Steampunk without POC is so 1899

Saw the other day that Hullaballoo, a new steampunk animation project by former Disney animators, reached it’s funding goal on IndieGoGo. Good for the project. It looks like a worthy one. The animators involved want to prove that hand-drawn, 2D animation is still where it’s at. I’m down. The story takes place in a cool steampunk world and has two female leads. More down. The animators themselves are not all white dudes. Very down.

But then we come to the characters. All of them are white.

hullabaloo poster

When I pointed this out to Mary Robinette Kowal, one of the voice actors, she pinged the producer to bring up this point. The answer she got was that the team didn’t have time to make changes to the trailer and concept art before the IndieGoGo campaign, but that there would be a “diverse cast.” Mary also suggested that raising this question in the comments on the IndieGoGo page would not be a bad idea.

I agree. But that shouldn’t be the limit to where we raise that question. It needs to go on the Facebook page, mentioned in YouTube comments, brought up via the contact form on the website, and raised wherever you see someone posting about this project.

Because while I do really want to see this succeed, it would be ridiculous to make a steampunk film with only white characters. There’s no justifiable reason for this cast not to be racially diverse. Even if we’re sticking with Victoriana, it would not break the world to make one of the protagonists Indian, Black, or Asian, just to name three obvious choices among many. And let’s not stop there–diversity among secondary and background characters is just as important as it is for the leads. Hullabaloo could be a great opportunity to show what a racially and culturally diverse steampunk world could be like.

So my challenge to you is this: make that happen. Tweet, post on Facebook, leave a comment on the IndieGoGo page, write blog posts about this. Advocate for positive change. The time to do so is now when the project is still in a nascent form.

11 thoughts on “Steampunk without POC is so 1899

    1. Thus far the creators have not said that any of the characters are not white, and since this issue has been brought up with them directly it’s safe to assume they would have mentioned it. It wouldn’t be hard to make these characters POC, though!

      1. As you said “The answer she got was that the team didn’t have time to make changes to the trailer and concept art before the IndieGoGo campaign, but that there would be a “diverse cast.” ”
        So they actually said there WILL be a diverse cast. They didn’t choose to focus on this point for the campaign, and it is really a BIG fault of theirs, but the fact that they didn’t mention that Pigtail Girl is latina does not make her white. She is also on the Hullabaloo Indiegogo poster (on the right) and you can see her skin is brown.

        1. IF it turns out this character is POC, I’ll be very happy. But if that character was meant to read as POC right now, I think the producer would have mentioned it. Or the admins behind the IndieGoGo or Facebook pages would have sais so in response to the many comments about the diversity issue, some of which were deleted from the page.

          Saying that the cast will be diverse says nothing about in which way it will be. They could mean they’ll put some POC in the background and call it done.

          And I find it amusing that you’re assuming pigtail girl is Latina. Another person commenting (maybe on Tumblr) said the girl clearly looked Southeat Asian. Her skin is slightly browner than the other girl’s, but again: that could mean she’s a white person with a tan in the eyes of the creators. Or from somewhere around the Mediterranean.

          If you want to sit back and assume the character with pigtails is POC and be done, you can do that. Given that the admins are erasing or ignoring comments on this point, it’s clear to me that more pressure is needed and more attention must be paid.

  1. You do realize that the campaign was for the production of a Promo Reel, not a feature film yes? More than likely No one will ever see this reel, which is described as nothing more than showing a preview of “the world of Hullabaloo.” So there is potential that the reel might not even contain characters, much less ethnic ones.

    This reel could be shopped around for years before anyone finds interest in it and even then there is a huge chance that someone could buy it and stick it on a shelf and never be heard from again. ….Not unlike a LOT of large scale steampunk tv shows and films that have tried to crowdsource over the last couple of years.

    1. I don’t see how any of that changes the fact that there should be diversity in it. If a movie or TV show or other media is made based on these ideas, it’s good to get the creators to consider and integrate this stuff now instead of being disappointed by it way down the line.

  2. Thank you Tempest for bringing this matter out. I applaud the Hullabaloo animator so for wanting to do a high end project on my favorite subject: Steampunk. But I am saddened that the typical aversion to include a diverse population in its advertising has reared its ugly head. I am a woman of color who travels across states to attend steampunk festivals. I put a lot of money into my ‘hobby’ and am always looking for more steampunk adventures. It is really sad that I still have to make a grand noise just for some small form of recognition of my ethnicity. To not see color is to not acknowledge the wealth of beauty and contributions that have come out of the brilliance of different cultures, colors and class. Steampunk is NOT just being in one specific time period. Steampunk is INFLUENCED by a specific time period. I follow the art and literature because it transcends the narrow world of the Victorian age but captures, hopefully, the best of what that age offered. Shame on Hullabaloo for ignoring that special distinction in their advertising. The ‘ didn’t have time to change trailer’ explanation just shows the arrogance of the makers. They spent probably over a year conceptualizing this project. At no time in that year did they even bother to perhaps acknowledge that there will be consumers that are non-Caucasion that might want to spend money to see their project. I’m pissed!

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