As part of the current rush of pre-Halo 5 rush of information, Michelle Lukes, a mixed race British actress, was recently revealed as the new voice for Kelly-087.
Kelly is a long standing and beloved character in the Halo’verse and has, in addition to Ms. Lukes, been portrayed by voice actress Luci Christian (in Halo Legends) and actress Jenna Berman, who are both white. This does technically leave a certain amount of room for interpretation of Kelly’s race. But as far as I’m concerned, Kelly is now a canonically mixed race character, and I think you should all agree with me.
Halo is set in the 26th century. Humanity has expanded to occupy dozens of planets. And even on Earth, the borders of modern countries have shifted, dissolved and largely lost relevance. So when it comes to casting Halo works there should be a lot of mixed race characters. And I mean a lot. They should be not only common, but over-represented, compared to modern demographics.
So I’m really excited whenever the Halo diversifies further. And besides all that, Michelle Lukes looks like she has a great background for playing Kelly and I’m excited to hear her.
Except, Kelly is never going to look like Michelle Lukes in my head. I am, in general, pretty laid back about headcanons. I usually have a few, I adopt a lot of other people’s, they’re generally not a big deal. But Halo is different. I’m very personally attached to the series, and I’m very attached to my headcanons. So I don’t particularly enjoy trading headcanons about Halo characters, I’d rather just keep mine.
Well, my headcanons were generated by my uneducated white 14 year old self, and so you will all be unsurprised to find that they are whiter than cottage cheese (with the exception, for some reason of Fred-104, who I’ve always pictured as mixed race).
I actually squealed when when Jenna Berman’s Kelly was revealed in Forward Unto Dawn because she looks more or less exactly how I pictured Kelly in my head. She’ll probably always look pretty much like this in my head. And when things start to diverge from there, my inner 14 year old comes out and starts squawking.
Ultimately, having taken time to think it over, I don’t see this as a problem. Canon diversity and representation are important. The diversity of my personal headcanons, in my own head, are far less important. I love that we have a diverse canon, I’m going to talk about, and write about that canon. Its not a problem if I don’t actually visualize it.
Except, while I was busy giving 14 year old-Dendritic Trees a cookie and an Evanescence CD and sending her back to her room, this really interesting fancast courtesy of cortnan came across my Tumblr dashboard.
The fancast features Tahmoh Penikett as John-117. My heacanons are way too overspecific to match well to actors, but Tahmoh Penikett is a remarkably good match for mine, easily as close as I could reasonably expect an actor to be. The internal features of his face aren’t really how I imagine John, but the external features, and his build and colouring (pre-armour) are very close. If he were cast as a live action Master Chief, I would be genuinely pleased with the choice.
So remember five paragraphs ago when I mentioned that I was an oblivious white teenage who came up with obliviously white headcanons? Tahmoh Penikett is not white. He may pass as white, but he’s actually mixed race (according to his wikipedia page his father is English and his mother is a member of the White River First Nation). Which is an excellent example of one of the lingering problems with how we represent race in the media, namely that white people are stupid. I knew that Tahmoh Penikett is mixed race because I looked him up previously, but that’s the only reason. If I hadn’t have already known he wasn’t, I would definitely have assumed that he was white. And this sort of thing happens a lot; there’s been a similar discussion about some of the actresses in Mad Max: Fury Road who some people have had trouble successfully identifying as non-white. Its true that obvious and visible representation serves a lot of purposes that less visible representation does not. But its worth asking the question; visible to who? The default assumption that everyone who isn’t obviously non-white (which, unfortunately often translates into stereotypically non-white) is white is its own problem and brings its own set of limitations to media representation.
Its fairly counterproductive to write a whole essay on race and conclude that my opinions on race should be ignored. But that’s basically what I’m getting at. The default media model of thinking about race is limited and boring. All issues of fairness and justice aside, making it more diverse will also make it more interesting. And I’d like to watch media like that, even if I’m not necessarily always going to write it.