? asked in Entertainment & MusicMovies · 9 years ago

What makes a token character a token character?

In a work of fiction, what is it that makes a token minority character 'token'?

If there are a group of characters, and one is a minority, does that alone make them token?

If their character is given more detail than just than their minority status, does that make them not token? Or are they still a token character because of their minority status?

What if a group of characters are all from minority groups? Does that make the whole group token?

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  • 9 years ago
    Best Answer

    That's a complex question because it always depends on the specific portrayal of the character in the context of the particular film. But I would say that a token minority character usually does not really add to the plot at all and only is allowed to chip in a word here and there. The token character could as well be left out and appears to mainly have been inserted so that the film can not be criticized for leaving out minority characters. For example, the African American characters in the Queer As Folk episodes I've watched were all more or less token -- not least as there was (to my knowledge) really only one of them. However, even though Queer as Folk had only a few lesbian characters, one could hardly say that they were token lesbians, given that they contributed in complex ways to the plot of the series and had meaningful, relevant relationships with the gay characters as well.

    Usually, I would say that in particular films that have a whole array of characters that are relevant to its plot but have no minority/queer/disabled characters in any of those roles but only in the background use such characters as a token. Because these characters are only marginally or not at all relevant to the plot, they also do not appear as full characters with complex lives and multi-layered personalities. Stereotypical depictions of such characters are in my opinion a separate issue that is not directly related to the use of minority characters as token, because even if a character is reduced to her/his minority status, the way the character is portrayed may still not be stereotypical. (A series about a hospital could include an African American doctor in a minor, not plot-related role without portraying any stereotypes about what African Americans are usually like, for example, but still use the character as a token.)

    It seems to me that in particular series are vulnerable to the charge of using token characters -- characters that are supposed to show the audience: "Look, we've also included an Asian American; look, we've also included a transgender person" because series frequently portray entire social milieus that should represent the lives of many different subsets of people if they are at all truthful. Of course, today lots of series no longer use minorities as token characters but indeed use them not just as a testimony of apparent inclusion ("Look, we ..."), but also as real characters that with full, complex lives and multi-faceted personalities.

  • Anonymous
    4 years ago

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    RE:

    What makes a token character a token character?

    In a work of fiction, what is it that makes a token minority character 'token'?

    If there are a group of characters, and one is a minority, does that alone make them token?

    If their character is given more detail than just than their minority status, does that make them not token? Or are...

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  • 9 years ago

    A token character is defined more by the purpose that they fulfill than anything else. Simply being a minority doesn't define a token character any more than being fat or blond. If the perspective of the observer is that the character was simply placed in the story for the single and sole purpose of being placed in the story..that is a token character.

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    Stereotypes basically.

    But it goes farther than just racism, like there always being a guy with a sword as the main character in a rpg, he is a token character, because you expect it. (The Hero)

    But the minority thing comes from the white man realizing there were only white people around, and thought that might make him look bad, so he throws in some color to spice it up and save his skin over PR. Then someone comes along and realizes it, then it becomes well known, and then it is expected. (Example: The Black Guy, The White Guy, The Brown Guy, etc)

    Source(s): \\ //
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  • Martha
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    It's far beyond token. Today, far more than 12-16% of people on commercials and shows are black. Far more than 1-2% are gay. The "new normal" means that minorities must be over-represented as a percentage.

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