1. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Racial stereotyping or...?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by jazzabel, May 13, 2012.

    One of the most interesting characters in the novel I am writing, is a female antagonist. She is very cool and superbly capable, and she is a sociopath. But also, she happens to be black. She is bad and manipulative and as much as I can totally see where she's coming from, and I personally adore writing her, I am worried that the fact she is a "baddie" might be interpreted as a racial stereotype.

    In the story, there's quite a few different nationalities and races, and she wasn't conceived as a "black antagonist" or anything, she simply appeared to me as a fully complex character, and in my mind's eye, I saw her and she happened to be black.

    I'd be grateful for your thoughts about this.
     
  2. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    I wouldn't worry about it. Personally I'm fed up of people avoiding ethnic villains for fear of being seen as racist. There are bad black people in the world, and if anything it's racist to assume that if a character from a minority group has a certain trait, that this means the author thinks all of the minority group has that trait. Ignore those people, they're not worth the trouble.
     
  3. C.B Harrington
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    C.B Harrington Member

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    Why would the colour of her skin matter? If she's bad she's bad. Joseph Kony isn't thought of as anything but Black and Hitler wasn't thought of as anything but White. Keep writing.
     
  4. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    I'm black and I shrugged my shoulders at this post.
    What has skin colour got to do with anything?
    It's just appearance. :3
    Anyone who thinks that's 'racial stereotyping' needs to check themselves.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Isn't it just as bad to steer away from a character lest he or she be perceived as a stereotype?

    Now. if ALL your black characters (a dozen or so) fall into stereotypical molds, and significantly more so than characters of other races, then you may have a problem.
     
  6. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks guys! I feel exactly the same, but I have had conversations with people who I am sure would (will?) object in this way. I know there is a big variation in perceptions and they are individual in the end but I think there's definite stereotyping in Hollywood, like Protar said, so now I think I am just keen not to interpreted in that way.

    I suppose I had one particularly traumatic conversation on the internet and since then, I'm concerned. But nobody can please everybody, all the time, and nobody can guarantee that what they write won't offend at least one person.

    @Youniquee: thank you! My brother in law is black too, and he said the same thing :)

    @Cogito: Exactly! When I got worried after that conversation (it wasn't about writing, it was a dumb internet discussion) I thought about making her white just to avoid causing offence but then I thought, I know what motives are in my heart, and anyone who is willing to read it with an open heart will know too.

    No, not at all, my baddies and my allies are all different races and creeds, definitely no deliberate racial bias in any of it. I am a very "citizen of the world" person, I lived all over the place, I can't stand bigotry and such things, it would be very difficult for me to even include those themes because they upset me so.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There are some people who will turn anything into a racial issue. If your own conscience is clear, don't sweat it. You can only control your expression, not others' perception.

    I used to work with a militantly gay software engineer, who would shout down any criticism of him on the basis it was discrimination due to his sexual orientation. The fact was that he was an arrogant, obnoxious git, and it had nothing to do with him being gay.
     
  8. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Being from Milwaukee, I'm probably mostly German and Polish. However, I like to think of myself as Sicilian.

    I was horribly offended. Why were my people overlooked? ;)

    (Be true to your heart. The boys don't matter and the men don't care.)
     
  9. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Cogito: That's a good point, and you are right. I do understand though, some people had experiences which make it impossible to think any other way.

    @Tourist: haha :D Actually, no need to be upset, at least some of your people weren't overlooked. My heroine's love interest is a really, really bad (and devastatingly handsome) German guy called Rose ;) Don't have a first name yet, though... Any suggestions?
     
  10. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    If you're speaking about the pimp, I imagine an intelligent, conflicted anti-hero, as good with the language as he is with a blade. I would classify him as not pretty, but roguishly handsome. Chiseled features, icy blue eyes. A mouth that gets him both in and out of trouble.

    There's only one name that comes to mind. I'd call him "Chico."
     
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  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Karl? Gerhardt? Peter? Wilhelm (Will)? Stephan?
     
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  12. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Everything was going so well until I read "Chico" :D Ok, fine, be like that :p

    ps. Actually, yes, being really good with words is a very good point. Haven't thought of him being specifically like that, but now I'm gonna get him to quote Blake and Baudelaire to her :D

    @Cogito: I am considering Karl. Karl Rose. Doesn't sound too bad at all actually, thanks! :)
     
  13. dave_c
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    dave_c Active Member

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    im personally sick and tired of the white English guy (usually a well off one) being the bad guy in every single last thing i read or watch. It would almost be refreshing to have a black american female as the "bad guy".
     
  14. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Haha, yes, especially recently in American films that's been a trend :D Monique is a great antagonist, if she wasn't so bad, I'd have made her the protagonist :)
     
  15. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Well, I don't think that's the real problem. Aftter all, who would believe this Adonis could actually exist in nature? And then think of your female readers! What if they find out this demi-god is off the market! Oy, vey, the complaint letters you'll get!

    Better make it more believable. Write in some backstory. Say, for example, that he owns two Harleys...
     
  16. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Haha, well, he does have a few nasty kinks so any attraction will be "moths to the flame" type, but when did that ever stop female readers? :D You are right, I have to work on the back story, but Harleys? Honda XR250 in his youth, perhaps...
     
  17. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Believe me. I'm American, and I'm sick of it too. I want to see us as the bad guys for once, dammit! But give us a good motive that's not "meh, we're taking over the world for the lulz and stuff."

    I had this problem myself, except the black woman was my protagonist. Again, she just appeared black in my head, and I was afraid that people would percieve that as racist as I'm a white, middle-class American man in the Deep South.

    But now, my answer is like everyone else: Don't worry about it. The people that bitch are going to bitch about it anyway. The vast majority won't really give a damned. If you cater to the demands of the minority that bitch, you're only destroying yourself.
     
  18. Metus
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    Metus Senior Member

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    I'd think it would be perfectly fine to have a black, female antagonist. Just don't emphasize her skin color to an unreasonable degree. Basically, have her be a bad person who happens to be black, not a person with black skin who is therefore bad.
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Well, there's no doubt that if you have a streak of bigotry, it's bound to reveal itself in your writing.

    Know thyself, and grow thyself.
     
  20. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I have to go with dave_c on this matter. In fact, I think this "white guy perpetual villain" thingie is racist.

    I mean, what you're telling the entire literary world is that only a white guy has the skill and work ethic for world domination.

    I'm surprised that every other race and nationality isn't beating down the door to play villains, all claiming they've been excluded. Think about it.
     
  21. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I agree! We ought to have other races and nationalities be villains!

    I'm going to make a female American mercenary who is a villain to my black Scottish female captain. That could be good meat for my first story! 8D Of course, my villain is a villain for other reasons. She just so happens to be from America, just like my protag just so happens to be a black woman from Scotland.

    <runs off to write that now>
     
  22. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I think it's a good call. I have a female mercenary in my story. I kind of picture Joanie Laurer, but without her polish and charisma, and a funkier odor.
     
  23. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    Lol, I instantly thought of the film Chasing Amy when I read that.

    Is it okay to post a link to a clip since it's relevant?
     
  24. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    This female mercenary is...well...I'll leave behind a quote she actually tells my protagonist:

    "Why does the world feel that, just because I'm American, I am somehow crippled with a bad case of hero syndrome, and have a chronic need to save the day? What if I don't? What if I just want to...kick back and watch the world burn?"

    She's cold, looks after herself, and quite rutheless. Now, most of it is due to her past (of which I have yet to develop, and won't derail this thread any further with it), but I'm now getting all excited over this new villain. (She is reminding me a lot of Vegeta from the Dragonball series.)

    ...Wait, can someone be a villain even if they're not out to take over the world? Agh, I'll have to make a seperate thread for that.

    But yeah, that's basically it. I agree with Tourist and others. Let your black woman be the villain, just don't emphasis her skin color. She's a villain who just so happens to be black.
     
  25. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Metus and Link: I totally agree about not emphasising race in the descriptions, I never do anyway, I prefer to leave it up to the readers' imagination. But she is a self-aware black woman and proud of it, and lets face it, black people still face unique challenges in white-dominated society, and the novel is set in near future/present, so yeah, gotta run with it in a believable manner. But dwell on it I won't ;)

    @Link: Vegeta, that reminded me, in my country of origin, a dry vegetable stock powder was called "Vegeta" lol :D
     

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