A “token” character is a term for a character who is any combination of non-white, non-straight, and/or non-cisgender and has been included in a story’s cast simply for the sake of diversity or political correctness - and they’re pretty much never the main character. They’re known as a “token” character because they are typically the only non-white/non-straight/non-cis character in the cast, like the author was trying to fulfil their Diversity Quota.
It gets especially embarrassing when all of these traits are piled into one character, and they become the story’s captial-T “Token” character. For whatever reason, it’s like they’re the setting’s Chosen One for sexual and/or racial diversity. Everyone else is white/straight/cis except this one person. It’s weird.
You see token characters a lot with ensembles; for example, in high school stories. There might be a central group of friends, and this group will be primarily composed of white, straight, cisgender people - but they’ll have One Black Friend. Or One Asian friend (whose exact nationality is never determined, funnily enough). Or One Gay Friend. And like I said before, in those weird, egregious examples, they’ll have the One Multiracial Gay Trans Friend. This character will have a grand total of maybe five minutes of screen time and probably will be composed entirely of stereotypes, but hey, at least they’re there, right? See, not everyone’s white/straight/cis! This one person over on the side here is XYZ!
(The above is sarcasm. Ugh, tokenism.)
Question I’m sure you’re all wondering: How can you avoid tokenism? Simple. Make more of your characters non-white/non-straight/non-cis. It’s a big old world we live in, folks. There is no good reason and there is no excuse for populating your story only with White Straight Cis people.
Hope that helps.
- that one part where the whole movie
50 Shades of Grey was originally fanfiction based on the Twilight series, which was then published as a novel (along with 2 subsequent books). It sold over 100 million copies around the world and topped best-seller lists everywhere. It’s about to be adapted into a film, set to come out early next year.
It follows a college student named Ana Steele, who enters a relationship with a man named Christian Grey and is then introduced to a bastardised and abusive parody of BDSM culture.
While the book is paraded as erotica, the relationship between Ana and Christian is far from healthy. The core mantra of the BDSM community is “safe, sane and consensual”, and 50 Shades is anything but. None of the rules of BDSM practices (which are put in place to protect those involved) are actually upheld. Christian is controlling, manipulative, abusive, takes complete advantage of Ana, ignores safe-words, ignores consent, keeps her uneducated about the sexual practices they’re taking part in, and a multitude of other terrible things. Their relationship is completely sickening and unhealthy.
Basically, “the book is a glaring glamorisation of violence against women,” as Amy Bonomi so perfectly put it.
It’s terrible enough that a book like this has been absorbed by people worldwide. Now, we have a film that is expected to be a huge box-office success, and will likely convince countless more young women that it’s okay not to have any autonomy in a relationship, that a man is allowed to control them entirely. It will also show many young men that women are theirs to play with and dominate, thus contributing to antiquated patriarchal values and rape culture.
Boycott this fucking movie, for the love of god. These kinds of ideas are dangerous and set us back as a society