Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

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morriswalters
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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jul 17, 2014 1:59 am UTC

Viewer numbers are around 15 million, out of a population of 300 million for Elementary. Seems like a lot of people don't give a shit one way or the other.

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Jul 17, 2014 2:10 am UTC

GoT had viewership of only 7m last season, yet everyone was talking about it. 1 in 20 is a lot.

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jul 17, 2014 2:14 am UTC

Most people don't give a shit about any given thing on TV, and I never said anything one way or another that would be related to or addressed by viewer numbers, so I'm not even sure what (if any) point you think you're making.

I'm also confused by your "one way or the other", there, because viewership numbers alone cannot possibly tell you that. It could be that all 300 million Americans have very strong opinions one way or the other: 15 million of them are strongly in favor and 285 million are strongly against. Or it could be that only 15 million care. Or it could be anywhere in between. The only thing you can conclude is that about 15 million people seem to enjoy the show.

Edit: and yeah, that's higher than GoT (even when you include the fact that up to 4 or 5 million people pirate GoT), in any case.
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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Jul 17, 2014 3:33 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:Viewer numbers are around 15 million, out of a population of 300 million for Elementary. Seems like a lot of people don't give a shit one way or the other.


15 million is huge for television. If it were that high (it's more like 12 million, according to this), that would put in among the top 10 shows on tv.

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jul 17, 2014 4:14 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:Anyone in other groups, meanwhile, usually has to seek out the much smaller niches that actually cater to people like them. Niches that are often housed in different parts of bookstores and movie stores, that are marketed on a much smaller scale and have much smaller cinematic runs, and so on.
And generate less money. However, describe another way for it to work.
How about *don't* treat them like niche products that belong in a separate bookstore section from the rest of the relevant genre?
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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Jul 17, 2014 4:38 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
a hot female known for portraying sex objects
I don't need to call you out on imagined sexism in your post, when I've got this real example right here.

Which sex objects is she known for portraying, exactly? Are you sure they're sex objects, and not just characters who are endlessly sexually objectified by viewers the way they're accustomed to sexually objectifying all beautiful women? (See also: Scarlett Johansson in Winter Soldier)


You added this later so I'll respond to it now.

All I really know her from is Charlie's Angels, Kill Bill, and the rest of the media. She was barely in Kill Bill, IIRC. Didn't bother with Charlie's Angels, but the previews basically made it out to be "see hot women do impossible stuff, but sexily". Pass. Everything else with her in it was all "look how sexy she is, isn't she sexy, here watch sexy celebrities". Magazines, news shows, MTV, standup comedians, whatever, it was never "see how talented an actor she is, how she brings different characters to life" the way it is with Tina Fey or Meryl Streep. Lucy Liu was marketed as eye-candy only. Hell, the only time I've seen her with any sort of personality was on Futurama where she played herself/Lucy Liubot.

Maybe she kept getting bad publicity or whatever. Maybe she got some good publicity but I only saw the sexualized stuff. I don't know. But if you were to tell me that a movie was coming out, the fact that Lucy Liu was attached wouldn't be a selling point for me.

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jul 17, 2014 4:58 am UTC

So basically the Scarlett Johansson in Winter Soldier treatment from the sexist media.

Which I guess isn't terribly surprising given her constantly fetishized ethnicity (contrasted with the two purely coincidentally white women that came to your mind when you though of actresses praised for more than their sex appeal...).
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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Jul 17, 2014 5:21 am UTC

While I don't know of Meryl Streep oozing sex appeal, I'll admit she's very attractive for someone in her 60's.

As for nonwhite actresses, can't really think of too many that are more known for their acting talents than their beauty. Queen Latifa?

I had to look up the Academy Awards to jog my memory. Wow, from a cursory glance it looks like that virtually every award was given to a white woman, and of the nominations most of the non-white women on there virtually all are White Hispanic (eg, Penelope Cruz), except for the one from Precious. Looks like the only nonwhite woman to win was Halle Berry, in 2001.

I suppose that's as good evidence as any that you have to be white to be respected as a woman in Hollywood. Halle Berry doesn't prove there is no glass ceiling, but rather, the glass ceiling is more of a gelatin ceiling. And unlike glass, gelatin doesn't break so easily.

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby peregrine_crow » Thu Jul 17, 2014 8:28 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Yes, but as already pointed out to you (did you forget about it or just skip it?), there are tons of numerical minorities that aren't seen as "unusual" or as relevant departures from the "default".

The thing which does determine whether something will be seen that way is, therefore, not actually all that related to numbers, and far more related to cultural dominance and privilege.


I agree with your argument in general, but that doesn't hold up. The moment it is explicitly brought up that a person is of German descent than it falls under conservation of details and is therefor likely to be important to the story. The default main character is an American straight white dude in his twenties with unspecified backstory and ancestry.

That baseline is a nice toxic package of the five main ways people are discriminated against (nationality, sexual preference, skincolor, gender and age), but deviating from it in any way, even in ways that are not discriminated against in real life will either be important to the story or be seen as an intentional way to make the character more complex.

gmalivuk wrote:Third: There is no sexual tension between Holmes and Watson. Each has their own sexual relationships with other people, while the relationship between the two of them is friendly and professional. It is, in fact, one of the best examples I've seen on television of a functioning hetmale/hetfemale friendship.


Really? Maybe I have to check out this series, I wrote it off immediately upon hearing that they gender flipped Watson (and not Holmes) for exactly this reason.
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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby jseah » Thu Jul 17, 2014 8:50 am UTC

peregrine_crow wrote:That baseline is a nice toxic package of the five main ways people are discriminated against (nationality, sexual preference, skincolor, gender and age), but deviating from it in any way, even in ways that are not discriminated against in real life will either be important to the story or be seen as an intentional way to make the character more complex.

I am curious now. What happens if you *don't*?

Like... if I write a story where the main character is some girl who runs away from home, when nothing in the plot requires her to be a girl (ie. everything works exactly the same if she was a boy), and no female specific issues are addressed... she's just a girl because I wanted a rough gender balance in the cast or something. What reaction do you get, exactly?
Or if you write a gay character who's "status" of being gay has no impact on the plot at all?
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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jul 17, 2014 9:29 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
morriswalters wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:Anyone in other groups, meanwhile, usually has to seek out the much smaller niches that actually cater to people like them. Niches that are often housed in different parts of bookstores and movie stores, that are marketed on a much smaller scale and have much smaller cinematic runs, and so on.
And generate less money. However, describe another way for it to work.
How about *don't* treat them like niche products that belong in aseparate bookstore section from the rest of the relevant genre?
I shouldn't have to point this out. They are niche products at this point. That is a product of audience, not of production. What is the target demographic of most movies? Look at the tentpoles and see if you can figure it out. I'll give you a hint. It isn't me.
LaserGuy wrote:15 million is huge for television. If it were that high (it's more like 12 million, according to this), that would put in among the top 10 shows on tv.
I just took a cursory glance. However all the more true for the smaller number. Most people don't care. What is the most favored audience metric that broadcasters want to appeal to?

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby leady » Thu Jul 17, 2014 10:56 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Yes, but as already pointed out to you (did you forget about it or just skip it?), there are tons of numerical minorities that aren't seen as "unusual" or as relevant departures from the "default".


and yet you are exluding all the hundreds (hell infinite if we go crazy0 of potential granular "minority" traits that are also excluded unless they are relavant to the broad narrative or to establish character. I look forward to the shoehorning in of the removal of sixth toe into a film (there are actual stars that fill this role too :))

The thing which does determine whether something will be seen that way is, therefore, not actually all that related to numbers, and far more related to cultural dominance and privilege.


Again if you spend a tiny amount of time, its extremely easy to come up will huge lists of things that are exluded from movies on the basis that their inclusion is immediately jarring - a huge number aren't even minority categories. The two most obvious ones are that in movie land, everyone is beautiful and clever - even the ugly & stupid ones :) add in "people esposing republican poliitics", regional accented characters being "smart" etc etc. What I'm getting at is that you are preferentially suggesting a few categories are important enough that they should be explicitly referenced - I disagree & it appears so do the professionals that do this for a living.

However I do agree with your view that this won't change fundamentally, because even in a tolerant society - exceptions are jarring and therefore going to be avoided. Not for nefarious reasons, but to maintain the structural integrity of the film (and hence money).

Its not strong evidence for an ism anymore than colourblindism in films exists because its never referenced outside of context (damnit, now I'm trying to think of a single film that has colour blindness in it and failing)

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Jul 17, 2014 1:29 pm UTC

No worries, eSoaem, I've skimmed past things myself before.

gmalivuk wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:The Het part is rapidly changing. Having a gay character at all was, even 20 years ago, a more or less instant R rating. Now gay rights are practically kid friendly. In another 20 or 30 years, it might cease being an issue except for all but the most pigheaded of people. Until then, most of us are just waiting for the homophobic racist sexist old farts to die so society can move on.

I'm not saying it's tabbo to have a gay protagonist, I'm saying that tends to make the movie "about" the protag's sexuality. Like, you need to justify why you made the main character gay, while you never do if they're straight.
And that is something that will change in a few years. "Ok he's gay. So what? Back to the movie already!"

And you're basing this prediction on what, exactly? Considering that still today we have producers explicitly deciding to erase canonical bisexuality (because apparently bisexuality has to be constantly significant in the source material to justify its inclusion in an adaptation, whereas straightness gets a pass even when it's explicitly absent from the source material), I'm afraid I don't see any indications that what you're saying will be true at any time in the next "few years".


In fairness, this still doesn't seem to be an audience driven thing. Just fearful, fearful producers. No doubt this will receive all the acclaim of the amazing movie rendition of the same char that...wait, never mind.

Yeah, Hollywood is really slow to adapt, sure...but eventually, they catch up to what's popular. And then, naturally, they'll beat it to death with endless repetition. So, whatever they first recognize as a "successful" bisexual role or whatever will likely be cloned endlessly. Hurray! Or something.

LaserGuy wrote:Well, isn't Peter Parker supposed to be kind of the canonical misfit/outcast type anyway? While sure, a black Peter Parker might have a different background story that the white Spiderman, making him a minority of some kind probably actually makes a lot of sense in the context of the story. Considering that they feel the need to reboot the series every few years anyway and feel the need to include an origin story anyway... why not experiment? Apparently a black actor did want to audition for the part of Amazing Spiderman (and was refused, I gather), and current Spiderman Andrew Garfield has openly mused about the idea of playing Spiderman bisexual.


In the sense of being a geek teenager, yes. Traditional teenage woes and generally geekiness. However, he's not universally hated or anything. Spidey ain't an x-man story. Incidentally, this is why the current run is far more true to the char than the first one. Sure, spidey traditionally ain't black...but he also traditionally is constantly wise-cracking. Leaving that out of the first run seemed a much more important change.

Bisexual spidey would probably not be a terribly important change. Long as you have the canonical relationships still there, nobody should care much. It's just a detail, not something particularly central to the themes at hand. Only a problem if they try to make it central.

Spiderman being female probably would be obnoxious, though. Because there is a spider woman, and it's a totally different char. That just doesnt' fit for this char.

gmalivuk wrote:
speising wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:The one I had in mind for the woman of color was Elementary, with Lucy Liu playing Watson. Thor as a woman gets at the sexism part on its own, though, for an even more current example.
ok, if i have a problem with this "adaption", it's not because of lucy liu.
...have a cookie?

I never suggested (or even remotely care) whether or not you personally had a problem with a female Asian Watson. The point was that there was a lot more complaining in general about that than about any of the character changes made in other adaptations.

(And there is always vitriolic hatred and anger from the douchebro geek crowd when a woman or PoC shows up somewhere they don't expect, which is curiously lacking whenever yet another whitewashed piece of shit gets made.)


In fairness, geeks sometimes flip their shit over even the most trivial of changes. As long as the general themes of the chars are the same, I could care less about if it varies from the book in some trivial way. This seems to be a general nerd-rage issue as much as anything else. Sure, there's sexism in geek culture, no argument, but a good chunk of the rage isn't based on that.

I didn't bother to watch Elementary myself, but found myself a bit disappointed by the announcement of Lucy Liu playing Watson. This was in part due to seeing the superior english version first, and in part due to assumption that Hollywood would of course sexualize her role, creating a very different dynamic. Sherlock is basically asexual in the original books...the only time attraction to a woman really arises, it's...decidedly not about looks and what not. In fact, it's not any different than his interest in moriarty.

Now, I haven't actually watched to confirm that...but I presume that remarkably boring, traditional love interests have been seeded throughout. Hurray.

CorruptUser wrote:As for nonwhite actresses, can't really think of too many that are more known for their acting talents than their beauty. Queen Latifa?


Ming-Na Wen. Ok, probably not a household name, but very recognizable. Not saying she's ugly(because Hollywood), but she's worked her way up doing increasingly good shows, and her roles don't revolve around just being pretty. Odds are good you've seen her in something.

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Jul 17, 2014 1:59 pm UTC

Looked her up. Other than Mulan, nope, nothing I've watched. Sorry, I don't have cable. Don't want it. Stop trying to sell me cable, ATT, fuck your shitty shows, just give me Internet and shove the rest up your ass.

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby leady » Thu Jul 17, 2014 2:07 pm UTC

CCH pounder - serious non-looks roles - great actress (I think shes emmyed ) - stupid name!

oh and elementary does have sexual tension between Watson and holmes :) but I like the show and don't get hung up on rewrites on canon. Tokenism is off putting, complete re-writes based on a marketable brand I'll take on merit

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby peregrine_crow » Thu Jul 17, 2014 5:47 pm UTC

jseah wrote:I am curious now. What happens if you *don't*?

Like... if I write a story where the main character is some girl who runs away from home, when nothing in the plot requires her to be a girl (ie. everything works exactly the same if she was a boy), and no female specific issues are addressed... she's just a girl because I wanted a rough gender balance in the cast or something. What reaction do you get, exactly?
Or if you write a gay character who's "status" of being gay has no impact on the plot at all?


Then it is seen as a background detail to make the character more "complex" (I probably should have had sarcastic quotes about that in my first post), fleshing out the character and giving her more personality. Being a woman is a character trait, being a man isn't.

The same thing with being gay, except that sexism is less of a hot issue than sexual-orientation-ism (is there a word for discrimination based on sexual orientation?) so you probably also get a whole bunch of strong opinions from people on the internet.
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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jul 17, 2014 6:08 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
morriswalters wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:Anyone in other groups, meanwhile, usually has to seek out the much smaller niches that actually cater to people like them. Niches that are often housed in different parts of bookstores and movie stores, that are marketed on a much smaller scale and have much smaller cinematic runs, and so on.
And generate less money. However, describe another way for it to work.
How about *don't* treat them like niche products that belong in aseparate bookstore section from the rest of the relevant genre?
I shouldn't have to point this out. They are niche products at this point. That is a product of audience, not of production.

That is a completely self-fulfilling claim, though. Putting fantasy with a black protagonist in the African American section instead of the Fantasy section ensures that only people who already look for books in that section will find it and become the audience. It would be like if your video store (or Netflix) put all female-led movies, regardless of genre, in a "chick flick" section. How many men do you think would have picked up post-cinema-run Alien in that case?
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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Jul 17, 2014 6:56 pm UTC

I'm just imagining a bunch of women renting a RomCom only to find it's Alien.

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jul 17, 2014 7:31 pm UTC

I understand what it is that you are saying. But I don't see examples of that where race isn't the point. In books the race of the character is most likely assumed rather than explicit. Authors who target specific audiences quite often do so explicitly. It is one dimensional to assume that is racist or sexist per se. Like it or not, my life experience is different than the average black males. And it isn't just about the oppression of blacks. Although it may be a resultant. The language is subtly different, there are cultural differences, so a book targeted towards a black demographic will be different than one targeted to another demographic. The thing that I see as most damaging to other cultures is the specific thing that the topic is about. White culture generates so much noise that other cultures get lost in it. If you are a black author and want to target your demographic, assuming that is the point, than this separation removes it from the noise of white culture. For instance are transgender, it may be more important to you for something written about your situation is kept out of the melange of hetrosexual culture. The thing about cultural dominance is not that it is racist(though it is), or sexist(again it is), it's that if you aren't white, it's like looking in to the sun and losing the dim stars around it.

Movies are slightly different because of the money involved. It doesn't matter how powerful the story is, if it can't bring home the bacon than it won't get made. Plugging black actors into roles where it doesn't matter is all well and good. But essentially then the blackness is lost. They become indistinguishable from whites. A good example of this is the Pelican Brief. Denzel Washington as a black male is unimportant. Is this what we want? What I would like to see more of is something like Torchwood. Where a openly bisexual character is presented as what he is, with his lovers on the screen, who bring home the idea that he can bisexual, and be interesting in other ways as well.

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jul 17, 2014 9:13 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:I understand what it is that you are saying. But I don't see examples of that where race isn't the point.
Of course you don't, because when race isn't visible enough in a book to make you think it's "the point", it's usually invisible enough that you go ahead and assume everyone is white.
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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby Crissa » Thu Jul 17, 2014 9:55 pm UTC

I know Lucy Liu has an awesome actress from Hong Kong, so there's that.

Even so, I know people who harp on the sexual tension in Sherlock and think it's exploitive while saying Elementary has gotten past that. I see it as the reverse. I don't think there's anything wrong with sexual tension or mis-communication as a plot point - but the fact is people blow over the boy-girl pairs being mistaken (or acting) as couples as more normal than male-male pairs. And I like how Sherlock handles it equal to any girl-guy pair.

Anyhow, I think this thread has lots of good observations all around, too many to say. But it's good to know that even those I disagree with politically are becoming aware of these things. There's more common ground here than there might have been twenty years ago, even if society is still struggling with equal representation in the media mirror.

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby Lucrece » Thu Jul 17, 2014 10:00 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:The Het part is rapidly changing. Having a gay character at all was, even 20 years ago, a more or less instant R rating. Now gay rights are practically kid friendly. In another 20 or 30 years, it might cease being an issue except for all but the most pigheaded of people. Until then, most of us are just waiting for the homophobic racist sexist old farts to die so society can move on.

I'm not saying it's tabbo to have a gay protagonist, I'm saying that tends to make the movie "about" the protag's sexuality. Like, you need to justify why you made the main character gay, while you never do if they're straight.


And that is something that will change in a few years. "Ok he's gay. So what? Back to the movie already!"



I disagree. People don't care if a SIDE character is gay. So long as the gay dude plays second fiddle to the lead straight perspective, nobody cares. And it's certainly not kid friendly considering every Pixar movie or "family" movie or show I see is completely devoid of gay characters. It's cute when a 9 year old boy has a crush on a similarly aged girl, but if it were two boys? Now it's propaganda because even a large amount of straight people still believe attraction (not just sexual, I mean developing crushes or romantic attachment) magically comes to you during puberty and not before.

When Laika studios had in ParaNorman near the end of the movie where the jock on whom the protagonist's cheerleader sister been crushing out throughout the movie had a throwaway line about taking his boyfriend to the "chickflick" the sister was proposing they go to together, people lost their shit. There popped up negative reviews and warnings online about allowing parents to protect their children from propaganda.

It may not be as bad racially, but the same case applies when the movie appears foreign. FX released the show Tyrant about some Middle Eastern country going through a similar ordeal as Syria. And yet instead of having subtitles and people speaking the dialects, we have English with some tacky foreigner accent to drive home the point to the audience that the characters are foreigners.

Similarly so, when it comes to black film or Asian film, they're pigeonholed into stereotypical drama, as is most gay film. Because the expectation is that black and Asian and gay people care about different things than white straight people, and even if that were true white straight people couldn't possibly bear to watch a show or movie that doesn't resonate with their cultural values like minorities have had to put up with ever since drama was invented.
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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Jul 17, 2014 10:20 pm UTC

Name some major movies with a serious gay main character that didn't clean up at the Oscars.

Milk
Brokeback Mountain
Philadelphia
Capote

I'd include The Birdcage, but that didn't clean up. The foreign movie it was based on got 3 nominations though...

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jul 17, 2014 10:24 pm UTC

I assume everyone is white unless otherwise noted because I am. And I won't apologize for that. And I assume that PoC(how correct) do something similar. Do you see yourself in dreams as a female, or perhaps as a black male? That bias is built in. What image do you have in your mind when you read, let us say Lord of the Rings?

Can you elucidate a checklist for an appropriate movie? What is it that you want to see? Should every movie have 10 percent black, 10 percent LGBT, whatever percentage of Asians? Should we make sure that all Religions are represented? I know what you seem to hate but not what it is that you want to see.
Lucrece wrote:Similarly so, when it comes to black film or Asian film, they're pigeonholed into stereotypical drama, as is most gay film. Because the expectation is that black and Asian and gay people care about different things than white straight people, and even if that were true white straight people couldn't possibly bear to watch a show or movie that doesn't resonate with their cultural values like minorities have had to put up with ever since drama was invented.
Money talks. It isn't fair, but there it is. There may be a time when a rom con about a gay couple may be able to make money. Now isn't it. Not unless the LGBT community can support it. Entertainment is a voluntary pursuit. You can't make people buy tickets. I go to movies to see things that I enjoy. Not things to make you feel better. Which is why niche markets are so important.

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jul 17, 2014 10:39 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:I assume everyone is white unless otherwise noted because I am.
I'm not just talking about unless otherwise noted, though. I'm talking about some cases where someone's ethnicity was referred to, just perhaps not directly or repeatedly enough to make a lasting impression on you, and so you continued to assume they were white despite explicit evidence that they weren't.

Can you elucidate a checklist for an appropriate movie? What is it that you want to see?
How about female characters, black characters, gay characters, other minority characters, who are not only there to be tokens or stereotypes. It may be a bit harder for a movie, but I don't see why a TV show couldn't pass the Bechdel test (2 named female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man), the Troy and Abed test (2 named PoC characters who talk to each other and who aren't cultural stereotypes), and the Will and Jack test (2 named LGBT+ characters who talk to each other and whose queer status isn't treated as a joke or overemphasized). They wouldn't need to be main characters. They wouldn't even need to be characters that show up in the majority of episodes. Just have any qualifying characters occasionally interact with each other in normal human ways.

(For the record, Sherlock fails all three tests, while Elementary passes the first two and fails the third by not having its canonical LGBT+ characters talk to each other onscreen.)
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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby speising » Thu Jul 17, 2014 10:58 pm UTC

that sounds pretty contrieved. how pften will six characters (with no overlaps) like that really show up in the same social circle in real life? if you cram that in, it can't help but be plot relevant.

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jul 17, 2014 11:38 pm UTC

Name one show that sticks entirely within a single social circle.

I mean, apart from the fact that unless you're exceptionally racist or sexist in your friend choices, your own social circle almost certainly has at least two women in it, at least two PoC in it, and at least two LGBT+ people in it, though the last may not be open with you about it since you seem the sort who thinks they don't exist at all, and those people almost certainly talk to each other from time to time.
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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jul 17, 2014 11:40 pm UTC

For the record, Sherlock has failed for me period.
gmalivuk wrote:I'm not just talking about unless otherwise noted, though. I'm talking about some cases where someone's ethnicity was referred to, just perhaps not directly or repeatedly enough to make a lasting impression on you, and so you continued to assume they were white despite explicit evidence that they weren't.
I'll buy that. That is the glare of the sun thing I was talking about.
gmalivuk wrote:How about female characters, black characters, gay characters, other minority characters, who are not only there to be tokens or stereotypes. It may be a bit harder for a movie, but I don't see why a TV show couldn't pass the Bechdel test (2 named female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man), the Troy and Abed test (2 named PoC characters who talk to each other and who aren't cultural stereotypes), and the Will and Jack test (2 named LGBT+ characters who talk to each other and whose queer status isn't treated as a joke or overemphasized). They wouldn't need to be main characters. They wouldn't even need to be characters that show up in the majority of episodes. Just have any qualifying characters occasionally interact with each other in normal human ways.
Fair enough. I've seen all of these in TV at one time or another, just not all at the same time. 43 minutes isn't a lot of time. As a hetro male I would say Torchwood had some good plot lines that could have meant the Will and Jack test(having said that I don't know what a gay man might think about it). I'm backwards enough that it made me uncomfortable, but it was the first TV(and perhaps last) that made a male gay relationship entertaining for me. However none of these things are as common as perhaps they need to be.

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jul 17, 2014 11:43 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:I've seen all of these in TV at one time or another, just not all at the same time. 43 minutes isn't a lot of time.
gmalivuk wrote:They wouldn't need to be main characters. They wouldn't even need to be characters that show up in the majority of episodes. Just have any qualifying characters occasionally interact with each other in normal human ways.
I never said it all should be in a single episode. The entire reason they're easier bars for TV to pass than movies is because those conversations wouldn't all have to happen within a single episode.
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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby speising » Thu Jul 17, 2014 11:50 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Name one show that sticks entirely within a single social circle.

I mean, apart from the fact that unless you're exceptionally racist or sexist in your friend choices, your own social circle almost certainly has at least two women in it, at least two PoC in it, and at least two LGBT+ people in it, though the last may not be open with you about it since you seem the sort who thinks they don't exist at all, and those people almost certainly talk to each other from time to time.

this is not about me at all, and please don't speculate wildly, thank you. i know very well they exist, but in rather low numbers (3.80 % of American adults according to wikipedia, i don't know about my country) which make it quite likely to not have two LGBT+ people in one's "inner circle", by pure chance.
and when we are talking about the characters of a story, simply knowing all those people is not sufficient, they all have to be at least in passing relevant to the plot. and, again, superfluous detail is detrimental to storytelling, so unless it's important it won't get mentioned.
the fact that *you* claim there aren't that many LGBT+ people on TV only exposes *your* bias, you can't actually know the orientation of most characters, unless it is explicitly stated.

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jul 18, 2014 12:13 am UTC

speising wrote:and when we are talking about the characters of a story, simply knowing all those people is not sufficient, they all have to be at least in passing relevant to the plot.
I'm still waiting for you to tell me about that one show that sticks entirely with a single social circle.

Most shows I can think of at present include lots of side characters, so even if a single insular social group is homophobic enough that everyone presents as cishet, it's quite likely they encounter other people who don't.

Edit: Also, your post positively reeks of unexamined straight privilege. The only reason you think character sexuality has to be relevant to the plot is because you're able to ignore the sheer volume of plot-irrelevant portrayals of heterosexuality. I suspect just about every long-running TV show has numerous depictions of non-main-character couples chatting with each other or on dates or dancing or whatever. There is really no excuse for never once making any of those couples same-sex.
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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby jseah » Fri Jul 18, 2014 1:44 am UTC

peregrine_crow wrote:
jseah wrote:I am curious now. What happens if you *don't*?

Like... if I write a story where the main character is some girl who runs away from home, when nothing in the plot requires her to be a girl (ie. everything works exactly the same if she was a boy), and no female specific issues are addressed... she's just a girl because I wanted a rough gender balance in the cast or something. What reaction do you get, exactly?
Or if you write a gay character who's "status" of being gay has no impact on the plot at all?
Then it is seen as a background detail to make the character more "complex" (I probably should have had sarcastic quotes about that in my first post), fleshing out the character and giving her more personality. Being a woman is a character trait, being a man isn't.

The same thing with being gay, except that sexism is less of a hot issue than sexual-orientation-ism (is there a word for discrimination based on sexual orientation?) so you probably also get a whole bunch of strong opinions from people on the internet.

Eh, that's not very useful to me. I still have no idea what sort of reaction you are referring to. What do people say about non-plot relevant detail?
EDIT: what does "a background detail to make the character more "complex"" even mean?

And what do you mean by "character trait"? If female is a character trait, isn't male a character trait too?

morriswalters wrote:I assume everyone is white unless otherwise noted because I am. And I won't apologize for that. And I assume that PoC(how correct) do something similar. Do you see yourself in dreams as a female, or perhaps as a black male? That bias is built in. What image do you have in your mind when you read, let us say Lord of the Rings?

Ahem, asian male here. I read Lord of the Rings (and Wheel of Time and Hitchhiker's Guide... etc) and I "see" a white guy.

Although if I read manga/japanese light novels/chinese short stories the mind's eye view is asian of course. One would think it has to do with cultural cues of the writing style and character portrayal. Similarly, if I read say, Pride and Prejudice (I did), I'd think of a victorian era white society. The language kind of gives it away.

"Seeing" indian or african is probably harder though. I read Siddartha and I "saw" european/white (then again, it's written by a german).

EDIT2:
speising wrote:and when we are talking about the characters of a story, simply knowing all those people is not sufficient, they all have to be at least in passing relevant to the plot. and, again, superfluous detail is detrimental to storytelling, so unless it's important it won't get mentioned.

Cameo time! =P

Could have a random couple in a restaurant in the background be two women or something?

Also, it depends on what you mean by "superfluous". Incessant cutting of "superfluous detail" leads to a story that is purely thematically driven and fails to explore a setting or interactions between a wide cast of characters.
There's a type of story that cutting detail is good for but this is not a perfect hard and fast rule that will make a story "better". I can think of a few stories where cutting of ""superfluous"" detail would be detrimental to the wide view of the setting they have.

--> Disclaimer: the only examples I can think of right now are japanese anime/visual novels/games and only one 'western' book series, and my tastes are not quite mainstream, so perhaps I have disqualified myself. =/
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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jul 18, 2014 2:04 am UTC

jseah wrote:Although if I read manga/japanese light novels/chinese short stories the mind's eye view is asian of course.
You say "of course", and yet there's a common belief among many Americans that stereotypical manga and anime style characters are white. Sure, the author is Japanese, the artists are Japanese, the setting is (at least at times) Japanese, the names are Japanese, but if the characters aren't drawn with what Americans consider to be typical Japanese physical features, they must nevertheless be white. (There's an article about it here, which goes into some more detail on the idea of the "marked Other" in contrast to whatever a culture deems as the "default".)

Similarly, if I read say, Pride and Prejudice (I did), I'd think of a victorian era white society. The language kind of gives it away.
I don't know how much detail Austen goes into for character descriptions (though I wouldn't be surprised if the word "fair" was frequently used to describe complexions), but well-to-do Victorian-era black women did in fact exist.
Image

Of course, Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813, which was the Regency era and had somewhat different fashions.
Image

(I point this out not to argue against anything you said, so much as to expand a bit on my earlier post about how whitewashed our version of history often is.)
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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby CorruptUser » Fri Jul 18, 2014 2:11 am UTC

I just assume that the character is whatever the author is, since most of them are author avatars anyway. Discworld is weird, in that I picture most of the Ankh-Morporkians as British even though Ankh-Morpork is obviously Rome. The others are easier to see as their obvious regions; Uberwald is Eastern Europe, The Counterweight Continent China, XXXX Australia, the Witches Swiss, Chalk Scottish, one of them was Carthage/Africa and another Greece, and Egypt, and a few other places. Yugoslavia is there, somewhere. Maybe it's the names? Vetinari is Italian enough, but Sam Vimes, Lady Sybil, Fred Colon, etc, sound too British.

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jul 18, 2014 2:15 am UTC

Just picture AM as a 50s or 60s-era movie version of Rome, where all the Romans are played by British people. Problem solved.
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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby maydayp » Fri Jul 18, 2014 3:34 am UTC

I do admit that it is easier for me to picture a white face, rather then a PoC face. And that I don't usually notice the physical discription of *any* character, unless I've read the story frequently enough, and or it's pointed out as an important part of the story. But then again, I remember the "mental" part of the characters, and can usually describe them by that, or they get images assigned to them based on their personalities. (like in many of the books I read, where the characters are ageless. Yeah, there are many guys who look in their 40s or later, because of their "gruff uncle" personalities, in my mind, when they are hotties in their 20s (physically)).

But that only reinforces the media privilege, not the book-imagery privilege (at least for me, since I rarely actually form the scenes in my mind, imagery only comes into play when it's important. But that may be caused by my reading habit/speed. (paper is 1pg/min, electronic is 100pg/hr or so).). The more I read a book, the more the characters/places take shape, in accurate representation of their appearance.

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby peregrine_crow » Fri Jul 18, 2014 7:56 am UTC

jseah wrote:
peregrine_crow wrote:
jseah wrote:I am curious now. What happens if you *don't*?

Like... if I write a story where the main character is some girl who runs away from home, when nothing in the plot requires her to be a girl (ie. everything works exactly the same if she was a boy), and no female specific issues are addressed... she's just a girl because I wanted a rough gender balance in the cast or something. What reaction do you get, exactly?
Or if you write a gay character who's "status" of being gay has no impact on the plot at all?
Then it is seen as a background detail to make the character more "complex" (I probably should have had sarcastic quotes about that in my first post), fleshing out the character and giving her more personality. Being a woman is a character trait, being a man isn't.

The same thing with being gay, except that sexism is less of a hot issue than sexual-orientation-ism (is there a word for discrimination based on sexual orientation?) so you probably also get a whole bunch of strong opinions from people on the internet.

Eh, that's not very useful to me. I still have no idea what sort of reaction you are referring to. What do people say about non-plot relevant detail?
EDIT: what does "a background detail to make the character more "complex"" even mean?

And what do you mean by "character trait"? If female is a character trait, isn't male a character trait too?


Eh, I feel like I'm not making my point very clearly and that it appears that I'm defending things that I'm definitely not trying to defend. Anyway, lets give it another try:

I imagine the process of getting to know a fictional character as adding properties to a blank slate, every time a new character trait is revealed that slate becomes a little less bland and a little more complex. Some of these traits will be relevant to the story, some of them will just be there to make the character more interesting, but we notice them because they deviate from this blank slate.

The problem is that for a lot of people (if we're honest probably all people) this blank slate already has properties of its own, so adding those properties again doesn't trigger the same response. Of course it should be the case that "Character is a woman" and "Character is a man" are equally unusual (ie. not very) and thus add equally to the complexity of a character, but that isn't the case right now.

Note that this is not a reason to only write characters that have properties that conform to the blank slate, quite the opposite actually. Theoretically Hollywood writers should be tripping over themselves to make cheap "Look at this black female gay character being all interesting!" stories (which would be bad, but it would wear out pretty quickly and in the end maybe make the situation a bit better), the reason they don't is that they believe society is a lot more overtly racist/sexist/sexual-orientation-ist than it actually is.
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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby morriswalters » Fri Jul 18, 2014 8:01 am UTC

jseah wrote:Ahem, asian male here. I read Lord of the Rings (and Wheel of Time and Hitchhiker's Guide... etc) and I "see" a white guy.

Although if I read manga/japanese light novels/chinese short stories the mind's eye view is asian of course. One would think it has to do with cultural cues of the writing style and character portrayal. Similarly, if I read say, Pride and Prejudice (I did), I'd think of a victorian era white society. The language kind of gives it away.

"Seeing" indian or african is probably harder though. I read Siddartha and I "saw" european/white (then again, it's written by a german).
morriswalters wrote: Authors who target specific audiences quite often do so explicitly. It is one dimensional to assume that is racist or sexist per se. Like it or not, my life experience is different than the average black males. And it isn't just about the oppression of blacks. Although it may be a resultant. The language is subtly different, there are cultural differences, so a book targeted towards a black demographic will be different than one targeted to another demographic.
Yep.
gmalivuk wrote:You say "of course", and yet there's a common belief among many Americans that stereotypical manga and anime style characters are white. Sure, the author is Japanese, the artists are Japanese, the setting is (at least at times) Japanese, the names are Japanese, but if the characters aren't drawn with what Americans consider to be typical Japanese physical features, they must nevertheless be white. (There's an article about it here, which goes into some more detail on the idea of the "marked Other" in contrast to whatever a culture deems as the "default".)
It turns out not to be the case. Try as I might most of my friends and family don't like manga or Anime. The cuing is different and they just shake their heads. Take an example. Kiki's Delivery Service. The setting is a European or proto European society, but the cues are wrong. It's why I like it.

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby speising » Fri Jul 18, 2014 8:36 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
speising wrote:and when we are talking about the characters of a story, simply knowing all those people is not sufficient, they all have to be at least in passing relevant to the plot.
I'm still waiting for you to tell me about that one show that sticks entirely with a single social circle.

Most shows I can think of at present include lots of side characters, so even if a single insular social group is homophobic enough that everyone presents as cishet, it's quite likely they encounter other people who don't.

Edit: Also, your post positively reeks of unexamined straight privilege. The only reason you think character sexuality has to be relevant to the plot is because you're able to ignore the sheer volume of plot-irrelevant portrayals of heterosexuality. I suspect just about every long-running TV show has numerous depictions of non-main-character couples chatting with each other or on dates or dancing or whatever. There is really no excuse for never once making any of those couples same-sex.

are you seriously claiming you've never seen two men or two women chat with each other in the background in a bar scene?

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Re: Is White Dominance Exaggerated?

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jul 18, 2014 11:53 am UTC

I'm talking about dialogue we hear, and I'm talking about pairs of named characters who are portrayed as a couple.

Once again, they don't have to be major recurring characters, because the bar is set *really* low. In a crime show or monster-of-the week setting, the test could be passed by a couple in the opening scene, who end up being the victims or witnesses. In a high school setting, they could be incidental side characters whose relationships one way or the other aren't relevant to the plot.

In the latter case, I'm reminded of Harry Potter and people arguing that of course we didn't know Dumbledore's sexuality directly, because how was it relevant to the story. Ignoring for a moment the fact that it actually *was* relevant when a big part of the story included Dumbledore's own background, there were tons of other characters whose irrelevant sexuality was universally straight(-passing). Every random hookup/breakup among largely irrelevant classmates was explicitly heterosexual. If Rowling were actually interested in representation, she could have chosen any of those relationships to be between two people of the same gender, without changing the plot whatsoever.
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