Tips for “Token” characters.

Hey guys,
Have you recently found yourself moving to a new school? Do you wear glasses and like D and D? Maybe? Are you a different race than all the other kids at your high school?Quite possibly? Are you looking for a place to fit in? Well, from my experience your new school is filled with mostly homogeneous people, but they will be more than happy to let you in, maybe even in the cool group, because, well the cool group is open minded like that. If not the cool group, maybe the group of lovable losers who would be the cool group if they had the right stylist, make-up girl and wardrobe. Yeah, they might do also.

Anyway, So as a Token minority on a show geared towards white people, I know what your first thought is: Where is the person that looks like me so I can date them? Of course! You are in a school with well over 1000 students, you have qualities that go deeper than your skin tone or your high SAT Math scores, but the one thing you need, is to play the white man’s game and date the one girl or guy in that school that looks just like you. Why? Because it’s what’s expected. Don’t buck the system. If you are black, you like black people, asian to asian, etc. If you are a Token minority and female, you will get asked out by the white male lead, but only for prom, during sweeps because he unexpectedly and quite out of character made a racist ass of himself. Asking you out is his penance, sure he means it, but only because the ratings are going to go through the roof.

At this point I am sure you are saying “but Chris, plenty of shows have people dating outside of their race,” and to a certain extent you are absolutely correct. However, I challenge you to name an interracial couple currently on television… five years back? Ten years? The only example that pops to mind in recent history was on Veronica Mars when Wallace (Veronica’s best friend and almost step-brother (bonus interracial relationship I wasn’t thinking of: Keith and Wallace’s mom) but never love interest) is dating a white girl. Of course he dumps the white girl the second they transfer in a new black girl. Also the aforementioned relationship between Keith (Veronica’s dad for the uninitiated) and Wallace’s mom is short lived and ends without an actual story based ending. They just aren’t dating anymore and no one really knows why. After that in my mind you have to go back to the late 90’s when a white main character, Shawn Hunter, dates and I believe marries a black woman, on Boy Meets World and that’s the strongest interracial relationship I can remember since the Jeffersons, and come on, everyone knows that on the Jeffersons the interracial neighbors were just a plot device.

So token characters, what can you do? Well, if you find someone of a different race that you are interested in, take a chance. Especially since you are going to have to break a few eggs before you can make your omelet. You are at a disadvantage, but buck up, if it doesn’t work out you will learn something, and they can always transfer in someone just like you next season.

My point (and I guess in that is my advice to writers) is that we are in an ever changing world. We are not in a post racial time, don’t let anyone feed you that lie. There are still racial tensions coming from all sides and there is still a lot to work out, but our parents, who grew up during the dawn of the civil rights movement, gave us the first non-white president, our generation got Shawn and his Black girlfriend (sorry her name escapes me) and it is our job to do so much more. It is our job to be the change that we want to see (thanks Ghandi) so the next time you are writing a story, think about what you can do to make your cast a little less homogeneous. Yes, write what you know, and don’t force anything that feels unnatural, but make some considerations. Put in an interracial relationship and don’t make it any sort of deal, make it just love. Or don’t give your characters race at all and let the reader decide. You can even do what Psych does, they have the first interracial Bromance, and it has been greatly successful (one of my favorites) (another bonus interracial relationship, the lead actor is hispanic and dating an actress from the show who is white) .

Keep putting those words to paper.

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About charismatictroublemaker

I'm the hottest isht on sound bombing. The charismatic trouble maker is an aspiring TV writer whose background includes theater as both an actor and a crew member, video production and screenplay/teleplay competition judging among an on going list of other things. He takes his writing serious and tries to better himself in everyone of his efforts. See the full Bio on we put words on paper, where he makes up a whole bunch of facts about himself.
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One Response to Tips for “Token” characters.

  1. bneyut says:

    It’s funny you say that, because just the other day, while watching Glee (yes, I watch Glee! Don’t judge me.) They had Tina, the token-goth-Asian girl, dating Artie (or Arty or whatever) the token-white-wheelchair-ridden boy dating each other. Then within the span of a couple episodes, Tina is dating the token-dancing-Asian guy, who I don’t even remember his name, because until recently he has only been the dancing guy, meaning he never really spoke.

    And in Battlestar, Lee, white, was dating then married to Dee, black, only for her to grant him leave from their marriage to be with his true love, Starbuck, who is, you guessed it, white.

    It’s funny to me that Hollywood attempts to be “edgy” or “social” by putting interracial couples together, only to turn around and break them apart. As if, interracial couples never work and survive? Basically, I agree with you, BOY MEETS WORLD is one of the best shows ever in the history of the world! That’s what you’re saying . . . right? ; )

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