Stereotyped vs Nuanced Characters and Audience Perception
Writing with color receives many questions regarding the stereotypes Characters of Color and their story lines may possess.
There’s a difference between having a three-dimensional character with trait variance and flaws, versus one who walks the footsteps of a role people of their race/ethnicity are constantly put into. Let’s discuss this, as well as how sometimes, while there’s not much issue with the character, a biased audience will not allow the character to be dimensional.
But first: it’s crucial to consider the thinking behind your literary decisions.
When it comes to the roles and traits you assign your characters, it’s important to ask yourself why you made them the way they are. This is especially true for your marginalized characters.
So you need an intimidating, scary character. What does intimidating look like on first brainstorm? Is it a Black man, large in size or presence? (aka a Scary Black Man) A Latino with trouble with the law? If so, why?
Really dig, even as it gets uncomfortable. You’ll likely find you’re conditioned to think of certain people in certain roles on the spot.
It’s a vicious cycle; we see a group of people represented a certain way in media, and in our own works depict them in the way we know. Whether you consciously believe it’s the truest depiction of them all or not, we’re conditioned to select them for these roles again and again. Actors of Color report on being told in auditions they’re not performing stereotypical enough and have been encouraged to act more “ethnic.”
This ugly merry-go-round scarcely applies to (cis, straight) white people as they are allowed a multitude of roles in media. Well, then again, I do notice a funny trend of using white characters when stories need a leader, a hero, royalty, a love interest…
Today’s the day to break free from this preconditioned role-assigning.
And yes, I honestly knew who Steve Harvey was before this incident. I was born and raised in America in the 90s. Again, it’s quite ignorant to assume just because people are Asian that they don’t know who Steve Harvey is.
While appearing on comedian Bobby Lee’s podcast Tiger Belly, actress and comedian Margaret Cho said Tilda Swinton asked her why it was so controversial that Swinton was cast as Tibetan comic-book character “the Ancient One” in Marvel’s Doctor Strange.
Cho said the two had a long fight about whether Swinton should’ve been cast in the part, with Cho feeling the part shouldn’t have gone to her.
“It was weird because I felt like a house Asian, like I’m her servant,” Cho said of the conversation. Read more.
Mom, we have walls
brick and mortar
layered between our generations
mom, I love you
but sometimes we don’t understand
palms pressed to the barriers
keeping us apart
I try to tell you that maybe
it’s not our fault
that I was born with the audacity
and you were born under the impression
that another son couldn’t hurt
sometimes I feel like I cannot go to you
because I will never be the daughter
you taught yourself to be
sometimes I feel like I am rotten
and I only say that because
I don’t even know how to speak my way home
mom, I know we have our differences
and it’s not always easy to remember
that heritage is an honor
but it is, it is
and I promise to make a lasting legacy
I won’t let your life fade away
just because we are on the other side
of the sea
sacrifice is in our lineage
and remembering the taste of
soil and rice fields and mosquito territory
is the least I can do to say
I am grateful for all the goodbyes
you have ever stomached and all the
faces you never got to see again
just so you could give me my best chance
in this new homeland and I am sorry
I am sorry that the transition hasn’t been easy
and I am sorry if I had ever been a part
of making you feel like you were unwanted–
mom, we have walls
but I won’t let them keep you out.
Confessions of a Chinese-Vietnamese American Daughter
On the Friday afternoon before the presidential election, Ahmed was at home with his family in Texas, when he heard a knock at the door. He answered in an undershirt and shorts, and found two men who were dressed casually. It was the FBI.
Ahmed was one of at least 109 people who contacted the Council of American Islamic Relations (Cair) to say they were visited by the FBI days before the election. Donald Trump’s subsequent victory has raised fears of increased surveillance against the Muslim community, and the possibility of a Muslim registry.
On Thursday, the New York Timespublished a video about the racism that Asian-Americans face every day, a compilation of stories gathered from the hashtag #ThisIs2016. But because the video erases the complex reality of being Asian American, two marginalized groups are not on board.
“New York Times editor Michael Luo wrote an open letter to a woman who told him to “Go back to China” in October and started the hashtag, #thisis2016. Asians/Asian Americans across the nation responded to Luo and his encounter by using the hashtag and sharing stories of their own racist experiences. We decided to respond to the hashtag as well on Bowdoin’s campus. These are all real statements, quotes and encounters that Bowdoin students have experienced recently. This is our version of #thisis2016.
While speaking on on Breitbart News Daily in 2015, Steve Bannon discussed Asian people holding leadership positions in Silicon Valley. The statement itself (seen above) is blatantly discriminatory. The implication that there is such thing as “too many” Asians is racist. But it’s also flat-out incorrect.