Before I go ahead with my list, I’m going to answer a question that I feel that someone might have right now.
Yes, I DO make my own characters and stories. I’m an author, you know. If you’re curious, you can check out some of my works at these links:
Free/pay what you want books @ Paste/Noisetrade: https://www.pastemagazine.com/noisetrade/books/cmbbell
Now moving on…
Given this current climate, I thought it would be good time to make another serious Top 7 list. I know they haven’t been as fun like some of my previous ones like underrated anime villains or non-actors who should act, but I feel that another list like my last one is in order. Now, I talked about my experiences as a critic, but I wanted to talk about a different angle and that is a viewer. I have my doubts about how any of this could happen, but one can still dream, right?
Let’s get started.
7: Seeing any POC character who isn’t just the main character’s best friend.
This is straight up tokenism when it comes to these portrayals. I’m not against any non-white character being someone’s best friend on principle, but if they’re just there to be a blank slate to the more dynamic leading protagonist, then it feels so shallow. I also see this a ton with superheroes. Just look at War Machine with Iron Man, Falcon with Captain America, or the times when Steel teamed up with Superman for example. They don’t feel like their own characters more often than not. I would like to see them with their own personalities and are shown as equal to their best friend instead of just a blank slate, weaker sidekick, or god forbid comic relief especially when it’s a counterpoint to a white hero of sorts. Make them unique and dynamic in their own right, dang it!
6: More POC lead characters who don’t play up stereotypes or to fill some kind of “diversity quota”.
This one should be so obvious, I don’t even need to go into too much detail as to why it’s important. Viewers do want to see someone like them on the screen and to show them in a good light. However, I get tired of seeing certain characters in leading roles that just feel like pandering to certain communities. In hindsight, I though Black Panther was like that when it came to the MCU (yes, I’ve seen that movie). Like the previous part of this list, I want to see them as their own unique and relatable character in their own right. When you create characters, make sure they are a character who is a certain ethnicity as opposed to just a [insert ethnicity here] character. Trust me, there’s a huge difference in the presentation.
5: If something is being remade with characters that have questionable original designs, then revamp any POC characters to make them appropriate and NOT just as damage control/PR spin/etc… (assuming if the character isn’t going to be deleted)
I’ve actually had a few cases of covering something with this topic before on Iridium Eye. The most obvious examples would be when I reviewed a couple of iterations of the Cyborg 009 series on here with the Devilman crossover and Call of Justice. As pointed out on there, the Kenyan 008/Pyunma character looks just fine and you can even go back to the early 00s remake that was on Toonami, but his original design from the manga and original TV series is straight up Sambo/minstrel show fodder. I could see this as a sincere apology if they want to bring a character back to vastly improve them from their racist origins assuming if they don’t erase them. Tezuka Productions has even made several notices on some of Osamu’s work about how the older series have portrayed characters in certain facepalm-worthy lights while also apologizing for these portrayals. Trust me, reading some of his manga where those caricatures show up is cringe-worthy to say the least and it’s something I mentioned in my review of The Astonishing Works of Osamu Tezuka with some of the shorts in that anthology. Speaking of Tezuka, there was certainly a quantum leap from what little I’ve read of the Kimba manga compared to the original 60s anime (For the record, I watched the anime first, and I haven’t seen Susume, Leo/Leo the Lion yet at this time) and especially Jungle Emperor Leo (1997) which features a very positive Black character with Mary in that movie. Funny how Tezuka Productions had the decency to show a well-written Black character in a movie that takes place in Africa unlike Disney who’ve never had a character like that in their movies that take place in that continent. Don’t even get me started about that attempted Princess of North Sudan movie. [shudders] Still it showed effort on their part and I haven’t seen anything bigoted from their more recent offerings, so I appreciate the company legitimately doing their best to improve from some of their earliest incarnations of certain works for example.
Seriously, the creators need to keep that in mind if they want to update certain characters.
4: Don’t insert ethnic stereotypes with non-human characters.
It annoys me how people try to be slick with this and it’s disgusting. Fortunately, you have characters who’ve been criticized for doing this such as Jar Jar Binks from the Star Wars prequels, Skidz & Mudflap from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and the crows from Dumbo (need I remind you that the lead one’s name is Jim?). Trust me, I can go on with more and I swear I’m not going to repeat a very certain Disney example, but you already know what it is if you really know me. I also can’t stand when defenders of this trope push their opinions on how PC culture is ruining everything or how they can’t be racist because there are some non-white actors in the same production. Dude, that’s race buffering. Get that strawman out of there. Just because people don’t see the bigotry doesn’t mean it isn’t there if one really pays attention with how it was portrayed. It’s just sneaky and coded bigotry like some cinematic dog whistles when creators do this. It also annoys me when people call others racist for calling out said racism. That’s self-projection and denial.
3: More stories involving Black people that AREN’T just about the Struggle.
This is is definitely racially specific, but it really needs to be said. Yes, I certainly like movies that deal with that issue if they’re done well such as Black Girl, Birth of a Nation (2016), or Camp de Thiaroye to name a few, but not everything has to be either a slave movie or a movie where racism is the main part of the plot. One could argue that I want things to be more Deggans Test-compliant which has truth to it. I want to see more stories about Black people just living life, doing awesome things, or being their own heroes in their own right. Also, I don’t want to see any dysfunctional families or ghetto dramas. Just NO! Say what you will about Second Coming or Lunch Time Heroes, but at least they did something awesome with their respective plots and race doesn’t become an issue with their stories. Is it too much to ask for something like this to become the norm? There’s a time and place for stories involving the Struggle when done right, but I want to see stories in different genres like slice-of-life, fantasy, or sci-fi to name a few. It’s not a difficult process, people.
2: More POC content creators in the forefront with the right reasons.
It’s easy to find other faces, but it’s tougher to weed out the sellouts. I’m not saying everything needs to be automatically controversial, but we need to see creators stepping up who want to do something positive and dynamic. More directors and creators would be amazing to share their stories and to have their voices heard in movies or series.
1: More POC creators with their own studios, companies, creative firms, etc.
In the words of Jello Biafra: “Don’t hate the media, become the media!”
It’s one thing to have directors of multiple races around, but to have them actually own their own studios whether how big or small is a huge step in the right direction. There needs to be more independent artists to do these things with these stories and not to be under the watch of major corporations dictating their every move. I want to see creators make their own lanes when it comes to getting their voices heard, crafting unique characters, and engaging stories for anyone to check out. Hollywood isn’t going to be the be all end all for everyone. It’s no wonder why I cover a TON of works not associated with the mainstream movie industrial complex and watch lots of international fare. To see more creators of color (of ANY race) doing this would be a godsend with the right talent, stories, and ambition to get this done.
Hope you enjoyed my list. What are your thoughts about this issue?
Thank you, as a fellow author, it is very informative to read articles like this.
LikeLiked by 1 person
You’re welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed it and were able to get some useful insight on the matter. You’re an author, too? Awesome!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Very well written piece here! I noticed a lot of people recently be like “But that character isn’t designed to be insulting so it should not matter” .. It still hurts people , intentions do not matter. Ignorance isn’t an excuse to sustain something painful. I compare it to people finding a pebble in their shoe..it hurts if they step on it. Obviously you will try to remove it.. it would be super weird if people then told you! But the pebble did not mean for you to hurt it. .I think it belongs in that shoe.. leave it be…
I might be simplifying here but I do understand that as a non coloured person, I should make presumptions on how you feel or how valid that feeling is…because someone did not take that feeling into order when making a character.
How I would like to see POC characters represented is not as a token of a POC but just as a person. I don’t need to see a hispanic person struggle in school with his relgious parents and the bad type of school with metal detectors and drugs at the cafteria tables.. saying they never will finish college but want honest job to support their family. I do not need to see a movie about the hood dwelling melanated man who has to take care of his family but wants to basketball instead. Make a normal movie like you would any other. A christmas movie with a coloured family.. like Family man.. where a buisness man doesn’t have time for his family and gets Scrooged in a way.
I think it’s great that those hoodmovies exist as they show us a different lifestyle but I think that is not everything there is. Why always use the POC as a character to highlight the difference, use a POC to show we can be the same as well. The Shining could just as well have a person of colour in the lead, it would not change the story.
The coloured friends I have aren’t all that different.. from me, I rarely see them represented in a movie.
I feel the “Of Colour” thing is to often used as a gimmick in a movie.. as in well this person is of colour so he/she has too.. .. While that is a product on it’s own that holds value it doesn’t have to always be like that. Same goes for Gay characters .. where the negatives of the being “different” is always brought into focus.
Any form of Non-Cis-Straight-Male-White Privileged people have to struggle with who they are in media representation.. I don’t think that is necessary. I want Hollywood write a part without have skintone in mind.
Then you hire a healthy mix of characters with representation and skill and if lines or some background do not gel well with the actor let them help rewrite the part so it fits them more.
Most importantly don’t write a movie as if it is the 90’s! Go out there see what the real world looks like.. make your characters reflect that real world. Not every movie needs a person of colour for that to be a feature. POC’s should be in most movies because that’s how the world works. They are a part of the world hollywood should reflect that. A good movie is a movie where everyone is the right person for the part. Not every POC i should be a politcal statement of a movie.. let them be a person first and of colour second. Yet also keep telling their tale in movies focussed on that. We should normalise each other and I do not think Hollywood is doing that very well.
Again I might be ignorant in this and I mean this as no disrespect, I am sorry if I hurt people with this opinion and I acknowedge I will probably do someone wrong. I know to little and stand afar to see the steps of the ladder. I can only see the bottom.. we are at right now and the top where I would like to go.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you so much, Pinkie! I appreciate you commenting on here. I’ve certainly heard that argument before when it comes to certain characters before. That’s right how certain people have been hurt. When I was a kid, I didn’t think too much about certain characters, but as an adult, there are times where I wished I realized the unfortunate implications back then (Dumbo was the first big example for me with the crows). Interesting metaphor about that situation. Going to the Cyborg 008 example, I was glad they updated the character design and personality. It would be really hard to remove him since he plays a big part of the team despite not being 009 himself. I actually didn’t know about his offensive original design until I saw some of the manga pictures in the credits of Cyborg 009 Vs. Devilman and did my own research on the 009 series at large. That felt like a sincere apology of sorts from Ishinomori Productions, if you will.
Thank you, Pinkie. I’m glad you’re willing to listen. Granted, I’m not the kind of person who thinks everything is offensive, but if something is questionable, then I will certainly call it out.
I agree with you about that. Tokenism isn’t cool and I want to see characters as real people or at the very least are relatable even if the setting isn’t realistic (fantasy, sci-fi, etc.). We don’t need to see stereotypical situations with characters associated with their heritage or skin color. Going by your examples, it’s one reason why I really liked Lunch Time Heroes despite some of it’s flaws. It was a normal story that just happened to be a Nigerian film, but the plot could easy happen in America or Europe with just a few changes.
You think so? I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any movies with “the hood”, but it shouldn’t be the only setting screenwriters make when they deal with Black characters. You’ve got plenty of Black families in America that live in regular parts of cities, middle-class neighborhoods, and even some that live in wealthy areas, but mainstream media rarely ever shows that even despite the success of shows like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air back in the 90s for example. That’s cool how you see your friends of all races as equals and want to be represented well. I respect that.
Definitely, and I find it insulting when it’s used as a gimmick and more so when it’s used as lip service from content creators. You also make a good point when it comes to the LGBT characters and that community. Even though I’m straight, I get upset when I see characters play up flaming stereotypes associated with any non-hetero orientation. The point is to write characters who aren’t only or mostly defined by their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, mental health, physical disabilities, etc. Sure, they may be noticeable, but they shouldn’t be the only thing about them if that makes sense.
I’m from the 90s and I agree. Haha! People do need to study the real world. When I create characters of different ethnic groups, I do my research and even ask friends and associates of that race if the portrayal is okay. I certainly don’t want to see any POC character as some kind of political statement because race/ethnicity should not be politicized and especially used as partisan rhetoric (this is glaringly obvious with the American sociopolicial zeitgeist even years before the George Floyd issue). I certainly agree that the characters should be their own people first. Out of curiosity, how familiar are you with the Deggans test and what are your thoughts on it?
You didn’t disrespect me at all, so don’t worry. You were legitimately curious about different things. I don’t know how all the details with how the Netherlands compares or contrasts with America when it comes to race relations although I’ve had a few conversations with another Dutch aniblogger. Just know you didn’t hurt me with your comment. I never felt like you were attacking me or anything like that. Like you, I do hope to see better representation and improved racial reconciliation in this world.
LikeLiked by 1 person
A quick response to your questions. Like you I do not think there should just be Hood movies, I think there needs to be a healthy mix. Hood movies would solve a different problem (bringing awareness of a different type of situation some people are in) than POC ‘s as your average familie where the Colour part doesn’t play as much a role in the characer, to show we are not that different. Just like there should be movies about our past to show us what went wrong I think a “Hood” movie can point us out what current IS wrong. (Not that all hood movies have that tone..but when I say Hood movie I usually mean a person struggeling to exist in an enviorment that should not be that unsafe)
I assume you mean Deggan’s Rule opposite to Bechdels test. My idea is.. that it really depends on the angle you want to make content from. Take a look at America for example where I think the views on Racimsn are closer to 50/50 due to the whole two party system.. not saying that every Republican is a racist but..I think the majority would adhere to the rules established in Deggan’s test.
While I do not think a movie should have to be made like that.. in order for it to make money and for the industry the more narrowminded people still need to be taken into consideration. Or you can ignore it and adjust your movies Budget for it.
I do think it comes from a biggoted point of view but realisticly these biggots are there. Financers I think are still (but increasingly less so) statisc people so in order to do anything there are play rules.
This doesn’t apply to all messages and content though some stories do not need this as it will not appeal to the “less open minded” demographic anyway.
In short I think as is it’s a necessary evil until we have grown enough as humans to accept anyone as one of us..but we aren’t there yet. I will honestly admit I am not as inclined to watch a Tyler Perry Medea movie as I would to watch Mrs Doubtfire. Then again I do feel very much that is because Medea is very much played AS a POC. So it’s hard to actual tell. In an ideal world where the empasis is not on what seperates us but what unites us I do not think Deggan’s rule applies. As is.. I think it does.
Not for me persé, yet I do feel it a tiny bit but since movies are a buisness. Exluding the narrowminded people from the equasion I think is currently not viable.
Deggan’s rule would also modify in countries where another skintone is dominant to work in that same way. Bollywood movies I think would also work less with an all white cast.
It’s an indicator something is still wrong. but humans are flawed creatures and that will not go away overnight. We can gradually change but until then we need to endure financially as well.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Okay. I’m glad you agree that there shouldn’t be just hood movies. Sometimes it does aggravate me as it’s some sort of go-to plotting when it comes to Black characters or the occasional Latinx character. If you’ve read some of my reviews, I’ve called out the usage of “poverty porn” even with some works I actually liked. Thanks for your personal definition there. It wasn’t my personal definition of hood movie, but I can see how those stories could have some use when done right. The problem is that there’s been an overload of it.
Yes. I usually say “test” as a correlation to the Bechdel Test, but I’m well aware that it uses “rule” for the title. There’s definitely racism in both parties and one side has it’s case of overt racists while the other has a case of covert racists. That’s all I’m going to say about that. Race relations should be a HUMAN issue instead of a partisan one.
The mainstream movie industry is so flawed on so many levels. You’ve got the constant remakes as of recently, movies, that play it safe, and those that appeal to the lowest demographic. The thing is one can make a mainstream friendly movie that has positive representation, but that’s considered not profitable which is insulting.
You certainly have bigots with major positions such as owning studios, directors, financiers, etc.
To be fair, I’m not a fan of Tyler Perry movies and I’ve mentioned that in passing especially with some of the Black-majority films I’ve reviewed whether they were made in America, Africa, or in Second Coming’s case, England. I have issues with the Medea character and how it’s symptomatic about things they do to Black actors they never do to the same level or consistency to their Caucasian counterparts which I mention in my review of I Am Not Your Negro.
I get that moviemaking is an industry in and of itself. I can see how it would be tough to exclude the narrow minded people. You’re right about the Deggans Rule being adjusted depending on which country it was made in. For example, Moana passes since it has a Polynesian cast despite being made in America (side note: Disney has been better with positive Polynesian representation compared to any nonwhite group). However, a movie like Mandabi wouldn’t pass because it’s a Senegalese movie and all the characters are native Africans. It would be strange if Bollywood movies did that. I know there’s been an issue with skin-lightening in the Bollywood industry with some actresses, but that’s a different issue in and of itself.
I do wonder how long it will take to be fixed in general. There’s certainly not much moviemaking going on for obvious reasons, so I’ll give the studios a little break in that regard. Enduring financially is an interesting term. I do believe that people want to see more ethnic representation, but they should “vote with their wallets” to see that happen.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I think that last line.. people need to vote with their wallet to see change happen is the perfect summary for my feelings on this rule of Deggan.
The world wants to change but there are to many rules in place.. systems to keep us thinking conventional and unfortunately racism sneaks in.. not persé the ill willing kind.. but the ignorant kind.
Thought has a gravity to it and as much as much as I try to keep an open mind because so many narrow minded people are involved in making socially acceptable rules (either from the right or left) that sometimes you can’t help to feel “but that is normal”. As much as I hate it.. the cancel culture we have alongside the industries thirst for money make healing difficult.
It’s a numbers game for financers and shareholders and if you are boycotted by one side or the other for leaning heavily into ethnic representation or not doing it enough we can no longer learn form our mistakes.. we just get cancelled.
There is no miracle cure and we need time this is why extremism on either side of the topic doesn’t work. It just makes other people more unwilling to listen.
I get the “rightwinged” .. It’s A viking movie.. there were no different etnicities arguement for a historic piece. I also get the pro-representation side of, just because we weren’t represented in comics because of old values doesn’t mean we don’t have to be represented now as well.
There is something fundamentally wrong in Hollywood but if we think it can just change overnight we ruin the industry even further. We always need to fight for a more tolerant and open hollywood allowing it to learn from it’s mistakes..
If we can pick up a nice pace of progress but also allow people to learn and adapt to the new world Deggan’s rule can be a thing of the past in this Decenia or so. If we aim to force it to end within a year.. I am afraid it the rule will withstand for many more years.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you. I’m glad you agree with that observation. It’s certainly a tough reality in that regard.
I do believe there are people who want the world to change for the better. It sucks that there are layers of systemic bigotry woven into societies as well as politics and law which makes it even harder to change.
Certainly. It’s good that you’re doing your best to have an open mind about various situations. I certainly have my issues with cancel culture especially when I see people getting canceled despite being innocent while other who do horrible things barely get punished.
I’m not against boycotting since it can work, but you brought up a point that I didn’t think about, Pinkie.
I never implied there to be some magical cure and I agree extremism is counterproductive. I hoped that I never came across as extreme even with some of my contrary opinions.
Something like the Deggans Rule shouldn’t exist if mainstream media did better jobs with ethnic representation and dynamic stories let alone if there was better racial harmony.
I’m really appreciating your comments on this matter. I’m glad I can have these conversations.
LikeLiked by 1 person
[…] been struggling to keep up on my reading due to how low my energy has been!I would like to Nominate Iridium Eye who I know can make a very special post about this!I also like to nominate Fred from Au Natural, he […]
LikeLiked by 1 person
Your points all make so much sense when reading them like this, but it’s shocking how easy it is to overlook issues like the token black friend character when actually watching/reading something.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you so much, Casper! It’s good hearing back from you. Yeah, tokenism is unfortunately still a problem with different shows or movies. It can seem innocent, but it’s a subtle form of cinematic or televised lip service.
LikeLiked by 1 person
[…] Ospreyshire at Iridium Eye Reviews […]
LikeLiked by 1 person