This is what happens when POC have close to zero control over how they are chosen and represented in Hollywood media. The black experience isn’t a monolithic entity. We need more of us in the field, ESPECIALLY in animation.
Make liking black characters an active choice, because you’ve been conditioned not to
This goes not only for white fans but for Asian fans of any media
I’m Filipino, and as an Asian who’s been submerged in enough Hollywood to know, we have been conditioned to be attracted to and like white characters in a way that we have not been with black characters.
The reason I can identify it is that I grew up watching the amazing works of Dwayne McDuffie, the creator of Static Shock (my childhood crush) who made sure that an entire generation grew up with a black Green Lantern with Justice League and JLU. I grew up with black protagonists and black faves and it baffled me when other people couldn’t seem to appreciate black characters the way I did.
It’s about the same as fangirls teaching themselves to like female characters and identify and snuff out their heteronormative internalized misogyny. And yes, even shipping gay characters can be heteronormative if you as a straight woman are disgusted by female characters or female relationships but will happily fetishize two men. It’s not even about being attracted to women or female relationships–simply to actively identify what you like about female characters and female relationships and enjoy them as you would male faves. To make the conscious decision to cut away your own misogyny against female characters.
We have not been conditioned to see black men as leading men, as heartthrobs, as celebrity crushes, as faves. Only recently have we seen a rise in black Hollywood heartthrobs like T’challa from Civil War and the upcoming Black Panther, or in main characters like Finn from Star Wars TFA.
And you as a fan who has been raised in racism and colorism need to make the active effort to look at these characters, who are identical to your usual faves in every way except they’re not white, and make the active decision to say “this character is beautiful and I want to see more content for them” and then follow through with it
And when you’ve done that enough, it’ll become second nature. It’s not something you can force, or need to. All you have to do is understand and remove your own hypocrisy and racism, and appreciate black leads and black faves as a fandom.
There’s a common pattern in many forms of black media where there are 2 black female characters who are friends or sisters, one being lighter in skintone, while the other is darker. Even though darkskin and lightskin women form friendships all the time, the way they’re commonly depicted in Black Media is what stands out and perpetuates certain stereotypes:
1. in the film/show/etc, the main character/focus of the 2 is typical the lighter skin woman
2. this makes the darker skin woman the “sidekick”
3. the lighter skin woman is portrayed as prettier, nicer, “classier”, more reserved, and/or overall more likeable and desirable
4. the darker skin woman is portrayed as shady, mean, loud, desperate, abrasive, aggressive, and/or overall less attractive (many would say “ghetto”)
These photos show just a few examples that came to mind…
Coming to America (1988) - The darker skin sister was more desperate for a man, chasing after Prince Akeem, Simi, and even her sister’s ex-fiancé. In the frame of society’s norms, this would be seen as “fast”, “tacky” or lacking in morals, which would therefore, make her less fitting to be a wife.
House Party (1990) - The darker skin friend (AJ Johnson) was the louder, more outgoing friend who was ready to date both Kid & Play, whereas Tisha Campbell’s character was more timid, and ended up being Kid’s “better suited” love interest.
Martin (1992-1997) - Once again, Tisha Campbell is playing the main female character, Gina Waters, and love interest to the main character, Martin Payne. While Gina is depicted as a kinder, classier, professional, “wifey” type, her best friend/assistant Pamela James, played by Tichina Arnold, is depicted as a loud, angry, man-less, berating black woman with “buckshots” and “beedeebees” in her “horse” hair, who was constantly butting heads with Martin.
Proud Family (2001-2005) - Penny, the lighter skin girl, was the main character with Dijonay, the darker skin girl, as the friend/sidekick. Dijonay had a less “traditional” name, as did her many siblings, was portrayed as louder, having more attitude, and was constantly chasing after Sticky, a boy who not only didn’t want her, but preferred the lighter skin friend, Penny.
Rick Ross’ Music Video for “Aston Martin Music” (2010) - In the early portion of the video, we see a young Ricky out on the block with other neighborhood kids, dreaming about owning a luxury car one day. Among the kids there’s 2 young girls, one darker skin and the other lighter skin. While the darker skin girl is quick to berate him and tear down his dreams of ever being that successful, raising her voice and waving her finger in his face, the lighter skin girl is quick to reassure him and support his dream. Once again, this display reaffirms the stereotype of darker skin women being mean, bitter, and angry, while lighter skin women are kinder, sweeter, and happier.
I don’t sketch as much as I used to. I was going through my older sketchbooks recently and realised that as a kid, I used to sketch and scrawl random things all the time at every chance I could, everyday. I used to create worlds, characters, draw infinite amounts of ‘left eyes’ and all sorts of whacky stuff. I kinda miss that.