Captain Underpants and Incidental Diversity

September 5, 2015

Captain Underpants is in the bookish news right now and this time it has nothing to do with being challenged (this series is frequently banned for being inappropriate or encouraging children to disobey authority).

The full story can be found here, but the long and short of it is that in the course of the newest book, it is revealed that one of the characters is gay. And it isn’t a big deal. In fact, it isn’t even remarked upon.

This is incidental diversity and it is exactly what needs to happen in literature. Kids (and all readers for that matter) need to see characters who are like them in books, but the stories they read don’t always need to be about how they’re POC, gay, differently-abled, etc. In some ways this just highlights differences and reinforces ideas that a white/straight/cis experience is the norm and anything else is a variation.

Incidental diversity shows that a gay character can be gay without that being the story. A character who is a POC or differently-abled or of a different religion can have varied experiences in a multitude of genres and that part of their identity is just that: only a part of who they are.

 

So while I don’t care very much about Captain Underpants, I am super excited about this. Hopefully more authors/illustrators and publishers will take note and we’ll see more diverse characters being regular characters.

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