going to last very long. Again these people are not your typical discriminated minority (and I’m frankly getting sick and tired of mainstream media insisting they could be) and you can’t get away with that sort of culture against them for long, and given how useful superpowers tend to be I doubt there would even be such a culture in the first place.

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Yeah, I have to eat and pay rent. And since I am introvert, not good at networking and live in a place where it is best to not ‘stick out’, I have to take what I can get.

Realistically, if we are talking our real world, I think that discrimination would pretty easily get divided between:

  • The kind of people who got the powers. Because, those who are already powerful today, would keep being so.

  • The type of power. If this is an x-man situation there would definitly be powers which would be deemed ‘cool’ or ‘useful’ and power which would not. I remember the cartoon. There was a group of mutants who were literal disfigured by their mutations, they lived in the sewer because they had to. I remember it so distinctively because it kind of made me hate the x-men because I thought that if these people who really need help doesn’t feel safe fleeing to the school, then what’s the point?

I do think that that there is one place where fantasy discrimnation really has to step up and that is stop having those who oppress the the fantasy group be real world minorities. Then it gets really disturbing that the oppressed is real world majorities while the oppressors are real world minorities.

Bully being natural cowards is a myth, which modern studies have disproved.

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It’s worth pointing out that greater “power” (or at least the perception of it) doesn’t prevent discrimination, and may invite it. Remember that one of the drivers of European anti-Semitism was the perception that they were hoarding great wealth unjustly taken from Christians. Actions against them were frequently initiated by the popular mob, and blocked or encouraged by rulers according to their own interest.

A lot of modern anti-Semitism follows the same stories, with the added absurdity of Jews secretly controlling world governments.

I’m given to understand that similar patterns applied to other groups, such as Armenians in the Ottoman Empire or Christian minorities in Egypt and the Levant.

In that light, I could see a lot of popular hatred of superhumans, whether or not anyone’s able to act on it. Fear is a powerful motivator.

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This example doesn’t support your argument. In the situation described, the bully is a normal person, the victim is a normal person, and the police collectively* represent a superhuman.

If you think you can find an example of a child convincing one police department* to bully another police department*, there may be some weight to your claims here.

*In a sufficiently low-power setting, a superhuman is more equivalent to a single officer than an entire department. In very high-power settings, a single superhuman more easily compares to an entire nation’s unified military forces. No, they don’t get discriminated against by bullies who pretend to be “the real victim.”

Oh, which modern studies? Because in my own lived experience they definitely were.
Like I said in real life the best way I ever got rid of a bully was to hit back verbally and have the crowd laughing with me and at him, and not the other way around. That takes the “fun” out of it for them right quick.

And as I got older, healthier, fitter and wealthier it has stopped almost completely in my life, except for the very occasional nasty remark and that is only because I’m open and apparently “flamboyant”. Oppression and also bullying tends to flow from power and privilege, not towards it. Miraculously, aside from the balding, this coincided with me losing the typical markers of an attractive target for bullies, youth, relative poverty ill-health and generally looking worse than them.

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