Wednesday, January 29, 2014

17278--Your Inner Workings Are Showing

Sometimes fantasy and our shared reality intersect.

We're quick to tout that sort of thing when science fiction paints the blueprint for science's advances or becomes an intelligent platform for social commentary.  Usually, what we define as fantasy is composed of elements not readily or likely to be duplicated without selective changes to physics.  Those considerations are all part of the ride those adventures promise when we open the portal to other times and places.

That said, there are some things I can do without.  Political correctness is something I consider a needless corruptive influence.  I do not feel that the addition of black Vulcans to Star Trek was warranted by the lore nor a choice that improved Star Trek: Voyager.  I've never been a fan of anachronistically shoving social enlightenment into the spotlight of a medieval historical adventure, for example, just to make an excuse for throwing a female warrior into the action.  Pure fantasy, set in fictional, non-historical worlds, seems to handle that sort of thing better.  You'll find female warriors there without the baggage of a civil rights movement.  They just exist.  It's accepted and the story moves on.  Likewise, there have been female warriors and even gladiatrixes in history.  You may know about them if you went looking for them.  You may not know about them.  They didn't come with sweeping social movements.  They just were, like many of their male counterparts, and then they were gone.  The story moved along.

Tolkien's Middle Earth is supposed to be a version of Earth long ago.  Do I find it odd that all the humans are white?  Considering the world it's supposed to be, yes.  Considering the source of the fiction, I do not.  Has the homogenized view affected my enjoyment of the work or its adaptations?  No.  Skin color and cultural representations aren't big factors in Tolkien's work and not weighing upon the mind of the audience.  I will never petition for any kind of multi-ethnic representation in such work.  It'd be ridiculous.  If you want a melting pot, there's always Conan and Howard's Hyborean Age.  If you want an un-melting pot, check out Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, and watch as a series whose overarching storylines heavily involve genetic engineering gradually winnow diversity into a monochromatic central cast.  In the least subtle maneuvers of the show, the mysterious and purple Trance Gemini was not only rendered tailless, but tags out of the show to swap places with a white, future version of herself.  Maybe the make-up was irritating, but odd storywise.

Conversely, I find it a little bothersome that most of the non-white humans in the very popular products of Georges Lucas and Martin seem to be tied into slavery.  For Lucas, it's hidden under stormtrooper helmets, but all those clones of Jango Fett constitute a slave race that was created to fight a war.  For Martin, it's the Unsullied, a similarly dehumanized group of slave warriors.  Maybe it's important to their storylines that these groups be slaves, but is it also necessary that the otherwise barely represented non-white humans be slaves?  Is it a subtle racism.  Is it overt?  Is it something I'd rather not have leaking into fantasy?  There's enough here and certainly not something I went looking for in escapist fare.  Such choices would seem to be rather like a poker tell.  Or a big neon sign, flashing, "Look at how I see things!"

I suppose what got me started on this was a video game.  It was an otherwise ordinary one, fantasy world with real-time resource management that's become very popular.  Not much different from StarCraft, really, except that instead of humans and aliens, it gives humans and dwarves, elves, orcs and dark elves.  Whichever group you're running as the storyline proceeds, you send workers to gather resources.  In StarCraft, it's drones.  In this game, they're workers.  Oh, unless you're using dark elves.  Dark elf workers are labeled as slaves.  *sigh*  Seriously?  I was having a perfectly fine writing break, playing a little fantasy game, then you had to make me ask, "Why are the dark elf workers slaves?"  I know, some of you may not understand, but it just messes up the game for me by being jarred with the "Racism's still alive" hammer.

There are a lot of crayons in the box.  When the devil creeps into specific details, it says a lot about the artist.  Remember Aladdin?  Not the derivative versions, but the original.  In the Tales of the Arabian Nights, he was Chinese.  Why?  Because his tale was set in China.  The story goes out of its way, though, to make mention that there are also "evil Jews" at the marketplace.  Was that important to the story?  No, neither then nor now.  Hmmm...sounds like some cultural bias.

It ends up acting like a toxic spill, making me wonder about subtle racism in other places.  I see previews for CW's upcoming "Star-crossed" show, for example, and I notice that their idea of aliens is white kids with tattoos.  They're going to have to do more than that to give them a hard time fitting in, I figure.  A kid from the Middle East would have a harder time dating in America's middle class gene pool.

These are things that usually don't trouble my mind or cloud my writing.  I'm not a fan of hatred or stupidity.  Racism certainly isn't my "go to" when I look for motivators.  Greed, lust, envy...the classics are the ones I start with.  Racism is pretty low on my list and has to be rather visible before I make the accusation.  Just ask any of my friends and acquaintances.  Most of them are human.  They may feel differently about all this stuff than I, but that's OK.  They're friends, not clones.  Everybody's taste buds are a little different, so are the ways in which one's mind receives words and pictures and ideas.  That's what being subjective is about.

Every creation, yours or someone else's, may teach you something about yourself.

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