Please do not write queer characters if you are not queer.
How script consultancy is the only way to go when writing lived experiences that are not your own.
As a representational activist, I often see so many scenes that make me internally cringe. Whether it’s the result of misinformation, or just completely off the mark. The importance of hiring or collaborating with a script consultant is crucial.
Take the show “Never Have I Ever” by example. Mindy Kaling is my fucking filmmaking idol and everything she touches turns to gold. However even the best of the best can miss the mark on occasion.
While, yes the coming out story of women-in-stem icon Fabiola was beautifully written. There was one small scene, however that made me face palm.
While in a fight with her friends about her toxic boyfriend, Eleanor defends accusations against him that he is cheating on her.
It can’t be possible, because the texts were from his agent. A senior-aged Asexual woman, and I quote:
“so it’s far-from-romantic.”
Talk to any Asexual person, and they would be offended at the implication that Asexuals aren’t romantic or don’t date. It’s actually more-in-line with Aphobic rhetoric that Asexuality is born from somebodies lack of ability to form relationships due to looks or personality.
It is so crucial to hire script consultants that understand the nuances of the identities you’re representing. Even if it is an off-handed comment or a throw-away character used in dialogue.
It’s also even more important to collaborate with somebody if that identity or minority is being represented, meaning that their contributions are valued financially and equitably. Rather than just feeling like being disposable so the studio can get diversity brownie points or more funding.
I kid you not. I remember listening to a 20-something film executive networking and talking to young aspiring filmmakers. They were talking about film grants, and how to further your chances of getting funding. I couldn’t believe my ears when the words
“if you want money for your film, include an indigenous character”
came out of his crusty-lipped mouth. It’s always best to combat that kind of energy with a general naiveness.
“Surely you’re writing the character to enhance the plot and aren’t just exploiting their experience to further your career though, right????”
All in all, it’s a simple concept. If you don’t understand somebodies lived experience, how do you feel confident with writing it? You shouldn’t.