It has recently come to the attention of various large organisations that a nod to diversity wouldn’t go amiss now and again. Whether upping their diversity quota for good PR or just plain recognising the hard work and talent of some people who happen not to be young, white, able-bodied, straight, cis and male there’s been some space making going on and I am here for it. Because there’s now room for me to squeeze in.
Comedy is one such industry that has chosen to visibly up the diversity quota, most famously in the BBC, making for more balanced panels and new comedy-dramas. Or drama-comedies. However, some people are not here for it. And this is where we come to the accusation of being ‘the token’. Somehow the people who book the show are bypassed and the person who (no doubt once again) had to be the only woman and/or only person of colour on the lineup or on the panel is accused of only being booked as ‘the token’. A box ticker, if you will.
This is hugely reductive and completely dismisses the work that has gone into the accused’s career. The late nights, the gigs where they died on their arse, the writing new material, networking, travelling.
This is where I shoehorn (no, not shoehorn, this is DESTINY and not clickbait) Game of Thrones in.
Game of Thrones spoiler alert.
Are you ready? Have you watched the latest episode by any means necessary? Good. Then I’ll continue. In the last episode of Game of Thrones Arya Stark did what nobody thought possible, or at least thought would take ages and be done by Jon Snow, hm, maybe Bran if he woke up from his nap in time. Arya killed the Night King causing him, his army of the undead and some fanboys to shatter.
The conclusion from some GoT fans with a Twitter account was that Arya Stark was a Mary Sue.
Was it a touch deus ex machina? Yes. However is Arya a Mary Sue? Absolutely not. What’s a Mary Sue? Well, traditionally a Mary Sue is an “original character and has no flaws” but in this specific case it’s intended to be dismissive and criticise that the youngest Stark girl came from nowhere. Oh she took you by surprise? LIKE THE ASSASSIN SHE TRAINED TO BE (yes I realise it’s not real).
How am I going to link this? Read on dear… reader. People unhappy with Arya’s storyline justify their discontent by conveniently forgetting that, unlike Jon Snow, Arya has been training solidly for years as a warrior, an assassin and sword fighter (how is that different from warrior? I don’t know, the rule of three seems really important right now) practically speaking it actually makes more sense she’d do what she did. When audience members dismiss a minority on a comedy show panel or line up as ‘the token’ they essentially Mary Sue them, implying they got to where they are with no effort and are less deserving than their more familiar white male peers.
Everybody who is succeeding in comedy is doing so because they have worked hard at it. Or are Jack Whitehall (JOKE). What’s important is we make sure everyone with the talent has their hard work pay off. We only do that if we embrace diversity.
Seven hells I think I did it.