NO KILL I (glockgal) wrote,
NO KILL I
glockgal

unlocked, to promote discussion

BINDI?
DISCLAIMER: I'm using 'Wolverine and the X-Men' as an example. I'm not offended by the cartoon, I just laugh at the story/characterization of the X-Men. My personal opinion, which doesn't affect this discussion and doesn't judge your enjoyment of the cartoon. (in short: I like tons of stuff others laugh at; but I know you don't judge me for it. ;D)

I've watched a few modern-day cartoons (most recently the laughable Wolverine and the X-Men) and noticed a vaguely delightful increase in speaking, Asian-varieties of NPCs*. In particular, Indian women (generally depicted as scientists, teachers, doctors). And generally they:

a) wear a bindi**
b) have an Indian accent

**
WTF THAT PHOTO OF THAT SMUG GIRL SPORTING HER DECORATIVE BINDI ON THE WIKI PAGE. I love that picture. When bindis are decorative, the best way to depict that is to show a white girl wearing one. Because showing an Indian girl in a fancy bindi means she's still wearing it for religious reasons, right? Only white people can appropriate cultural clothes/accessories to make them actually stylish and fashionable, right? Whatta joke.

So like, okay. It's a cartoon, right? Cartoons need to simplify, stylise and provide easy indicators so children can immediately understand that a character is heroic or evil or a boy or a girl. So a brown character, she could essentially be any variation of brown-skinned races in the world - until the creators slap on a bindi and give her an Indian accent.

Is it necessary? Can we have a speaking!brown character without providing cultural indicators? What I mean is:
  • can a child watching the cartoon comprehend that the character is a certain race without the cultural indicator?
  • for a child, can it be a subtle, subconscious form of Othering?
  • and, is it really necessary for the child to comprehend the culture of the character if it's not particularly necessary to the story?
Most of the speaking!NPCs are just that - NPCs. They forward plot and no complex characterization. Interestingly, - most of the cartoons I watch being American cartoons - this cultural indicating/branding applies to white NPCs, as long as they're outside of America. In Wolverine and the XMen for example, scenes/people of Germany where hilariously situated in some olde tyme burg and the NPCs all dressed like peasants from 1896. And...I'm pretty sure they carried torches (not flashlights - actual fire).

Last question - if I win the lottery, should I commit myself to the research and investigation of race and racial shortcuts in cartoons? Because now I really really want to. And if I enlist you guys to help, I'll totally give you $5 (Canadian).



PS - 'NPC' means 'non-player character'. If you didn't already know that, your nerd-level has just dropped by 5 points. XD
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*sniff* Oh, Bart! You really do listen!

(I have all my Bart & Lisa icons at home instead of uploaded, dammit!)

glockgal

March 24 2009, 15:43:51 UTC 8 years ago Edited:  March 24 2009, 15:44:20 UTC

YOU AREN'T CONTRIBUTING TO MY IMPORTANT DISCUSSION OF MASSIVE IMPORTANCE. D:<

However, Bart&Lisa icons - me wantee!!

bossymarmalade

8 years ago

Unfortunutly, that's the rub with cartoons. If they don't do the cultural things, a lot of people will cry bias and "whitewashing". This way, they can cover themselves and claim they're showing other cultures.

As for the german thing, its important in cartooning, and even more in animation to show, not tell. There's something undeniably German about lederhosen.

And I liked Wolverine and the X-men.
Awww, no offense to people who like Wolverine and the X-Men! I was using it as an example, not the standard. I personally find it laughable, but then I like other things that other people would find laughable.

Maybe I need to disclaimer this post.

glockgal

8 years ago

pandoras_closet

8 years ago

bossymarmalade

8 years ago

pandoras_closet

8 years ago

bossymarmalade

8 years ago

pandoras_closet

8 years ago

bossymarmalade

8 years ago

pandoras_closet

8 years ago

bossymarmalade

8 years ago

pandoras_closet

8 years ago

bossymarmalade

8 years ago

aybara_max

8 years ago

pandoras_closet

8 years ago

aybara_max

8 years ago

pandoras_closet

8 years ago

glockgal

8 years ago

pandoras_closet

8 years ago

glockgal

8 years ago

heather

8 years ago

geewhiz

8 years ago

bossymarmalade

8 years ago

geewhiz

8 years ago

Last question - if I win the lottery, should I commit myself to the research and investigation of race and racial shortcuts in cartoons?

Yes!

It's been a while since I watched an X-Men cartoon, so I'll have to keep an eye out for that next time I do. But oddly, what always stuck in my mind was how whenever there was a scene/episode in Canada, it always seemed to take place in the northern rural woods of Alberta, with like, log cabins, and the women almost always had red hair and glasses. What is with that stereotype?
I've also noticed that the majority of depictions of Canadians in American shows, everyone is white. Always. Very strange.
YOU JUST WANT FIVE DOLLARS, DON'T YOU. *HEEEEE*

AHAAHAH well, from the vantage point of my igloo home, I'd say snowy backdrops is what Canada is all about!

I've also noticed that the majority of depictions of Canadians in American shows, everyone is white. Always. Very strange.

Now this is something I hadn't picked up on! Very strange, very interesting. HMMMMM. Must make a note to notice these things more.

geewhiz

8 years ago

bossymarmalade

8 years ago

parsimonia

8 years ago

bossymarmalade

8 years ago

parsimonia

8 years ago

ratcreature

8 years ago

umn, if you win the lotto, the FIRST thing you should do is fly me to Vancouver, lol. uh, then you can do the other stuff.

Yeah, I'm not really sure why all Indian women in cartoons wear a bindi. it doesn't really make sense, because not all do. It's like in order to have a PoC they have to be a parody of some culture or distinctly one culture. I can't think of any cartoons that have different cultures without that and none come to mind.

It's like, in order to make people feel comfortable dealing with other cultures, we have to show that they are ridiculous (in comparison to our own, naturally wonderful culture, obvs), or go to the extreme ends of the spectrum.

And that ain't right!!
if you win the lotto, the FIRST thing you should do is fly me to Vancouver, lol. uh, then you can do the other stuff.

*SMACKS FOREHEAD* DUH, OF COURSE. How could I have been so forgetful?? XD

It's like, in order to make people feel comfortable dealing with other cultures, we have to show that they are ridiculous (in comparison to our own, naturally wonderful culture, obvs), or go to the extreme ends of the spectrum.

Sometimes yes - it can get pretty ridiculous (again, in the Wolverine cartoon when they introduce Ororo because apparently she made 'Africa burn'. Africa, as in the ENTIRE CONTINENT. FOFL. WTF) but for the most part I think it's extreme ends, like. Which can get frustrating - it's not as if there are American white!NPCs who need to identify as their ancestors are from France so therefore they're wearing a beret - why not just eliminate the cultural indicator, especially if it has nothing to do with the plot?

Of course, if a white!NPC WAS actually from France, they'd totally be prancing about with a beret on. Heh. Hmm...can cartoons even parse the idea that there are non-white French people?? *goes off into tangent*

fer_de_lance

8 years ago

Actually, even if you don't win the lottery, I think you should do a study on race and racial shortcuts in cartoons. It has value in and of itself!

As to your questions, I don't know. Really, I do believe the Powers That Be continually short-change an audience's intelligence, choosing to play to the lowest common denominator. We're apparently too stupid to tell the difference between various ethnic groups. After all, all these ethnic people look alike, so, they're interchangeable, what? So you have Jason Lee playing a Chinese man in one movie, an Inuit in another, voicing a native Hawaiian in Lilo and Stitch, and you have Pat Morita playing a Chinese flunky in Thoroughly Modern Millie and a Japanese gardener/martial arts whiz in the Karate Kid franchise.

I suppose it is thought that if you don't give a brown cartoon character an accent and some sort of cultural indicator, those poor ignorant masses in the audience won't be able to figure out who or what they are. Why, they might think all those brown characters moving around in the background while the main characters are fighting crime in, say, New Delhi, are... Mexicans!! Who, for some odd reason, decided to move, en masse, to India!! Ay caramba!!

Or maybe they're all from ... Tonga!!

*rolls eyes*

On a side note, I did a recent art exchange with a guy on my f-list, and I had drawn a portrait of Michael Corner and Padma Patil. Knowing I have a tendency to get bogged down in detail, I kept it simple. I wanted the focus on the characters, not what they were wearing or where they were, right? And he liked it, but he did question the lack of "the usual markers of ethnicity such as culturally appropriate jewelry, bindi, or the shape of the profile..." which sort of surprised me since most of her profile was hidden...

Sort of threw me, because I don't see things that way, but then I'm an oddball and I know it. Growing up in what people now call an "ethnically diverse" neighborhood does tend to widen one's world view somewhat. Still, I felt the "Keep It Simple, Stupid" rule applied very much to me, so... no bindi, no ornate earrings, no henna markings... just two people, kissing.

Still, don'tcha think it's funny that Americans apply racial profiling even to non-American whites? "...people of Germany where hilariously situated in some olde tyme burg and the NPCs all dressed like peasants from 1896..."

*chortles*
It would be really cool to analyse! I just have two things working against me. One: I'd need money to pay for a Masters; Two: I hate school, AHAHAAHAHAH. If only one of those things could be helped, then I'd totally forego the other and actually make a study of it LOLOL!

ARGH LOWEST COMMON DENIMINATOR. WHY WHY. I feel this frustration at work too, because our publisher/production company (read: PWNED BY MARKETING) is hell-bent on the LCD and therefore strips away all semblance of interest/cleverness/complications in our project just to cater to the LCD and thereby guarantee the most amount of revenue. Because, in their skewed, disgusting world, who better to buy crap than the lowest people on the food chain? GYAH. THE EVILNESS. IT BURNS.

....er...where was I? XD Yes, I feel like you know. Even if there was a non-easily-identifiable brown character in a cartoon, I might be like "homg, they have an Indian character!" and someone else might be like "omg they have a Mexican character!" and we'd both be happy. And that's...kinda cool? In a way? Because I sure as hell ain't easily identifiable visibly, so it'd be cool to have characters who reflect this brand of American/Canadian homogeny. If that makes ANY SENSE, LOL.

And he liked it, but he did question the lack of "the usual markers of ethnicity such as culturally appropriate jewelry, bindi, or the shape of the profile..." which sort of surprised me since most of her profile was hidden...

KDSFHSDLIUKHELKHFJLKH GOD. YES. YES. GOD. I see the Patil twins wearing bindis SO MUCH in fanart and this fella's response is EXACTLY the reason why I'm questioning cartoons for creating cultural shortcuts. Because it sets up that expectation that ALL Indian girls should wear bindis when being represented in art - and possibly, then, IRL. Which is just. So. Ridiculous.

Thank you for pointing that out, I had long since internalized my annoyance over that!!

zephre

March 24 2009, 16:23:48 UTC 8 years ago Edited:  March 24 2009, 16:26:28 UTC

I'm sure that with the right school and faculty adviser, you could probably get a PhD in race and racial shortcuts in cartoons. I'd read that dissertation.

LOL about the German visual tags - I can't believe I never noticed things like that before. I feel like I have failed at visual communications comprehension now.

(also, yay for the edit button on comments because my tiny HP mini keyboard has borked my typing today. whee.)

Dude, just as an aside - I cannot WAIT to meet you in real life at Azkatraz. You constantly prove yourself to be a fascinating person in so many ways!!

I feel like I have failed at visual communications comprehension now.
I'm only now starting to pick up on it, myself. And, consequently, having to internally justify my comprehension, because I can usually hear people in my head saying "Oh, you're just being over-sensitive" when I notice visual disparities. Heh.

zephre

8 years ago

zephre

8 years ago

1. I think, totally aside from race issues, that adults, particularly business!adults who are (stereotyping ahoy!) workaholics who rarely spend time with any children in their lives... Wait where was I going? Oh, yes. I think a lot of adults think children are stupid. They are wildly mistaken. So yes, I think kids understand way more than adults give them credit for, and it is not necessary to spoon feed them pre-digested crap. Especially fucked-up, wrong-headed, non-nutritious, pre-digested crap.

Not that I have an opinion on this. :D

2. Absolutely. Possibly not even that subtle. Possibly not even subtle at all.
3. I don't know--necessary? Probably not. If they were getting a more honest sense of the various cultures, with a less othering-message? It would be cool. But since that's not how it's being done, no, it's not necessary.

Bonus question: Oh, hell yes. In fact, I would give YOU $5 to do it. :DDDDD
HEEE YOUR RANT IS AWESOME. But yes, I also agree with it. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for but also marketing tends to be so subversive, that they ingrain beliefs that end up revealing themselves in ugly ways when the kids get older. Man, the amount of stuff I have trace back to my own childhood in terms of subversive messaging! Or, maybe I was just a stupid kid. ;D

If they were getting a more honest sense of the various cultures, with a less othering-message? It would be cool.

YES YES YES TO THIS. My goodness. I hate to say it, but I think Captain Planet, despite it's amazing failitude, was actually on the right track. Sadly, it got mired in being fail, ahahahah.



hex_16

8 years ago

pandoras_closet

8 years ago

Oh, I think it happens to white people inside America, too, generally if the people are Southerners or Irish. (Though every time I get into this discussion at all, I end up trying to work out whether the Irish should be considered PoC or not, especially if the conversation is expanded to more than just American or North American media. If we're including everywhere, then the Koreans get it in Japan, the Irish and Welsh get it in Britain along with the Pakistanis and Indians, the Turks get it in Germany, and so on forever and ever amen.)
I end up trying to work out whether the Irish should be considered PoC or not

No, since they're not People of Colour, inside *or* outside of North America.

ashkitty

8 years ago

bossymarmalade

8 years ago

ashkitty

8 years ago

bossymarmalade

8 years ago

ashkitty

8 years ago

aybara_max

8 years ago

bossymarmalade

8 years ago

aybara_max

8 years ago

bossymarmalade

8 years ago

aybara_max

8 years ago

bossymarmalade

8 years ago

aybara_max

8 years ago

bossymarmalade

8 years ago

glockgal

8 years ago

ashkitty

8 years ago

glockgal

8 years ago

ashkitty

8 years ago

glockgal

8 years ago

ashkitty

8 years ago

anne_jumps

8 years ago

aybara_max

8 years ago

glockgal

8 years ago

anne_jumps

8 years ago

Apparently this girl is Ms. CrazyCulturalAppropriation:

OH MY GAWD!!!

::twitch::
U R SO MEEN SHE OBVIOUSLY LOVES OTHER CULTURES ENOUGH TO TRY THEM ON AND CAMWHORE IN THEM

aybara_max

8 years ago

bossymarmalade

8 years ago

glockgal

8 years ago

well, the only way I knew you were of Indian descent was because of your bindi and accent...oh, wait.

and, yeah, cartoons are this weird kind of otherworld when it comes to things like this. On the one hand, the nature of the media lends itself to simplification of everything. On the other, do they need to do it *so* much? hmmph.

anyways, the real purpose of this comment is to say YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE SPENDING YOUR LOTTERY EARNINGS ON.
It was easy for you too, man. I saw you and KNEW from all that submissive giggling and kimchi-eating that you were Korean!

I know, right? I understand the need to simplify, but I always feel there are ways to simplify thoughtfully, if the media actually WANTED to be thoughful. But that in itself is an oxymoron, ahaha.

OMG LOTTERY, WHY WON'T YOU LET ME WIN YOU. :( :( :( :(

bossymarmalade

8 years ago

Someone should replace that photo (though I think they'd have to make sure the one they'd replace it with was avaliable for use - there is something about wiki photos and rights use - if it was a photo of the person uploading, it should be accepted).

Did you ever see Captain Planet? I can only really recall the Planeteers and Captain Planet. The Planeteers were five kids, 3 boys, 2 girls. They all wore the same style of clothing, planet-saving clothing! Idek. The 'markers' were the American boy's (Wheeler) coat, the African boy's (Kwame) bracelets/necklaces, and the South American (Ma-Ti) boy's arm-bandanna w/ leaves. The Asian girl (Gi) was given the hairstyle all animated Asian females seem to be given (or were given). There were accents stereotypical to the nation each character came from. I can't remember clearly how they were potrayed, I think all rationally except Wheeler had a temper (maybe?). They all hated pollution so much! Oh, and I think all fans thought Ma-Ti's power, heart, was the lamest. I think he sometimes had a pet animal trail him around, but it might have been only for specific (relevant) episodes. I know one of the villains was a rat-human, and another was very big, pink, with a buzz-cut.

One series that is aimed at younger children, though I don't know if they're still making new episodes, is The Magic School Bus. The cast is small but is racially diverse (but not extensively so - 8 characters, 4 white, 2 black, 1 Asian (but not south-east Asian), and 1 Latino). All characters are American, in the same class, and they go on wacky science adventures! Each episode focuses on 1-2 characters in particular, so of "their" experiment (with light or electricity or blood systems, etc.). All the kids' accents are north American English (the "accent-less" accent - no regionally identifiable aspect - i.e. stereotypical southern states or Hepburn New England). I can't remember if there were any clothing markers. I am leaning toward thinking no. I think the clothing was like if you walked into an average city classroom in America/Canada. I think in situations where you got a scene with the given child's family, I don't recall any "LOOK AT THIS EXOTICNESS!", just like, here is so-and-so family, yay family. That show was nice b/c it gave all the characters a chance to show their smarts and had a group of kids just being kids together (and loving science).

HOWEVER. In the end credits/segment, they'd have an animated scene of people calling the show from within the states and around the world, and the people around the world were depicted with exaggerated accents.

can a child watching the cartoon comprehend that the character is a certain race without the cultural indicator?

I believe so, I don't know why they wouldn't be able to.

for a child, can it be a subtle, subconscious form of Othering?

I think that chance is there, and whether it goes toward that or something else is dependent on how the writers AND artists use and portray the characters.

and, is it really necessary for the child to comprehend the culture of the character if it's not particularly necessary to the story?

I don't think it is. Again looking The Magic School Bus, there were no makers that I can recall, and it was possible to become attached and interested in the characters because they had developed enough personality and character to hold the viewer's attention (I am assuming, I don't know how many kids actually wanted to watch a cartoon about science).
Oh man, I remember Captain Planet! Didn't actually watch it, I just remember seeing something about it and thinking it looked stupid (because a cartoon about pollution is not nearly as exciting as a cartoon involving giant robots *g*).

Sort of tangenitally related (because it's not cartoons), does anyone else remember hearing about how back in the '70s, Sesame Street got a lot of complaints because they showed white kids and black kids all playing together and living on the same street? For obvious reasons (not being a kid, or having any) I haven't seen SS in years and years, but I remember something about it in a media class being pretty groundbreaking for the time just by not having cultural markers or any of that, just having kids running around playing with puppets and learning words and numbers.

heather

8 years ago

heather

March 24 2009, 17:31:34 UTC 8 years ago Edited:  March 24 2009, 17:49:46 UTC

I'm not as familiar with comics as I am just normal cartoons. Cynically, I think most of the people behind these shows don't themselves bother to distinguish PoCs beyond their cultural markers, so of course they are projecting that onto the audience, and I also think in most cases, they're basically just ticking boxes to show they've got a little color on the show. There's not often an attempt to give them any more depth than that because they're not often main characters.

It's got slightly better since the 90s, I think, in that there's a little less blatant stereotyping. It feels like every black kid I saw on cartoons growing up was called Jamal or Keisha and celebrated Kwanzaa, and every Indian girl I saw wore a sari -- when they were there at all. Which was rare (or rarer).

Do I think kids need those cultural markers for to understand? Definitely not. And it's definitely 'othering', to the extent that a kid sees someone on the screen who maybe looks like them, but who is always on the fringes. Both because they're rarely main characters and are often background/NPCs, and also because they are pretty much exoticized by the props they're given.

Is it necessary? Not this way, no. Like another commenter said, maybe if they were honest and considerate about it, but they're not.

(edited for typing fail. ^_^)
I think most of the people behind these shows don't themselves bother to distinguish PoCs beyond their cultural markers, so of course they are projecting that onto the audience, and I also think in most cases, they're basically just ticking boxes to show they've got a little color on the show

Good god, that is cynical. But altogether something that I can't really refute. After seeing the crass and blatant idiocy displayed by cast and crew for the Avatar movie, I don't believe anything progressive about the film/animation industry at all. :/

A lot of PoC kids living in America/Canada are in a state of flux. We're not 'ethnic' enough to be counted as the characters depicted in shows (which generally have accents and/or dress in traditional clothes from their country of origin)...and kids I think especially try to identify with what the think they're like, generally not what they are from a sociological standpoint.

So when I grew up, I identified with the white characters, while rejecting the stereotypes of Indian/brown characters. However, I always had the underlying knowledge that even though white!character was similar to me in personality, I could never look like that character; I looked like the brown person in the traditional sari.

Which now I wonder if that had - in some small part - to do with the fact that I chose to play male characters more often than females as a kid. If I'm gonna play a character, might as well go completely different 180 degrees!

heather

8 years ago

Hmm... it makes me wonder how well the old Jem & the Holograms would hold up on that front. Three of the Holograms were POC (Asian, African-American, and Hispanic respectively), Minx was German and not a dirndl in sight, and some of the Starlight girls were POC. But I don't know how stereotypical they were or not.

glockgal

March 26 2009, 15:15:21 UTC 8 years ago Edited:  March 26 2009, 15:17:02 UTC

For true! I remember watching Jem, but I can honestly say I can't remember any of the ethnicities of the Holograms. I was mostly concerned about Jem and her love interests and her kicking Misfit ass. ;D

ETA: I really WOULD be nice to see how the Holograms were protrayed? I'm guessing their personalities, while stereoypical, had no real tie to their cultural backgrounds. They were perhaps designated 'sidekick' personalities like the smart one, the tough one and the ditz?
I think that you hit the nail on head... yes, there is an argument for quick visual reference BUT it's extremely weak!! Amos and Andy were a stereotype... not accepted anymore... crazy Russian replaced with crazy Terrorist etc... are these 'visual cues' we wish to teach children??

This may be a silly example but I was talking to someone about the Mentalist (TV show) and I was saying my favourite characters are the two guy cops, they have great chemistry... the response was 'oh the Asian guy?' and it struck me that here was an example of a PoC who was just a cop... an average intelligent cop with a good sense of humour... I don't know maybe I missed something or I totally out to lunch... I prone to that...
are these 'visual cues' we wish to teach children??

Precisely! It's interesting to note that shows like Magic School Bus and Dora the Explorer and Sesame Street promote cultural diversity and are generally popular among their target age group - but as the kids grows up and have more control choosing what shows to watch and enjoy, the racial diversity narrows severely. Not by their choice, but more in what the media has to offer them.

By the time they reach high school, shows like Gossip Girl and 90210 completely eradicate the need for racial diversity by setting the shows in rich (unattainable) settings where any sort of racial diversity is token - because, after all, PoC don't exist in America's rich societies.

The use of race to describe a person...I've had to fight with this as well and I think it comes down to a matter of personal perspective. If someone was describing me as 'the brown girl' or 'the Indian girl', would I be offended? In one way not really, because I take great joy in being brown. But in another way, how did the other person use that as a descriptor? In a tokenistic fashion? As in - well, I'm the ONLY brown person in the crowd. It does (unintentionally, but still harmfully) set white as the overlying default (since if they were trying to pick out a white person, they might focus on a descriptor of the clothes or even the hair).

But then again - there's a reason why we're designated as 'visible minority' in Canada. :/
Given that they can have a white Aang on the movie screen without being confused about his whiteness despite being in tibetan robes and doing kung fu, I can't imagine why characters of color would necessarily have to have cultural markers to still read.

(except in the world of white-landia where everything can code as white and brown people without grass skirts are totally ethnically ambiguous and cause people to bleed from their noses with the monumental struggle of their brain cells to comprehend.)
Seriously man - the case of Avatar is severely indicative of how some people have defined racial markers to be pale skin/big eyes = white; dark skin and/or slanty eyes = not white. And there is NO SPACE for ambiguity otherwise.
When I was a kid, the bindi was how I told Indians apart from Mexicans. This is what happens when you grow up in an all-white town.
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO *holds head, rocks in corner*
Lol at the white girl wearing a bindi (or phota/tip, in bengali). So lame. I love that she is so terribly Aryan, too. xD

The whole "religious/cultural" reasons thing was my excuse for going through med school with a nose stud. ;D

I personally have more issue with characters being given accents to indicate where they're from, as opposed to the bindi. Because accents carry a whole level of stereotyped (and sometimes insulting) meaning, implying levels of intelligence, modernity and morality.
God that girl needs SERIOUS help. I can't believe that she painted herself in blackface on her Flickr and that people ACTUALLY CONGRATULATED HER ON IT. GYAIDHSKFHDSKIFHDS.

Anyway - ahahah I use the religious thing as my excuse for my nose ring!! It's like SUCK IT, LOSERS. I LOOKS COOL - but oh, it's cultural!!

You know, it would be REALLY awesome to have a cartoon character wearing a bindi or a chador or a salwar or any sort of cultural indicator...and NOT have it paired with an 'exotic' accent. I mean, that would seriously confuse so many people because they'd be all "Lookit that head covering! She's clearly Muslim! Why isn't she speaking in some sort of Muslim accent? WHY DOES SHE SOUND *gasp* NORMAL?!" (after reading this article, I SO believe people would be confused by a character with a bindi-but-no-accent, lol).

lizardspots

8 years ago

caterfree10

8 years ago

Oh, also, I just remembered I read this article in the paper today. Kinda relevant, the journalist talks about how when she appeared on Fox News, people were e-mailing her afterwards asking her why she wasn't wearing a Burqa if she was Muslim.

I guess maybe the reasoning is that if you can identify how another person is different from you, it can theoretically give you a better idea of what that person is like. But that's kinda crap, because then you're falling back on stereotypes to create a picture of that other person, rather than actually getting to know them. And stereotypes and generalizations can *sometimes* provide information about a group of people at large, they pretty much always fail at the individual level.

So maybe for these minor characters, they want to make them seem more real or fully-rounded, so they go for the Bindi to identify a specific cultural or ethnic background, rather than spending the limited amount of time to develop the character? IDK. I think I had point further to this, but I've forgotten it!
Thank you for the link! My dad usually passes on news tidbits he thinks I'd like from the Metro and 24, but he's out of town, so it's kind of comforting to see this, too. *g*

glockgal

8 years ago

Is it necessary? Can we have a speaking!brown character without providing cultural indicators?
Thank you!






It seriously trips me up sometimes. One one hand, I'm like 'yay, it's a brown person!' and on the other I'm like 'oh, they're not "from here".' :(
This reminds me of a real bizarre translation of a cartoon I've once seen on tv here. It was one of these Christmas episodes, and the cartoon was iirc Disney's Recess. There was this Christmas performance at the school, and the kids appear as seasonal characters, and sing a line. There were some reindeer, then a green-clad elf, some druids, then comes a kid in sort of traditional African clothing for Kwanzaa, then a kid dressed as menorah, and the climax is Santa Claus. (And okay, you can do a critique of how they lump everything under Christmas in their eps, or the rather clumsy "lets make our Christmas episode diverse" but that didn't get to me.)

In the translation the song line of the menorah-clad kid was "I am a shining Christmas tree" or something like that. Srsly. The costume had no resemblance whatsoever to a tree. I'm fairly sure in the original the line must have been something about Chanukah. And sure Chanukah references aren't as common here as in the US, and menorahs not that common, and maybe some children would have been confused, but they had no problem leaving Kwanzaa as Kwanzaa in their translation, and that holiday is far less known here. I have no idea why they felt the need to edit out the Jewish holiday, or what the they thought when had a candleholder costume sing about being a Christmas tree.
That is seriously bizarre! Why the change of Chanukah but not of the other holidays? Like, was Chanukah worldwide and therefore comprehensible/changeable, whereas Kwanzaa is so totally American that it's like 'eh. No one outside of the States knows what that is anyway.'

I wish media had training in taking responsibility/ethics for what they choose to show to their audiences. But then, saying 'ethical media' is kinda like saying 'flying pig'. It ain't gonna happen.

vejiicakes

March 24 2009, 20:35:33 UTC 8 years ago Edited:  March 24 2009, 20:47:42 UTC

can a child watching the cartoon comprehend that the character is a certain race without the cultural indicator?

I think Avatar has already proved that even WITH cultural indicators, children/teens/adults can't comprehend a character is a certain race.

ETA: Oh, unless they're speaking with The Accent. Perpetual Foreigner syndrome always reads well, whereas if they're just wearing the clothes/have an "ethnic" name? Eh, probably just some white kid wearing pretty exotic clothing and WHAT, WHITE KIDS CAN'T HAVE FRUITY ETHNIC NAMES TOO?

My bitterness isn't contributing very productively to this thread, I apologize.

If you win the lottery, HOARD it and, I dunno, buy stock in animation studios or whatever it is you need to do for them to actually care about the opinions of people concerned about the long-run harms of prevailing racial shortcuts in media. (I'll still take $5 Canadian though.)
OH SWEETIE. *gives you lots of love* Don't apologize, I've been in the pool of bitterness as well, swimming about, knowing I should get out but I just KEEP getting pushed back in.

Avatar, man. I love love LOVE how people think it's perfectly reasonable to have a white character in full 'ethnic' clothes. No questions asked, no weird feelings about whitey playing dress-up in 'Oriental stuff'. Why not, that's just the way it is, deal with it! It's prefectly okay! But if WE ask for an actor from that cultural background to represent the character in live-action and suddenly WE'RE the ones being 'racist against white people'. *SMACKS STUPID PEOPLE HARD, SO HARD*

Deleted comment

ahahahahahhahhahah WIN!!

glockgal

8 years ago

Oh, very interesting post! (I still need to reply to a comment of yours but that'll have to wait till.. later. :P)


can a child watching the cartoon comprehend that the character is a certain race without the cultural indicator?

I think this really depends on a) age and b) the surroundings a child grew up in.

Re b): I've mentioned before (in one of my Avatar-related comments) that racism "works differently" here (here being Central Europe). The reason it works differently here is that the "mixture" of ethnic groups here was (and is) totally different from the one in, say, the US or Canada.

Like.. I was in my early teens when I first met a black person IRL. (Imagine that!) And I only did so because in the city I lived in, there was sort of institute/organisation/something (sorry, don't remember what it exactly it was) that provided housing for students from Africa (err.. or something along those lines!). Those (few) students were the only black people you'd see around our city. A friend of mine who grew up on the countryside (where things were/are generally a bit more "backwards" and people were/are more conservative) told me she was actually "shocked" when she first found herself face to face with a black person because it was totally out of the blue and there simply were no PoC around where she lived. (She was also in her teens then, and we're both in our late twenties now.)

When I first went to the UK (and later France), I was totally surprised (in a positive, "how awesome is that?!" way) at the ethnic diversity there. I remember sitting on the Paris Metro during rush hour, thinking to myself, "OMG, there's not only all kinds of black people riding on this subway, but also so many people with Asian features! It's the whole melting pot/salad bowl/prism thing I learned about at school! Why can't we have that at home, too?" The explanation was/is simple, but I didn't know or think of that back then. Reason is: unlike the UK or France (for example), the country I'm from never had colonies.

Of course things are different now, but the situation here still isn't comparable to that of the US or Canada etc.. And many people - even those of colour! - don't even know that it's different even in other European countries! Like.. a former colleague of mine, who is black, went on a weekend trip to Paris in 2007 (!!) and was all "I couldn't believe my eyes! There were so many people on the streets who looked just like me!" when she came back. (This was something that took me quite a bit by surprise because we're the same age [!!] and I was sure she'd know. I think what I didn't realise back then was that we were brought up very differently, i.e. I'm pretty sure she's never travelled much outside our country, or at least not as much as I did when I was a child/teenager.)


But ok, back to the actual point: I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have figured out where a PoC in a cartoon was supposed to be from when I was a child. And I wouldn't be surprised if that were still the case for many children in countries where there isn't such an ethnic diversity as in other countries.


and, is it really necessary for the child to comprehend the culture of the character if it's not particularly necessary to the story?

I was going to answer this question with "no" but huh, now I'm not so sure anymore. Keeping in mind everything I said above.. maybe this sort of thing can actually teach a child (which is growing up in similar circumstances) that there's also "other" people out there? People who look or dress differently? Using cliches is certainly not a very good way to transport that kind of message, but hmm.. I'm not sure if such "cultural indicators" (even if they're insignificant to the story) are a bad thing in general.

?! Hm.
It's all definitely one big "HMM"!

the country I'm from never had colonies.

ding ding ding ding ding ding ding!!! It wasn't very hard for you to see this - a plain and clear fact that many, many, MANY people in imperialistic countries have conveniently forgotten and now are under some impression that PoC have 'invaded' their countries. Feh. More people should be as awesome as you.



veryprecisely

8 years ago

I am pro de-racifying cartoons, but even in India these days bindis are becoming more of a fashion statement that a religious marker, so I'm not really bothered by the non-religious usage of them.
I'm not bothered by non-religious usage of them either! Not in the least; which is why I'm not criticizing their fashionable usage at all in this post. :D

mamapear

8 years ago

At least we're beyond characters like Hadji. ...Right?

Race and racial short cuts in cartoons and animation is actually a topic I had a lecture on in my "Race, Racism, and Popular Culture" class. We talked about Disney and lots of things and I would totally sit down and discuss it right here right now... only I'm so damned tired. But I will return to this post tomorrow!
WOW I WANT TO ATTEND THAT CLASS!! It sounds keen. :D :D :D

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