Stosh ‘Piz’ Piznarski of Veronica Mars might not be guilty of the crime fandom has accused him of. Despite the cast and crew of Veronica Mars dubbing him a nice guy and drawing comparisons to Logan Echolls, the so-called bad boy, Piz in the narrative never does this. Aside from an innocuous comment about being “a lover, not a fighter”, he never wonders why Veronica is with Logan or expects her to be with him because he’s “nice”. He’s just a boy with a crush on a girl who’s already taken. A boy whose worst offense is accidentally/purposefully asking said girl out. Oh and that Zac Efron wannabe haircut.
On the flip side, you have Ted Mosby who is steeped in the Nice Guy ™ mud. He even comes out and says he thinks Robin should be with him and not Barney. That being said, I still liked Ted. I have a general soft spot for protagonists as it is, and somewhere along the way, Ted’s annoying quest to find his soulmate became endearing. Right up until the finale, anyway (forever bitter). Although I share the popular disdain for the HIMYM finale, I did not ship Robin and Barney. I’ve seen gifsets that compare Barney to Ted, as if somehow being a Nice Guy ™ is worse than spewing misogynistic garbage 24/7. Barney may not be a nice guy, but he does subscribe to the Nice Guy ™ school of thought. For he was once a nice guy, who got dumped by a girl, and then decided it didn’t pay to be nice. But guess what? I liked Barney Stinson too.
I recently started watching The Walking Dead. Well, right now I’m on a much needed break after binging three and a half seasons of perpetual misery in 72 hours, but I do plan on continuing. Anyway, right around season two and three, amidst the Rick/Lori/Shane love triangle drama, Daryl dealing with his racist brother, Caroyl blossoming from battered wife to badass, and Andrea’s questionable taste in men, I noticed that I knew next to nothing about T-Dogg, our resident man of color. Of course there’s also Glenn, but his neglect lessened once he got a white girlfriend, though I still know more about Maggie than I do Glenn. So, in season three T-Dogg dies. Look, everybody on that show dies. They’d already killed off Lori and Shane and Dale and Merle. Freaking Merle! He was in less episodes than T-Dogg, yet even he had a richer story. And that’s the problem. That’s what made T-Dogg’s death irritating to me, not the death of a POC character in a show that already lacked them, but the blatant neglect. This is what they all have in common.
The death of Abbie Mills from Sleepy Hollow is merely a symptom of a larger problem. They wouldn’t have killed her if Nicole Beharie hadn’t wanted to leave. The problem is, Nicole Beharie wanted to leave because her character had been sidelined. The same goes for Ricky Whittle from The 100, whose neglect only started in season three. Teen Wolf didn’t kill off Kira Yukimura, but they still got rid of Arden Cho after a season of absent episodes. Bonnie Bennett is still on The Vampire Diaries, but if you compare her story to Caroline Forbes…well it’ll make you go hmmm. The Wire killed off several black men, but the cast was full of them, all complex and fully realized. Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s strength doesn’t merely come from the number of POC’s in their cast, but how fleshed out they all are.
And yes, I’m aware of the disparity in numbers, but I don’t think merely holding onto the characters of color you have so they can hover on the sidelines while you meet your diversity quota is acceptable. I’m not asking show writers to give them immunity from death or suffering, just DO something with them. Give them beautiful and complex and heartbreaking stories. Treat them like you do your white characters.Like they’re actual people with actual lives. If history is any indication, progress comes in baby steps. Hey Hollywood, how about you start there?