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Bartholomew
07-24-2010, 02:08 AM
Whether you're reading, watching TV, webbing it up, or tooling around outside, the human world is painted over with messages meant to persuade us of one thing or another, and a lot of this content is aimed specifically at one group of people, without any consideration for others. While Tim James' "English Only (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEPh_KlTyII)" political ad comes to mind, not everything must be so openly hostile to retain a stinging vitriol.

For instance, the target audience of that commercial could easily be offended by the same commercial just by adding Spanish subtitles (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdDsNiPxDZc&feature=rec-LGOUT-farside_rn-2r-7-HM&videos=R2WEihPX65M).

But what about a similar effect accomplished by exclusion, rather than with a distinct purpose? It can hurt and offend just as much. The entire cast of my favorite show, Criminal Minds, is straight, upper middle class, and while there is a token black character, no other ethnicity or culture besides whites and dominant US culture are represented. They have one character who's overweight, and who has a latin last name, but she too is white, cis, and clearly well off. There appears to be no reason for everyone in this particular department of the FBI to be homogeneous, outside of the idea that the producers had only one type of viewer in mind.

I think that by making these characters complicated, they've avoided earning the disinterest of the non-white, non-straight, non-middle class viewer -- but since I'm all of those things, I can't really tell.

I see this "accidental bigotry" as more of a symptom than a cause, but to understand it, I had to find a way to experience it myself. I watched a few hours of BET the other day, and found the same phenomena: characters mostly had a homogenized race (Black) and economic class in the spread of prime-time shows I watched. I learned two things from this: I don't like being excluded, and when I am, I'm not that interested in whatever message a show has. It was really hard not to go do something else, and I can only reason that this is because my type of person wasn't included.

On the flip side, if a show tries to portray the entire rainbow of cultures, orientations, and races, it can come across as pandering, particularly if it is done in improper context, such as having an accepted (for lack of a better term) and openly gay teacher in a 1950s setting, or, in a story set in the same decade, having a black manager in a mixed-color work-place with no explanations as to why the social milieu has changed.

Then there is content that tries to be more inclusive, but in doing so resorts to stereotypes. Gay characters are often presented in a single, one dimensional light that is decidedly not representative of all gays. This probably only offends the straights who are not scathingly homophobic, but when gay character after gay character in movies, films, and books is presented in the flamboyant, colorful, and happy Flame On! stereotype, is it (and shouldn't it be) offensive to gays?

And then--who decides what a stereotype is? The meek white businessman who goes insane and kills his family may be a stereotype, but that sort of person exists. When does this character stop being flat and two dimensional, and start seeming human?

If I take a stereotype and flip the race or gender or orientation -- or all three -- is it still a stereotype? If I portray a white, transgender lesbian character, but start from modifying the horrible stereotype of a black teenage male who skips school and does drugs, has the character magically transformed into someone interesting, just by virtue of changing two intrinsic traits? Or is it still a flat character drawn from a bigoted pool of community content?

Where is the line for you? It surely comes long before the acidic tone of a commercial that acts as though you and your people are garbage, but does it extend into (possibly) accidental exclusion? Do stereotypes or modified stereotypes make you angry? When does content stop being offensive? When does it start?

Paul
07-24-2010, 02:10 AM
Em you causing trouble again?

:D

kaitiepaige17
07-24-2010, 02:14 AM
Just ask Paul. He'll tell you all about offensive.

:Shrug:what?

Bartholomew
07-24-2010, 02:19 AM
Yes. I'm clearly trolling.

Shakesbear
07-24-2010, 02:35 AM
A lot to think about. I think that being offended by content is a very personal experience. What offends one person does not offend another. My sis-in-law watches a tv programme that not only bores me sideways but also offends me. She will fall about laughing at stuff that makes me leave the room. The programme excludes me because I cannot enter into the spirit of said programme.

Political Correctness is offensive. It creates fear and is sometimes the cause of self censorship in the media.

Too tired to write more ...

Cyia
07-24-2010, 02:40 AM
I'm offended by the existence of this thread.

Bartholomew
07-24-2010, 02:58 AM
I'm offended by the existence of this thread.

I knew someone would be.

Eddyz Aquila
07-24-2010, 02:58 AM
I did not understand much out of the post, I found it quite confusing to be honest, but I will say this:

Racial stereotyping is not acceptable under any way, and any racist commercial will definitely hit the sensible string.

Cyia
07-24-2010, 03:17 AM
I knew someone would be.

I am offended that you think it's that obvious.

jennontheisland
07-24-2010, 03:19 AM
What makes material offensive?

The person reading it.

kuwisdelu
07-24-2010, 03:26 AM
Racial stereotyping is not acceptable under any way, and any racist commercial will definitely hit the sensible string.

Yes, but then the question would be when is something racial stereotyping and when is it not?

If I said "all black people like fried chicken," that would be stereotyping, for example. But what if I just happened to have a black character who happened to love fried chicken? Surely some people would find that racist, but it isn't necessarily racist — it's the interpretation that is. I remember a news story a while back about a school that was serving fried chicken on MLK Jr. day, and many cried racism, when in fact it was known to be one of his favorite foods.

SPMiller
07-24-2010, 05:39 AM
Well, who doesn't like fried chicken? Seriously. Aside from vegetarians, of course. Emphasizing that attribute of a black character would almost certainly be evidence of a racist depiction because you wouldn't emphasize such a detail for a non-black character.

Wayne K
07-24-2010, 05:44 AM
I like what Lenny Bruce had to say about racial obsenities (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOnkv76rNL4)

Easily ofended people shouldn't watch this

SPMiller
07-24-2010, 05:50 AM
The more I think about it, the more sure I am that I'm correct. Out of the tens or hundreds of thousands of possible dishes out there in the world, you expect me to believe the writer just happened, by chance, to select fried chicken? Holy shit. Anything at all is a better and more interesting choice than perpetuating the stereotype. Lazy thinking and borderline if not qualifiably racist.

Wayne K
07-24-2010, 05:54 AM
Behind all stereotypes there is a small amout of truth. It's how racists make them work. Either way you go you lose and they win. No one is happy and nothing is solved

backslashbaby
07-24-2010, 06:21 AM
I think it can be true to character. I've known tons of Black families who eat a lot of foods that I love (being Southern, who were influenced heavily by the Africans). So I'd include a Black family eating fried chicken and collards, absolutely. Maybe not a Northern one -- I have no idea what they like to eat. And if it needs to be said that I don't think Black folks all eat the same thing always, I think I'll smack someone ;)

I also have some dear friends who call themselves 'flamers'. They love seeing camp gays on TV, etc. But I certainly understand that folks take stereotypes waaay too rigidly. I know gay guys you'd have no idea were gay, too. Of course.

I used to hate ditzy female characters. Now that women are portrayed in lots of ways, the ditzy ones don't bug me. I've known some ditzy girls myself, of course :)

Wayne K
07-24-2010, 06:23 AM
I blame the Irish :D

kuwisdelu
07-24-2010, 06:29 AM
If I were to write a memoir, most of my (Native American) relatives would be drunk, fat, and diabetic.

Bartholomew
07-24-2010, 06:33 AM
The more I think about it, the more sure I am that I'm correct. Out of the tens or hundreds of thousands of possible dishes out there in the world, you expect me to believe the writer just happened, by chance, to select fried chicken? Holy shit. Anything at all is a better and more interesting choice than perpetuating the stereotype. Lazy thinking and borderline if not qualifiably racist.

Of course, it's possible not to be aware of that particular stereotype. And it is a common food. And the characters could all have been latinos in a rough draft, and someone in production decided it would be better to make them black in a later draft, so the fried chicken slips through. Or. Or.

The motive of the writer is probably not what's under consideration, and hopefully most of us are following this thread to avoid writing offensively.

You think that black people depicted eating fried chicken is racist, and it offends you. So where do you draw the line? Is it racist to have black people eat chicken in a commercial (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6C17-6FjP7g)?

But how often do we actually see this in real content, outside of advertising? Let's concoct a more likely scenario.

Say I am drawing up my villain, and I decide he's going to be a rich businessman who's goal through the story is to legally obtain my protagonist's family home at any cost. And suppose, drawing a name out of a hat, I call him... R. Stewart, not even realizing that it has Jewish roots.

If that slips past the copy editor, there are going to be allegations of antisemitism. I'd find it deeply offensive, but the version of me that wrote the story would be genuinely confused.

I guess I don't have a point with that example, other than that there isn't a clearly-drawn line between offensive and not-offensive, even though we always know when we're offended and when we aren't.

benbradley
07-24-2010, 08:46 AM
This is an interesting question in general, not just about racial words and material (which is a big, often volatile topic in itself), but any writing that some people would find emotionally charged. Some may find cuss words offensive. Others may find the same passage offensive not because of the actual words but because the character is "cussing at MY political party!"

I like what Lenny Bruce had to say about racial obsenities (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOnkv76rNL4)

Easily ofended people shouldn't watch this
I'm thinking easily offended people shouldn't get on the Internet. But anyway...

That clip reminds me of the fear that I had around the word God for the first 30 years of my life, especially as a child (as well as a bit of fear and confusion around religion in general). Between my parents and the Baptist church Sunday School teachers, I didn't know what to think. I was an atheistic-leaning agnostic, but I truly "didn't know" and I was afraid of the word, the concept, and of the people who used it in a reverent manner, and the vague idea that "what if I'm wrong?"

After a couple years of daily Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, the word God lost all meaning. It's used dozens of times in every meeting, often reverently and it seems just about as often followed by the word damn. After that I can talk about God with the best of them. (Cue Salt'n'Peppa's "Let's Talk About Sex (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzfo4txaQJA)" substituting God for Sex)

Yes, but then the question would be when is something racial stereotyping and when is it not?

If I said "all black people like fried chicken," that would be stereotyping, for example. But what if I just happened to have a black character who happened to love fried chicken? Surely some people would find that racist, but it isn't necessarily racist — it's the interpretation that is. I remember a news story a while back about a school that was serving fried chicken on MLK Jr. day, and many cried racism, when in fact it was known to be one of his favorite foods.
This gets into interpretations and situations about ethnic foods. I doubt anyone would be offended by an Italian character eating pasta, but we've discussed the news story of some person who made these racially-charged stickers, ISTR it was in connection with Obama becoming President - they depicted fried chicken AND watermelon and a couple of other racially stereotypical things. The fried chicken in THAT context was definitely meant as racist.

Of course, it's possible not to be aware of that particular stereotype. And it is a common food. And the characters could all have been latinos in a rough draft, and someone in production decided it would be better to make them black in a later draft, so the fried chicken slips through. Or. Or.

The motive of the writer is probably not what's under consideration, and hopefully most of us are following this thread to avoid writing offensively.

You think that black people depicted eating fried chicken is racist, and it offends you. So where do you draw the line? Is it racist to have black people eat chicken in a commercial (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6C17-6FjP7g)?
I recall circa 1970 a Church's Fried Chicken opened up at a corner near where I lived. Sometime during the 1970's or 1980's I heard on the news that Church's was one of the most successful black-owned businesses in Atlanta. So does the fact that it's black-owned change whether or how offensive the commercial is?

Mac H.
07-24-2010, 08:54 AM
Is it racist to have black people eat chicken in a commercial (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6C17-6FjP7g)?
That's ridiculous. The idea that people shouldn't be allowed to appear in commercials for chicken ?

It wasn't the commercial you linked to, but there was another bizarre racist attack on one of our KFC commercials here in Australia. There is a series of ads showing a guy in a socially awkward situation, but then everybody gets along after he shares his KFC.

This ad was based around cricket, and shows him (as an Aussie wearing Aussie team colours) finding that his seat is in the middle of a group for the opposing team - Sri Lanka.

That ad was deemed offensive by idiots in the USA, because apparently because there is a stereotype that African Americans like chicken.

Logically, because Africans Americans have a similar skin colour to Sri Lankans, they believed that the ad was racist because obviously Sri Lankans must have the same stereotype !!!!

The inherent racism to make that argument is mind-blowing.


Gay characters are often presented in a single, one dimensional light that is decidedly not representative of all gaysBut that's the problem.

If I have a character who is gay - that just means that this character is gay. That's it. If viewers are offended by the fact that this one character is decidedly not representative of everyone - so what? It isn't INTENDED to represent all people. It can't do that - anyone who expects it to is being pretty idiotic.

Mac

Bartholomew
07-24-2010, 09:08 AM
That's ridiculous. The idea that people shouldn't be allowed to appear in commercials for chicken ?

There was a bizarre racist attack on one of our KFC commercials here in Australia. There is a series of ads showing a guy in a socially awkward situation, but then everybody gets along after he shares his KFC.

This ad was based around cricket, and shows him (as an Aussie wearing Aussie team colours) finding that his seat is in the middle of a group for the opposing team - Sri Lanka.

That ad was deemed offensive by idiots in the USA, because apparently because there is a stereotype that African Americans like chicken.

Logically, because Africans Americans have a similar skin colour to Sri Lankans, they believed that the ad was racist because obviously Sri Lankans must have the same stereotype !!!!

The inherent racism to make that argument is mind-blowing.

But that's the problem.

If I have a character who is gay - that just means that this character is gay. That's it. If viewers are offended by the fact that this one character is decidedly not representative of everyone - so what? It isn't INTENDED to represent all people. It can't do that - anyone who expects it to is being pretty idiotic.

Mac

Wait, what?

I didn't link a foreign commercial. At least not on purpose.

I MEANT to link this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6C17-6FjP7g

Bartholomew
07-24-2010, 09:18 AM
I recall circa 1970 a Church's Fried Chicken opened up at a corner near where I lived. Sometime during the 1970's or 1980's I heard on the news that Church's was one of the most successful black-owned businesses in Atlanta. So does the fact that it's black-owned change whether or how offensive the commercial is?

I think there's a general belief that members of a race can violate certain social rules related to their own race, so I, personally, would say no. But I didn't make a broad, sweeping statement that any writer who portrayed this was behaving in a racist fashion.

It's a good thought, though. Does the source of an offensive remark matter? I know if I hear a black comedian dropping racist slurs, I'm mildly offended, but not enough to change the channel. I'll turn Carlos Mencia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlos_Mencia)off the minute I see his face. And if Lewis Black or someone started ranting about "Them Darkies" I'd probably crap a kitten-shaped brick (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=50504). (That's pretty damn offended.)

So I guess it matters to me.

Ruv Draba
07-24-2010, 10:11 AM
How did a general question about offense so suddenly zoom into a US-focused political question of cultural inclusion?

For me, the issue of offense is one of the audience's relationship to the material. An audience can get offended if they feel that their values, beliefs, sensibilities or expectations are not adequately reflected. The more we expect to be catered to, the more offended we may become.

It's very easy to give offence, and the more diverse our audience the harder it is not to. Also, the more unusual the communication the easier it is to offend. Since our most cherished fiction often has some new perspective to offer, it's not surprising then that a lot of it is controversial. Some writers see that controversy itself as a sign of success but I often look on it as a sort of failure -- every reader we offend is one we failed to reach.

But not all readers can be reached or catered to. When confronted with a new idea, some will take time to digest it; others will spit it out and blame the author. Our challenge then is to work out whether the problem is with the idea itself, how we expressed it, or the audience?

Shakesbear
07-24-2010, 11:44 AM
How did a general question about offense so suddenly zoom into a US-focused political question of cultural inclusion?

For me, the issue of offense is one of the audience's relationship to the material. An audience can get offended if they feel that their values, beliefs, sensibilities or expectations are not adequately reflected. The more we expect to be catered to, the more offended we may become.

I agree with you on that point. Yet I think it is also when someone feels that their "values, beliefs, sensibilities or expectations are not adequately" respected.



It's very easy to give offence, and the more diverse our audience the harder it is not to. Also, the more unusual the communication the easier it is to offend. Since our most cherished fiction often has some new perspective to offer, it's not surprising then that a lot of it is controversial. Some writers see that controversy itself as a sign of success but I often look on it as a sort of failure -- every reader we offend is one we failed to reach.

But not all readers can be reached or catered to. When confronted with a new idea, some will take time to digest it; others will spit it out and blame the author. Our challenge then is to work out whether the problem is with the idea itself, how we expressed it, or the audience?

If a reader is offended then I think they have been reached - their views and values have been challenged and they have to work through that. It is not always that a piece of writing is offensive but that the interpretation of it is preconditioned by the reader own experiences. How much of our writing should we change to meet the challenge of not being offensive?

aruna
07-24-2010, 11:45 AM
I'm offended by the word offended!
Seriously, though, offended is a word I would never use to describe my reaction to the phenomenon of exclusion and or stereotyping. Offended implies hurt feelings and self-pity, which is not an emotion I'm familiar with at all. I am, however, sometimes irritated by such matters.

Growing up, I used to be irritated because I could never, ever find a book to read that had non-white main characters. My reaction was to write such books myself (yes, even as a child I'd write them.)

I am often irritated by the stereotyped portrayal of women as beingg all shoe-crazy and shopping-crazy. As someone who wears the same pair of shoes for years without worry, and who hates shopping and doesn't have a single designer dress, I'd like to blast that cliche up to the moon! Yet I see it everywhere.

As for the gay thing, here's a daily mail article by someone who is not offended, but actively loathes the way gays are portrayed on today's media:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1297022/Why-I-gay-man-abhor-TV-queens.html

Bartholomew
07-24-2010, 12:16 PM
If a reader is offended then I think they have been reached - their views and values have been challenged and they have to work through that. It is not always that a piece of writing is offensive but that the interpretation of it is preconditioned by the reader own experiences. How much of our writing should we change to meet the challenge of not being offensive?

Yes and No, about reaching the offended audience. Some prejudices are deeply ingrained, and nothing we so or do can even dent them, let alone offer a new perspective. They're as likely to put the book down and go rant online to like-minded people as they are to keep reading.

I think our writing should, in general, only be offensive where an offensive message is needed.

And that's something everyone has to decide for him or herself.

Mr Flibble
07-24-2010, 01:37 PM
Say I am drawing up my villain, and I decide he's going to be a rich businessman who's goal through the story is to legally obtain my protagonist's family home at any cost. And suppose, drawing a name out of a hat, I call him... R. Stewart, not even realizing that it has Jewish roots.

If that slips past the copy editor, there are going to be allegations of antisemitism. I'd find it deeply offensive, but the version of me that wrote the story would be genuinely confused.

I'm sorry, why would there be claims for anti-Semitism for a Scottish surname? I'd be confused too....







I am often irritated by the stereotyped portrayal of women as beingg all shoe-crazy and shopping-crazy. As someone who wears the same pair of shoes for years without worry, and who hates shopping and doesn't have a single designer dress, I'd like to blast that cliche up to the moon! Yet I see it everywhere.

I get irritated too - but then again there are so very many women like that! They also irritate me when they try and take me shopping.

Dr.Gonzo
07-24-2010, 02:25 PM
People take offence at the smallest of things. There are so many variables that now the only certain way to not offend is to keep your mouth closed. My view? If someone's getting offended, they obviously have a cross to bear... but it is their cross to bear. So bear it they shall, just as I bear mine.

People forgot, I think, that sometimes you have to meet half way. Sure, people could be more understanding towards the sensitive baggage that others carry, but these baggage carriers should also realise that what is an issue for them is not so for all others and in turn is not at the forefront of their minds. Basically, understanding works both ways--like a motorway but with hopefully less of the finger.

Bartholomew
07-24-2010, 02:49 PM
I'm sorry, why would there be claims for anti-Semitism for a Scottish surname? I'd be confused too....


Because of Jon Stewart (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Stewart). (It's a stage name. He's Jewish, but a lot of people assume its a Jewish name, just because he's a well known Jew.)

That's why it would slip by copy editing. ;) And that's my entire point. The writer doesn't have to try to offend anyone; it's going to happen anyway.

Seriously, though, google. Amazing new website. More people should try it.

shaldna
07-24-2010, 03:53 PM
I;ve found that you can't give offense, only take it.

SO, offense exists only in the mind of the reader.

Celia Cyanide
07-24-2010, 05:42 PM
I;ve found that you can't give offense, only take it.

I don't agree, I think you can definitely intend to offend. And I think it's almost impossible to try to offend, and offend no one.

When people are offended, it's because something rubs them the wrong way, for whatever reason. I think most of the time, people can't control what offends them. But those who might not agree may not realize that.

shadowwalker
07-24-2010, 06:39 PM
People take offence at the smallest of things. There are so many variables that now the only certain way to not offend is to keep your mouth closed. My view? If someone's getting offended, they obviously have a cross to bear... but it is their cross to bear. So bear it they shall, just as I bear mine.

People forgot, I think, that sometimes you have to meet half way. Sure, people could be more understanding towards the sensitive baggage that others carry, but these baggage carriers should also realise that what is an issue for them is not so for all others and in turn is not at the forefront of their minds. Basically, understanding works both ways--like a motorway but with hopefully less of the finger.

Sooooo agree with this. I've said things and had people get offended, and I'm like "WTF?????". There are some things that are obviously offensive - but if we worry about whether anything/everything we say might offend someone else - as you said, we'd all go around silent as monks (no offense to monks, btw :D). Sometimes people have to move out of the "I'm a perpetual victim" mode and realize that there are other issues being discussed.

Ruv Draba
07-25-2010, 03:58 AM
I agree with you on that point. Yet I think it is also when someone feels that their "values, beliefs, sensibilities or expectations are not adequately" respected.To me, respect is an artefact of culture - however I may feel about you, I can only demonstrate my goodwill and consideration within some social framework. Where that framework exists between us I can choose to follow its conventions or not. But where it doesn't exist...

If we met as strangers on a desert island we could build that framework: I might bring you bananas and you might bring me fish and we'd both feel respected and valued. But a lot of writing is trans-social: our fiction, our journalism crosses social boundaries. I not only may not know how to respect you across those boundaries, I may have very little idea even who you are. So I can't necessarily demonstrate respect of any kind. Instead, my fiction might or might not reflect your social values and beliefs. If it does, it may look like it respects you. If it doesn't, it may not. You may or may not then react with offense.


How much of our writing should we change to meet the challenge of not being offensive?I think that the use of the word "should" makes it an ethical question: what do I owe my readers?

I suppose it depends on what kind of writing it is. If it's non-fiction say, then truth, relevance and sympathetic balance would play a big part in my idea of ethical writing. Readers can still be offended, but if we make best efforts to nail truth, relevance and balance of sympathy, then any affront is likely to be from self-interest rather than some humanitarian concern.

In fiction, it's harder. People disagree over its purpose. Some say that it's just to entertain, and entertainment's very much a matter of shared tastes. But I see fiction as informing and illuminating too, so I like strong research, sympathetic investment and relevance.

In fiction, strong research is especially useful to portray conflicting groups with versimilitude. If we settle for cliché then we're being lazy and cheating the reader -- we may also pick up the bigotry of our culture. Sympathetic investment means that we let all our characters speak eloquently to their passions and beliefs -- even when we don't agree with what they have to say. Relevance means that we keep our plot, characters and narrative focused on the issues played out in the story, so they can be evaluated against the story itself.

Again, this won't stop all readers from being offended at our material (and nothing will stop some readers from being offended by our style), but if we nail research, sympathy and relevance it's hard to see how such offense could arise from anything more than entitled self-interest.

Kitty27
07-25-2010, 04:19 AM
I'm sorry, why would there be claims for anti-Semitism for a Scottish surname? I'd be confused too....



I get irritated too - but then again there are so very many women like that! They also irritate me when they try and take me shopping.


Don't be angry! We only want to help!:)

What offends one person doesn't bother another. I am fashion mad and shoe crazy so seeing a woman portrayed that way doesn't bother me,lol.


With regard to blacks and certain foods,it's a no-no. Just,no. It will be taken the wrong way if written about by a non-black person. We mock it amongst ourselves but nobody else better do the same. It's not fair but that's how it is. Personally,I look at context before I go flaming mad on somebody. Others won't,trust me. My brother will straight flip over that sort of stuff and so will most of my friends.

You really can't tell what will offend someone. Everybody's tastes are different. There is just no way to know.

Urban Fiction offends me. Deeply. But my friends love it and this leads to many battles.

Weak female characters offend me. I cannot abide them. My friend argues that such MC's are getting in touch with their feminine side. Perhaps growing up with three brothers has neutered my feminity because I don't understand this at all.

I don't like tropes in fiction such as the Magical Negro,Stoic Indian,and Sad Gay. My hate for these things knows no bounds.

Stereotyping causes rage for me. It is beyond annoying to see it.

I don't like the lack of MC's of color in YA. But rather than go on and on about how this offended me,I did something about it. *check siggy*

Other than the things above,I don't get offended easily. Unless it's horrid fashion. That is too much to endure.

Maxinquaye
07-25-2010, 05:24 AM
With regard to blacks and certain foods,it's a no-no. Just,no. It will be taken the wrong way if written about by a non-black person. We mock it amongst ourselves but nobody else better do the same. It's not fair but that's how it is. Personally,I look at context before I go flaming mad on somebody. Others won't,trust me. My brother will straight flip over that sort of stuff and so will most of my friends.

This is an interesting thread because the red button things will be different if Idiots or I were to write about black people.

I don't think I would even consider a no-chicken taboo. Would that be terribly insensitive of us? I don't really think so because the black people we would write about would have a very different background than descendendants of southern slaves.

We'd write about people from, or descendent from, former african or west indian colonies. That's NOT to say there aren't racial stereotypes, but those would probably be quite different.

So, a kid of Jamaican descent that loooooved chicken would raise no eyebrows in London. But once it got imported into the US, it would. That's interesting.

CheshireCat
07-25-2010, 06:21 AM
I think if you're not offending someone you're not reaching a wide enough audience.

And not doing your job.

:)

You're going to offend readers along the way. I don't care how hard you try not to -- assuming you want to do that, and why you should is beyond me -- you're going to offend someone.

I once had a character take a drink. Just one. In the entire book. And a reader did her level best to rip me a new one. She found it offensive.

I've also had readers send me long notes citing names and page numbers where characters curse. Sometimes what I'd consider mildly, too. (As opposed to, say, taking the Lord's name in vain, which stirs up all kinds of trouble.) Most of those amuse me more than anything else -- because the offended party read the whole book.

Me, when I'm offended, I stop reading or stop watching or whatever. But not these people. Nope, they just grab a piece of paper, or a highlighter or something, and start noting down places where they're offended. While they keep reading. :Shrug:

Have I ever deliberately set out to offend anyone? No. Have I ever changed something because an editor said it might offend someone? No, never had that experience.

Though, back in the day -- and maybe still, I suppose -- there were certain curses just not acceptable in romance, so I either avoided those or resigned myself to seeing them cut or changed in the CE stage. But that was a certain kind of book aimed at a (relatively) limited audience with definite expectations, and since I wanted that audience to read my work, I followed at least the general guidelines of the publishers.

As to the racial/ethnic/religious stuff, I think we can no more help writing from our own experience than we can help breathing; to do otherwise is just not natural to us. I'm white and middle-class; my characters have roamed all along socio-economic lines, but they've mostly been white. It wasn't a deliberate decision, just what happened. Minority characters have appeared here and there in my work, but never because I decided consciously that my mostly-all-white cast needed some color or ethnic diversity. To make that decision consciously would feel ... wrong to me. (That's me, personally.)

Should we push boundaries, shove ourselves out of our comfort zones? If we want to do that, sure. But it can and does sound a sour note if it's forced and the writer is uncomfortable.

And I think plenty of readers recognize that, otherwise I wouldn't have readers who are black and Asian and Jewish and Catholic and Hispanic -- and French and Italian and Greek and Australian and ... Well, you get the idea.

I hear from them. I've met lots of them over the years. And not one -- not a single, solitary one of them -- has ever said or written anything to me indicating that they believed I should create a character or characters to represent their own corner of real life.

So the idea that there's bound to be a feeling of "exclusion" from a story because your own particular race/religion/life truths aren't represented doesn't hold water, in my experience.

I think feeling that way is a very individual thing, and hardly universal.

As an example, how many of us watched The Cosby Show? I know I did. And loved it. Despite the fact that the characters were not only not my race, but nowhere near my socio-economic "reality." I loved them all -- because the problems they faced were universal, very human problems most of us face.

If you get that right, tap into what makes us human rather than what makes us some sub-group of human, then I think your audience will be wide and varied.

Which is as it should be. Even if you offend some of them some of the time. ;)

Susan Littlefield
07-25-2010, 08:08 AM
Violence, sex, anything that appears to be gratuitous--they are in the story with no purpose. Of course, that could be a subjective experience and based on perception only. :)

defcon6000
07-25-2010, 08:52 AM
I think there's a general belief that members of a race can violate certain social rules related to their own race, so I, personally, would say no. But I didn't make a broad, sweeping statement that any writer who portrayed this was behaving in a racist fashion.

It's a good thought, though. Does the source of an offensive remark matter? I know if I hear a black comedian dropping racist slurs, I'm mildly offended, but not enough to change the channel. I'll turn Carlos Mencia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlos_Mencia)off the minute I see his face. And if Lewis Black or someone started ranting about "Them Darkies" I'd probably crap a kitten-shaped brick (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=50504). (That's pretty damn offended.)

So I guess it matters to me.
Jeez, Carlos Mencia is still around?

I don't watch black comedians specifically because they make a lot of remarks about race (except for Dave Chapelle, but that's because he's brilliant).I find it funny how they use the "N" world hundreds of times in their acts, but if a white guys dares say it, he's racist.


This is an interesting thread because the red button things will be different if Idiots or I were to write about black people.

I don't think I would even consider a no-chicken taboo. Would that be terribly insensitive of us? I don't really think so because the black people we would write about would have a very different background than descendendants of southern slaves.

We'd write about people from, or descendent from, former african or west indian colonies. That's NOT to say there aren't racial stereotypes, but those would probably be quite different.

So, a kid of Jamaican descent that loooooved chicken would raise no eyebrows in London. But once it got imported into the US, it would. That's interesting.
I think Americans are hypersensitive over race issues, whether they be real or imaginary, because we went through centuries of racism, and even when the slaves were free, racism was still ever present and even to this day you'll find it in America; it's not as overt, partly because many racist have died and party because it has gone underground. Now it's a major insult to be called a racist and then there's the whole 'white guilt' and it seems we can't get beyond it, we just keep calling it out and looking over our shoulders to make sure nothing racist is sneaking up. Even when you say something good about another race it's considered racist.
I just think Americans should, you know, loosen up a bit. :tongue

megan_d
07-25-2010, 02:25 PM
I blog I find really interesting is Stuff White People Do (http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/). I don't agree with everything the author says, but it is really thought provoking stuff.

Linda Adams
07-25-2010, 04:31 PM
I once had a character take a drink. Just one. In the entire book. And a reader did her level best to rip me a new one. She found it offensive.



I had a critter do this over a gun. She was vehemently anti-gun, and it was a thriller set during the Civil War. With soldiers!

During a speech a Toastmasters, my father used the word toilet. It was part of a story and wasn't used in any kind of negative way. The person who was evaluating him was so offended by the use that she couldn't do the evaluation. I don't know how she managed when we have commercials that sell products relating to toilets!

Dr.Gonzo
07-25-2010, 04:46 PM
A woman editor has just taken over the fiction section of a mag I send to. I had a good relationahip with the previous editor and he accepted my story. Now she's took over and wants changes because she finds some of the description degrading to women. It's a first person story about a man who sees women as objects and temporary pleasures.

She's all, 'This needs to be toned down because the women are made to look cheap.'

I'm like, 'Well good, because that's how he sees them :)'

Mr Flibble
07-25-2010, 04:56 PM
Because of Jon Stewart (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Stewart). (It's a stage name. He's Jewish, but a lot of people assume its a Jewish name, just because he's a well known Jew.)

That's why it would slip by copy editing. ;) And that's my entire point. The writer doesn't have to try to offend anyone; it's going to happen anyway.

Seriously, though, google. Amazing new website. More people should try it.

So one person is both Jewish and has changed to a Scottish surname, and that means we can't use that surname for a nasty character or it's anti-Semitic? Tosh, piffle and utter bollocks. By that reasoning I can't have an unpopular character with the surname of Brown, because that would be anti-Scots, even if the character is Indonesian. If peoples' assumptions are wrong(or stupid..) that's their look out.

I did google Stewart btw. All I got were lots of Scots (Rod Stewart..we are sailing, we are sailing...), a Professor of maths, Kristen Stewart and Patrick Stewart.

scarletpeaches
07-25-2010, 04:59 PM
It came wi' a lass, and it'll gang wi' a lass.

Wayne K
07-25-2010, 05:19 PM
I'm offended by everything, so I want you all to take up sculpting

Wayne K
07-25-2010, 05:19 PM
No penis statues either...SP

Maxinquaye
07-25-2010, 05:30 PM
So one person is both Jewish and has changed to a Scottish surname, and that means we can't use that surname for a nasty character or it's anti-Semitic? Tosh, piffle and utter bollocks. By that reasoning I can't have an unpopular character with the surname of Brown, because that would be anti-Scots, even if the character is Indonesian. If peoples' assumptions are wrong(or stupid..) that's their look out.

Yes. I'm changing my name, because it's french, and brits and yanks are offended by it. I don't want that.

Wayne K
07-25-2010, 05:37 PM
I'm offended by the word Yank. Its too sexual

:D

shadowwalker
07-25-2010, 05:37 PM
I think if you're not offending someone you're not reaching a wide enough audience.

And not doing your job.

:)

You're going to offend readers along the way. I don't care how hard you try not to -- assuming you want to do that, and why you should is beyond me -- you're going to offend someone.

...

If you get that right, tap into what makes us human rather than what makes us some sub-group of human, then I think your audience will be wide and varied.

Which is as it should be. Even if you offend some of them some of the time. ;)

Hear hear!

Kitty27
07-25-2010, 08:09 PM
This is an interesting thread because the red button things will be different if Idiots or I were to write about black people.

I don't think I would even consider a no-chicken taboo. Would that be terribly insensitive of us? I don't really think so because the black people we would write about would have a very different background than descendendants of southern slaves.

We'd write about people from, or descendent from, former african or west indian colonies. That's NOT to say there aren't racial stereotypes, but those would probably be quite different.

So, a kid of Jamaican descent that loooooved chicken would raise no eyebrows in London. But once it got imported into the US, it would. That's interesting.


Hey,Maxinquaye.

My country is crazy when it comes to race. Absolutely nuts. Like I said,I look at context and it wouldn't offend me. But there is a hair trigger response when it comes to non blacks writing about blacks. The ish hit the fan over "The Help" and it is still going on. It wouldn't be insensitive to me but others simply don't want ANY non black person writing about blacks. I have friends who are most definitely opposed to it.


Defcon,the N word coming from the lips of a member of another race,even in a joke,most likely wouldn't be tolerated. I know free speech and all that,but it would cause some ish to jump off. Even if a comedian means no harm,he won't be on equal status with a black comedian who uses it. I know it's weird but that's just how it is. My parents generation consider it to be foul and don't use it. I used to be quite the abuser of the word because my generation uses it as a term of endearment, a sort of reclaiming of a very hurtful word. But not anymore. I left it in the past where it belongs.

A person who is offended all the time is going to lead a very boring life. Books,movies,television,there will always be something they find offensive. How are they to enjoy the arts? They also seem to want to force their views on others. But this often has an unintended side effect. Controversy benefits the artist. Others want to know what the big fuss is sp more books and music are sold,thus enriching the artist. Plus,media attention. So,they often help what they are trying to stop!

backslashbaby
07-25-2010, 08:22 PM
Kitty, if I had a Black family in my novel based on the family that were my neighbors, and I included our Sunday dinners together -- soul food, no question -- would your friends see the difference? What if the White character isn't there, and it's about a Black family's dinner, based on real experience? I'm hoping it would be clear that I loved those scenes, those dinners. Does that make sense?

Mr.L.A.Kegbrat
07-25-2010, 08:35 PM
If I write something that no one finds offensive, I feel as if I must've done something wrong.

I love writing letters to the editor of the local newspaper.

Mine almost always elicit outraged responses.

Kitty27
07-25-2010, 08:38 PM
Kitty, if I had a Black family in my novel based on the family that were my neighbors, and I included our Sunday dinners together -- soul food, no question -- would your friends see the difference? What if the White character isn't there, and it's about a Black family's dinner, based on real experience? I'm hoping it would be clear that I loved those scenes, those dinners. Does that make sense?


I get what you're saying. It wouldn't bother me in the least. But I have friends who are,well,just plain loony about this issue. But that's the nature of the word offensive. What doesn't bother me drives another crazy.
You can't and shouldn't try to please everybody. Besides,it's impossible!

Don't you dare change anything,BSB! Write the scene as you lived and enjoyed it.

Sevilla
07-25-2010, 09:30 PM
You know, the most offensive show I've seen was "The Man Show." Yes, I'm a woman. And it wasn't the show's existence that I found so offending, it was the fact that my boyfriend at the time found it so entertaining. If everyone had looked at the show with the same distaste I had, it wouldn't have bothered me.

So what I'm saying is that often the truly offensive thing is people's positive reactions to "offensive" material, and not always the material alone.

Celia Cyanide
07-25-2010, 10:47 PM
A person who is offended all the time is going to lead a very boring life. Books,movies,television,there will always be something they find offensive. How are they to enjoy the arts?

I think you can find something offensive and still enjoy it. Some of my favorite musicians have very offensice lyrics.

Bartholomew
07-26-2010, 02:18 AM
I think you can find something offensive and still enjoy it. Some of my favorite musicians have very offensice lyrics.

You might describe the lyrics as offensive, but they clearly aren't offending you.

SPMiller
07-26-2010, 02:59 AM
I don't accept that giving offense is inevitable, nor do I accept that I shouldn't try to mitigate it where possible.

Bartholomew
07-26-2010, 03:04 AM
I don't accept that giving offense is inevitable, nor do I accept that I shouldn't try to mitigate it where possible.

Well, if you write sword and sorcery materials, such as Magic: The Gathering card descriptions, D&D campaigns, Video Game RPG storylines, or any fantasy genre material, you've offended certain people before they even read what you've done.

The same goes for countless other types of materials.

Some people will see how you've categorized your work, be offended by that, and then make huge assumptions about your work, so that they can be further offended.

The moment you scratch a word out, someone, somewhere is going to be offended, no matter how benign the message or how neutral you perceive it to be.

Mr Flibble
07-26-2010, 03:06 AM
I don't accept that giving offense is inevitable, nor do I accept that I shouldn't try to mitigate it where possible.


If something is obvously going to give offence sure. I've changed stuff (because you 'Merkins see stuff differently to us'n over here.) But change it because someone, somewhere might, possibly, if they screw up their eyes and squint at it, get offended? No.

I think about it. I consider it. Then I write it.

Someone will be offended. At some point. People get offended by big, busty women in fantasy. I wrote a woman who is not busty. I got an e-mail from someone who was offended....

CheshireCat
07-26-2010, 04:33 AM
The moment you scratch a word out, someone, somewhere is going to be offended, no matter how benign the message or how neutral you perceive it to be.


QFT.

nighttimer
07-26-2010, 04:41 AM
You know what makes material offensive? Bad writing. I'm not sure there's anything that can't be written about if it's written well.

Great literature and art shouldn't be afraid to offend sensibilities. Sometimes it's the only thing that makes it great in the first place.

"Rape, murder, arson, rape....I like rape." (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3BRI7WFYVU&feature=related) :eek:

Mr Flibble
07-26-2010, 05:00 AM
What we have to remember of course is that there is a difference between 'what I find offensive' and 'what I find annoying'


In Hollywood of late, British guys are either -uber bad psychopathic dudes, bumbling dudes or men who say 'Oh I say chaps, shall we have some tea?'

It's annoying.It's stereotyping. But it's not offensive (mostly. That guy in Tango and Cash...).

Maxinquaye
07-26-2010, 05:06 AM
Assa, wouldn't it be canny wi' a spot iv tea neeo like?

Silver King
07-26-2010, 06:17 AM
I must be a cold, heartless bastard. Nothing offends me anymore. Nothing at all. Of course I'm acutely aware that others take offense for all manner of reasons, but personally I just don't have it in me to get bent out of shape if my ethnicity is disparaged or religion is bashed or someone called my wife a useless whore or whatever.

I will sometimes put myself out there in defense of others who are offended by one thing or another, but only because I don't want to see them get hurt when their own sensibilities are assaulted.

It might have something to do with how I was raised. When I asked my dad at the tender age of ten or so why the kids at school were calling me a whop, he said simply, "Because you're Italian."

I said, "It sounds dirty, like a mop or something."

He stopped eating and pointed his fork at me. "You're a whop, always will be a whop and and don't you ever forget it. And mops are only dirty when people don't use them right."

I looked down at my plate, and he said, "Now shut up and finish your spaghetti."

Celia Cyanide
07-26-2010, 07:42 AM
You might describe the lyrics as offensive, but they clearly aren't offending you.

Why not? Because I like the music? That doesn't mean I like the message.

Susan Littlefield
07-26-2010, 08:26 AM
Why not? Because I like the music? That doesn't mean I like the message.

Celia, I understand exactly what you are saying about offensive lyrics in music, but not actually being offended by the song. Sometimes the beat of the music overrides the words.

Margarita Skies
07-26-2010, 08:55 AM
:nothing

Wiskel
07-26-2010, 06:40 PM
In Hollywood of late, British guys are either -uber bad psychopathic dudes, bumbling dudes or men who say 'Oh I say chaps, shall we have some tea?'

It's annoying.It's stereotyping. But it's not offensive (mostly. That guy in Tango and Cash...).


Sssshhhhh!

It's not a sterotype. It's a secret plot. We're trying to convince the Americans that we're all highly intelligent supervillains and that one of us could easily destroy the world. Hugh Grant is our smokescreen.

When they meet someone british and they aren't just like Hugh, then they'll assume that person must be a psychopathic badguy instead. That way they'll try harder to make sure we do have a nice day when we visit Disneyland, instead of just saying it.

If they realise that a typical british person is actually fairly normal, and might even like chicken, then the game is up.

Craig

Susan Littlefield
07-26-2010, 08:35 PM
:nothing

I just wanted to be like Magali.....

Love these smilies!

Mr Flibble
07-26-2010, 08:55 PM
If they realise that a typical british person is actually fairly normal, and might even like chicken, then the game is up.

Craig

Speak for yourself. Me, I'm keeping up the time-honoured tradition of the Great British Eccentric.


I can be psychopathic as well if you like though. *brandishes scramasax at chicken* See? Multi-talented, that's us Brits.

ETA: Actually I'd really rather like to wave the scramasax in the face of the guy murderlising the word 'wanker' in Tango and Cash under the mistaken impression it makes him sound British. It doesn't. Does make him sound like a wanker though :D I like to think they got a Yank to pretend to be a Brit because all our guys are so good they couldn't afford us. Sadly it was the actor's way of trying to stand out and Sly liked it so much he added extra lines....

Dr.Gonzo
07-26-2010, 09:05 PM
Wasn't that Brit guy in Tango & Cash also in Blade Runner? Sure of it. Not that it would make the performance any more tolerable.

Mr Flibble
07-26-2010, 09:17 PM
Yup

At least he didn't attempt a Brit accent in that one...

Phaeal
07-26-2010, 09:20 PM
I guess we're lucky the extraterrestrials haven't revealed themselves yet. Think about the chances for offense other species would open up!

For that matter, we humans are constantly offending the other species already here. Including the chickens. Nothing is more offensive than being looked at as a collection of drumsticks, wings and breasts screaming to be dipped in crumbs and thrown into boiling oil.

Nevertheless, I love me some fried chicken, some dirty rice, some stewed okra and collards with ham hocks, some biscuits with cream gravy. Sorry, chickens and pigs and okras and tomatoes and onions and collards and wheats and rices and cows. No offense meant.

Seriously. Fried chicken is the food of the gods. Screw that ambrosia junk.

Dr.Gonzo
07-26-2010, 09:22 PM
Jesus, Phaeal, get a room.

willietheshakes
07-26-2010, 09:22 PM
In Hollywood of late, British guys are either -uber bad psychopathic dudes, bumbling dudes or men who say 'Oh I say chaps, shall we have some tea?'

It's annoying.It's stereotyping. But it's not offensive (mostly. That guy in Tango and Cash...).

Clearly you have a very liberal definition of "of late". :)

Mr Flibble
07-26-2010, 09:27 PM
I'm showing my age. :D

darkprincealain
07-26-2010, 09:36 PM
As in Bartholomew's example upthread, I'm afraid there is only so much mitigating one can do. Even that isn't altogether successful. Some people will look for offense where none was intended. It's a kind of mental storymaking--people become identified with the story as a replacement for seeing clearly what is actually happening.

Celia Cyanide
07-26-2010, 10:00 PM
Some people will look for offense where none was intended.

Yeah, and this pisses me off. I think it does a disservice to those who may have sensitivity issues with certain things. There are people who might be offended by things to don't offend everyone, and they are sometimes are made to feel like whiners. I think when you are genuinely offended by something, you can't help it. It doesn't mean you would deny that which offends you its right to exist. Some things just cross a line with certain people.

Bartholomew
07-26-2010, 10:14 PM
Why not? Because I like the music? That doesn't mean I like the message.

I think I see what you're saying, actually. This song does that for me. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iP6XpLQM2Cs) My argument is that by connecting to me on one level, however (making my shake my caboose), that it's avoided offending me on another.

If the music was bad too, I'd probably write a nasty blog post about the song.

Bartholomew
07-26-2010, 10:22 PM
I must be a cold, heartless bastard. Nothing offends me anymore. Nothing at all. Of course I'm acutely aware that others take offense for all manner of reasons, but personally I just don't have it in me to get bent out of shape if my ethnicity is disparaged or religion is bashed or someone called my wife a useless whore or whatever.

I will sometimes put myself out there in defense of others who are offended by one thing or another, but only because I don't want to see them get hurt when their own sensibilities are assaulted.

It might have something to do with how I was raised. When I asked my dad at the tender age of ten or so why the kids at school were calling me a whop, he said simply, "Because you're Italian."

I said, "It sounds dirty, like a mop or something."

He stopped eating and pointed his fork at me. "You're a whop, always will be a whop and and don't you ever forget it. And mops are only dirty when people don't use them right."

I looked down at my plate, and he said, "Now shut up and finish your spaghetti."

What a heartwarming story. :D

Celia Cyanide
07-26-2010, 10:32 PM
I think I see what you're saying, actually. This song does that for me. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iP6XpLQM2Cs) My argument is that by connecting to me on one level, however (making my shake my caboose), that it's avoided offending me on another.

If the music was bad too, I'd probably write a nasty blog post about the song.

For me, the obvious example is Eminem. If you've ever heard the song, "Kim," it's a murder ballad about killing his ex-wife, whom he identifies by name. There are sounds at the end that sound like his is slitting her throat. While it was probably very cathartic for him, I have ethical problems with him even releasing it like this.

Having said that, it's a very intense, powerful, and emotional song. I've never heard anything like it.

xitomatl
07-26-2010, 11:50 PM
Because of Jon Stewart (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Stewart). (It's a stage name. He's Jewish, but a lot of people assume its a Jewish name, just because he's a well known Jew.)

I find it offensive that I would even have to think of catering to somebody so stupid that they'd get offended by that.

;)

No seriously though, there's a point where there might be legitimate offence taken at something, even if it's not meant to be offensive, and then you have people just looking for offence in anything. And I firmly believe we, as a society (and as writers), can't stoop to that level. It's catering to the lowest common denominator.

autumnleaf
07-27-2010, 01:39 PM
Clearly you have a very liberal definition of "of late". :)

On this side of the Atlantic, "of late" means within the past hundred years.

Just don't ask us to drive more than a hundred miles. That's a looooong way away.;)

darkprincealain
07-28-2010, 09:24 PM
Yeah, and this pisses me off.

It might piss you off Celia, but these aren't the kind of readers you want. You want people who like your genre and can appreciate your writing. In a number of cases these types of people just go looking for something to complain about, which really isn't what books are intended for, I don't believe.

aadams73
07-28-2010, 09:32 PM
I must be a cold, heartless bastard. Nothing offends me anymore. Nothing at all. Of course I'm acutely aware that others take offense for all manner of reasons, but personally I just don't have it in me to get bent out of shape if my ethnicity is disparaged or religion is bashed or someone called my wife a useless whore or whatever.

I will sometimes put myself out there in defense of others who are offended by one thing or another, but only because I don't want to see them get hurt when their own sensibilities are assaulted.

It might have something to do with how I was raised. When I asked my dad at the tender age of ten or so why the kids at school were calling me a whop, he said simply, "Because you're Italian."

I said, "It sounds dirty, like a mop or something."

He stopped eating and pointed his fork at me. "You're a whop, always will be a whop and and don't you ever forget it. And mops are only dirty when people don't use them right."

I looked down at my plate, and he said, "Now shut up and finish your spaghetti."

Uh oh, I think you might be me. :D

If people try to offend me, I laugh at them. I'm pretty much unflappable at this point.

Celia Cyanide
07-28-2010, 09:43 PM
It might piss you off Celia, but these aren't the kind of readers you want. You want people who like your genre and can appreciate your writing. In a number of cases these types of people just go looking for something to complain about, which really isn't what books are intended for, I don't believe.

It doesn't just piss me off in literature, though, it pisses me off in life, and I don't think people should do it. I guess it offends me.

darkprincealain
07-28-2010, 09:45 PM
It doesn't just piss me off in literature, though, it pisses me off in life, and I don't think people should do it. I guess it offends me.

Oh I agree. I guess I meant there are readers like this, too, but that they're not the point of writing books. There are people who will value your work, instead.

DancingMaenid
07-29-2010, 02:05 AM
Some people will look for offense where none was intended.

I don't think intent is really the main issue, here. I don't think many people intend to cause offense when they write something, or are even necessarily aware that what they've written is offensive.

But that doesn't mean that if I write a book that contains horribly racist stereotypes, for example, that it's not racist unless I wrote the book with racist intentions. It's still racist regardless.

Actually, if the material is supposed to be offensive, then that implies that it's not really offensive in the first place. If I have a racist character say something bad, and it's clear from context that that was intended and that the character is supposed to be seen as a nasty person, then that's entirely different than if my story itself is unknowingly racist.

Celia Cyanide
07-29-2010, 02:20 AM
I don't think intent is really the main issue, here. I don't think many people intend to cause offense when they write something, or are even necessarily aware that what they've written is offensive.

But that doesn't mean that if I write a book that contains horribly racist stereotypes, for example, that it's not racist unless I wrote the book with racist intentions. It's still racist regardless.

I agree with this, too. It's one thing to stand by something you've said, even if it offends people. It's another to say, "I didn't intend it to be offensive, so that means it obviously isn't, and if you think it is, there's something wrong with you."

darkprincealain
07-29-2010, 02:45 AM
Oh, I agree. I just thought in the last page or so we'd drifted into one or two places where people might be compelled to change something that was in no way bigoted. In BSB's example, for instance. It's how she saw life, it's how she enjoyed life. People in all colors of the rainbow enjoy soul food.

Mr Flibble
07-29-2010, 05:15 AM
I agree with this, too. It's one thing to stand by something you've said, even if it offends people. It's another to say, "I didn't intend it to be offensive, so that means it obviously isn't, and if you think it is, there's something wrong with you."


And that's where we get into brain bending territory....If I write a story about Vikings, is it racist because none of them are black? If I write a story where the coolest dude is black have I fallen for Magic Negro syndrome? To avoid Magic Negro syndrome should I avoid all Negroes? if I..if I...

Or should I just write my characters the best I can and know that someone, somewhere is going to get the hump? I read stuff that gives me the hump on a fairly regular basis. That doesn't mean it's offensive or bad (sometimes it is, and those times I figure, I ain't the audience...There's not many times I think it's intentionally so, and unless there's out and out OMG fuckwittery I don't mind. People are after all people with their own opinions).

Do the best you can. Consider, think and then just write the best way you know how. Cos whatever you do, someone will hate it. For something.

SPMiller
07-29-2010, 06:46 AM
And that's where we get into brain bending territory....If I write a story about Vikings, is it racist because none of them are black? If I write a story where the coolest dude is black have I fallen for Magic Negro syndrome? To avoid Magic Negro syndrome should I avoid all Negroes? if I..if I...Magical Negros may be hard for you to understand, since being in the UK, you aren't privy to the American racial dialog. In general, a Magical Negro is a stereotypical black character who has unusual powers or abilities and exists primarily to aid the non-black protagonist. You may not consider it offensive, but in the US market, it is. Stephen King is infamous for his persistent use of Magical Negroes. So, if you have a cool black dude who has mystical/supernatural powers and exists to help out your white protag, he's very likely an archetypal Magical Negro.

Bartholomew
07-29-2010, 06:56 AM
I've never even heard of the magical negro phenomena.

That said, I think any underdeveloped character used as a plot device is a bad idea.

SPMiller
07-29-2010, 07:02 AM
You're shitting me.

Bartholomew
07-29-2010, 07:06 AM
You're shitting me.

No, really. Under-developed characters kill otherwise decent stories. It's a damn shame.

##

Not until you mentioned it (which prompted me to find and read the wiki article.)

I'm not sure the guy in The Green Mile qualifies, by the way. He was the focus of the story. He may very well have been magical and black, but I think he was more than a quaint moral lesson for King's white protag.

But then, I'm not sure how a magical negro character would be any less offensive than a non-magical, token black support character.

SPMiller
07-29-2010, 07:11 AM
No, really. Under-developed characters kill otherwise decent stories. It's a damn shame.

##

Not until you mentioned it (which prompted me to find and read the wiki article.)

I'm not sure the guy in The Green Mile qualifies, by the way. He was the focus of the story. He may very well have been magical and black, but I think he was more than a quaint moral lesson for King's white protag.

But then, I'm not sure how a magical negro character would be any less offensive than a non-magical, token black support character.Not to ruin your day or anything, but... no. That particular character is an egregious example and may well have been one of the leading reasons for resurgence of the term.

Celia Cyanide
07-29-2010, 07:20 AM
I'm not sure the guy in The Green Mile qualifies, by the way.

My first thought was The Shining, actually.

Bartholomew
07-29-2010, 07:26 AM
Not to ruin your day or anything, but... no. That particular character is an egregious example and may well have been one of the leading reasons for resurgence of the term.

Can you specify any other magical negro tropes? Because this doesn't strike me a phenomena that's been offensively done to death. I'm an avid reader, this just isn't something I see outside of King's books. (I'm just now recalling that the Shining had a psychic black man who saves the protagonist.)

If the term needed to resurge, how can you argue that its an archetype?


My first thought was The Shining, actually.

Yeah. That popped into my head after I posted.

Celia Cyanide
07-29-2010, 07:36 AM
Can you specify any other magical negro tropes? Because this doesn't strike me a phenomena that's been offensively done to death.

Didn't you say you read the wiki article? Because there is a whole list there. Uncle Remus is the first one that comes to mind.

Bartholomew
07-29-2010, 07:39 AM
Didn't you say you read the wiki article? Because there is a whole list there. Uncle Remus is the first one that comes to mind.

Doh

Wow. It lists God in Bruce Almighty. Was that really an offensive archetype? I love that movie.

#

I'd love for the people offended by this particular archetype to say what about it offends them. If I read a story with a black protagonist, who had a, um, Magical Gringo, I wouldn't really have a problem with it.

I was surprised to see Drizzt didn't make the list. :p

Celia Cyanide
07-29-2010, 07:55 AM
I'd love for the people offended by this particular archetype to say what about it offends them. If I read a story with a black protagonist, who had a, um, Magical Gringo, I wouldn't really have a problem with it.


Well, Spike Lee believes it is an extension of the "Happy Sambo" stereotype.

http://www.yale.edu/opa/arc-ybc/v29.n21/story3.html

Bartholomew
07-29-2010, 08:07 AM
So does any black (non-main) character in a fantasy novel necessarily fulfill this archetype? It seems far, far too inclusive. Every single character in any story has an impact on the protagonist's character arc, or else why include the character? Any character with magical abilities, black skin, and an impact on the story is racist? I don't buy it.

xitomatl
07-29-2010, 08:50 AM
Any character with magical abilities, black skin, and an impact on the story is racist? I don't buy it.

In my opinion, and you folks can tell me if that's a shared opinion or not, it's not just any black character with magical abilities - especially in a Fantasy novel since, well, that's pretty much everybody in a Fantasy novel.

What it is, is the one-dimensional magical black character that comes along for the sole purpose of helping the protagonist (who's probably white, hence the problem), and has no other qualities. They exist not as a person or a character, but as a flat plot device to do nothing more then show the protagonist "the way" (to generalize). I would also say what makes it a potential hot-button stereotype is that this character is the only one within said story that has this apparent magical ability.

You also see this quite frequently with First Nations people in novels.

What is seen as offensive is the idea that these one-dimensional beings have ONLY the ability to help whitey along, that's their sole purpose.

I'm not saying now that I'm offended by such things, other then the fact that it's a piss-poor way of furthering along the plot (simply because I'm a tough broad and it's hard to get my goat up over anything ;)).

MacAllister
07-29-2010, 09:10 AM
Here are two more good places to start, specifically deconstructing (http://macallisterstone.blogspot.com/2007/07/magical-negroes-expendable-queers-and.html) the Magical Negro (http://www.strangehorizons.com/2004/20041025/kinga.shtml) trope:

aruna
07-29-2010, 11:03 AM
But that doesn't mean that if I write a book that contains horribly racist stereotypes, for example, that it's not racist unless I wrote the book with racist intentions. It's still racist regardless.


I agree. I once came across a kid's book in a German library that meets the criteria. It was written by Herge, author of the famous Tintin comics, and was also a comic. It depicted three white children who somehow landed in Africa, where they are attcked and captured by a tribe of stereotypical primitive African guys: grass skirts, bulbous red lips, war-paint, bones in their hair, spears, et al. They are locked in a grass hut and fed till they get fat; the African warriors muttering things about fat-fat-fat, to show that they are going to eat the kids when they get fat enough.

When they are fat, they are taken outside and tied to a coconut tree, while a fire is lit and the Africans dance around the fire waving spears. There''s a big cauldron on the fire.

Just as they are about to drag the kids to the fire, however, a tribe of monkeys start pelting the cannibals with coconuts and free the kids. They run to the ocean, and there a big machine-thingee emergess and starts shooting magical rays at the cannibals. The cannibals believe irt is magic and bow down and start worshipping the kids.

My son borrowed this book from the library and I was horrified; and I am not easily offended, as I said before. But your worst African stereotype was in there, and having known how this affected me as a child I didn't want this stuff circulated in Germany. I complained to the library and they pulled the book, but noit without saying it was just harmless fun.

Harmless! For years, as a child, I truly believed that Africa was filled with people in grass skirts dancing around fires, because that was the stereotype passed around at the time.

When I went to England at the age of 10, on my way to boarding school, there was a bunch of us new girls in a taxi, telling each other where we came from. There was a white girl names Angela R. who said: I'm from Uganda, that's in Africa. And I was flabbergasted. I truly had no idea that there were white people in Africa at all; I thought of it as a primitive place where everyone lived in mud huts.

That's the only time I can truly say I was offended by a book.

Now, I'm sure that Herge didn't intend to insult Africans (I prefer the word insult to offend, actually) and I'm not even going to say that he's racist. But that book -- it made me shudder. Thank goodness it's out of print.
By the way, they actualy gave me the book -- I still have it, somewhere!
Something like that would never be published in English today, and it's now out of print in German.
Here's the cover of it. (http://www.comichunters.net/index.php?t=1&comic=6619&view=item_history_page)

Jam
07-29-2010, 11:45 AM
One must recall the mentality of the age in which something was written, and judge authors by the standards of their age. At the same time, racist stuff shouldn't be in kids' hands.

I had a problem with lovely books written by Maj Lindman for kids in the thirties/forties...i'd read the Snip Snap and Snur series and Flicka Dicka Ricka in the early sixties and bought them for my kids. Thought they were innocent, but it turned out too innocent, for every book was the dear little children helping the weird old man next door and going into his house to cheer him up, or wandering into the woods and knocking on the door of a frightened old woman to bring her along on an adventure...erm...not what you want your kids to think is acceptable daily behavior.

Bartholomew
07-29-2010, 02:16 PM
Link-hopping from the two links MacAllister posted, I found a website that has categorized a massive number of tropes (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/).

If a book were populated with none of these characters, would we then fault the characters as not being believable, merely because they seemed different?

Mr Flibble
07-29-2010, 02:39 PM
Link-hopping from the two links MacAllister posted, I found a website that has categorized a massive number of tropes (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/).




Don't go in there! You'll lose days, nay, weeks of your life!

NoGuessing
07-29-2010, 04:25 PM
Don't go in there! You'll lose days, nay, weeks of your life!

I clicked it.

What day is it?

Ria13
08-02-2010, 11:27 PM
though I honestly find cultural correctness a pain in the arse, I consider it iffy to have any character around who has no purpose other than to orbit around the MC either to help him or her or to get in his or her way. then it turns into a bad '80s' movie.

to get into a specific '80's movie as an example, Labirynth where the MC's friends don't really seem to have any existence except to help her out, likewise the villain does everything her does in the movie because of her.

though if you do go that route, make it only one character revolving around your MC and make that character interesting.