Using micro-aggressions to set Uncanny mood
My story, a horror, surrounds a multiracial Protagonist (mother is Black, father has White and Arab heritage). I’m wondering if it would be offensive to occasionally use microagressions as a form of the Uncanny, that aspect of horror or mystery genres that make and keep up an uncomfortable and creepy atmosphere. They will consist of assumption of adoption/nonrelation, questions of race, and being followed in places.
I initially thought it could be a good play on the Uncanny, which is all about making one feel ‘off’ because something/someone is obviously not behaving like ‘normal’. This time, the behaviour is ‘off’ because it’s accepted as ‘normal’ by the masses.
Additional info: Race is not the center of the story/series’ plot, but will be commented upon by the characters. My protag starts as a child and ends as a teen, starts out friendly and tries to be confident and reliable. As story progresses, the plot wears them down into becoming anxious, depressed, and paranoid.
Thank you in advance for your response!
As long as it’s occasional I think it should be fine, although it will differ between people. Some people are more sensitive to micro-aggressions than others. Remember that poc are already forced to put up with occasional micro-aggressions, so it might be frustrating, but it could also feel like “finally someone understands” or “finally a story about my life”… something like that. It depends on how you write these scenes too. I’d say be careful with how much you add, make sure that you show how these are wrong and hurtful and mix them in with other things which will add up to an uncomfortable and creepy atmosphere. You can still make clear through narrative that the protag deals with micro-aggressions on a daily basis or otherwise.
And btw, your idea is very interesting to me, since you are actually trying to portray this aspect of many people’s lives for what it is: horror. It is unsettling, frustrating and very damaging and it is partly so because people are 99% of the times unaware that what they are saying or doing is offensive. To make this understandable to your readers you will need to break these micro-aggressions down for them. Otherwise you might just confuse (some) of them. To pull this off, you’ll need to really know what you’re writing though. It will be very hard to do without personal experience, so in case you don’t, find some good bèta-readers who do. Personally though, I think this would be handled best by someone from within the group you’re writing (which your protag identifies with), since if this goes bad, it will really ruin the story. If it is handled well though, it could be a masterpiece!
Then, especially with adding in mental illness, do your research thoroughly and find the right people to read. Make sure you also research tropes concerning depression, anxiety issues and other mental illnesses mentioned in your story so you won’t add to harmful stereotypes.
The addition that the plot (and I assume that includes the racism) wears your protag down is actually a very realistically but poorly understood subject too. You’ll find during your research, not only that racism in any form can cause PTSD, but that this is not always acknowledged. Poc with mental illness seeking treatment sometimes even have the really bad luck of having racist therapists which add on to their problems (people having this problem should try to find a therapist who’s a decent human people and not ignorant so they can do their job properly and help their client achieve better health).
~ Mod Alice