NO KILL I (glockgal) wrote,

unlocked, to promote discussion

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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