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Can Racism Be Good?

  • Thread starter WillowFromBuffy
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HowiMetdaSlayer

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I don't want to be 'the girl who kicked the hornet's nest', however...

I've seen one poster point out that Gunn's character was 'from the street'. While another posted that they were glad that Cordelia wasn't portrayed by an african american. I think therein lies a rather unique conundrum. Make the PoC/LGBT/other group character too close to an archetype, and you run the risk of being labeled prejudiced. On the other hand, make the character too atypical, and have the character possible be unrelatable by whatever group you're trying to represent.

I seen an interview on one of those I ♥ the 80s. They were talking about The Cosby show. Someone stated that they liked how the Cosby family were written as affluent. However, an african american (a rapper as I recall) stated that he couldn't personally relate to their family at all.

I think one way to lessen this would be to fully flesh the character out. Have them seem realistic (for lack of better term) enough for PoC/LGBT/other group to be able to relate to them, but be unique enough to their own character's background/environment/circumstances. So as to not be considered a stereotype, nor atypical. A rather fine line indeed.
 

thrasherpix

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I haven't been sleeping well the past couple of days and so want to avoid a long discourse at the moment, but there is something I did want to add: a common feature is that people try to lump an entire demographic (including their own) as a collective mind when they all have a wide divergence within their group politically, socially, and individually. This often gets overlooked even by people against stereotypes which becomes uncomfortable and can create some conflict even for a demographic being loftily championed or celebrated as one's own (and can easily cause offense within the demographic if someone claims to speak for their entire race, gender, etc, just as it can to assume that you're just like someone they don't like because you're part of the same demographic as said despised person).

Doing it as comedy is one thing (especially when everyone is getting roasted), and even making an educated guess (not to be confused with ignorant assumptions, nor those that figure the exceptions are rare--gods forbid, "one of the good ones"--or nonexistent) but promoting actual political and social agendas and discourse based on the idea that demographic determines personality and beliefs is something else. Of course it matters to an extent, but so do many other factors in addition to the inevitable individual divergences that are going to be common in any large demographic.

And it seems pretty rare to me that movies and shows get any demographic right, even white people (especially if from a different subculture, age group, etc, as the writer) with lots of caricatures (that hopefully have enough personality and backstory to rise above being a mere caricature) that we all have to overlook or be irked by.
 

DeepBlueJoy

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I related to the Cosby Show. But then again, I was the black child of two educated parents who knew and interacted with movers and shakers, and so I grew up assuming that was the way things were. My doctor was black. Most of the professionals I interacted with were black. So were most of the poor.

When I got to the US, it took me a while to understand the 'bunker mentality' that folks develop (and that most US born people of color learn really, really early). I was initially kind of a snob about it, actually. I now have earned my own bunker mentality. I'm afraid of ALL cops. I walk on eggshells around them and I'm scrupulously obsequious, but not obsequious enough that they could accuse me of mocking them. I assume they will shoot me before they shoot my husband, who is white. Why am I so careful? Because like every black person I know, I've had repeated bad experiences with cops (all races) and I don't expect them to cut me slack in any situation. (I did relax a little when I was in my fire department uniform, but only a little)

I keep my head down in situations that would have both my parents on soap boxes. I don't believe black folks can count on being safe. Still, I am not living a stereotype life. I am safer than most people of color b/c I live in a comfortable neighborhood and I don't hear gunshots every night (I have lived in such neighborhoods, but mostly b/c I was a 'poor student' - my parents were educated, not rich.)

To get back to the point:

The answer to making great characters is to make ROUND characters.

Doesn't matter what color they are, or where they're from. If you make flat characters, you have a stereotype running around. And yes, the "perfect model minority" is a stereotype too. If you don't know how to write a particular character, find someone who knows and ask. Better yet, find more than one. Observe, but don't make assumptions about your observations.

If (for example) you write slash, find a gay friend and give them your draft and listen to their feedback.

I don't assume that every southern white man with a twang is a racist, or that every inner city man with a doo rag is a criminal... probably b/c I've KNOWN both -- and know that people are humans, not a collection of shallow traits and they don't all reflect the worst of 'their' people. Don't be surprised if they don't identify with such people at all...

Yeah, I still get nervous when a white guy with a gun rack in his truck following me too long on a lonely road in West Virginia, or I'm walking down a dark city street with a young black man behind me. I have good reasons for my fears, but I also am ashamed of them.
 
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WillowFromBuffy

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I've seen one poster point out that Gunn's character was 'from the street'. While another posted that they were glad that Cordelia wasn't portrayed by an african american. I think therein lies a rather unique conundrum. Make the PoC/LGBT/other group character too close to an archetype, and you run the risk of being labeled prejudiced. On the other hand, make the character too atypical, and have the character possible be unrelatable by whatever group you're trying to represent.
Good point! It just proves that you can never win :p I just thought having a group of white kids from broken homes be bullied by a rich, popular black girl would be a weird form of inversion.

It is important to note that there is not right way of doing anything. If you want to create fiction, prepare to be criticised.
 

AlphaFoxtrot

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Yeah, that was a universal problem of the television industry in the late 90s. Network television treated black representation as a public service, not as a profit making activity, and it was down across the board. Interracial relationships were not really portrayed on television, and when they were, hagiographically dull or offensive to someone else. Both were serious topics of discussion at the time. So, this wasn’t some unique problem Buffy had, this was a problem all the networks were facing. And to be fair, if they did try to do those things, fifty percent chance it would turn out as dated as gay characters on “Friends.”
 

crazysoulless

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I think the hair comment in Restless was meant to make us think of when Buffy went Cave Slayer (around the same era as Sineya in prehistory) in Beer Bad but they didn't realize how the context shifts when it is a blonde girl from SoCal saying it to a black girl from Africa.

It reminds me of Seeing Red. Spike trying to rape Buffy was inspired by a female writer trying to get her boyfriend to have sex with her again to get him to stay. The tone is different when it's a man pinning a woman on the ground, made worse by JM being 39 and SMG only 25 and he is 7 inches taller than her.
 
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WillowFromBuffy

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I think the hair comment in Restless was meant to make us think of when Buffy went Cave Slayer (around the same era as Sineya in prehistory) in Beer Bad but they didn't realize how the context shifts when it is a blonde girl from SoCal saying it to a black girl from Africa.
They received an Emmy nomination for Buffy's hair in Beer Bad, so I guess nobody felt made a bad impression in the work place.
It reminds me of Seeing Red. Spike trying to rape Buffy was inspired by a female writer trying to get her boyfriend to have sex with her again to get him to stay. The tone is different when it's a man pinning a woman on the ground, made worse by JM being 39 and SMG only 25 and he is 7 inches taller than her.
Yes, and they also makes Spike appear stronger than Buffy in this scene.
 
crazysoulless
crazysoulless
Buffy looked cute as heck that episode but I wouldn't have given the stylists an Emmy for it

Vampire Willow

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I was very uncomfortable with how they portrayed Kendra. It wasn't blatantly racist. She was a strong warrior, she had a lust for fighting and saving the world. But something about the accent just didn't sit right with me. But I'm not from Jamaica, or even the US so maybe it was done correctly.
Charles Gunn seems authentic to me as a black dude from the streets (for a lack of better words..) and they gave him a lot of nuance and background story. He wasn't just a token character it seems to me. Robin Wood was great too.
But the Native American thing was really weird lmao. Loved how Spike addressed it though. Season 4 Spike is the best Spike (if we look at post S3 seasons).

But this title is really really stupid. Racism can never be good and there's no point you're trying to make in the OP for racism being good. You're just addressing issues in BtVS.
 
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WillowFromBuffy

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But this title is really really stupid. Racism can never be good and there's no point you're trying to make in the OP for racism being good. You're just addressing issues in BtVS.
Would 'Did the writers drawing attention to their own ethnocentrism go some way towards making up for the lack of real representation?' have been better?
 

Spanky

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Would 'Did the writers drawing attention to their own ethnocentrism go some way towards making up for the lack of real representation?' have been better?
Yes, much better.

Did the writers drawing attention to their own ethnocentrism go some way towards making up for the lack of real representation?
No, it's a flimsy excuse.
 

BuffyBot22

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Sorry this thread is very long and currently do not have the time to read every post so I apologize if I missed this.
But what were Buffy's exact words to Sineya about her hair?
Because I thought it was something along the lines of it looking crazy and she needed better hair care. I thought this was supposed to be played as a joke and would have been said to Sineya regardless of her race. Like the hair care line still would have been said if Sineya was white, Latino, Asian, etc. I thought the joke was more about the time period where people in general did not have all of these products to put in their hair, hell they didn't even have shampoo back then let a lone decent products.
All I know is I'm white, and if my hair is looking crazy, it's usually because I need to wash it or put some product in it.

Maybe I just missed the racism in it? I honestly thought Buffy's line was just meant to be played off as funny (not a very funny line regardless of race, but still the writer's intent seemed to be humorous).
Someone please explain if I'm just not seeing something here.
 
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WillowFromBuffy

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@BuffyBot22 Natural black hair is often seen as unprofessional. Black women spend and awful lot of money and endure an awful lot of pain to conform to white standards of beauty. Buffy says that Sineya's hair makes a poor impression in the work place, which shows that the writers (Joss, we must assume) knew the significance of such a line.
 

DeepBlueJoy

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There is a reason many professional black women (including me for a long time) use LYE - yes, sodium hydroxide, aka that stuff you see on cop shows that they use to melt bodies... to straighten their hair. Lye burns. Lye also destroys the curl in hair. Even when done professionally and carefully, it's likely you'll have small burns on your scalp, and depending on your healing, it may take weeks for them to heal. Most times you see straight hair on a modern black woman, it is chemically straightened.

We were told that we wouldn't be hired, or some employers actually fired women who wore their hair 'natural'.

The only alternative for straightening your hair is to use a 'hot comb' which is a metal comb heated (initially on coals) that was called 'pressing' your hair. (this was done before lye became popular, and continues to be used by people who can't afford or can't tolerate chemical straightening.

Since the natural state of black hair is curly, as soon as it rains, gets humid or you get it wet, it will revert to a frizzy mess. If you have 'pressed' hair, you have to press it again, to get it back straight. If you have chemically straightened hair, you have to curl it on rollers and dry it or blow dry it and then curl it/straighten it out with a curling or straightening iron. It requires hours of time to do. If you aren't a professional hair care person, you need to go to one on a weekly basis (at least), and it's not cheap.

Another lovely side effect of chemically or heat straightened hair (not the same as curling iron - that is not hot enough to straighten black hair) is that it smells burned, or chemically... and if you are not rich, it smells bad all the time b/c you can't afford to wash it often. Also, straightened hair is fragile and tends to break veyr easily... so many black women end up with bald spots, sore spots, or just thinning broken hair. Of course, if you can't wash your hair regularly, it tends to make your scalp itchy and gross...

Many black women don't participate in sports b/c as most of us know, exercising hard requires that we wash up afterwards, and most of us want to have clean hair. So... no swimming, no hard jogging. Some in the black community think that black women's hair care has contributed to obesity. I don't know about that, but I know it has contributed to lack of an active lifestyle. When I was active and had straightened hair, it mostly resided in an ugly bun or ponytail.

When you finally give up on that, you get grief from your peers as well as from white folks who want to 'touch your hair' -- please DON'T pet the black people! We don't like it, for some reason!

Lawsuits with HR have been launched by women who don't want to punish themselves trying to 'look white'. Much of the lovely long straight hair you see on black women today... is cadaveric hair woven into their hair... b/c their hair is too broken to grow. Some of that hair has brought skin and scalp disease. If any of you watched "How to get away with murder" you may have seen (for the first time on mainstream TV that I can remember) a glamorous black woman remove her beautiful (expensive) wig to reveal the tennis ball short 'natural' hair beneath. It wasn't a glamor move. When she was at her 'lowest' point, she showed her 'black' hair as it really was... That was profoundly disturbing. Looking black as a 'low point' look. But it's true to a lot of black women's view of themselves.

Black women and hair... is a major issue for most of us. It doesn't matter how dark, how curly or how wavy it is. It is an issue.

btw, I'm nearly pass-for-white fair, and my hair is light brown naturally - but it is also wooly and kinky/curly naturally, though thanks to the Scots/Irish part of my heritage, it's also very very fine and goes almost straight in cold weather - which means the products for black hair don't work well on it, and neither do the products for 'white' hair.

I actually caught grief for 'dyeing' my hair - i didn't (or got derided for lying about this being my real hair color). Apparently, truly 'black' doesn't allow for light brown hair that bleaches to blond in summer sun. Of course, I also got grief for NOT straightening my hair. Still do. I have given up giving a crap, but I'm in my fifties, I'm a writer, and I don't have to answer to anyone for how I look. Most working women don't have that luxury.

I think Buffy's comment had to do with Rasta mama or something like that, but don't quote me, I haven't watched season 4 in a while. I didn't think of it as racist, but the show definitely had race blindness... but so did a lot of TV back then (and even now). The world is not one color. Particularly not California at the turn of the 21st century.

Blue
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As a former photographer, it breaks.my hearr how many people, especially women, tie themselves into knots trying to be someone they can't be and to measure up to people who don't exist.
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Thanks, @thrasherpix
 
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thrasherpix
thrasherpix
Offtopic so just a side comment/observation, but it's odd how prevalent artificial beauty standards are, especially for women, and it's somehow seen as "natural beauty." People are also shocked at how models look without all the makeup.

LeeJones41

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I am not saying that the racism and limited perspective of BtVS isn't harmful and exclusive, just that writers are trapped by their own perspectives. Writers who take it upon themselves to write the stories of people from marginalised groups often do more harm than good.
Yes, they do more harm than good. But it doesn't mean they should refrain from writing about characters who come from other ethnic, gender, national, racial, etc. groups. They should not. If a writer is unfamiliar with a certain group he or she is familiar with . . . perhaps they should consider learning about those groups. Contact people from those group and try to get their perspective on the world. In other words, if you are not familiar with a certain group, OPEN YOUR MIND and try to learn about them, instead of falling back on stereotypes or excluding such groups altogether.

The mistake that Joss Whedon and his writers (along with God knows how many other writers_)made was they resorted to stereotypes or exclusion, instead of simply taking the trouble to learn about marginalized groups in this country and throughout the world.

In regards to the show, the target audience was white school kids. They were the ones with the means to watch it. Its set in white school neighbourhood. What makes it amazing is that it tells the story of teenage life that almost any kid, regardless of backstory, can relate to. For its time, the show did well in implementing coloured characters without making them the "token asian" or any other minority. They were characters within their own right. Yeah, they played the stereotypes, but plenty humans do, thats why stereotypes exist. Pangs is a bad example of this, but at times I think its a bit funny they stir the pot with it. Willows guilt is the most easily relatable where as Spike attitude is one of acceptance, "we came we conquered" nothing we can do now. Move on.
What would have been the point of allowing "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or "Angel" on the air, if the only television target was white school kids? What would have been the point? I doubt very much that the series would not have lasted as long as it did by relying solely on white school kids as its audience. As for "moving on" . . . why? Why do we have to move on from this subject? Is that what we should do? Spend the rest of our lives avoiding such topic - even in entertainment - and pretend that such social problems or conflicts are basically "minimal"?
 
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