Holding Your Breath: the Power of Artists and Diversity

I think sometimes artists don’t realise the power they hold. As Geena Davis says, “If she can’t see it, she can’t be it.” Representation matters.

Image from Dragon Age Inquisition showing the character Dorian Pavus with text overlayed describing the viewer having an emotional reaction upon seeing a person of colour depicted positively.

From Dragon Age Confessions (used with permission).

As part of my MA thesis, I’ve been conducting a series of interviews with media professionals. Many of them are known to me personally through past work, but a few are new introductions through friends. Today I spoke with an art lead at a well known game company. He, like many of the folks I’ve had the fortune to interview, was generous with his time and attention.

We had some differing views on diversity – which is one of the reasons for conducting the interviews – and the power of representation. He is of Asian descent, but has not, to his knowledge, encountered any discrimination in his profession because of this. He said he spent a lot of time thinking about diversity, but hadn’t come to any big conclusions on the topic. The scope is vast and, at the end of our interview, he wished me good luck in sorting through the complexities.

As an artist, he leaned more in the direction of “art as reflection” rather than a driving force of social change. Admittedly – and in agreement with his point – art is generally a product of its time. However, I argued, images are often so much more powerful than words. It’s important to recognise how quickly you can influence a person with a picture (insert cliché here).

I am still mentally processing the interview, along with the handful of others I’ve conducted thus far. I learn something from everyone I’ve spoken with, which can be both both exhilarating and exhausting. I’m not drawing a lot of conclusions just yet, but the above image of Dorian from Dragon Age came into the discussion. Seems important to share it again.

Well, perhaps I have come to a bit of a conclusion, after all: art is powerful and representation matters.

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