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?
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