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On Chromatic Fandoms 
28th-Jan-2010 06:00 pm
The day after I posted the Chromatic Discworld, someone dropped me from her LiveJournal reading list and posted in her own LJ about I was "fucking racist and offensive" and she'd had her suspicions about me for years. Don't go looking for her - that's not the point of me sharing.

I'm ashamed to say that my reaction was the same reaction that annoys the Hells out of me in other people: to toss my head and deny it with "but I'm not racist! There must be some mistake!" And the mistake, clearly, was with the person making that accusation - and doesn't it annoy the Hells out of you when you call someone out on their bigoted shit only to get that reaction?

Anyway, without any discussion, it was up to me to decide whether I had done something with that picpsm that wasn't the most skilful thing in the world, and I'm not so good at checking my own privilege. Fortunately, this morning, Cheryl Lynn came to my rescue by detailing her own issues with the Chromatic Fandom meme:
Y'know what would be nice? For POC characters to get the same promotion and devotion that white characters get so people don't have to think of POC actors they'd like in the "important" (white) characters' roles.

And just like I'm not just a color, that white kid isn't just a blank slate. He isn't the default. And acting like he is the default hurts both him and me. My stories get shunted to the side because they aren't considered the norm and his stories are considered meaningless. Something that can be easily divorced from his culture and handed to someone of another background for cheap grab at diversity. An empty canvas to hang someone else's image on. I get to be seen and not heard. He gets to be heard and not seen. And neither of us is honored that way.

And over on 4thLetter.net, David Brothers agrees with her
Chromatic Comics is tokenism, or maybe lip service. Either way, it’s not powerful. It’s not respectful. It’s not even anti-racist. It ignores what we already have in favor of continuing to worship exclusively white characters as if they were the end-all, be-all of comics. Hey- Marvel and DC already do that. We should do better than flipping a switch or using the paint bucket in Photoshop and calling it a day. We’ve got some diamonds in all this rough. Let’s act like it.

OK, so. I think they both have points. They both have very good points, and I'd like to say that I'm sorry - I'm not retracting my participation in the meme, and I'm not taking down or locking the post  or anything, but I do regret that I took part in tokenism - that I took characters and plonked chromatic people next to the names without showing enough respect for the characters or the entertainers.

There is some rambling I'm going to do here, and I do so in the full knowledge that it probably pisses on my statement of apology a little bit. Bear with me.

The meme started with handyhunter discussing this article about Will Smith possibly playing Captain America, and basically saying 'well, why not'? There are reasons why not, but the biggest one I could see, tying into the points made above, is that it not only rewrites Steve Rogers' personal history, but it kind of pisses on the character of Isaiah Bradley (I'm not a Marvel fan, but I knew who he was, do I get points?) If they made a Captain America (Steve Rogers) movie with a black actor (any black actor) they wouldn't be telling Isaish Bradley's story and he'd get pushed to the sidelines.


Movie verse isn't comicsverse in any case. Stories are re-made, characters shuffled around and sometimes butlers are turned into computers. It would be awesome if Jubilee had a bigger role in the X-Men movies, or Renee Montoya hadn't been rewritten into a mob informant or someone actually thought do a movie with Isaiah Bradley, and I am not going to fall into the trap of saying "but Hollywod doesn't work like that!" because I think that's bullcrap, and good movies about characters of colour can and will be made and be a big hit with everyone (Hello, Blade).

What I was thinking about when I posted Chromatic Discworld was how betrayed as a fan I felt when Sean Astin was cast as Twoflower, and I was told "but the Discworld doesn't have races!" and that it's OK for a white man to play a person from the "Aurient" because it's Fantasy, dontcha know? I was thinking of a conversation I had once with silveronthetree, about how she saw Denzel Washington in Much Ado About Nothing and realised that chromatic actors could play high status characters that were traditionally white, and the positive effect she felt that had on her. When I saw chromatic castings for other, Earth-based fandoms, I was rewriting the characters' histories into an AU, not painting existing characters with the 'diversity' brush... but that was just in my head.

That's what I was thinking, and the thought, I don't really take back.

But I do apologise for the fact that in doing so, I participated in a meme that, as presented, as a list of names and pictures, was just painting existing characters with the 'diversity' brush. My intentions were true, but the act was crude. And for that, I apologise.

ETA: Please don't comment to say "what, you? Never!" That's not why I shared.
28th-Jan-2010 07:31 pm (UTC)
I love you so much for this. And other things, but in this moment, this.

We disagree on so many things and I shudder to think of your opinion of me when I make Blog Posts (that I usually regret 5 seconds after posting them) and just as you don't comment on posts of mine that upset you, I frequently don't comment on your posts. Not because I don't like and respect you, but because the content bothers me for some reason or another.

I'm not going to see the chromatic meme bothered me for the exact reasons above because I'm not that smart or perceptive. It bothered me but I couldn't have put it eloquently enough into words that I wouldn't have worried about being seen as small-minded or racist. But while I would have applauded recasting different media in any way, with explanation, making the post purely with POC and with no explanation as to the particular choices bothered me. But, as usual, not in a way that I am smart enough or conscientious enough to have explained.

Again, I'm not going to say the above reason is exactly why it bothered me because I'm not sure it was. It just did. But the point of commenting now is that while I'm not confident in my ability to debate issues like this, I'm confident in my ability to to tell you why I will never defriend you (in an LJ or RL sense), no matter how many things we disagree on.

You are so passionate about so many things and so willing to talk about them but the most impressive thing about you is that you're just as willing to do those things as you are to learn and to apologize. Never to take back or backtrack or pretend it didn't happen, but to recognize and rephrase and apologize and reassert.

And I admire you so much for that, above all other things.
(Deleted comment)
28th-Jan-2010 09:06 pm (UTC)
But what I can't see - and the reason why I'm posting this - is how *ANYONE* could have 'had suspicions' about you being racist.

I had the same kind of reaction. Possibly there is context that would explain it further but is not available for this or that reason. :/
28th-Jan-2010 10:00 pm (UTC)
Well, Angua has blonde hair and Carrot has red hair and... well, stuff. They're all race-free in the Discworld, because Pterry concentrates on species. That defaults to white because we're reading it in an ethnocentric Roundworld.


Well, I don't call anyone racist, because I don't think it's helpful to use words like that as a description of character rather than actions. And I'm sure she had her reasons. I'd like her to have brought them to me, but my approach to race issues is not everyone's.

(I'd also like to add, I didn't want an affirmation of 'you rock', though I appreciate the support.)
28th-Jan-2010 09:27 pm (UTC)
I'm not really sure the recasting meme is all that problematic when applied to certain fantasy settings, as opposed to obviously real-world things; I could certainly see Discworld recasting as OK, at least from a white gal in the US standpoint.

Possibly I'm just missing stuff majorly because of the whole White Privilege thing, though. Especially since I see it as, "O hay, we're rejiggering things! That's always fun!"

I can certainly see the problems in something Real Life inspired/based (which includes most capes comics and all). But I think I agree with your way of thinking that it's making it an AU thing, anyhow.

I'm no longer certain this comment has a point, but I'm clicking the button anyhow. >_>
29th-Jan-2010 01:30 am (UTC)
Sometimes, a character can change colour and nobody really bats an eyelid. When Millar and Hitch recast Ultimate Nick Fury as Samuel L Jackson, it wasn't about tokenism or worthiness or anything - it was just because Nick Fury epitomises a certain strain of BAMF cool, which in the sixties may have been Sean Connery's turf, but nobody these days does that better than Samuel L Jackson.
And now, beautifully, the real Samuel L Jackson is recreating the role in the Marvel films. He's not the sidekick (though it'll be interesting to see how War Machine works out in Iron Man 2), he's the guy running the show, the man with the plan, the Marvel Gandalf. And, he's a far more interesting character for it than was ever produced by conscious efforts at improving representation like Milestone Comics.
29th-Jan-2010 11:05 am (UTC)
It's complicated stuff. I tend to flinch when there's talk of a coloured actor playing a character like James Bond, for example, but is that because I feel the character has been firmly established as white and it would violate continuity, or is it because I'm racist?

On the other hand, I have no problem with the idea of a coloured Doctor in Doctor Who. That's a character who's been established as having the ability to undergo a complete physical transformation, so he could change colour, sex, whatever, and it wouldn't violate continuity.

But yes, I think I agree that dumping persons of colour into roles that have already been established as white is a bit of a clunky way to be diverse. It smacks of postive discrimination, which is a very double-edged sword.
4th-Aug-2010 07:08 pm (UTC) - Hmm...
I do see the point. In some of these memes it did seem like they were casting just whatever actors of color they liked (or thought were attractive), rather than the ones that they felt were most qualified. (Perhaps I was wrong - perhaps they simply hadn't explained themselves well enough for me to draw another conclusion.) Plus they ended up replacing some actors who, in my opinion, were irreplaceable - not for their skin color but for what they brought to that role.

And yet I do think that the thought experiment has some value: "What if these roles *weren't* white?" What if, instead of making the stories all about us, white people had put POC in the center? Who could truly take these roles and make them their own without betraying the story? White people are deeply fond of hypothetical situations. We (I only say "we" because I was in the midst of crafting my own when I found this post) may have overdone it this time. Most importantly, I participated in something that caused pain to people of color, and for that I apologize.
5th-Aug-2010 08:02 am (UTC) - Re: Hmm...
I think it has some value as well as potential towards causing pain. Since writing this, I've encountered quite a few chromatic bloggers who loved the idea. Certainly, it's still getting linked to and people are still talking about it, and I think that's a good thing in this case
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