Importance of white representation in fiction

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by aelf, Dec 27, 2021.

  1. aelf

    aelf Ashen One

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    I was just arguing with an old white man who complained that the Wheel of Time TV series is "less white less manly" compared to the books and is therefore "woke crap".

    Aside from the fact that this assertion is based off of an idea of masculinity as outdated as he is (stoic, non-verbal and never sheds a tear), the world in the books doesn't seem to be split along racial lines like our world is. He cited a character that is described as having "milky white" legs in the text but is played by a non-white actor, and I pointed out that non-white people like Asians in our world can have milky white skin too. Also, another character from the same nation is described as being "dark-skinned" in the text. Clearly, our assumptions about race and nation-states in our world (i.e. broad homoegeneity and having real-world racial markers) don't apply to this fictional universe.

    But I'm curious whether this comes from a place other than plain racism and sexism. I want to hear from the gatekeepers here why it matters if a character in a fictional universe deemed as 'white' is played by a white actor or not. Same with gender. Does a male character have to be male in adaptations? And do they have to be the same type of male? What are your reasons for gatekeeping here?
     
  2. Snowygerry

    Snowygerry King

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    We had similar discussion some time ago, it was my contention that a good actor can play anything, even a white man if he's black.

    Of course you run the risk of ending up in parody or stereotype.
     
  3. PhroX

    PhroX Deity

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    If a character's race plays a role in the story, then it would be weird to change for an adaptation, but otherwise I'm not bothered what race they are.* Even when it comes to media about history, I'm fine with actors playing people of a race they're not (as long as it's not also accompanied with claims about the actual historical figure being of race that they were very unlikely to be...).

    There is maybe some benefit to consistency, plausibility, if people from the same background in the story are portrayed by people with similar ethnicities (i.e. mapping a real world ethnicity to each fictional one), but this is pretty minor.

    I'm more bothered by changes in gender, because I feel that will often change the dynamics between characters more, but if the adaptation take that into accout, and tells a good story with the genderflipped character, I'm OK there too.

    When it comes to people of a majority playing those of a minority (e.g. white people playing black characters [not blackface, just playing them as white], cisgenendered people playing transgendered characters etc.) then in principle, I don't have a problem. The entire point of acting is to play something you aren't. However, in practice, those minorities are often given fewer opportunities in media, and so not giving them the chance in such roles that they would likely be well suited is not ideal, and such I would prefer to cast them in such roles.

    Though yeah, white people, white men, should be well represented in media. The thing is though, they are.

    *As an aside, writing this actually reminds me of a much more minor version of the issue when I saw a performance of one of Shakespeare's histories, (might have been Henry IV?). There's a character who on several occasions criticises others for not having a beard, imply they're weak, cowardly etc. Of course though, the actor playing this role was clean shaven, which made his pronouncements seem really hypocritical - which is very unlikely to be what the author intended. If there's some aspect of the character's appearance that is plot/dialogue relevant, then either cast someone with that, or alter the story to fit....

    (that was a bit of a scattered post and I edited it a couple of times as I thought of more stuff, but hey, I'm half asleep...)
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2021
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  4. Kozmos

    Kozmos Jew Detective

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    I don't know, I think its a matter of sticky brains and getting used to something in your head. Like I've read the WoT books long ago but my brain keeps throwing ??? at all the changes. At which point an adaptation stops being an adaptation and becomes something 'loosely inspired' in a writer interview? I'd argue WoT crosses that, if only for the complete nullification of male characters.

    On the other hand I also love james bond and would love it if Idris Elba got a shot as 007. I could not be sold on a 007 woman though. So I guess it depends on the property and how much I care for it. For example female thor doesnt bother me at all because I have 0 investment into the thing.
     
  5. EnglishEdward

    EnglishEdward Deity

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    It is difficult to comment when all we hear is your side: But I shall try

    is fair enough comment if those are two separate observations;
    but wrong if he is meaning it is less manly because it is less white.


    Are these his only two complaints?


    may be a composite assessment OR a dismissive

    One might quite fairly regard the inclusion of a multi-ethnic actors by the producers
    as them being aware of racial justice in their casting choices as indeed being "woke".

    But as to the woke crap.

    Is his implication that (a) anything woke is crap, (b) the implication of non discrimination has spoilt
    the production (this is a debate in the UK re Doctor Who) or (c) that it is crap for other reasons.
     
  6. aelf

    aelf Ashen One

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    I'll get to more of your disingenuous response later, but here's what the guy said, so that it's not just 'my side':

    proof1.PNG

    And here is a pic he attached about the less manly bit:

    Spoiler :

    proof2.jpg


    Do you also need me to supply his profile picture?
     
  7. EnglishEdward

    EnglishEdward Deity

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    I am an old white man.

    And my generation in the UK regard it as peculiar for a man to go on about their nipples.

    I suspect it is much the same with the elderly in Australia.

    The last photograph would only make sense to us in a totally humorous setting.

    Thing is different generations brought up on different literary inputs have cultural differences.
     
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  8. Narz

    Narz keeping it real

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    Masculinity as stoic is not outdated.

    You're gonna be old someday, old =/ outdated. Maybe you should take a page from your culture and respect your elders a bit more.

    As for the race of fictional characters idgaf except that it'd be weird to remake Braveheart w pacific islanders or Zulu w Hispanics. If it's pure fiction who cares.
     
  9. AmazonQueen

    AmazonQueen Virago

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    Depends.
    Often the issues in a story can "translate".
    Othello basically needs to be an outsider in the society he lives in.
    Versions of Macbeth have been set in twenties Chicago and South Africa and worked equally well as the original.
     
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  10. AmazonQueen

    AmazonQueen Virago

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    Stoicism as a masculine virtue is outdated.
    Plenty of examples of stoic women if you look.
     
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  11. Narz

    Narz keeping it real

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    Sure. Catniss from the hunger games book is a great example of a female w a balance of masculine and feminine virtues.

    A woman can be a stoic doesn't mean it's not still a classic masculine virtue.

    Every hero needs a lil stiff upper lip. You don't have to be a characture like James Bond but without being willing to take risks and protect others w/o too much fuss no one wants to watch.
     
  12. Narz

    Narz keeping it real

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    Sure you can translate an original to a new setting as long as it makes sense/shares similar themes.
     
  13. AmazonQueen

    AmazonQueen Virago

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    Its a stereotypical masculine virtue but if both men and women exhibit it there is nothing about it that is actually masculine, rather than just human.
     
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  14. aelf

    aelf Ashen One

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    After posting the thread, I found a great article that basically says what you said here, but with a twist:
    https://www.tor.com/2019/08/20/from-the-two-rivers-casting-and-race-in-the-wheel-of-time/

    Basically, we're so used to white characters being the default that, even when the source material doesn't explicitly say so, we assume it. Hence, it might seem odd when we see something different, and some people react more negatively than others. It's not racism per se, at least not necessarily, but there are racial connotations to this head canon/assumption.

    It is. Care to explain why not?

    Patronising, but ok. Then maybe you should take a page from your culture and either get on with the times or join the alt-right.

    lmao. Ok, B.
     
  15. Akka

    Akka Moody old mage.

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    I expect an adaptation to be faithful to the original content, and that includes how the characters are. I don't want to see a young-faced Gandalf in LotR or a man-sized Hobbit or a female Gimli or whatever.
    Unless it's a (or several) deliberate twist(s) that has roots in the artistic vision (like "Sherlock", which is deliberately cast into the modern era), in which case I expect the adaptation to alter the original content following the line of said twist(s) (but not more).

    I don't get how something so blatant and obvious became somehow a subject to debate.
     
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  16. Valka D'Ur

    Valka D'Ur Hosting Iron Pen in A&E Retired Moderator

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    To preface my comments in this thread: I have not read the Wheel of Time series, nor have I seen any visual depictions of it. Anything I have to say in this thread will be in reference to works that I have read and/or seen depicted visually as comics, artwork, TV, movie, or dramatic adaptations (ie. plays, musical adaptations, etc.).

    See my arguments re: genderswapping Liet-Kynes in the new Dune movie.

    To answer the question: Yes, unless the adaptation is either fanfiction or a fan film that is explicitly tagged as an AU of the source material and it's made clear that the specific character(s) are genderswapped. That's how things are done on the fanfic sites, and I know that if I see those tags, I can avoid the story.

    On the matter of Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor...

    I haven't seen any of her stories. NONE. While I concede that since the Master became "Missy" that constitutes precedence for the Doctor to become female. But (no pun intended) it's not my Whovian cup of tea. I'm an old-school Who fan - I prefer Classic Who (Hartnell - McGann). Yes, I'm aware that as long ago as post-Peter Davison, TPTB were musing about casting a woman as the Doctor. There's a fan-drawn comic depicting Colin Baker in a feminized way ( :ack: ).

    But there was genderswapping in Doctor Who a long time before Jodie Whittaker:



    (btw, Rowan Atkinson would have made a great Doctor, and this is so obviously a parody that the swap is not intended to be taken seriously, or at least wasn't at the time this parody was created)

    Romeo and Juliet have been adapted in a number of ways, as well. In fact, one of them is currently in theatres as a remake of West Side Story (which is an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet).

    Rita Moreno, who played Anita in the original West Side Story movie has a different part in the new one. In an interview she related how in the original movie she wasn't considered dark enough to play a convincing Puerto Rican girl, and was ordered to darken her skin.

    Back in Shakespeare's time, it was generally expected that most men had some kind of facial hair. The phrase "beardless boy" denoted either a boy, a young teen, or an immature man who was considered incompetent and not worth much.

    So if a clean-shaven actor was doing such lines, that's the fault of casting, not Shakespeare.


    Now on the issue of white representation...

    The most obvious example I can think of is The Handmaid's Tale.

    In the novel, the Republic of Gilead is a dystopian theocracy entirely populated by white people. The Sons of Jacob, who destroyed the U.S. and set this twisted place up, are hypocrites if you take their 'concern' for the decline in childbearing at face value. In the novel and the 1990 movie, it's obvious that Gilead only wants more white children to be born. All the non-white people are removed - whether to places outside of Gilead, or simply exterminated is not made definitively clear, since the main character isn't sure (the novel is told entirely from the pov of Offred, the Handmaid, who is kept ignorant of much of the inner workings of Gilead and is cynical about what she's heard and been told).

    Fast-forward to the TV series, and suddenly the cast is diverse. Some characters that were white are now black or Hispanic. Some characters that were dead in the novel are alive. Some characters are given characteristics that Margaret Atwood never thought of when she wrote the novel.

    There's quite a bit of controversy in the comment sections of the various review channels. I've stopped watching the channels created by the female viewers because they are invariably some variation of HOW DARE THEY DEPICT WHITE WOMEN SUFFERING?! :gripe:

    Honestly, it got tiresome years ago, reading the endless complaints that make it seem as though there's a segment of the audience who knows zip-all about the history of slavery over the past several thousand years. It didn't all happen in the U.S. during the past 300 years.

    In the case of this show, it's not that important if some novel characters' race/ethnicity got swapped, as long as the character him/herself is true to the personality and psychological makeup of how Margaret Atwood wrote them. It doesn't matter that in the novel Moira is a white lesbian and portrayed by Elizabeth McGovern in the 1990 movie and is a black lesbian in the TV series and played by a black actress. Both actresses did an excellent job of playing Moira.

    But if the showrunners had inexplicably decided to genderswap anyone in the list of characters, that would have made a huge difference. You can't have that in this show, because all the characters are first and foremost defined by whether they are male or female, and what niche they are therefore permitted to occupy in Gilead. Men can't be Aunts, and Wives only have authority in their own household, over the Handmaid and the Martha and the Daughters. Wives, Handmaids, Marthas, and Daughters aren't allowed to read or write. The only women allowed to do that are the Aunts, and that's only because they are the keepers of the records showing which Handmaids are assigned to which Commander and if they've been successful at getting pregnant and giving birth.

    My own take on the race/ethnicity arguments pertaining to the TV series is this: Where are the Asian Handmaids? Where are the indigenous Handmaids? Where are the Middle Eastern Handmaids? If the TV show decided to cast some characters as black or hispanic, why didn't they include other ethnicities as well? It's not as though such people didn't exist in the U.S. and the show is filmed in Toronto, which could easily supply actresses who are more representative of a melting-pot culture.

    I guess I just have a Canadian take on this show, because there's a lot of it that just doesn't make sense.
     
  17. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    A tempest in a teapot. Times change; people change; attitudes change; stories are rewritten for the current audience. The young "always know better" than their elders. Lucky people grow old enough and notice changes. People like what they know and are used to.
     
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  18. aelf

    aelf Ashen One

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    Unfortunately for you, it's not that obvious. If it was, it wouldn't be the case that virtually every adaptation today feature significant (at least from your perspective) changes, for one reason or another. And they won't be tagged or anything, and you probably won't get alternative versions that are 100% faithful.

    You can either reason it out and accept them or continue to be upset and rail at them perpetually.
     
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  19. Sarin

    Sarin King

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    Frankly I see this as modern entertainment industry ruthless leveraging all those "wokes", which means couch activists on their feelgood internet crusades, to drown out criticism so they can spam low effort, low cost production.
     
  20. aelf

    aelf Ashen One

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    Interesting conspiracy theory. But if that were true, you wouldn't get more anti-woke activists posting actively on social media. And if the non-couch activist audience would watch any garbage regardless, then your problem is likely not wokeness or "couch activists".
     
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