The issue of inclusion and diversity of distributions in cultural products has been widely discussed. On the one hand, there is talk of the importance of showing other types of bodies in the series and movies that are available to us; while at the same time many fans complain about a “forced inclusion” of diverse people who seem unnecessary to them. But where does this discussion come from? What are some starting points to think about this phenomenon called tokenism?

What is tokenism?

First of all, it is necessary to talk about “tokenism”; this is an anglicism of the word token, which means token. But in particular, It refers to the dynamic that invites a person belonging to a minority community to participate in a space that has been historically denied or in which only white, cisgender, heterosexual people, etc. are usually present.

They are not necessarily invited because the people who make up the space want to change it and open it up to a more diverse audience; but through the inclusion of a marginalized person, they can argue that this is enough and ignore making greater efforts to make their spaces of influence fairer.

PHOTO: Greg Rosenke via Unsplash

The word “token” is used, precisely because people are used as a token; as a supposed sign of commitment to change. In reality, this type of dynamic only has the consequence that the “kindly included” person experiences persistent institutional violence in these spaces; while the institution itself benefits from the image that the invited person gives it. In other words, these dynamics are violent because, instead of modifying spaces to dismantle the systemic oppression that is manifested in them; a couple of people living under oppression are introduced as supposed evidence of progress. Without worrying about the conditions of the spaces that may be harmful due to the way they were built.

Tokenism manifests itself when people who experience one or more forms of oppression are invited to certain spaces to exhibit our work.. But always with the limit of not bothering so much, of only highlighting certain varieties of diversity; those that are less threatening to the institution in which you are.

An example of the discussions around tokenism also has to do with inclusion in the media. Instead of supporting works written and directed by people who have been historically excluded, they are given a few moments in front of the screen in roles that were not necessarily written for them and are left adrift when confronted with racist, misogynist and , homophobic, etc, from the audience.

This has happened in the case of series like Star Wars, in which several of the black and Asian actors have been part of the saga but had to close their accounts on social networks due to racist harassment by fans.

Between fiction and representation in cultural products

It was also the case of actor Steve Toussaint when he played Corlys Velaryon in the new series “The House of the Dragon”; since many fans said that it was not canon that the character was black and had blonde hair. In the same series there were also complaints about graphic representations of sexual violence against women. Miguel Sapochnik, one of the showrunners stated that “you cannot ignore the violence that men perpetrated against women at that time. It should not be minimized and it should not be glorified.”

This is disconcerting if we think that the universe of Game of Thrones and the House of the Dragon is entirely fictional. Although it does emulate the Middle Ages in Europe. If there are immortal witches, dragons and ice supernatural beings, why adhere to the reality of violence against women? Why can’t black people have colored hair? Either way, this just shows that as long as the series are directed entirely by the same people, we will only have crumbs of this supposed inclusion.

It is important to ask ourselves who could write stories that show characters of color, sexual diversity and disabilities in a dignified way. And not as caricatures or attempts to reinvent the same old stories.

tell other stories

On the other hand, this is also not intended as an attack on the people who take on these roles or are part of projects like the ones mentioned above; since inclusion in these spaces does open the doors for them to have the necessary resources and tell their own stories. Create other types of representations. Such is the case of Quinta Brunson, an actress, screenwriter and producer who rose to fame for her work on Buzzfeed. She allowed him to eventually go on to develop her own series called “Abbott Elementary,” which has been critically acclaimed and is about to premiere its second season.

Beyond questioning individual actions, it seems important to me look at the institutional dynamics that support an elite and prevent the passage of people who do not belong to these groups. Cultural products are an important part of this phenomenon, I would like us to think, regardless of whether the cast of Bridgerton is “realistic” or not; What other fictional stories can we tell that do not take place in a society like Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries? Instead of asking ourselves which new actresses can play Alice in Wonderland, why not tell the stories of other girls? Black, indigenous, Asian girls, what are their cultures like? What would their adventures be like if we wanted to tell them?


The fight against tokenism is the fight for stories that are no longer considered rare exceptions or are not supposedly of general interest. Fight against exoticization. May our stories be as common and as valuable as the stories told by people within hegemonic contexts. We not only want a place at the table, but that we feel comfortable in it. Having the freedom to say and show the projects in which we have poured all our attention.

Coolhuntermx – About tokenism in cultural products