A Line Between Offensive and Sensitivity.
WARNING: BIT OF A LONG, LONG BLOG ENTRY!! Also, I'm not sure it'll flow smoothly because I'm thinking on it as I type along. Enjoy!
Recent discussions about where to draw the line between offensiveness and sensitivity had me thinking on the issue for a few days. So much so that I want to write a blog on it.
But first thing I'll do is show you a character I made in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. There is a reason behind this, I promise.
This is the character I play in Skyrim, a blind assassin/mage with a chip on her shoulder. Marie Motierre. She may, or may not be my fantasy protagonist Mishu Jerni if she were alive and living in Skyrim...
This is her in prison, reanimating a corpse. She doesn't even give the dead the rest they deserve. They are her puppets.
Then she proceeds to murder a witness during her escape attempt. She's a killer who fights for her own survival and cares for nothing but herself and the close few friends she has. Everyone else is a potential enemy. Though Mishu isn't this bad, nor does she reanimate corpses. She would be horrified at Marie's actions and work to stop her at any cost.
I know, what has this got to do with the subject? How the hell does roleplaying a blind assassin have anything to do with being offended?
Well, people get offended over the most minor thing. There are Zelda fans in a forum I'm on that got offended because Link was now right-handed. There are Fallout fans in the Bethesda forums that raised a huge stink over the fact that Bethesda once again made the face of Fallout 4 some middle-class white dude who is married to a woman and has a child. I looked at posts where people told the opposition to shut up and stop being so sensitive; that Bethesda shouldn't listen to them.
So...could someone be offended that I'm roleplaying this character? Possibly. There's a trope on TV Tropes called 'Evil Albino'. Marie doesn't have albinism, but suffice to say, it's common in TV land apparently to depict a character with albinism as some creepy/evil person. To some with albinism, this could be offensive because the implication is 'all albinos are evil/creepy'. Or someone with visual problems might think my character is offensive. Especially since she reanimates dead bodies to fight for her.
As I recalled all the 'stop being so sensitive!' comments on the Bethesda forums, I wondered why the offended party felt...well...offended. I read their posts and they kept mentioning how they wanted to feel represented. I wondered what was the core reasoning behind it. Then reading the threads here provided me with a possible answer. "Trigger".
Basically, when a person is so sensitive to a particular subject, there are triggers that kicks the emotions to high gear. They freak, they start losing it. In short, they're offended. Why? Well, I'm not going to speak for all of them, because no offended person is alike. What I can do is talk about one such possible reason. Bullying. If someone who was different from the mainstream kept being told by the media that they aren't worthy to be heroes, they're not worthy to have a badass who looks just like them, they're more sensitive to it than those who weren't told this. If a kid with albinism was picked on in school, being called a freak, etc., the kid would be much more sensitive to a movie/book/whatever depicting a person with albinism as creepy/disturbing/evil/not normal. It's the same with characters with mental disorders being portrayed as crazy psychos, or a black character being killed off five seconds into a movie. To the person with that trigger, it's basically saying, "You are not worth it. You don't get to be a hero. You're just a freak/not a hero." From that kid's POV, what does Marie symbolize? She's not the badass blind mage that defends Skyrim from the evil Alduin and works to secure peace and justice for all. She's this creepy, messed up piece of work! And from that the child is a creepy, messed up piece of work simply for being what he/she is!
What I think the "omg stop being an overly-sensitive twat!" people in the Bethesda forum were missing was the one big, irradiated, neon-red fact. They get to be offended. They have emotions just like anyone else. Their opinions get to be heard, get to be considered. What may not be such a big deal for us is a mental and an emotional hellfire to them. Telling them to shut up and sit down is, to them, the world once again telling them that they don't matter. Their opinions don't matter. What they say is so worthless that not even roaches will touch it.
Conversely, though: what they (the "omg stop being an overly-sensitive twat!" folks) likely were trying to say is that not every little thing is an attack on them. Bethesda making their default character a white guy doesn't automatically mean they're horrible sexists pigs who are also racists. Me having a deranged blind assassin doesn't mean I think all people with visual impairments are crazy/creepy/dangerous. Marie is this way simply because that's how I envisioned her. If I had wanted her to be an honorable person, a student at the College and adopted daughter of Jarl Baalgruf of Whiterun, then that's what she would've been. Instead I roleplayed that she was raised by the evil Grelod, matron of Riften's Honorhall Orphanage. Years of verbal, physical, and emotional abuse had made Marie the way she is.
Basically, both parties have a point.
So when is a line crossed? When both parties refuse to consider the other side's opinion. "Gee, maybe we can stand to make trailers where the protagonist isn't an average white dude." or "Gee, maybe I did make too much of an issue about it. This isn't an attack on me as a human being." Both parties are so entrenched in their own (entitled by right) opinions that the opposition is wrong on so many levels.
Both sides have valid reasons to have their opinion, and both need to be considered.
EDIT: And just because I feel the need to do so, that was the 'old' Marie. The new one I'm roleplaying?
Jarl Baalgruf of Whiterun with his adopted daughter, Marie Motierre.
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