1. marcusl
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    marcusl Member

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    The possibility of offending people

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by marcusl, Nov 7, 2009.

    I've been reading a book filled with research about the lost civilization of Lemuria. Apparently, there used to be a race of long-eared people. Now, Lemuria sunk millenia ago, but descendants of this long-eared race supposedly still live on this planet.

    Imagine if I wrote a story about Lemuria. Now, let's say I claimed that the long-eared race had actually migrated to an alien planet. However, they were evil and plotted to take over the earth. Wouldn't I be offending the descendants of this race? I'm sure many of you have stumble upon this issue before. What would be your approach?

    Many thanks.
     
  2. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    No you wouldn't be offending any descendants since there's never been any scientific evidence of this civilization ever existing. So it's purely in the speculative category.
     
  3. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I wouldn't worry, unless what you're writing would be libel. In the UK, at least, the decendents of Lemuria would be too wide a group to bring a libel claim. Besides, you could include a note saying that the events in novel are fictional.


    And also, given how much Dan Brown has offended the Vatican (and gotten away with it) I don't think it will be so much of a worry.
     
  4. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    No. They would have no legitimate reason to be offended. You're writing a fictional history about a civilization, not a race. As far as I can tell, you're not saying the long-ears were evil and it was their long ears that made them so. That would be racist. . . and potentially offensive to people who like to be offended.

    Besides, it's just my personal opinion, but I don't see why anyone should ever be insulted on behalf of their ancestors. I think it's absurd. But that's just me. If someone were to insult my great grandfather, who I never met, why on earth should I feel offended?:confused: I fear it is beyond me.
     
  5. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    I think that the problem is that the existance of Lemuira, at least in the west, was speculated in the late XIXth/early XXth century, when a lot of people still believed in the theories of the human races, an the antropologists believed than they could divide Humanity on the basis of quantitative measurements, like the proportions of the skulls, the colour of the eyes...and the length of the ears.

    The supporters of the existance of Lemuria insisted that the inhabitants were a "separate" race with long ears, therefore according to this theory all the humans with long ears might have beeen descendents of these people, that today doesn't make sense, but that it was believe one century ago.

    Therefore if the author wnats to make a story about that, he should accept this obsolete idea, or maybe it can speculate that the inhabitants of that continent were the result of the interbreeding between humans and a near human race who showed to have long ears. don't think any long eared reader would take offensive of that.
     
  6. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    So many books and movies have offended people in much more obvious ways than that. The producers of The Temple of Doom got in lots of trouble even though they based the cult in the movie on one that actually existed. They were not saying anything about India in general, and Indy showed the people of the village he was helping a great deal of respect. It's really not something you should worry about. People will see this stuff if they want to whether it's there or not.
     
  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The people of Lemuria are mythical, along with those of Atlantis, Lys, and of Hy Brazil.

    Who would you be offending?
     
  8. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    To clarify and expand on my post, saying that a race is evil only really works in fantasy. That wouldn't just be "taboo" in real life; it would be stupid and ignorant. But I'm sure you know that. If you accept that this is fantasy and present it as such, then you shouldn't have a problem, even with the "evil race" bit. Your Lemurians would be the equivalent of goblins or whatever.

    I think evil fantasy races have become a lot more common now that racism in real life is a no-no. Writers have to come up with fantasy races so their MC's racial hated can be politically correct.:rolleyes: You can't have a white-light hero who hates asians and jews, so you give him goblins and orcs (or Lemurians). Problem solved.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Saying a race is evil may be stupid anbd ignorant, but don't let that from stopping you from creating characters who believe that. And as a narrative viewpoint can also be character-centric, you could even write your story with that viewpoint.

    However, as a writer, it would be wise to give the reader some glimpses that expose the fallacy.
     
  10. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This is true. Especially in these more... sensitive times. Fantasy and science fiction have always been venues to discuss the more delicate subjects of the human condition, topics that would be discomforting to the reader were they to be presented in a more real world context.

    If you paint your Lemurian descendants as purely evil and worthy only of extermination, first, that's pretty one dimensional and not very interesting from a literary standpoint, and second, it might be perceived as a "statement" you are attempting to make.

    On the flip side, and to play my own devil's advocate, there is always some faction of some group only too ready to take any piece of literature and declare that it is a painfully obvious and pointed attack on that group.

    I am a gay person, and I can tell you that I have friends who pick apart any rendition of a gay character they see in a movie, on TV, or in a book. It's like they want to be offended.
     
  11. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Yes! Thank you, Wrey. It's virtually impossible to avoid offending anyone when there are always people who seem to just want to be offended. I think it ties into the human need for conflict. Without conflict, a story is dead and lifeless, and the same can be said of our lives. We all have different ways of generating our own little conflicts, whether intentionally or subconsciously.

    Cog, you're right, of course. I was thinking of characters who are meant to be likeable in every aspect. If such a character hates a certain fantasy race, then the reader will also hate that race. The race is just straight-up evil, so there's no reason to feel any compassion at all.

    Although, I much prefer stories where hardcore racism isn't so easily justified, and where "evil" is more a matter of perspective than fact.
     
  12. apathykills
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    apathykills Contributing Member

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    You should write what you feel like writing. In these days some editors will go to extreme lengths to avoid offending people and will tell you if something you wrote can be considered offensive.

    personally i think if a group finds something you write offensive you should just tell them not to read it (so long as it's not written in hate) and that it's your job as a writer to defend your books from over jealous editors.

    Anyway this only really implies to real people and cultures, usually you can get away with whatever you want to in fiction.

    Ye i second that. Some people i know were offended by the way goblins look in the Harry potter movie since it reminds them of the Jewish stereotype.

    And a gay dude i know got offended because Dumbledore was gay. (Long ass and ridicules explanation)
     
  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    One last word form me on this subject.

    To give an example of what I mean about how anything can be taken as offensive by those who wish to be offended is the Smurfs.

    [​IMG]

    I mean, hello! Is there anything as inoffensive as a Smurf?

    Bunnies. I think only bunnies are less offensive than Smurfs, and yet the Smurfs were held high by a number of groups as the harbingers of doom.

    1) The religious right in the U.S. declared that all the magic in the show and the way Smurfs were only too willing to use magic to resolve problems was offensive to those of the Christian faith.

    2) Anti-gay groups declared that the Smurfs were offensive because there were obviously gay Smurfs (Vanity & Brainy, and arguably Brawny Smurf) being portrayed in a manner that normalized the gay life.

    3) Gay groups declared that the Smurfs were offensive because there were obviously gay Smurfs (Vanity, Brainy, and arguably Brawny Smurf) which were derogatory stereotypes of the gay community.

    4) All kinds of groups were offended by what they saw as an obviously communistic society in which the Smurfs lived where everything was shared and work was done without expectation of compensation and only because it was important to the greater good of the entire village.

    3) Feminist groups were offended by Smurfette for a number of reasons. First because she was partrayed as evil when she had scraggly black hair and then as good when she was made into a beautiful blonde, thus giving in to and portraying the ideal of arbitrary standards of beauty to little girls. Also the fact that she was drawn without breasts was held as a negation of the importance of woman and of the feminine in general.

    All of this from a Saturday morning cartoon.

    So, um... See what I mean?
     
  14. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I have to disagree with the Smurfs example...that show, as you point out, is loaded with ideological messages that are potentially quite destructive....especially the Smurfette example. The writer may not have meant it to be so mysogynistic, but it quite clearly is, and reflects the way much of society thought about women at the time. Simply because they weren't intended to cause offense, doesn't mean they don't.

    I don't think its really that people want to be offended by it, its just that they want people to be aware of the messages that shows send, even in subtle or implicit ways. Which is why its important for the author to be aware of the messages they deliver in their work.
     
  15. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    You wont' believe it, but I recall that in Belgium some right wing activist openly accused the Smurfs to be soviet and masonic propaganda.

    The lesson learned by that episode is that no matter what you write, somebody will get offended, therefore don't worry about that and be happy.
     
  16. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    You mistake if you think that I have stated that those groups may not have had a point, or an overly sensitive right to give power to the messages they believed were being propagated by this show.

    My point to the OP is that, just as you yourself have stated, intentionally or not, the law of probability dictates that as your readership grows, you will eventually offend someone just as there were those who were offended for various reasons over a Saturday morning cartoon which did not, in fact, bring about the Apocalypse.

    This should not still the hand of the writer.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    smurfs are fictional and are trademark and copyright protected, so that's not a valid example...

    as for the equally fictional, but not legally protected 'lemurians' no one could bring a suit against you unless they could first prove 1. lemurians existed/exist [which they can't] and 2. the offended one/s can prove by dna testing that they are descendants [which they clearly can't]...

    so go ahead and write whatever you want about lemurians, or olympians, or atlanteans, as many writers before you have done...
     
  18. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I don't think you will offend anyone.

    However if you said the Naga were an evil ET race that came down and rapped women, you might, only because in Nagaland, they still believe to this day that they are the decendents of the Naga (snake people from space).
     
  19. InkDream
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    InkDream Senior Member

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    It's fiction. That's why at the beginning of most novels there's a little disclaimer saying something to the effect of "This is a work of fiction. Names, characters and places are either the product of the author's imagination or used fictitiously" and so on. So I wouldn't worry about it.
     
  20. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    This is interesting. Sometimes worry myself as I have a story with two armies and in one of them the troops come off as homophobic. They make various unPC statement and the MC simply regards this as immature and that's as far as it's analyzed. Of course this story is a sci-fi and none of the characters are in fact human, but I drew a real life parallel simply because my own countries army doesn't allow gays to enlist. This is taking it to the extreme, but the entire culture is fictional. I fear this may piss people off, but I at same time they should be whining to the US government.
     
  21. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I can't see how that would reasonably upset anyone. Your MC is tolerant, so that would seem to be the/a message of your book--tolerance--if there is a message. He's judging the homophobes, and you don't get much more pro-gay than that without going to a pride parade. It would only be (potentially) offensive if your MC were a gay-basher and you never gave any indication that this might be unreasonable behavior. Some people mistakenly believe the MC reflects the author's opinion, which is rarely the case. . . especially if the writer is prolific.

    If you think your homophobic army might offend military folks, think again. Homophobia has always been a common problem in military units throughout the world and throughout history. People whine when they encounter stereotypes. . . but this isn't a stereotype. It's a fact. Sure, some might still whine about it, but they would be in the wrong, contributing to the problem by denying its existance. If we catered to those people, we would never make any progress at all. Once upon a time, the notion that black people should have equal status offended many an ignoramus.

    Sometimes, the fact that you offend people means you're on the right track.;)
     
  22. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    Thanks Kas. that really does make me feel better :)

    The only reason the MC even acknowledges this is because he is disconnected from this army and the society he grew up in wouldn't approve of such talk.

    However I do know it's gonna sting for some people when one of the "good guys" calls an enemy one of these offensive phrases and then then shoots the guy in cold blood. But in this fictitious culture it's cool to be a vicious unsympathetic brute, I gotta be consistent lol
     
  23. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Might you offend someone? Most certainly.
    Should you worry about it? Never.

    Stories that are overly PC are stories that have no impact, no balls and no point.
    Once you ignore what you want to say and then write what you think you should, then your validity is gone. You've censored yourself and you no longer have a point.
    Temperate air leaves more of an impression than a self-censored story.

    I hope that people will become outrageously offended by my stories. A crowd of demonstrators in the street, carrying banners, would equal winning some kind of lifetime achievement award. J.K.Rowling should be proud that she has offended the entire extremist religious right in America. It's amazing!

    As for the smurfs... I was a huge fan of them as a kid. I had all the original belgian comics -- and those were far sharper in their "controversy" than the american cartoons ever were. One issue had evil smurfs and those were black. Blue smurfs were good, black smurfs were evil. Although I swallowed up everything smurf, it did not make me a communist, it did not make me a racist, it did not make me kick my cat, and I still prefer brunettes over blondes... All despite the so-called subliminal messages the smurfs were supposed to infuse me with.

    But as I see it, people who think that the smurfs are harmful to their children are the same over-pampering nervebundles who wrap their children up in cotton and forbid them to play outside because it's dangerous. Such people do amazing amounts of damage to their own children.
     
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  24. elephantmango
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    elephantmango New Member

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    You should never care if its going to offend someone, in my opinion.

    Its your piece of work, you should be allowed to write what ever you like.
     
  25. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't forget Canada...

    Yeah... but then of course doing just about anything will get them rioting in the streets. But I agree with the idea. Personally I would find it rather amusing to have something I wrote worth so much hate. Because while so many hate it with so much passion(enough to cause a storm over it) means that alot of people are also enjoying it. :p

    Trying to be all PC is just really annoying. Don't worry about offending anyone in your writing. Because give enough time and you will probably find someone who gets all offended when you say Hi instead of Hello to someone.
     

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