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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Racial Politics of Regressive Storytelling

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 Posted by Unknown , , 1 comment
The Racial Politics of Regressive Storytelling is one of the best articles that I have read that merges my two academic interests: cultural studies and comic books.

Please read it, but if you can't read the whole thing at least read the following excerpt:

"Which is one of the things that's so galling about the regression from Ryan Choi to Ray Palmer. It's been a running gag among my friends that in comics, only white Americans ever find meteors, get splashed with chemicals or get visited by spacemen, everyone else (from Jack O'Lantern to Black Bison to the Gaucho to Apache Chief to Samurai and so on) has to have a power that relates to their race or their country -- specifically, the broad stereotypes drawn from white Americans' perception of their race or country. It's almost inescapable, and it reinforces the idea that non-white characters are defined solely by their ethnic differences.

But Ryan Choi was a character that actually had a character, and was one of the few Chinese-American characters in comics that didn't have powers relating to Kung Fu dragons. He was just a guy with super-powers that was filling a role that nobody had bothered to do anything with in years. "


NameDoesntMatterAndNeverWill said...

As succinctly as I can, I will try to explain why ethnic superheroes are so poorly represented in comics:
(1) RESISTANCE TO CHANGE. This is the foremost reason for regressive storytelling. People who believe X is X aren't always so accommodating when others come along claiming that A is now X.
(2) LIMITED CULTURAL KNOWLEDGE. Writers don't want to write the unfamiliar any more than readers want to see the familiar bastardized.
(3) DISINGENUOUS DIVERSITY aka DIVERSITY FOR DIVERSITY'S SAKE. So much could be said about this one alone. Basically, any attempt to force a minority character onto readers without proper transition, proper characterization, proper visibility and proper 'time' to establish a visible/vocal fanbase. Not only will these characters be hated, they will be doomed to fail. 75-90% of Marvel and DC's recent attempts at diversity fall into this category.
(4) THE 'WHITE PEOPLE ARE UNDER ATTACK' MYTH. As if making a few WASP characters an ethnic/religious/sexual minority means that White people run the risk of becoming minorities themselves.

Now I will try to explain why ethnic superheroes need better representation in comics:
(1) WE LIVE IN A MULTICULTURAL WORLD. White kids have Black friends, Asian friends, homosexual friends. Some of their coworkers are Muslim. Some of their bosses are women. And some of them... are pretty cool. Some of them would like to at least see some semblance of that reality represented in fantasy.
(2) PROGRESSIVENESS. The WASP perspective is so assumed and dominant that simply being anything else is more interesting by default.

* Before I end I would just like to add this last point:
Regardless of whether an ethnic superhero is an original or a so-called affirmative-action legacy, what matters is the FANBASE. Even Bruce LeRoy could replace Bruce Wayne as Batman if he was written well enough, visible enough, and was given the ‘time’ to establish an equivalent fanbase.