9 Engaging in Discussions about Controversial Issues

Engaging in Discussions about Controversial Issues

Alys Avalos-Rivera

People constantly engage in conversations about controversial issues in different contexts and media. You may have observed that sometimes people around you in favor of one point of view in everyday conversations or when they interact online. Some may use memes, others discuss hot topics through social media, and some even participate in online forums and blogs.  These sort of controversies may deal with real issues but can also address leisure topics. We will begin our exploration of persuasive writing considering a rather informal topic discussed in an online forum.

The Controversy About Female Characters in Science Fiction

Some people argue that women are usually misrepresented in fiction. This means that a great number of the main characters in novels, movies, and even in comics are men, whereas women are pushed into the background to play secondary roles. Just think of how many female superheroes you have heard or read about in your lifetime. Probably not many, especially if you compare the number of female leading characters with cool superpowers to their male counterparts. Right? The same happens with famous movies in the history of the film industry, particularly in certain genres, such as action and science fiction, which have usually been dominated by male figures.

How many famous female leading characters from your favorite movies/video games/comics/animes can you name from the top of your head in one minute?  Make a list and compare it to the male characters you can remember in the same amount of time. You can use the table below. Remember they should be leading characters, not supporting characters. For example, if you like the Harry Potter series, you cannot use Hermione Granger and your list,  because in that series Harry Potter is the main character.

Female Characters Male Characters
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the United States, the lack of female-centered stories has been taken into consideration by the movie industry to create a new generation of leading female characters in some movies such as Kill Bill, the Divergent series, and more recently, the new Star Wars trilogy.  However, some still believe that women are still far from being as well represented as men are. In the first part of this chapter, we will explore the end of the Star Wars series and see whether they feel that the situation has truly changed.

Presenting a Point of View on an Online Forum.

The following chart shows reactions of Star Wars fans to an article posted on The Guardian’s Website about the importance of having the Star Wars sequel centered on a female character.[1]

Poster[2] Reaction
Elegant Weapon Women are not some extreme minority. That said, white women leads in science fantasy films franchises aren’t all that rare: the Hunger Game series, Resident Evil, Mad Max Fury Road, Lucy, Lara Croft, Underworld, Kill Bill, The Divergent series, Sucker Punch.

I get Star Wars was hugely male-centered, but the people acting like a white woman lead in these kinds of movies is so groundbreaking haven’t REALLY been thirsty for a lead in this kind of film… They’re just getting to be commonplace.

Ender_and_Bean It’s definitely been improving steadily ever since Ripley in Aliens (those others you’ve shared are all fairly new) and now the Star Wars universe can be added to that list.
Mars 457 Nine heroines in fourteen years is hardly commonplace. And none of those approached Star Wars in being any kind of cultural touchstone. Plus, many heroines are pretty poorly designed. For example: Zack Snyder’s idea of feminism is “girls dressed in sexy clothes and shoot things in their imaginary space, but in real life they just get abused and their agency robbed”. After Padme (whose death by childbirth lost me because I thought this was a technologically advanced society and not the Middle Ages, never mind that bull where she can’t muster up the will to live for her children) it’s certainly nice to have a Star Wars heroine who is allowed to take charge and not be damasked or otherwise lose her agency.
 Lee_ That’s exactly what I was thinking. You can name a handful that are women, and several thousands that are men; that certainly doesn’t speak to equality or them being commonplace. I think Rey is a very significant character as a female. Speaking of equality, let’s bust out a definition, as the word “feminism” tends to so often invoke automatic reaction as if toward a resentful, man-hating she-beast. This is actually how the term is defined: Feminism- the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.
Elegant Weapon Three of the top 20 films this year were all white women lead big budget science fantasy films. I’m not even including straight fantasy films from this year starring white women like Inside Out or Cinderella. By contrast, the only high grossing fantasy film released this year featuring a woman of color was Pixar’s Home. There were zero fantasy or sci fi films released this year that featured a man of color as THE lead, as far as I can tell. Forgot to mention, Star Wars: Rouge One next year will star a white woman.
 Lee_ I’m not really overwhelmed by 15% as an argument.

 

Discussion

  1. What was the main point discussed by the forum participants in this thread?
  2. What is Elegant Weapon’s position on the issue? How does the poster make his/her point?
  3. Does any participant agree with the first post? To what extent?
  4. What are the arguments used by those posters who disagree with Elegant Weapon’s opinion?
  5. How does Elegant Weapon respond to his/her opponents in this discussion?
  6. The poster nicknamed as Lee_ participated twice in the discussion. Which purpose does each one of his/her posts address?
  7. Which side of this discussion seems more persuasive to you? Why?

Content Focus

Below, you will find nine quotes from the forum thread that express the posters’ opinions about the presence of female characters in science fiction movies. Label the quotes depending on the side of the argument they support. Use PRO  for those who believe the use of female leading characters is now a common practice and CON for those who argue that women are still underrepresented in the genre. If you find one quote that you believe is not entirely taking sides, mark it with an X.

  1. White women leads in science fantasy films franchises aren’t all that rare.
  2. They (female lead characters) are just getting to be commonplace.
  3. Nine heroines in fourteen years is hardly commonplace.
  4. I get Star Wars was hugely male-centered, but . . .
  5. It’s definitely been improving steadily ever since Ripley in Aliens
  6. Plus, many heroines are pretty poorly designed. For example . . .
  7. You can name a handful that are women, and several thousands that are men.
  8. Three of the top 20 films this year were all white women lead big budget science fantasy films
  9. I’m not really overwhelmed by 15% as an argument.

Language Focus

The participants did not only make statements to express their opinions. They provided examples, made comparisons, and even refuted other posters’ statements using new information and arguments. Match each of the quotes on the right column with the most appropriate communicative purpose on the left. One of the purposes can be used twice.

 

a. Refuting an opponent’s argument 1. Nine heroines in fourteen years is hardly commonplace. (        )
b. Accepting and refuting 2. It’s definitely been improving steadily (        )
c. Agreeing and emphasizing 3. Plus, many heroines are pretty poorly designed. For example (        )
d. Establishing a comparison to make a point 4. I’m not really overwhelmed by 15% as an argument (        )
e Adding a point and citing examples 5. I get Star Wars was hugely male-centered, but… (        )
6. You can name a handful that are women, and several thousands that are men. (        )

How do the words/phrases in bold prints help the writers make their point?

 


  1. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/30/star-wars-is-a-game-changer-awakening-the-feminist-force-in-little-girls-everywhere
  2. These reactions were posted on the Jedi Council Forum at http://theforce.net/

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Engaging in Discussions about Controversial Issues by Alys Avalos-Rivera is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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