I started a blog on this subject this morning, and got as far as discussing the article that started me thinking before I had to wrap it up and go to my day job. The concept that I wanted to discuss is what I am calling “Label Guns”, characters who exist in order to demonstrate that the author is including a character that carries a particular label.
HERO: Hi, Mr. GAY Character, how are you today? Still GAY?
GAY CHARACTER: Yep. I was just about to go and do some GAY stuff, in fact.
HERO: Oh, like go on a date with a man?
GAY CHARACTER: Oh, heaven’s no! Not that GAY. I’m just going to watch some musicals and decorate something.
HERO: Fair enough. By the way, do you actually have a job here?
GAY CHARACTER: Uh… well, I let you know who the bad guys are, because they hate me. Because I’m GAY.
HERO: I guess that’s important, but I was wondering if you had some reason to sit at that desk all day.
GAY CHARACTER: Well, I am super-smart and talented.
HERO: That’s true, you are very smart and very talented, in addition to being GAY.
GAY CHARACTER: I sure am. Talented and GAY.
HERO: But do you ever do anything that actually has any bearing on the plot?
GAY CHARACTER: Occasionally I dispense some pithy relationship advice.
HERO: Well, I don’t need any of that right now–the FEMALE character and I have a new-found respect for each other, because of, like, fighting and stuff.
GAY CHARACTER: Good to hear it. Well, I’ll just sit here and be GAY, then.
HERO: Okay. See you next episode.
While this is obviously a parody, it’s very much the feeling I get from how certain characters are sort of sprinkled on top of a story, like nuts on a hot fudge sundae. Often the designated MINORITY characters are described as being experts in some field or another, but when push comes to shove, it’s the HERO who saves the day.