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My Rules of Representation

Published by Oscar Leigh in the blog Oscar Leigh's blog. Views: 173

So an important part of today's culture is navigating offense. A lot of people have said that 2015 was "the year everything was offensive" or some such. Now. there are two ways to treat this subject wrong. There are those who are too offensive, and there are those who are too offended. How do you consider this when writing a character of politically sensitive group e.g. a gay or an African-American? This is my thoughts on the subject:
First of, the most important rule. One character is just one character. Only a very assumptive person thinks one character is somehow a standard of representation for an entire minority. Even if they're the only person of that group in your book, if you've got positive representation elsewhere it's actually a good thing because it's acknowledging that the group is human and therefore can be diverse. For example, I've heard people say Piper Chapman from Orange is the New Black is perpetuating negative bi stereotypes. However, if we don't allow one character to be like that, then all we are really demanding is that group gets to be represented with special privileges. That they get to be immune to negative stereotypes even when those people often give negative stereotype representations of right-wing religious people. Everyone gets to be portrayed with bad examples.
Second, stereotypes are only bad in one character if they dominate the character. If you have , say, a Muslim extremist character, as long as there are characteristics of that character that aren't complete stereotypes, that is fine. Some people of groups are like the stereotypes, and to suggest those characteristics are automatically shallow or something is actually kind of offensive to them. In fact, a lot of stereotypes are kind of true. It's quite possible that gays are more often effeminate. And we all know black-dominated neighbourhoods in America are more likely to be poor which also increases the crime rate. Like you would always, presuming your interested in a three-dimensional and serious story, write them humanly and they will be just as great as a good non-stereotypical character. No kind of character you should think you can't write well, it's a illusionary obstacle that it will make a character bad to have elements of stereotype.
Third, play with representation. This is more of a extra thing, but I love to have characters with stereotypical elements that then surprise you by having other elements you wouldn't expect of that kind of person. For example, Luke is a jock and he's a reasonably blokey Australian jock, but he's also quite gentle, very sensitive, and reads literature. And he's gay. I think characters like that are in some ways some of the best reminders of humanity.
Thank you for time. Hope you have a good day. :blowkiss::blowkiss:
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