Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Stereotypically Unique

I never used to appreciate the significance of stereotyping in art until I began to watch Shadowhunters. Every character on there is the antithesis of what they're supposed to be. The gay head of institute, Alec Lightwood is as far from the stereotypical gay man as it is possible to get:
I think that subconsciously, Alec's differentness influenced my rendering of Ben in In Search of Paradise. Ben is the most like non-stereotypical gay guy too. He plays rugby, drinks beer, attends campus, has a typical rugby build. He's the guy all other guys want to be. He's the guy all the girls want. And he's gay. In fact, that whole book tries to throw out what your expectations of certain people are. You'll let me know if I succeeded yeah?
Back to Shadowhunters: Then we have Magnus, a bisexual warlock who knows how to be faithful. Apparently, bisexuality is associated with infidelity.

I have been aware of the debates and the importance of representation, mainly because of twitter. But I never applied it to me. After all, there are a finite number of ways in which female Africans are portrayed on screen; 
The helpless victim of oppression.

Or the exotic princess.
and that one's not even an African...
Or else they're background noise, especially Southern Sudanese people who do add a lot of color to the sea of white, don't they? Otherwise, they're Africans as African-Americans like Edi Gathegi in StartUp and Twilight and the myriad of other shows he's been in. Not that I'm complaining. He knocks it out of the park and I am here for it. I'm glad for his success but his characters are not me.
I sincerely do believe that someone on screen does not have to look like you or come from where you come from for you to relate to them. Still...some of the reason I'm soooo excited about Black Panther is it's almost all-black cast. Not just all black; but black people from everywhere. There's Kenya of course, Zimbabwe, Nigeria via the UK, African Americans, the islands...it's a veritable diaspora. That is exciting to me even though Wakanda is not my life. I also think its the first time an African location (albeit mythical) is portrayed as anything other than suffering and poor. It's the lack of stereotyping that is super exciting. Also Marvel. Also, black people being badass.

I was watching Rough Night the other day and with my new awareness of stereotypes, I realized that EVERYONE in that movie was a stereotype.
There was the pretty, popular blonde one who everyone wants to be friends with, the struggle fat girl who feels so grateful for the pretty one's friendship and is clingy, the black and bourgie one (p.s. has Zoe Isabella Kravitz kind of been typecast as 'your exotic negro'?), the struggle lesbian in flannel who doesn't comb her hair. They weren't even real people; they were just somebody's notion of how a certain cohort (I'm avoiding using stereotype so many times) of people behave and look.
I mean it was a good story, I enjoyed it. But...for once can the fat girl be the confident one? How about the black girl have other black friends? Oh, and I forgot the hippy, also doesn't comb her hair, doesn't stand up for herself when she's being insulted, gets to be the one who gets hurt, dirty blonde unwashed hair...
I mean, do you recognize yourself? Is this you? Or is this what people think you are?
Maybe we need to do away with stereotypes and focus more on characters huh? After all, we're all unique and special, right?
Book Launch for Charity is winding down. Have you got your pre-order yet? The price triples when the book goes live. So whether you're doing it for charity or to get a bargain, get that pre-order in now.

No comments: