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Differences between Sexy and Sexualized Representations Empty Differences between Sexy and Sexualized Representations

Post by trooper6 on Fri Oct 24, 2014 12:44 pm

Hello all,

Even though this is about video games, I think this might fit best here because it is a really nice discussion of the difference between a sexy character and a sexualized character. The difference between someone who is attractive, and a person who is subjected to a lewd gaze. It also opens up space for an argument for a positive relationship to sexiness. What do you all think about the article?

http://www.polygon.com/2014/10/23/7041193/sleeping-dogs-hot-guys-in-games

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Post by UristMcBunny on Fri Oct 24, 2014 1:19 pm

It's an interesting article! The idea that what separates Wei Shen from most female characters is that in Wei's case, his attractiveness is incidental, rather than central, makes a lot of sense to me. In the real world, attractive people are still people, not blow up dolls performing for our pleasure, and their attractiveness is generally incidental to who they are as a person. In the media, attractive women are often created with their attractiveness as a central, prioritised aspect of who they are at the expense of everything else.

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Post by Lemminkainen on Fri Oct 24, 2014 2:18 pm

I liked the distinction that the article drew! Particularly since it feels analytically clear enough that it doesn't just feel like a double standard. I could quickly come up with an example of a male character who is sexy and sexualized (Kemal Pamuk in Downton Abbey, whose purpose in the show is to be hot, have sex with Mary Crawley, and then die in her bed, creating problems for her-- a darkly hilarious example of fridging, but a fridging none the less) and a female character who is sexy but not sexualized (Nikita in the TV show of the same name. She's very attractive, but she tends to wear clothes that are appropriate for fighting and doing sneaky spy stuff unless she has a good mission-related reason not to, her fight scenes are stylized in a way that wouldn't seem out of place in a Bourne or Daniel Craig Bond movie, she's really extensively characterized, lives up to her rep as the world's most scarily competent assassin.) This makes sexualization feel analytically meaningful and makes it easier to understand the pervasive sexualization of women in video games.


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Post by KMR on Fri Oct 24, 2014 3:01 pm

I agree with this article's distinction between sexy and sexualized characters and that this is an important distinction to make and keep in mind when designing characters. But one thing that keeps coming into my mind is that it seems like nearly all women in visual media, within a certain age range, are sexy and attractive. So even when they're not being sexualized, I still sometimes feel the presence of the male gaze in the sense of "Here, look, we cast/designed lots of pretty ladies for you to look at!" Men in visual media tend, on average, to be on the more attractive side, but there's generally more diversity of looks with men, so the only time I feel as if there is a "female gaze" is with media that is made primarily for a female audience, such as shoujo manga/anime or romance novels.
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Post by trooper6 on Fri Oct 24, 2014 3:16 pm

I agree Lemminkainen. Of course, I'd also draw a slight distinction that might seem like a double standard--but I think of more as reacting to an already existing double standard.

I am not as bothered (at this current point in time, in this environment) by the fridging of Kemal Pamuk as I am by the fridging of a female character--because I think there is one more element cluster I'd add to the article on the topic of representation: frequency/proportionality/impact.

I think it is sometimes okay to have a sexualized character (or other red flag-ish representation) here and there in media, but the key is proportionality/frequency/impact. If 90% representation of group X is generally healthy and diverse, then it can weather some representations that are not as much without much or any impact to the treatment of that group or the self-worth of that group. Because the larger problem is the aggregate of representation, not just one particular one, and whether that one representation is taken as evidence of deviance of the whole group or as an outlier.

So the overwhelming majority of male representations are not sexualized (and may or may not be sexy), while the overwhelming majority of female representation are sexualized. That is the double standard. So within the context of that double standard, a sexualized woman does more harm than a sexualized man. Indeed, one sexualized man in a sea of non-sexualized men might actually be able to do some good work by pointing out the rarity of the occurance and making us rethink sexualization. By seeing sexualization in a place it normally isn't, it might de-naturalize sexualization and challenge the way we think about it.

To do a gender stereotype flip, men are overwhelmingly depicted as incompetent with household chores (being incompetent generally seen as a negative stereotype). Women are rarely depicted as incompetent with household chores, rather hyper competent. Seeing yet another depiction of an incompetent house-dude is adding to an already naturalized negative stereotype of men as incapable of dealing with matters of the home and adds to negative impacts to men (and also women) in real life. So another depiction that reinforces that is a problem. Seeing a depiction of a woman incompetent in the home is not going to automatically bother me because there is not larger stereotype of women as incompetent in the home that this depiction is going to reinforce, and since it happens so rarely, it is unlikely to help create that stereotype. Indeed, seeing a woman for whom house work is unnatural might help de-naturalize the stereotype that men are "naturally" incompetent with housework.

If men were always sexualized and women never were, then I would be more concerned with continued sexualization of male characters and less concerned with the rare depictions of the sexualization of female characters. I think that often when people accuse those interested in social justice of "double standards" they are engaging in false equivalency.

More examples, this time dealing with race. Some might say: You are upset when a black guy is depicted as a gangster, but not when a white guy is depicted as a gangster--isn't that just a double standard?! You hypocrite! Well no. The double standard is that black men are overwhelmingly depicted as gangsters, and those depictions contribute to a climate where people have such fear of black men that unarmed black men are shot and killed all that time and the people who shoot them often are let off with no sentence or lesser sentences. It is related to racial profiling and stop and frisk. On the other hand white men are not overwhelmingly depicted as gangsters and do not have the social dangers associated with that stereotype to contend with. So...a depiction of white male gangsters doesn't tend to be too problematic. On the other hand, depiction of Italian gangsters often does reinforce negative stereotypes and is often problematic for similar reasons that the depictions of black men is problematic. Walter White gets to be a drug dealer without that implicating all middle aged white dudes...and depicting a person as a drug dealer who isn't normally depicted as a drug dealer (Breaking Bad and Weeds, for examples), can sometimes make us think.

So...I think it is important to go for "Also Sexy" rather than "Sexualized"--I think it is important to embrace the ways in which a person can appreciate someone's sexiness without engaging in objectification the article points towards (which can especially help guys who are having trouble with shame around male sexuality), but I think it is also important to recognize that not all examples of "person incompetent with housework," "sexy person who then dies to further the protagonists story," "gangster," "socially awkward person," or whatever are equally problematic due to difference in impact. And recognizing that is not a double standard.

Hm...what I think I want to say in a
TL;DR: The problem is representation's contribution to stereotypes. If it isn't a stereotype it is less of a problem. It isn't a stereotype that men are only sexy objects, so having a (rare) depiction of a man as only a sexy object isn't really a problem--and might actually be positively subversive. Women as only sexy object is a stereotype so engaging in another representation of women as sexy object is much harder to do in a way that is not problematically contributing to that damaging stereotype is difficult (though it can be done, it is just really hard).

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Post by Enail on Fri Oct 24, 2014 3:26 pm

I tend to think of it in terms of two questions: 1. If you take out the sexy, is this still an interesting character and 2. If you take out all the characters who don't get a "yes" on question 1, what percentage of characters of that group are left?

It works pretty well for other criteria, like "gangster," too.
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Post by nearly_takuan on Fri Oct 24, 2014 4:08 pm

Enail wrote:I tend to think of it in terms of two questions: 1. If you take out the sexy, is this still an interesting character and 2. If you take out all the characters who don't get a "yes" on question 1, what percentage of characters of that group are left?

It works pretty well for other criteria, like "gangster," too.

I like that this generalizes to the fundamental problem with basically every race/sex/gender/hobby/vocation stereotype in media. I don't think that's all there is to it in every case (and I don't think you do either) but it's an excellent summary of what at least one of the problems usually is. Smile

Like, it's also not enough to just have a token non-sexy woman with a frigid personality and no-nonsense attitude if she is still a bland character and/or one of only two female characters on a show with a large ensemble cast that includes a multitude of diverse male personalities (continuing my death-glare at CW's The Flash). The problem with stopping a character's design/concept at "strong female $race character" bears mentioning, too, but it's also fairly 101 stuff and has been discussed elsewhere.

Tangent: I'm slightly annoyed that this article and the Kotaku article it linked to claimed that Sleeping Dogs captured an "Asian American" experience when most of the enumerated references really only make sense as part of a Chinese American experience. Well, once it starts talking about sex/dating/etc, that part's probably typical enough, but I'll admit I also got kind of uncomfortable reading that part and started skimming instead.
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Post by Lemminkainen on Fri Oct 24, 2014 4:24 pm

@trooper6: I actually totally agree with you about this! I also think that sexualization doesn't really become a social problem unless it's a default representation. Thanks for highlighting this important point which I foolishly left out and explaining it really eloquently.

(Interestingly, I think that the fridging of Kemal Pamuk is problematic, but for Orientalism-related reasons rather than gender reasons. I feel like Downton Abbey is always trying to walk this fine line between helping us to empathize with its conservative early-20th-century British characters [which I think is a valuable historical exercise which is necessary for making the show work] and naturalizing their perspectives [which most of us would probably agree is very, very bad]. The stuff with Kemal Pamuk winds up falling on the bad side of the line, I think. I also think that the show wound up failing in later seasons because it fell too far on this side of the line, turning the liberal and socialist characters into parodies of themselves and further valorizing the conservative characters in the exact historical moment which convinced lots and lots of people that the old order was fucked and the socialists were right about everything.)

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Post by trooper6 on Fri Oct 24, 2014 4:40 pm

Lemminkainen wrote:
(Interestingly, I think that the fridging of Kemal Pamuk is problematic, but for Orientalism-related reasons rather than gender reasons.  I feel like Downton Abbey is always trying to walk this fine line between helping us to empathize with its conservative early-20th-century British characters [which I think is a valuable historical exercise which is necessary for making the show work] and naturalizing their perspectives [which most of us would probably agree is very, very bad].  The stuff with Kemal Pamuk winds up falling on the bad side of the line, I think.  I also think that the show wound up failing in later seasons because it fell too far on this side of the line, turning the liberal and socialist characters into parodies of themselves and further valorizing the conservative characters in the exact historical moment which convinced lots and lots of people that the old order was fucked and the socialists were right about everything.)

@Lemminkainen. I completely agree with this assessment, 100%.

I sometimes feel very complicated in that there are numerous cultural products and agents that people critique...but I don't think the critique is good...so I end up defending that person or thing from that critique...but yet I also find the person or thing really problematic on some other front. And the fridging of Kemal Pamuk is a great example of that (also Beyonce and Twilight). I'm not offended that man is fridged and would defend that fridging if the critique is only "that is sexist against men!"--on the other hand I think it is a very problematic fridging in terms of Orientalism and a persistent creepiness in the politics of Downton Abbey.

So only big Jedi hugs between you and I on this topic!

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Post by Enail on Fri Oct 24, 2014 4:50 pm

...at first I thought you were saying that the fridging of Kemal Pamuk is also a great example of Beyonce and Twilight.
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Post by Lemminkainen on Sat Oct 25, 2014 1:30 am

trooper6 wrote:
Lemminkainen wrote:
(Interestingly, I think that the fridging of Kemal Pamuk is problematic, but for Orientalism-related reasons rather than gender reasons.  I feel like Downton Abbey is always trying to walk this fine line between helping us to empathize with its conservative early-20th-century British characters [which I think is a valuable historical exercise which is necessary for making the show work] and naturalizing their perspectives [which most of us would probably agree is very, very bad].  The stuff with Kemal Pamuk winds up falling on the bad side of the line, I think.  I also think that the show wound up failing in later seasons because it fell too far on this side of the line, turning the liberal and socialist characters into parodies of themselves and further valorizing the conservative characters in the exact historical moment which convinced lots and lots of people that the old order was fucked and the socialists were right about everything.)

@Lemminkainen. I completely agree with this assessment, 100%.

I sometimes feel very complicated in that there are numerous cultural products and agents that people critique...but I don't think the critique is good...so I end up defending that person or thing from that critique...but yet I also find the person or thing really problematic on some other front. And the fridging of Kemal Pamuk is a great example of that (also Beyonce and Twilight). I'm not offended that man is fridged and would defend that fridging if the critique is only "that is sexist against men!"--on the other hand I think it is a very problematic fridging in terms of Orientalism and a persistent creepiness in the politics of Downton Abbey.

So only big Jedi hugs between you and I on this topic!

Awwww, thanks! I just hope that I can be an academic as cool as you someday.

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Post by reboot on Sat Oct 25, 2014 2:28 am

Love the article! For me the big differentiation between sexy and sexualized characters is agency. Sexy characters do (e.g. BSG number 6) and sexualized characters are done to (e.g. almost every woman in GTA). The way to sus it out is to think of how you describe a character. Do you say what they did? Or do you say what was done to them?
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Post by The Wisp on Sat Oct 25, 2014 2:29 am

Trooper, I think that is an excellent macro-level way to look at things.

However, it makes me wonder if an individual artist should think that way. This topic brings to mind a ton of questions that I don't have the answer to. What if a story really does work best when a certain stereotype is uncritically reinforced? How could an outside consumer of the media tell if it was necessary for the story? How could the author? Furthermore, wouldn't a story that consciously subverted all stereotypes seem fake and forced, and thus be a poorly told story? What if a story is striving for realism, and a stereotype is based in truth?

ETA: As for the main linked article, I largely agree. There would be two cases where characters being sexual objects would be acceptable: when a game (or any media) is from the limited perspective of a protagonist who is attracted to a given gender(s) but the protagonist hasn't interacted with the objects of attraction much or at all, or when there are no characters with agency (e.g. hearthstone minion portraits).
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Post by trooper6 on Sat Oct 25, 2014 3:19 am

The Wisp wrote:Trooper, I think that is an excellent macro-level way to look at things.

However, it makes me wonder if an individual artist should think that way. This topic brings to mind a ton of questions that I don't have the answer to. What if a story really does work best when a certain stereotype is uncritically reinforced? How could an outside consumer of the media tell if it was necessary for the story? How could the author? Furthermore, wouldn't a story that consciously subverted all stereotypes seem fake and forced, and thus be a poorly told story? What if a story is striving for realism, and a stereotype is based in truth?

Praytell, which stereotypes, specifically, are based in truth?
And what stories work best, specifically, when they reinforce the degradation and harming of some stereotyped people? And what sort of person wants to tell stories that work best when they reinforce the degradation and harming of a stereotyped people?


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Post by nearly_takuan on Sat Oct 25, 2014 3:43 am

The Wisp wrote:Trooper, I think that is an excellent macro-level way to look at things.

However, it makes me wonder if an individual artist should think that way. This topic brings to mind a ton of questions that I don't have the answer to. What if a story really does work best when a certain stereotype is uncritically reinforced? How could an outside consumer of the media tell if it was necessary for the story? How could the author? Furthermore, wouldn't a story that consciously subverted all stereotypes seem fake and forced, and thus be a poorly told story? What if a story is striving for realism, and a stereotype is based in truth?

I'm not sure if it's exactly what you mean, but I recommend reading the Kotaku article too. You could argue that the main character and most of the other characters in Sleeping Dogs, being Chinese gangsters in Hong Kong, live up to the stereotypes of Chinese people and gangsters. And conversely, that the story and setting wouldn't work if they weren't Chinese gangsters acting like Chinese gangsters. The stereotypes that are "true" are present, but what makes it feel tasteful and "true" to Asian Americans playing the game is that the game (apparently; I mean I've never played it) goes deeper than that. They match with some of the Chinese stereotypes, but they have other features that wouldn't be Chinese stereotypes to anyone who isn't intimately familiar with Chinese culture; they're gangsters and thugs and they act like it, but they're people too. They don't all act like the same person, just because they are the same "type" of person.

For bad examples, look at Marvel Comics prior to 2014, or DC Comics including 2014. (Disclosure: I generally prefer Marvel, but I think I'm being fair here.) The only prominent Asian characters in the mainstream continuity (and I use "mainstream" loosely) are Shang-Chi (a kung fu master), Amadeus Cho (a math nerd), and Psylocke (a ninja, and barely counts since technically she's a British woman psychically bound to the body of a generic Japanese ninja). Oh, and when they need a martial artist to save the world, Shang-Chi isn't even the go-to guy, because blonde and blue eyed Iron Fist is better at basically everything. For a really long time Luke Cage / Power Man was the only black superhero Marvel paid much attention to, and his M.O. is to wade through inner-city gang wars with his bullet-proof skin and really big muscles. Black Panther almost feels like they tried too hard in the other direction sometimes—rich dude with an acrobatic physique and lots of high-tech gear. Granted, all these characters have had really good stories written for them, too; it's just the base concepts and sometimes the introductory/origin stories that I generally find appallingly racist.

DC continues to be even more white (their token black character is green!). As of the Nu 52, Wally West just happens to be black in the new timeline (good) and Bunker is a flamboyant gay Latino who drops random Spanish phrases (what the hell.) The gay part is actually the most off-putting to me, because it somehow doesn't come across as "he's gay and it's not a big deal"; something about the way it's presented makes it seem more like "he's gay because we wanted to randomly make one of our not-main not-important characters be gay for the sake of diversity". I actually prefer Marvel's tendency to make things like that into significant plot points, e.g. Ultimate Colossus turning to drugs to cope with the double ostracization of being a gay mutant, or the possibility that Wiccan (or whatever he's calling himself now) might have accidentally created his boyfriend (Hulkling) with his reality-warping powers as a means of wish fulfillment due to being a lonely gay mutant teen. In both cases there are some kind of stereotypes at work, driving the plot, and in a way it's actually the fact that the stereotype/archetype does drive the plot that makes it not feel like the writers just created a throwaway character with a single one-dimensional trait to make themselves feel good about "diversity".

Or for female characters, try the all-famous lowest-hanging fruit for Strong Female Character archetypes, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Initially created specifically to subvert the trope of the ditzy pretty blonde chick being either brutally murdered by the monster or saved at the last minute by Our Hero, Buffy is....a somewhat ditzy pretty blonde chick, who also has super strength, supernatural senses, a generally honorable and responsible disposition, a complicated home life, friends who each also have complicated home lives, and a healthy dose of genre savvy / intuitive reasoning skills. And she develops as a character throughout the series, instead of staying within the same exact archetype throughout the series. The same can be said of Willow, who starts out being a typical quiet nerd girl but eventually joins the action in her own right. For the record, I actually prefer Season 2-3 Willow, when she's more or less an equal to the rest of the team in her own right and has some powers of her own, but doesn't have to literally join the action and kill bad guys just to prove she's a badass. Whereas Buffy subverts the hostage-girl trope by being the rescuer/savior/punch-thrower in any given episode, Willow averts it by...just not always being the hostage, and doing what she can to help.

tl;dr: I see profound and clear differences between embracing the social, biological, or cultural traits of a character for the sake of a good story, and substituting cardboard cutouts of ill-conceived stereotypes for actual characters.
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Post by The Wisp on Sat Oct 25, 2014 3:53 am

trooper6 wrote:
The Wisp wrote:Trooper, I think that is an excellent macro-level way to look at things.

However, it makes me wonder if an individual artist should think that way. This topic brings to mind a ton of questions that I don't have the answer to. What if a story really does work best when a certain stereotype is uncritically reinforced? How could an outside consumer of the media tell if it was necessary for the story? How could the author? Furthermore, wouldn't a story that consciously subverted all stereotypes seem fake and forced, and thus be a poorly told story? What if a story is striving for realism, and a stereotype is based in truth?

Praytell, which stereotypes, specifically, are based in truth?
And what stories work best, specifically, when they reinforce the degradation and harming of some stereotyped people? And what sort of person wants to tell stories that work best when they reinforce the degradation and harming of a stereotyped people?


Tons. Women tending to be more passive in the dating game, for example. White people being richer. Asian foreign students majoring in engineering at American universities. Nerds being socially awkward. These aren't universal, but they are based on truth.

I guess I had in mind, specifically, some stories that essentially use a female character essentially as a motivator or a cipher to explore the male character's psychology or something.
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Post by Lemminkainen on Sat Oct 25, 2014 4:02 am

The Wisp wrote:Trooper, I think that is an excellent macro-level way to look at things.

However, it makes me wonder if an individual artist should think that way. This topic brings to mind a ton of questions that I don't have the answer to. What if a story really does work best when a certain stereotype is uncritically reinforced? How could an outside consumer of the media tell if it was necessary for the story? How could the author? Furthermore, wouldn't a story that consciously subverted all stereotypes seem fake and forced, and thus be a poorly told story? What if a story is striving for realism, and a stereotype is based in truth?
.

The solution is making all of your characters genuine human beings with genuine psychologies and motivations rather than narrative devices.
Doing this makes it much harder to play to stereotypical narratives (since most of these depict people in very flat and two-dimensional ways, and their hatefulness depends on us not treating the person as a person) and also helps you avoid creating an Oppostie Stereotype which is ultimately similar in its badness (see: flat, one-dimensional "Strong Female Characters" who have none of the flaws, vulnerabilities, or uh, particular personality quirks which make characters feel real and compelling). Since people seem more likely to care about characters and their relationships with one another if those characters have genuine-seeming psychologies, doing this will improve any work whose artistic goals involve engaging with the audience's emotions. Giving characters complete psychologies will also always make your work more realistic.

Doing this pointedly doesn't require you to portray all marginalized characters in uniformly positive ways-- that would just be boring! I'll offer an example of a show that does things right with a rather dickish character with my own marginalization (queerness): Downton Abbey (which I ironically just criticized for other stuff above!)

In Downton Abbey's first season,* the footman Thomas is duplicitous, scheming, and kind of a general jerkass. He's also gay. Now, the "evil homosexual" was a common trope for much of the twentieth century, and it was definitely present in the place, time period, and class milieu that the show is set in. But the show also does a good job of giving Thomas a psychology and motivations (he's arrogant, impatient and ambitious, he gets frustrated with his failure to advance in the servant hierarchy and his fellow servants', well, servility) which exists and motivates his actions independent of his sexuality. His sexuality does affect his life, but it doesn't define him. His queerness tends to be most highlighted in his most sympathetic moments-- which makes sense in non-stereotypical portrayals, since it's easy to empathize with people who are in love or want to be loved, especially when societal strictures make it hard for them to express or consummate it.** So, I quite like Thomas as a well-fleshed-out mildly villainous character who happens to be gay.

*The only artistically successful season, and the only one I'll be considering for the purpose of this analysis.

**Incidentally, this very dynamic is the main appeal of something like half of all British period drama-- so it really feels like it fits here.

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Post by nearly_takuan on Sat Oct 25, 2014 4:14 am

The Wisp wrote:Tons. Women tending to be more passive in the dating game, for example. White people being richer. Asian foreign students majoring in engineering at American universities. Nerds being socially awkward. These aren't universal, but they are based on truth.

"Women being passive in the dating game" is not really a trope that stands by itself all that well, since passivity doesn't drive plots forward. Sure, start with it, but by the time the story is over, you'll be practically forced to play with it some and add twists and turns to the tale, or you'll have a really boring and straightforward story. "She didn't ask anyone out. Then somebody asked her out and she said yes. The end." Even if you did make a compelling story out of the trope being played straight, it'd be pretty hollow if there was nothing else to her character beyond her passivity. This comes back to what Enail said: if you took the "sexy" and "prefers a passive role in dating" attributes out, would she still be an interesting character and/or meaningful inclusion in the story's cast? If not, then she isn't a character in the story; she's a prop.

And that's okay. Stories sometimes do need props. It only gets bad when writers end up using women and minority races as nothing but props. So if you have a story that requires a throwaway female character who, like most women, adopts a more passive strategy than most men would in dating, okay, but how many other characters are in the story? How many of those are women? How many of those women do have personalities beyond what is needed for their story-prop utility?

I don't quite get what you mean about white people being richer; it's not like the idea of a minority-race character being rich is that far out. (I normally don't have high hopes for remakes but I'm definitely looking forward to the new Annie movie.) Nor is "rich" an adjective I would automatically associate with a white person.

If you specifically want a Mitt Romney-ish character (or, on the other "side", a George Plimpton) then yeah, it's probably more believable if you attach that set of traits to a rich white man. But statistically speaking, you're probably going to have a lot of other white men in your story without even meaning to (the fact that people default to that is one of the roots of the Problem).

A story having exactly one Asian character in it, and that Asian character being largely plot-irrelevant, sitting in the background and being name-dropped and described as an engineering student, is basically the definition of tokenism. A story about engineering students including at least one Asian character who is at least as defined, personality-wise, as the other characters in the story? Hell yes, write us more of those please. Go all the way. Show his (or her) first-generation Asian parents or grandparents bragging loudly about their children in embarrassing (by American standards) ways in public, and criticizing everything they do in private. Milk those stereotypes for all they're worth. And then show mundane and relateable sides to those characters too, because after all we are human beings.


Last edited by nearly_takuan on Sat Oct 25, 2014 4:25 am; edited 1 time in total
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Post by The Wisp on Sat Oct 25, 2014 4:19 am

Hrm, I guess what I was reacting to was that Trooper seemed to be implying these tropes were okay if they were inverted in an otherwise standard narrative. I think you all are talking about getting beyond tropes, which I totally agree with in that case (not that trooper wasn't saying we should get beyond tropes, either).

ETA: Today was a rough day, I'm not even really sure what I've been saying, I'm bowing out of this thread.
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Post by nearly_takuan on Sat Oct 25, 2014 4:31 am

The Wisp wrote:I guess I had in mind, specifically, some stories that essentially use a female character essentially as a motivator or a cipher to explore the male character's psychology or something.

If it's a one-character story, I suppose things like that can't be avoided; if literally every character who isn't the focus of the story is some kind of token, and that's important to get to the meat of the story in a concise and efficient manner, then there's going to be a necessary lack of proportional diversity among the important characters (set size one) and a high degree of tokenism in the supporting cast (because 100% of the supporting cast are tokens).

The overwhelming majority of stories in mass media, though, have a reasonably large cast of characters. So this doesn't really function as a good excuse in most cases.

The Wisp wrote:Hrm, I guess what I was reacting to was that Trooper seemed to be implying these tropes were okay if they were inverted in an otherwise standard narrative. I think you all are talking about getting beyond tropes, which I totally agree with in that case.

I didn't read him saying this at all; frankly it sounds like too ridiculous an argument for any person to have made seriously. If you wrote a story where a woman appears for the sole purpose of being sexy and doing sexy things, and then inverted the trope so that she isn't sexy and her distinct lack of sexiness is put on display for the reader/viewer instead...that's not enlightened and liberating, that's gross. (Unless, of course, you are getting beyond that trope too, as you put it, and adding things to the un-sexy woman's personality as well as the people she interacts with, in which case she's no longer a prop and not-being-sexy is no longer her sole defining characteristic.)

ETA: Ah, sorry, didn't mean to keep piling on. For what it's worth, I didn't have really concrete thoughts on some of these things until you prompted me to write them down, so you've helped me some at least. Wink
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Post by Dan_Brodribb on Sat Oct 25, 2014 7:03 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:

Tangent: I'm slightly annoyed that this article and the Kotaku article it linked to claimed that Sleeping Dogs captured an "Asian American" experience when most of the enumerated references really only make sense as part of a Chinese American experience. Well, once it starts talking about sex/dating/etc, that part's probably typical enough, but I'll admit I also got kind of uncomfortable reading that part and started skimming instead.

My best friend 15 years ago was second generation Chinese-Canadian via Hong Kong and playing the game definitely brought a lot of the things he talked about to mind. I really liked that about the game.

Also on a tangent, another thing I liked about Sleeping Dogs is that--intentionally or not--it captured something that I've seen as a big part of the li (admittedly small) RL gang/criminal-adjacent people I know that often gets ignored in video games which is behind a the violence and the lifestyle and Don't-Give-A-F**k attitude, a lot of street-level gang members are at heart people-pleasers.

Playing the game inspired a whole post on my Compassionate Degenerate blog (http://thecompassionatedegenerate.blogspot.ca/search/label/sleeping%20dogs) [/end plug] but the upshot is it was amazing for all the kung-fu badassery, playing the game, it felt like 90% of what I was doing in the game was driving around town doing things for other people--cops, gang members, romantic interests, and regular citizens.I didn't feel like I was in control of my own life...the opposite of what an open-world game is supposed to feel like. Instead, as Wei Shen I felt myself pulled in all directions trying to be all things to all people while having no idea who I was or how I actually wanted things to turn out. I was keeping as many balls in the air as long as I could and trying forestall the inevitable consequences and decisions I'd have to make.

I found that really cool and really true to the psychologies of people involved with gangs I've seen in real life.

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