Please note, I am a 32 year old white woman from the USA living in Japan with a Japanese husband. This doesn’t not give me FANTASTIC insight into many of the issues minorities in the USA or other such areas face. The danger that they find them in is much more than the danger I’ve faced, but I like to hope it has given me more empathy and maybe like 2% insight.
On that note, I really think representation matters. I don’t it’s enough to us ambiguous terms like “olive skin” or retroactively state a character was one thing when what was written never explicitly said it.
I mean, it’s FINE for the fans to do! Goodness knows, when have are blank slates you will try to find a way to identify with these characters you love and respect. I don’t think it’s ok for authors to do it though. I think authors owe minority readers the courtesy to write what we damn well mean to write, not beat about the bush on it. And especially, not just leave everything super vague so “readers can choose how they see these characters”, because hey, it’ll usually be with the faces of the same people they see on TV, in magazines, and everywhere else.
So, is there such a thing as too much representation?
Yes. and no.
Yes, when it is forced and written simply to be there without ANY thought OR written for fetishism, or serving some other similarly icky purpose. Example, I dislike MOST BL comics because they fetishize romance between men. If you want to give me a romance I really don’t care who the partners are, or how many there are, as long as it’s presented genuinely, and more realistically than “He is a hot man. I am a hot man. We must do the sex.” Ai no Kotodama is still one of the sweetest romance movies I’ve seen out of Japan, also, doesn’t hurt I have a huge personality crush on Tokuyama Hidenori.
No, when it is a natural part of the story. These characters have been well-rounded and developed and given history pertaining to their culture and backgrounds. And, I do not just mean characters of color or sexualities other than hetero. I also include disabilities, illnesses (mental or physical or emotional), trauma (I hate a badly inserted rape trauma scene), religions, interracial couples and/or children. Filling a world with people is hard, I get it, but as a writer you make it harder when all your people are the same.
Life is this wonderfully weird nonsensical algorithm of chaos. People come in every possible combination you can imagine, and some we probably can’t!
My personal recommendations for reading with awesome definitive representation are:
The Ink and Bone Trilogy
The Golem and the Djinni
Do you have any?