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July 23 2008

I Was Reading On The Train, So I Couldnít Throw the Book. Criticism for Buffy Season 8's treatment of race by Girl Wonder blogger.

I am a tall guy, and I am outraged that when a heightened character finally made it into the main cast (Riley) he's then jettisoned after becoming a junkie! OUTRAGEOUS!

Or the other thing.

[ edited by Andy Dufresne on 2008-07-23 13:13 ]
Considering there isn't exactly a dearth of tall characters on TV in comics, I'd say you've missed the point there Andy.
OK, but if the Scottish Slayer dies i'm gettin' right up in Whedon's grill, yo ! ;-)

I can actually see the point to some extent. Even if you assume it's purest colour-blindness on the creators' part (which i'm happy, nay keen to do) the fact is there're hellish few representations of non-whites in the main cast of characters and it's always nice to see yourself in the mix (going back to my example, I did have a little "cool" moment when Leah's "accent" became apparent). Course, it's also totally fair to say that non-white characters shouldn't be immune to the same story dynamics that Joss uses constantly for everyone.
You know ever since blogging went mainsteam, articles like these have become more and more common. They're not very good, it's the sort thing I would find on my LJ flist and would never dream of posting here. Where are the eloquent and cultured anti-fans of yesteryear? I totally disagreed with them but at least I knew I would be reading something worth while.
TheDivineGoat - Um. You got that I was being sarcastic right? This article is not very well written but I did still get the point. It wasn't built for complexity.
I disagree. This blogger is very eloquent and intelligent and her comments on the treatment of gender and race in comics and pop culture in general is always thought provoking. Just because it applies to one of my favorite pieces of pop culture doesn't mean I should accuse it of being poorly written and ignore the issues raised.

I love Buffy, but I have always struggled with its treatment of race. I think it's time the fans discuss this issue seriously.
Saje characters of colour, shouldn't be immune, but if you want to be [seen as] someone who cares about this sort of thing, then you do have take into account the wider context, and acknowledge that a plot involving a CoC is going to have completely different emotional baggage to the same plot involving a white character.
Sorry Andy. There should be a punctuation mark for sarcasm. (TM Neil Gaiman)
I love Buffy, but I have always struggled with its treatment of race. I think it's time the fans discuss this issue seriously.


Says the guy named Buffy the Slayer Layer ;). This issue has been discussed here quite seriously in the past and will be again, I'm sure. Is the blogger a friend of yours? Honestly I thought it was written okay (not great, but okay), but didn't really get into the depth that I would expect of something to really get us going on a topic. Honestly, its a little short on actual content for a front page post.
Nope, not a friend--I live in Canada, she lives in Australia and I have never met her nor do I ever talk to her on the internet. I am a huge fan of comic books and, though not an activist, a supporter of feminism and have feminist sensibilities. I love her blog for that reason.

My handle may not be the most serious one, but I think Buffy itself proved that that shouldn't be a problem.
My handle may not be the most serious one


Nor was my comment :)
Saje characters of colour, shouldn't be immune, but if you want to be [seen as] someone who cares about this sort of thing, then you do have take into account the wider context, and acknowledge that a plot involving a CoC is going to have completely different emotional baggage to the same plot involving a white character.

And it's entirely possible Joss/Drew did this and then carried on regardless (because it was best for the story rather than the fans). What's 'CoC' BTW ?

ETA: S'OK, "Character of Colour", right ? Was being dense ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2008-07-23 14:13 ]
Also not a friend of the blogger or a reader of her blog but I thought that despite the provocative title the post was an admirably balanced and concise presentation of the issue. Her main complaint wasnít that Renee was killed but that her death (and Satsuís promotion) leaves Kennedy the only non-white character weíre likely to see interacting with the core group and that would be a shame given how much better the comics have been at representing diversity than the show was.
Yep.

(Yep, you were right, not yep, you were being dense).
How does one expect to be taken seriously about a piece on race when using "Whitey McWhitersons"?

How does one expect people to trust the judgment of a person who claims something is awful, yet they read a full 15 issues and can't wait for the next?
"I donít criticize this comic because itís irredeemably awful" + "By the end of issue #15"

Not refuting the point of view, perhaps it merits some attention. However, the presentation alone of this argument gives the impression that the writer, not the subject, wants the attention.
"I donít criticize this comic because itís irredeemably awful"
I believe she meant by this that the comic is not irredeemably awful. (Which is why she has read 15 issues.)
Err, "I donít criticize this comic because itís irredeemably awful; Iím annoyed because it was going so well." ? Seems to render the second question meaningless.

The first one is relevant to several criticisms i've seen of blog posts and makes me think people don't really grok what a blog post is. It's not a polished article for sale to a magazine, it's not an essay in a book or academic quarterly, it's basically someone's opinion and so is often going to be peppered with manners of speech, attempts at jokes etc. Blog posts where the author generally responds in comments (as this one does) I see as more like a conversation down the pub - one person states their position and then everyone else agrees or disagrees as they see fit.

ETA: (Yep, you were right, not yep, you were being dense).

It's OK, i'll take the twofer ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2008-07-23 14:25 ]
I posted a response on the message board that refutes her comments, to a degree. I encourage anyone interested to sign up and join in the debate.

Here's what I said:

"A female CoC is killed in the comic. Sure, another woman in the fridge, but would you rather that CoC's not be killed at all? That would be a serious imbalance in itself, considering the large number of white characters killed in the series thus far.

I do, however, recognize the lack of diversity in the show--I've been a fan since it first aired, essentially grew up with it and wrote my undergrad dissertation on the postmodern feminist implications of the TV series--but as a previous comment points out, the narrative itself recognizes this lack of diversity. Perhaps there are layers beyond this lack of diversity that can be interpreted as a comment on race rather than an ignorant exclusion?

Also, in regards to Satsu, I hardly think she has left the cast. She's a new character and though she may be leaving the core narrative for some time, I'm sure that Whedon has future plans for her in Season 8. Anyways, Satsu--a female CoC--rises to the top of a powerful militia group of female superheroes and that is hardly ignoble. I think we should be celebrating that the comic book is doing this, while also recognizing that there is room for improvement, not saying 'let's throw this book at the wall because it's racist crap.'"
The writer has stated in the discussion thread that the use of "Whitey McWhiterson" is an attempt to mimic the speech of the series--which maintains credibility in regards to serious commentary on a variety of issues, despite it's use of silly manners of speech.
JadeHand, what she says is: "I donít criticize this comic because itís irredeemably awful; Iím annoyed because it was going so well." She's enjoying the comic and has high hopes for it, which is why she was dissapointed that there's only one character of color left.

As for the "Whitey McWhitersons" comment, Karen almost always uses humor in her blog as a way of getting across her point. Being fans of Joss Whedon, you'd think most of us would be used to that. Also, she's white, so I doubt she meant it in a negative manner.
Because you can still enjoy things that fail to live up to your principles, JadeHand.

I thoroughly enjoyed Doctor Horrible, but felt it was very problematic from a feminist standpoint.

I love Doctor Who, but acknowledge it has very dodgy issues when it comes to racism and sexism.

So I can fully get behind the fact the writer of this article, loves the comics, has thoroughly enjoyed them, and still wishes that they'd done a better job on the ethnic diversity.

(And what's wrong with that phrase? It's not offensive in any manner...)
Sorry when i am missing the point here but:

Was there a discussion that the Cosby-Show had to few white characters?
Did anyone mention that the Sopranos had too many italians??

I know that racism is still an issue in this world but the buffyverse is the last to be blamed of. Yes, the non-white characters never got VERY big roles but for example to tell it with the slayer-legacy:
We know of Nikki Wood which was afro-american and we had an asian slayer who was killed by Spike. In the comic where the slayer-history is told we see that there had been slayers from very different origins. And all these former slayers are a part of Buffy's power. So Buffy's slayer-strength is truly multi-ethnical.

What else can you ask for?

By the way,
Buffy had also always a lack of guys. Remember Xander's quote: "I miss Oz! He would have understand!" Did anyone discuss about this??? ;-)
My kingdom for something well-written about race and gender on tv that mentions Whedon shows and covers the topic well.
How does one expect to be taken seriously about a piece on race when using "Whitey McWhitersons"?


Yeah, everyone knows its Whiteley McWhiterton ;).
Poor old Xander. The only man in the history of TV not to have a man to talk to.

Buffy had plenty of guys. It's just that we get so used to seeing men on screen that when we see a lot of women we get the idea that it is imbalanced.
mmm cookies, perfect point. I'm disgusted whenever a person shows even the smallest hint or racism, or intolerance of any kind. Everyone is equal in my eyes. I love having friends from as many cultures as possible.

But complaining that the show and comics don't have sufficient people of color? It seems a bit unfair. For example, when I have lunch at the cafeteria, I can't help but notice that different ethnic groups tend to stay together. It's by no means a bad thing, it's just an observation. So why is so strange when white people get together, too? Again, I stress that diversity is very important to me, but I also think one should not be too shocked when it doesn't happen.

And as mmm cookies has stated, Buffy's strength comes from so many different backgrounds...
mmm cookies Despite the fact that the white male can rest his gaze nearly anywhere in the media and see himself reflected, I'm there was complaint about those two shows.

And no, the Buffyverse is not the last place that should be accused of racism. On the few occasions that they feature a CoC there's a good chance that CoC will be a stereotype.

We can, (and should) ask for a lot more.
I don't think this is badly written, it is just short and to the point.

The problem with BtVS will always be that the show started with a core white cast. That means the core group, who have not changed, will be white and the characters around them, whether white or otherwise, will come and go. It looks like they will have more people of color than the series did, but it will also mean people of color will continue to get killed or go away for other reasons so the core group's story can be told. Principal Wood is still out there and now Satsu is out there. They both will probably play more of a part at some point.
But complaining that the show and comics don't have sufficient people of color? It seems a bit unfair. For example, when I have lunch at the cafeteria, I can't help but notice that different ethnic groups tend to stay together.

I think it might be worth asking yourself why "different ethnic groups tend to stay together".
And again...

What's wrong with proportional representation of white people in media that's made in predominantly white countries? To look at it from another perspective, when I'm watching Bollywood films I don't cry foul that there are too many Indians and not enough (in fact, in most cases no) white people. It would seem absurd to call this racism.

[ edited by MattK on 2008-07-23 14:57 ]
OK, so what proportion of the American population is non-white ? And now what proportion of the Buffy characters are non-white ? Or even non-WASP ?

There're a lot of ways to defend the balance but that's not one of them.
I think it might be worth asking yourself why "different ethnic groups tend to stay together".


I didn't say that the problem of racism is not around anymore. It is, and that's tragic, and it definitely plays a part in why people stay together. But I also think at least a part of it has to do with the feeling of familiarity. newcj said it much better than me, but that was sort of what I was aiming for as well. I sincerely hope that one day the issue of intolerance will disappear completely.
Valentyn Because you are in a position of privilege. Because you can afford to be colourblind. Because you are the majority. Because it doesn't affect you apart from to be made uncomfortable when it's pointed out that you are benefiting (however unconsciously) from a broken system.

I am white, but when I've read, over and over again PoCs saying. "This affects me. It hurts me that media refuses to acknowledge I exist, except for in tired stereotypes." I believe them there's a problem, rather than thinking because I'm OK there can't be a problem. This community is a fantastic resource to learning more.

So yes, when multiple PoCs say they have a problem with racism in Buffy, I think that maybe they are more likely to notice it than I, not that they are wrong.
That was a response to your previous comment, not your last one.
But I also think at least a part of it has to do with the feeling of familiarity.

Bingo. I.e. people aren't necessarily as familiar with minorities (partly) because they don't see them represented positively in mainstream media.

Showing folk that we're all just folk underneath is one of the ways to help ensure "the issue of intolerance will disappear completely".
About three-quarters. Going proportionally, you might expect 1 in 10 people to be black. You'd also expect 1 in 20 to be Asian.

I'm open to hear why this isn't a way to defend balance, what I've just posted is just public musings, it's not something I have any firm opinions on because it's not something I know enough about.
TheDivineGoat, that is a good point.
But even look at a large town like Sunnyvale, population 100,000 +. This is their racial breakdown according to city-data.com.

# White Non-Hispanic (46.5%)
# Hispanic (15.5%)
# Asian Indian (10.0%)
# Chinese (9.6%)

That's only the top four, and even from a large town we can see that almost half of the population is white. Sunnydale was conceived to be a small town, to be a "one-Starbucks town" as Xander described it.

Okay, let's look a town that might be closer to Sunnydale size. Jamul, California has a population nearing 6,000. This is their breakdown:

# White Non-Hispanic (77.7%)
# Hispanic (13.8%)
# Two or more races (4.2%)

Similarly, Firebaugh, California has an almost entirely Hispanic population. So is Calexico, California, which has a 95% Hispanic population, with an overall population of near 28,000.

Even a town in the mid-range, in the 14,000 to 18,000 population range, can be very one-race.

Here's the breakdown for Alamo, Ca. population 15,626.

# White Non-Hispanic (87.3%)
# Hispanic (3.9%)
# Chinese (3.2%)
# Two or more races (2.2%)

And for Baldwin Park, Ca. population almost 80,000.

# Hispanic (78.7%)
# Other race (40.5%)
# White Non-Hispanic (7.3%)
# Two or more races (4.5%)

Isn't it possible that Sunnydale is more like Jamul and that by saying "why aren't there people of ALL races here?" we're missing the point, which is that many small towns do lack ethnic diversity, just like even bigger towns like Baldwin Park can be 78% of one race.

There are smaller towns with 97% of one ethnicity. There's nothing wrong with that. Maybe Sunnydale is just representative of one of those towns.

As an aside, since most Chinese restaurants in this country are owned and operated by native Chinese people, chances are there ARE Asian people in Sunnydale.

Even lack of ethnic diversity can yield many truths about culture. We don't all have to be different to bring value experience to the table.

I've used examples of non-diversity, but there are just as many towns which much, much more diversity.
Guys, mentioning Cosby and the Sopranos was ironic!!!

I love the Cosby-Show and i actually never saw the Sopranos. It was just the point that it doesn't HAVE to mean that the show is racistic just because there is an ethnic group which is more featured than other ones.

You could also talk about: Darn, Dances With Wolves, native americans everywhere!!! (again, IRONIC!!!)

Let's say that the cast of Buffy had some kind of 15 main charakters. And now count all the different ethnic groups. And we have Jews, lone-raising moms (not really an ethnic group but still not the happy-family-soap-crap!), afro-americans, asians, gays, even native-americans (remember the chumash) und i think i have still forgotten someone.

I see the problem but i really don't think Buffy is a part of it.
I'm open to hear why this isn't a way to defend balance ...

Not 'balance' but 'the balance' MattK (i.e. the one on the show). And the reason is, fewer than a quarter of the main cast are non-white (or arguably, even non-WASP). I.e. it's actually a counter-point to your position. If the cast was balanced by proportion, there'd be at least one non-white main cast member.

There are smaller towns with 97% of one ethnicity. There's nothing wrong with that. Maybe Sunnydale is just representative of one of those towns.

And that's one reasonable (textual) explanation IMO. Different places have different proportions and there's always a tension between truthfully representing a typical small, suburban town in America and representing the entire country's population or "fixing" the cast to reflect a political opinion.
You know, there are places in the south in which white people and black people are just starting to work out their differences. 100 some years later, through civil rights and all, still JUST sitting down at the table. Isn't that more of a problem (that they waited so long, not that they are talking) that impacts the real world? Buffy can be a great teaching tool, but it's up to us to help make sure the real-world examples are there too.

[ edited by CaffeinatedSquint on 2008-07-23 15:17 ]
And i forgot, talking about stereotypes: Riley the straight-up country-boy from iowa?! Giles, the VERY british librarian?! Xander the beat-me-nerd?!

Tell me the white characters are not stereotyped.
They started out that way but then had time to become rounded.
CaffienatedSquint, I am officially accusing you of overlooking the high population of demons and others of non-human descent. ;)

I've always thought that, considering the way that demons tend to stand in for minorities--including people of different sexualities and races--that Sunnydale as a microcosm is a way to approach and comment the treatment of sexuality/race in society in general.
Err, as subhuman you mean, even, largely by the heroes of the piece ?
Forgive my ignorance, but this is the first time I've heard the abbreviation WASP. The Internet tells me it stands for "White and Anglo-Saxon Protestant." What's this meant to mean? I'm assuming it doesn't mean "Protestant" in the literal sense, because you can hardly tell someone's religion from their appearance. Does it just mean white people of English descent? But I'm not entirely sure how you'd be able to tell that either.
CaffeinatedSquint Why does pointing out racist issues with Buffy preclude a person from fighting real world racism? (Not that I think they can be so easily separated, one reinforces the other).
Saje, remember that episode where Buffy realizes that her own discomfort at Willow's homosexuality is equivalent to Riley's bigotry about demons and how he colours them all with the same brush?

That's what I'm talking about.
Were there any Native Americans in Buffy? The closest I recall was the Mummy in 2.4 Inca Mummy Girl. Are there any overweight slayers? For all the reports saying the majority of the population is overweight, not seeing them equally represented in any media. When they are present, they tend to be the butt of a 'fat joke'. Not always, "tend to be".
Valentyn - I agree with the plaintiffs: The show and comics don't have enough persons of color and I feel that the complaint is valid on numerous levels. With a work of fiction, it would be simple to write (or just to cast) with more diversity. Also, Buffy & Angel are both set in a very ethnically diverse part of the country, so the lack of diversity is unrealistic.

Yes, self-segregation occurs in real life, but self-segregation isn't what we're talking about, as it isn't depicted either. In fact, for it to be depicted, we would have to have enough persons of varying ethnicity TO seperate themselves. Furthermore, if self-segregation HAD been the topic, it could easily be interpreted as a symptom of the disease of racism.

When one creates an artificial world that one can choose to people however one wishes, and one fails to provide diversity either by intent or by oversight, one perpetuates racism. Does that mean that one is racist? No. But in a story about empowering the "other" it is a glaring fault to exclude minorities.

To those who've noted that Buffy's strength comes from many ethnicities, that's a very weak argument given the housing of that strength.

And to make comparisons with the Cosby Show or the Sopranos is just disingenuous. Both shows focus on families. Actual blood-relatives tend to be ethnically similar. Furthermore, neither of these shows touted themes of equality & acceptance in the same manner as Whedon's.

Okay. Enough with the rambly.
MattK, you've found the correct meaning. In essence, it does mean Protestant in the literal sense, but I think nowadays it's used more to describe someone's background. I imagine the stereotypical white American when I hear the word. Then again, I'm not American, so I might be misinterpreting it. I think it's a tricky word to use because, as you've said, it's hard to tell such things from appearance only.
You know, there are places in the south in which white people and black people are just starting to work out their differences. 100 some years later, through civil rights and all, still JUST sitting down at the table. Isn't that more of a problem (that they waited so long, not that they are talking) that impacts the real world? Buffy can be a great teaching tool, but it's up to us to help make sure the real-world examples are there too.


You know, I really agree with this. The last time I made the point that what happens in the real world is much more important than this, I was damn near crucified (perhaps I deserved that). I just see all this anger, and wonder what would happen if people generally diverted this energy into other things. On this note though, I keep reading articles on how there are far more black people in prison in America than you'd expect looking at demographics alone. This either means there's a badly prejudiced justice system or that there're some deeper, more pervasive problems (probably a combination of both). Either way it's worrying.
JadeHand:
The ghost of the chumash-tribe Season 4 -> native american.
And in Season 7 when all the slayers get their power there is this very overweight girl.
And again overweight: Have you compared Season 1 Xander with Season 7 Xander? ;-)

[ edited by mmm cookies on 2008-07-23 15:32 ]
Good point, mmm cookies. Further to the Xander point, his becoming overweight is specifically acknowledged within the narrative. In Season 8, Xander says to Renee, that back in the day people gave up and got overweight--something to that extent (don't have my copy at the moment).

There was a reason he was eating all those chips in Season 5 and 6 other than wedding jitters!!
I will say, however, that SMG and Ally Hannigan are frighteningly thin in the final seasons of the show.
JadeHand:
"Were there any Native Americans in Buffy?"

Speaking of irony, and on the proportional representation note (assuming this is valid), Native Americans now make up less than one percentage point of America.

"Are there any overweight slayers? For all the reports saying the majority of the population is overweight, not seeing them equally represented in any media. When they are present, they tend to be the butt of a 'fat joke'. Not always, "tend to be"."

And in a purely pragmatic sense, I don't think it's surprising we don't see any overweight slayers, I don't think they'd last long. :)
You're right that overweight people are under represented in the media, but I don't really see anything wrong with this. It is unhealthy to be overweight, and it might now be endemic in a lot of the Western world but that doesn't mean it should be encouraged. It's also not nice from an aesthetic sense (at least at the moment, tastes change), and Hollywood is something that most definitely does care about aesthetics, in all its forms (fashion being the most obvious I suppose).

And thank you Valentyn for the info.

[ edited by MattK on 2008-07-23 15:37 ]
so there was 1. And there was 1. And they weren't stuck in their stereotype and were around for many episodes?
MattK I say again - Why does pointing out racist issues with Buffy preclude a person from fighting real world racism? (Not that I think they can be so easily separated, one reinforces the other).

If I were a PoC reading your comment I'd feel pretty patronised and insulted. If only they'd stop feeling justified anger over their portrayal in the media and diverted their energy in to other outlets, well they could have improved their lot all ready.

Which totally misses the point that it's those who control the media who need to change, those with the (most typically) white male privilege.

Unless you're saying that PoC's need to just shut up and accept the status quo.
the status is NOT quo!
You know, I really agree with this. The last time I made the point that what happens in the real world is much more important than this, I was damn near crucified (perhaps I deserved that). I just see all this anger, and wonder what would happen if people generally diverted this energy into other things.

I don't have much sympathy for the "there're bigger things to worry about" argument for the same reasons given in the other thread, if it's still not obvious why I dunno how else to explain it beyond "big clouds condense around small particles" and it doesn't take much energy (or anger, certainly on my part ;) to post on the internet.

The similar argument of "But look at the other bad stuff !" is also specious. This is like pointing to knife crime and claiming people should therefore shut-up about gun crime.

What's this meant to mean? I'm assuming it doesn't mean "Protestant" in the literal sense, because you can hardly tell someone's religion from their appearance. Does it just mean white people of English descent? But I'm not entirely sure how you'd be able to tell that either.

Yeah strictly it means White Anglo-Saxon Protestant but it's probably slightly broader than that in common usage and maybe means more like "white, nordic, privileged".

And how to tell ? Re: the cast, Hannigan (Irish), Head (English), Gellar (German/Dutch/Jewish), Brendon (Cornish/English). And then there's general appearance (pale/fair complexion etc.). Re: the characters, Giles (English), Summers (English/Western European), Harris (English), Rosenberg (German/Jewish). The appearance thing applies (arguably even more since Willow's a redhead ;). Can you "tell by looking" ? Nope, that's partly why I hedged slightly every time I used the expression. I probably look fairly WASP-ish myself but i'm not Anglo-Saxon for instance (i'm not a practicing Proddy either but was christened so I guess technically ...).

ETA: sense ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2008-07-23 15:40 ]
It's also not nice from an aesthetic sense (at least at the moment, tastes change), and Hollywood is something that most definitely does care about aesthetics, in all its forms (fashion being the most obvious I suppose).
And people are dying from eating disorders because of this way of thinking. Glad that's okay.
I don't believe that's what MattK was saying at all, far from it. The way I understood it is that the most important changes are the one made in the world we actually live in. That doesn't mean problems within the fictional worlds are insignificant, but just that everyone has to actually live in our own world. We should make this world, our world, comfortable for everyone.
I'm not saying it's WRONG or unimportant to discuss race issues in Buffy (heck, I love these discussions), and I'm not using the "there are bigger fish to fry" argument either. I'm basically saying that like the woman who was teaching her child to learn gender equality through Buffy, we are responsible for making sure that the real-world that our children (figuratively, I don't have any children) enter into reinforces what we teach them, which is the light and the dark of things. This includes teaching the fact that yes, there are areas that are still segregated (willingly) but there is hope for them to reconcile and discuss their problems.

And using Buffy in similar context, like "These two have never gotten along, but now they're fighting together because there's a bigger problem that threatens both of them" is one of the many ways to use Buffy as a teaching tool.

I think instead of
"Isn't that more of a problem (that they waited so long, not that they are talking) that impacts the real world? Buffy can be a great teaching tool, but it's up to us to help make sure the real-world examples are there too"
I should've made it a statement, because I wasn't meaning it to be a challenge to this discussion, like "This is unimportant because real-world issues are so much more important" while I think real world issues are vital, I didn't mean that that this discussion here is unimportant.

[ edited by CaffeinatedSquint on 2008-07-23 15:46 ]
"Why does pointing out racist issues with Buffy preclude a person from fighting real world racism? (Not that I think they can be so easily separated, one reinforces the other)."

It doesn't. And I'm not against discussion really either. It's more that I think some (emphasis on some) people spend too much time attacking the easy targets, when they could be out there tackling the more difficult ones. Just an impression I get, that's all.

I see this most of all with politics, there are huge communities on the Internet where they spend a great deal of time whinging about the Constitution not being upheld. Some of them go out and actively campaign, or donate to politicians who support them, but many of them just let off steam on message boards just so that they can live comfortably without feeling guilty for not trying to actually do something to encourage change. Again, just an impression I get, and I could well be wrong, but that's the reason for my attitude about this. I suppose I've just become a bit jaded with all this talk of change and no actual change.

Anyway, I do apologise if I offended people, because Whedonesque isn't really guilty of this, I shouldn't let my experiences in other corners of the Internet colour my posts here. On this note I have to leave anyway, so I won't be able to contribute to the thread for a while, but I'll be back later no doubt.


ETA: JadeHand
"And people are dying from eating disorders because of this way of thinking. Glad that's okay."
Eating disorders aren't okay, but I don't think obesity is either. Tackling the one by promoting the other probably isn't a good idea.

[ edited by MattK on 2008-07-23 15:54 ]
I don't believe that's what MattK was saying at all, far from it. The way I understood it is that the most important changes are the one made in the world we actually live in. That doesn't mean problems within the fictional worlds are insignificant, but just that everyone has to actually live in our own world. We should make this world, our world, comfortable for everyone.

Is that to me Valentyn ? MattK himself made a reference I assumed was to the recent feminism thread where that's pretty much exactly what he meant/said.

The media and portrayals of minorities in it are in the real world and, as others have said, are part of the problem. 50 years ago a black person couldn't see themselves represented anywhere in a positive light, that changed, so did the world, the two are most definitely related. Change is happening, doesn't mean it'll happen by itself. Pointing out deficiencies in media portrayals is one (minor) way of helping spread awareness and therefore affecting change.
I didn't mean Buffy turned into a 500 Nations kind of show. But at least they worked the whole native-american vs. european conquerors, guilt, revenge and so on out very well, though only in this one episode. But they covered a great variety of opinions to this topic which is something!
And so they did with several issues.

The argument here is that they didn't mention issue xy. All the other brought up problems doesn't count?
No, the argument here is that the show may be perpetuating issue xy by the under-representation of non-whites. All the other brought up problems count plenty but so what ? My point is, a problem shouldn't be ignored or trivialised because other problems exist.
Saje, I meant it in response to TheDivineGoat's Unless you're saying that PoC's need to just shut up and accept the status quo. Sorry for not clarifying.

Any stride towards bringing change is welcome. Naturally it won't happen on its own, and there probably won't be a major event that can change opinion. Like many other things, it's a slow process. And perhaps affecting media portrayals isn't even so minor... The generations to come will be greatly affected by media (especially with the Internet becoming such a huge force), and if the media becomes accepting, then it can play an important role in the education.

Just this thread on its own is wonderful. While some of us disagree on some points, we all want this change to happen. I think that's beautiful. I'm grateful for Whedonesque and its fans who are willing to contribute to discussions on tricky topics!

[ edited by Valentyn on 2008-07-23 16:01 ]
I'm just curious. Are any of you Black or Southern or overweight or members of any of the groups that are being "generalized" or stereotyped in some of these posts? Are any of you sociologists or anthropologists? I'm not being snippy; I truly AM curious. I am a fat Black Southerner who is a sociologist by training and an attorney by trade. I find some of these remarks offensive only because I realize that some people are generalizing.

I read the article. There are several issues I had with it, but many of you have already expressed my concerns with the author's generalizations. No one has been able to eloquently express the dearth of characters of color on Buffy better than Mr. Trick. That was enough for me. I watched Buffy from day one and encouraged my family and friends to watch the show. Sure, the vast majority of people were White, but paraphrasing one of the posters, "Like tends to cling to like." And that's fine with me. I would have thought the show disingenious if the core group of characters were a fair representation of the Rainbow Coalition. Can't we just give a writer his/her artistic license without analyzing every step (or misstep)? Besides, Mr. Trick gave us more than adequate commentary on the racial composition of Sunnydale. (That Mayberry comment always has me rolling on the floor laughing out loud.)
Can't we just give a writer his/her artistic license without analyzing every step (or misstep)?

You must be new here ;-).

Saje, remember that episode where Buffy realizes that her own discomfort at Willow's homosexuality is equivalent to Riley's bigotry about demons and how he colours them all with the same brush?

That's what I'm talking about.


Oops, missed this in the kerfuffle ;). I get what you mean now Buffy the Slayer Layer though if the demons do represent minorities I still think the overriding message is, some of them should be allowed to exist but only, strictly, as Buffy allows. It's definitely not a positive representation but I could see how it might work as a sort of implied meta-textual self-criticism of the show.
I love Joss' work more than any other fiction, but I'm glad fans have pushed him to think about his portrayals of people of color. I'm glad that Robin Wood & Satsu are now part of the Buffyverse, and that the cast of Dollhouse is more diverse.
I have seen articles about racism/sexism in Buffy that seemed like serious over-reactions/misinterpretations, but this little blog entry doesn't strike me that way so much.
I don't believe Joss and Co. are racist at all. I believe they're writing what they know and what they want to show. Which is a color blindness of a sort. I came across an article on Jstor once about how Buffy's lack of diversity and how Buffy herself, in all her "stereotypical whiteness" is unique in the slayer line. Most of the past slayers we've witnessed have been Other in some sense. Even Faith fails to live up to the standard of whiteness that Buffy's pre-Slayer life implies. I might also say that Fray, Whedon's future slayer, is an example of an ethnically ambiguous slayer if not outright a slayer of color.

Following down that line, when Whedon HAS written characters of color (Nicki Wood, Robin Wood, Zoe, Kennedy, GUNN, etc.) He's written them well. Even Kendra, a stereotypical character in some ways, was a well written character who broke expectations.

I don't think anyone is calling Buffy or her creators RACIST, I think they're just desperate for that amazing writing to more completely involve characters of color.

also, there's a whole matter of character identification. RObert A. Heinlein (the GRANDMASTER of sci-fi) would write these first person narratives with amazing characters and only towards the end would he reveal that said character was not your typical white hero/heroine. His treatment of race was fascinating.

[ edited by medea culpa on 2008-07-23 16:14 ]
Saje:
What would have been, if the cast had more non-white charakters but no gays or no jews or no people with red hair? Would that hve brought up such a discussion?
So let's forget gays, jews, and all the others just as long as the cast is multi-ethnic? I don't think that's a good argument.


What i mean is: Well the scoobies are kind of pale which could have been better but the seasons handle issues in a dimension i haven't senn in other shows. And i honor that!

[ edited by mmm cookies on 2008-07-23 16:11 ]
I really didn't have time to read all the posts up to now so I apologize if I'm retreading...

I can understand people wanting to see characters that represent themselves as this makes the story more exciting and maybe immerses the reader a little more. At least I assume that, you see, I'm Whitey McWhiterson. (I found that phrasing very offensive btw.)

So it appears the author seems slighted. Personally attacked even. The way these articles have been popping up indicates people are pretty darn upset. Not enough minorities in my comics, too weak of a portrayal of women, etc.

I wonder if the same people that felt slighted enough to write these articles write this sort of open complaint letter about the other 2000+ other works of art from television, radio, internet shows, etc. that come out every month. Or are they being selective or dare I say, BIASED to scrutinize Joss' work because he's normally their comfort zone?

If all the people that are offended by Dr. Horribles' lack of strong women, lack of "colorful" leading characters and lack of extra tall people (nice AndyDufresne), would quit griping and put their own pen to paper, maybe we would have more art out there that they can more fully appreciate. Everyone's a critic but nobody is willing to create.

And I have to come back to Whitey McWhiterson. Are you kidding? Personally I think that crosses the line. What would be the response in here if the author were a white guy and used the fake name, Blackey McBlackson. Would that be just as acceptable? It appears to me that this author has more of a chip on her shoulder than a legitimate argument. And in the process of "exposing" Joss for the insensitive author that he is, Karen Healey has become what she despises.

ETA grammar change

[ edited by alexreager on 2008-07-23 16:29 ]
Saje, I'm not new here. I rarely post, though. I genuinely meant what I said. Not everything needs to be analyzed. JCS, I've read some of the articles you mention, and I completely agree.
ricetxpeaches, I'm a white skinny Eastern European student living in the American South. Oh, and I'm pretty ;)

I support the idea that demons represent minorities, but one should not think of only this one representation. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a pretty massive show, at 144 episode and now continuing into comic books. Most thing within it have at least two layers. Three even (but the third is not the same as the first!).

So, in a way the demons can represent minorities. But don't forget that they, on a different level, represent the difficulties of growing up. One should keep in mind all the meanings, without confusing and mixing them up. When Buffy is killing the demons, she is fighting problems of growing up. When they're discussing werewolf Oz, they're talking diversity. Oh boy, I think I'm starting to confuse myself...
Saje, in regards to our conversation, I think the point of the show is that like humans, demons also have a variety of members who are good and bad. I'm also not suggesting that demons are always a metaphor for minorities--sometimes they are a metaphor for something else and sometimes demons are just demons.
Alexreager, do we know that Karen Healey is non-White?

Valentyn, hi there!
I don't agree with the idea that the demons on the show represent minorities. To be honest, I can't agree with that. If I believed that, then that would completely change the way I view the Buffyverse. I would be disheartened, angry, and incredibly hurt. That is not the impression I got whatsoever as I watched the show in real time, later in syndication, and later again on DVD.

[ edited by ricetxpeaches on 2008-07-23 16:20 ]
alexreager wrote "I wonder if the same people that felt slighted enough to write these articles write this sort of open complaint letter about the other 2000+ other works of art from television, radio, internet shows, etc. that come out every month. Or are they being selective or dare I say, BIASED to scrutinize Joss' work because he's normally their comfort zone?"

I have seen plenty of (positive and negative) criticism of Heroes and BSG regarding gender and race. I've seen it because I'm interested in those series. I have no doubt the Internet is full of criticism of series that I am not interested in.
And people that aren't fans of those shows probably don't criticise them in this way.

Whitey McWhiterson I took as a joke and riff on the linguistic playfulness of the show, water off a ducks back as far as i'm concerned (and i'm arguably closer to a 'Mc' than most here).

Saje, I'm not new here. I rarely post, though. I genuinely meant what I said. Not everything needs to be analyzed. JCS, I've read some of the articles you mention, and I completely agree.

Sorry ricetxpeaches, that's a joke/meme from Slashdot ;). People would post it just after a comment "complaining" about something that happens all the time on that site. It applies here because analysing every step (or misstep) Joss makes is kinda what this place is built on.

So let's forget gays, jews, and all the others just as long as the cast is multi-ethnic? I don't think that's a good argument.

Neither do I. Which makes me very happy it's not at all what i'm saying.

I came across an article on Jstor once about how Buffy's lack of diversity and how Buffy herself, in all her "stereotypical whiteness" is unique in the slayer line. Most of the past slayers we've witnessed have been Other in some sense.

And that's another reasonable (meta-textual this time) explanation IMO. Part of the gag with BtVS is that Buffy is totally not other, she's, to all outward appearances, very much a part of the establishment (Cordelia immediately thinks she's a kindred spirit when she sees her for instance). Then, presto, she's actually about as other as you can get.
Karen Healey is white. She states that fact in a previous blog entry about race.
ricetxpeaches, I understand why you say that. I didn't mean to say demons as a minority are a central theme. To me it was an idea that seemed to pop in an episode or two, when it was appropriate to use it as such.

For most of the series, demons are the problems of real life made corporeal, so we could watch a pretty girl kick their behinds, and we could get that cathartic feeling one gets after a problem is resolved, and some adrenaline is pumped into the body :)
I see this most of all with politics, there are huge communities on the Internet where they spend a great deal of time whinging about the Constitution not being upheld. Some of them go out and actively campaign, or donate to politicians who support them, but many of them just let off steam on message boards just so that they can live comfortably without feeling guilty for not trying to actually do something to encourage change. Again, just an impression I get, and I could well be wrong, but that's the reason for my attitude about this. I suppose I've just become a bit jaded with all this talk of change and no actual change.

But

1. How do you know what else they are doing?
2. If they are adding their voice to a certain cry, aren't they doing something? (If this poster did not write this and we did not have this discussion, there would be that much less thought about the situation. Some people would think that was good, but the poster would probably think that was bad.)
3. If all a person is in a position to do is post their opinions on the internet, at least they get to do something.

My next question to anyone who complains that people are just whining on the internet and not doing anything to change things in the real world would be, "What are you doing to change things in the real world?" I am always hopeful the answer will include something of substance. The only things I am doing is trying to raise my son to be an empathetic, open-minded, responsible man and get my students to open up their minds to new ideas. Popular entertainment that helps me do that is good. I see BtVS as dealing mainly with gender politics rather than ethnic and racial issues and I am fine with that. Other shows deal with those issues and I don't expect them to necessarily deal with gender per se. On the other hand, that does not keep me from noticing what each is doing in various areas and thinking about it if someone posts something that I happen to read.
I really didn't have time to read all the posts up to now so I apologize if I'm retreading...

Just have to say that I thought it was funny that this comment was followed by quite a long post.
While I have time for much of the underlying argument, I do find the idea that Joss Whedon, whom we know a fair bit about here, is perpetuating racism, whether consciously or (sigh) "subconsciously", pretty hard to swallow. I think ascribing pernicious intent on the basis of artistic choices made is deeply problematic. And I find the idea of counting the number of characters based on "X" to be, well, just sad really. (That's "sad" meaning "it saddens me," not "it's pathetic.") I presume Joss - all artists, in fact - speak of what they know - that it's that which gives truth to their art. Joss knows gender issues more, perhaps, than he knows race issues. And that's about all I have to say on the subject. It was a reasonable-enough blog post, though, in that it wasn't the most accusatory I've seen on this issue. And I would never presume to tell anyone else what she or he "should" write or think about - that's nonsense, IMHO.
When I was a little kid I asked my mother why someone called me "white", when (and I showed her the Crayons) I was "Apricot" or "Flesh", and what was Flesh, and why was it Apricot color? Oh, and why were the Indians "Redmen"?

(I was a problem child and did this part of my childhood on an Indian Reservation; we were told not to play with them, and they were told not to play with us. I sometimes wonder if that was primitive reverse psychology, or simple bigotry. All of us ignored the parental orders, of course!)

Want to take shots? Go ahead. Male. White. Lutheran. Marine. Scandinavian, Mennonite, and Pennsylvania-Dutch background. Math and engineering education. I design things, compilers, lighting, radio stations. Fat. Epileptic. Adult ADD. Play (poorly) the tuba, harmonica, piano, others.

As far as I'm concerned, what you do (and don't do) trumps your skin color. If that's all you have -- whichever color it is -- you got it from your parents, it's not something you had any choice in, and I couldn't be less impressed at the result. That you think it's important does say something about you.
BtVS was written to fight one main battle, that of gender-based inequality, and -- surprise surprise -- Joss wrote it in his white middle-class world, because that's what he knows. He can't fight every battle, folks. Fundamentally this is why he flubbed it with Tara; he didn't realize he'd been drafted to fight the good fight for the GLBQTetc. community as well, and didn't realize that to that community, Tara was sacrosanct.

Since discrimination by gender/sex/[insert technical term here] is pretty darn rampant in cultures past and present, whereas racism is more of a last-few-centuries construct (as opposed to xenophobia), it could easily be said that Joss is fighting a bigger, more prevalent, and much longer-lasting problem than racism. Racism is real, but it's a construct of the modern era, as in the last few hundred years, and here's hoping it doesn't last much longer; sexism goes back millenia, and in a lot of parts of the world we've got a looooong way to go.

Let Joss fight his battle. If you feel there are other battles worth fighting, then take up those causes yourself, but don't force the man to fight a fifty-front war.

That being said, I'm a white middle-class male, so by definition I'm suspect (even I think so!).
The core cast and major villains? Whitey McWhitersons.


There is that but then I've seen cries of racism and tokenism slung Joss' way because he used non Whitey McWhitersons for his core cast and major villains in Angel, Firefly and Serenity. It harks back to my belief that the fandom sometimes sees what they want to see. Unfortunately or fortunately due to the massive factionalism (sing with one voice are you kidding?) we all see different things.
jcs--I read about 20 posts and then realized I had a couple points I wanted to share.

SNT--Very well put.

This is why I love this board. I've actually gained new perspective on the issue. Newcj made me realize that while I don't necessarily agree with all the "critical" race, gender, religious, etc. blog posts, I do agree that communication and education are the keys to understanding. Sometimes in my haste to attack an issue (any issue) I forget the benefits of just having the conversation and how it can have positive effects.
"it could easily be said that Joss is fighting a bigger, more prevalent, and much longer-lasting problem than racism. Racism is real, but it's a construct of the modern era, as in the last few hundred years, and here's hoping it doesn't last much longer;"

ManEnoughTOAdmitIt, while I appreciate your core sentiment...I do believe that by saying "racism is a construct and has only lasted X amount of years as opposed to, say, sexism" you trivialize the issues at hand. Yes, Joss is writing from a place he knows, which happens to be a white, male mindset with an interest in gender politics (from what I've read, he grew up with a single mom and she was a tough lady). But to grow up in America and believe that race isn't as important as gender is a little crazy. The foundations for this country were laid with inequality and remain, to this day, a solid and real fact. Yes, the IDEA of race is a construct, the very real effects people take home with them due to racism are NOT. Just think about the "Got that good hair" concept that people of color take home, just think about the problems of either being "too whitewashed" or "not one of the GOOD ones". There's nothing trivial about race matters and I don't believe that either sexism or racism are "worse" than one another.
awwww, thanks, alexreager. You just made my day.
Also, the far reaching effects of racism (read imperialism & colonialism) have CREATED the modern world. Not to mention the fact that race, not gender, is usually bound up with the socio-economic issues that inform policy.
I know this discussion started about the comics, where the artist can pick out any colour paint he likes to paint his characters (unless they are specified a certain way).

But in the show? I never saw the casting sides for Buffy/Angel or Firefly, but for Dollhouse with the exception of one character, they were all described as "any ethnicity" and I am pretty sure that the same would have been true for Buffy. In fact, Bianca Lawson was originally cast as Cordelia, but turned the role down as she got offered another part she wanted more.

Personally, I see it as a casting issue and not a deliberate intention to make most of the characters white. Positive discrimination is still discrimination in my mind and I would rather see an all white (or all black or all whatever) cast of the right actors for the job, than a person from an ethnic minority cast just to make up the numbers.
Cider, am I to assume you are also NeoAnalysis?
I'm sure I would be very upset about this if I noticed skin color.
newcj: They're all valid points, and I'm starting to come around to your way of thinking to be honest, and Saje's (apologies for being so stubborn in the other thread). My last post was just a way of explaining why I'd said the things I said.

"My next question to anyone who complains that people are just whining on the internet and not doing anything to change things in the real world would be, "What are you doing to change things in the real world?""

A valid question, but I'm afraid to say that aside from donations I'm not doing a lot at the moment. I don't have a job (only a student at the moment, just finished my first year at uni), so I don't feel like I can do much, which is frustrating. Here in the UK, if you want to try and get something done politically, you can talk to your local MP, but they very rarely do much of substance. I try and create awareness of certain things, like Equality Now and what they stand, for amongst my friends -- some are interested, but a lot are apathetic. Needless to say, I feel bad that I'm not doing more.
newcj: They're all valid points, and I'm starting to come around to your way of thinking to be honest ...

Joinnnnn ussss [/creepy-crazy voice] ;).

Nothing wrong with sticking to your guns either BTW MattK so long as you stay open to other ideas (something i've got a far from perfect record at myself ;).
I try and create awareness of certain things, like Equality Now and what they stand, for amongst my friends -- some are interested, but a lot are apathetic.


Really are. I've noticed it to with my students. It's unfortunate that fees and the end of grants has led to so many students taking part time jobs. This in turn has had a knock on effect and seems to have neutered a lot of potential student politicking. I fear the good old days of green and feminist issues changing student organisations and indeed university institutions have long since gone. The students deserve better.
newcj: They're all valid points, and I'm starting to come around to your way of thinking to be honest, and Saje's (apologies for being so stubborn in the other thread). My last post was just a way of explaining why I'd said the things I said.

Actually I had noticed the change in tone and appreciated it. I did not want my post on this thread to be too strident myself, and hope you did not get the idea the change had not been noticed. I applaud you on your ability to give other ideas a chance.

It is hard to give time to everything one wants to. We all have to prioritize. School sounds like a good priority to have. Are there student organizations at your school that work in the neighborhood or in an area that interests you? Sometimes they can be a good way to find out what your interests really are.

One thing, though, don't listen to Saje regarding sticking to your guns unless you agree with what *I* happen to be saying at the time because I *am* the arbiter of truth...right after Caroline, Simon, SNT, Zeitgeist, Herb, Milo, Joss and anyone else in charge around here whom I have forgotten...yeah, okay and everybody else as well. ;-)

[ edited by newcj on 2008-07-23 19:55 ]
I find this theme turning up simultaneously on completely unrelated sites lately...just this and last week. I mean complaints on poor representation and under-representation of women and minorities across the board.

And I say "huh?" because it appears to me that we're in a better place than say, the 80s. I see lots of progress in my lifetime and I'm not even over the middle-age hump. More progress can be made for sure, but IMO this blog among other complaints are actually tearing down said progress.

In the Buffy example, the fact is the core characters are more or less permanent. Any major additions are going to be temporary no matter what or who they are. If they're to have some substance, some importance...it's going to be to further the plot. I doubt that it would be satisfying to see a minority who plays a roll in the story that amounts to being an extra.

I have seen more diversity in these comics and I think a concerted effort to bring more racially diverse characters into the fold...even if they cannot be permanent.

Also, I don't think diversity need be divided into multiple fronts. Diversity is diversity....as in lots of differences, not one-to-one or many-to-one but many-to-many. I don't rank the issues I face as a gay woman to be any more important. It's just part of it...and that's my head talking.

I tend to feel more passionately about racial issues due to my personal experiences. I've had to assert myself among groups of white people that I'll not be joining their group think nor be a by-stander in it. Simply not being racist is not enough, not when you have the power of having someone's ear because they're like you. The same can be said of sexism, and any kind of discrimination. It tends to be a group activity with a very powerful psychological effect. People within the group have much more power to change the group from the inside than outsiders do.

I mean it's obvious, the more racist a person is, the less likely they'll listen to someone of another race. The more sexist a person is, the less likely they'll listen to someone of the opposite sex.

And as I've mentioned elsewhere, Joss has got the attention of a whole lot of straight white male ears and I think he tends to use it wisely without being too preachy. So, perhaps more attention should be paid to the number of that slice of audience that cared that Renee died and did not see her as a minority. 'Cause that's the progress...(metaphorically)3D minority characters that people care about as opposed to that token black character with the funny lines in the horror film that dies halfway through for no reason in particular.
Nicely said, GrrrlRomeo.
Cider, am I to assume you are also NeoAnalysis?

Buffy the Slayer Layer | July 23, 17:52 CET


Errr..... not unless there is something someone isn't telling me. Sorry I have no idea why you would assume that.
GrrrlRomeo Said:
More progress can be made for sure, but IMO this blog among other complaints are actually tearing down said progress.


But how can you continue to make progess without pointing out the areas you need to make progress in? The whole "I didn't see Renee as a character of color" sounds all well and good, but color and gender blindness is a joke on the Colbert show for a reason. Because in the end, Renee was a character of color and probably a welcome sight to girls and women who don't have any avatars to represent them in the Buffyverse, or Sci-Fi/Fantasy or mass media in general.

I think Joss is starting to do a lot better than he initially did in the early years of Buffy, and I'm sure he'll continue to grow as an artist and as someone who strives to be inclusive and diverse, but it's a process. And the only way to continue that process and to grow more is to point out where there's still failings. If no one had mentioned the "whiteness" of the Buffyverse to him, would he have added Gunn or Wood or Forest or Rona or Zoe or Book? If he wasn't raised by a strong woman that showed him that men and women are equals, would he have ever created Buffy?
Ugh...I hope Kennedy dies a horrible death. And not because of her race...because, I just don't get it. Her appeal I mean. But yay for diverse characters in the Verse. woo.

[ edited by death is my gift on 2008-07-23 20:50 ]
When I was young the term WASP was very literal, a country club might allow a Catholic or Jew play golf as someone's guest, but they wouldn't be allowed to join. Actually President Kennedy's election did a lot to change some of those attitudes (as did the Civil Rights Amendment). But change only happens because people discuss it, are aware of it, and want change. Certainly I believe that seeing more diverse casting in popular TV shows and films does a lot to help people accept diversity everywhere else.

However I've never felt that Joss Whedon deserves to be pointed out as failing (not the way 'Friends' and/or 'Sex in the City' failed) in this way. I understood that the actress who played Kendra, Bianca Lawson, had been cast for the role as Cordelia but the studio wanted the ex-Cheerleader for the role. I believe that Joss has always tried to cast the most talented people for the roles, that is not always as diverse as we would like (although you can't fault 'Firefly'), but he doesn't have a terrible track record in my opinion.

I do think that Georges Jenty and Joss are making the comic more diverse, without actually replacing any of the reoccuring characters. Many of the new characters will die horribly, but not (in my opinion) because they are from a racial minority, but simply because all newer characters are canon fodder.

BTW I LOVE how long this thread is, it goes to prove that not everyone is on their way to Comic Con (although I wish I was).
I don't know what it is to grow up with all this racial issues, i'm used to treating people from many parts of the world and of multiple ethnicities. It sounds cheesy but i just don't see color, i just can't. I've always lived in Venezuela, and here being white is being a part of the minority, nevertheless that's not a issue, at least not for me nor anyone i know. My point is that when you let a character be defined only for the color of his/her skin, you lose everything else that comes with them. When Reneť died i didn't feel bad because she was black, i felt bad because i cared for her character and i care for xander, so if you base how much you like a story on its representation of race, gender, or whatever other issue you care about, maybe the one obsessed and the one that is racist is yourself.
While I agree with the point that there are few characters of colour in Buffy and that it's slightly better in the comics, these issues always have me wondering where things should be going. When will it be "okay"? Will we need proportionate representation? Should that be more important than having good actors, for instance? Should we have disproportionality to the other side: feature more characters of colour to balance out the history of too few in works of fiction? Should we have comittees who work out that each minority gets represented in correct ways (all ethnic minorites, all social minorities, equal gender representation)? Or, an easier way: hand out check-lists with every underrepresented minority so that every show everywhere can be "fair and balanced". I'm sure people would say: well, just a bit more would be helpfull. But, honestly, ask yourself: when does it end and when will it be okay? I agree there's something wrong now, but should we push it from the outside, or should it rectify itself? Should fiction really, truly be about all this? Or are all these constraints just that: constraints (to creativity), and should writers just write what they know (like SNT mentioned) and should we try not to extrapolate their writing into supposed opinions of the writers themselves (musings on whether or not Joss Whedon is (sub)consciously racist bother me, because I'd have to say: don't we know better)? If we have to view every bit of fiction through every single subjective lens and see if it measures up, I wouldn't be interested anymore. I get tired just thinking about it. Which is not to say that agenda analysis, such as this, is not important or maybe even necessary.

But: it does have side-effects which make me wonder if focussing on these issues at all may be the wrong way to go? Even if you do agree that there could be more positive rolemodels? I'm a person very sympathetic to equality of all forms. I'm a member of a political party very active on women's rights, gay rights and pushing forward our multicultural society. So these articles should really be a case of preaching to the choir, for me.

But instead it's getting to a point where - when I see a character of colour - I'll be very concious that they are a CoC, possibly "just there" to balance things out. Not because they're needed in the story, or because this is a great actor or actress that had good chemistry with the cast, etcetera, but because we need them for the sake of equality and because not adding them might mean the creator is labelled in a certain way or is irresponsibly continuing a wrong trend in the entertainment industry. And I'd think that that's quite the opposite effect needed: you want people to see these characters of colour and not even think about them being such, but just enjoy and appreciate them as characters in the story.

I, for one, and I know this must sound silly or naÔve, never even thought about the fact that there were more CoC in the comics. It simply did not register in that way. Yes, obviously I noticed they were asian or black, but that did not register as a label in any way interesting to the story. They were just natural additions and complete, interesting characters. Next time, they'll be CoC, exactly because of these types of discussions. And that, apart from who's right or wrong, is just really too bad.

So, to summarize: I don't have any answers on the questions or points raised above either. It's just that articles such as these have me wondering if they may be hurting their cause more than supporting it.

[ edited by GVH on 2008-07-23 21:34 ]
luis1210, that's really great that Venezuela doesn't have the problems that America has with race, but unfortunately America does have those problems. In a recent movie called 21 based on true events of students at MIT cheating at black jack, the main characters are a white guy and girl. In reall\ life they were 2 asian guys. In the comic book Wanted the character of Fox was specifically modeled after black actress Halle Berry. In the film she was played by Angelina Jolie. The TV show Friends is set in New York CIty. A city that is 26% black. And yet their first recurring black character didn't appear until the 9th season. It's a very common practice in Hollywood to cast white actors over actors of color. Pointing out that disparity isn't racist, it's trying to make things better. And is Joss better than most? Well, yeah, he is. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have flaws or can't get it wrong sometimes or that concerns shouldn't be brought to his attention.

GHV, I think you definately have points there. It is hard to see the end. But I look at it this way. Say we add more women in popular media and more people of color and more disabled people and more GLBT people. Not to the point where we're counting them out and making sire the percentage is correct, but just more, and be aware that there needs to be representation. Then the generation that grows up on this media will see it as the norm. They won't be able to imagine it any other way. Kind of like most of my generation wouldn't even be able to come up with the idea of paying women less for the same work or seperating our water fountains. One day color/gender/disability/sexuality blindness will happen. But until it does, the problems still need to be pointed out and dealt with.
I blame the systemic racism of Sunnydale High.
I would never send my kids there.
A scattering of points:

1-I think one reason Joss is crticised re race is because of his stated agenda of wanting to bring a point across, so it's felt he should have been more aware of it. It seems to me from the tone of soem of the criticism.

2- Kennedy is being shown as fairly definitely Hispanic in the comics, but was that ever made clear on the show? Isn't it a form of prejudice to assume that, just because Iyari is Hispanic? Ricardo Montlaban, Raquel Welch, Liz Torres, and one of my favorite actors Hector Elizondo have often played non-Hispanics.

3- The weight issue applies to me. Otherwise , well, one stereotype I've simply come to expect and accept from show biz is that we political ultra-conservatives and religious evangelicals will always be portrayed as Archie Bunker-Frank Burns style villains. For reasons of social sorting in various occupations that's not likely to change.

4-There's also the issue of whites being given blandly WASP-ish anmes of the SMith-Jones-BLackwood variety rather than ethnonyms. Not something Joss is overly guilty of, I guess, but it's there.

5-Interesting in a cream-of-the-jest ironic way; multiracial actresses Charisma Carpenter and (in a bit part) Persia White both played "ultra-Caucasiennes." Of course, witness Nicole Bilderback,and I think at least 1 black Cordette was shown, racially the Cordettes were less discriminatory than the Scoobies.

6-Related point; Given the like-mingle-with-like point, in one sense it's logical and "non-disingenuous," that the Scoobs are all white. There were plenty of non-Caucasians around in the crowd scenes. (Not an impressive point to me personally, tho.)

7-How is a robotic efficiency freak liek Kendra a racial stereotyp[e? In fact, I seldom saw that in the ChoCs.
This thread has fallen over the horizon, but I wanted to comment upon DaddyCatALSO's 2nd point:
"Isn't it a form of prejudice to assume that, just because Iyari is Hispanic? Ricardo Montlaban, Raquel Welch, Liz Torres, and one of my favorite actors Hector Elizondo have often played non-Hispanics. "

Actually I always thought that that was in fact the prefered way of showing color blindness diversity in the media: by hiring the Hispanic, Asian and/or Black actor for a role that doesn't refer to their race in any way shape or form. Showing diversity in all walks of life without the race being an issue in the story is the goal IMO.

[ edited by embers on 2008-07-24 00:02 ]
Can I just state again -

Being colour blind is not virtue.

(I should also say that being white does not class you as a bigot either, neither does having been the recipient of white/male/hetro-normative privilege. Refusing to admit that you've been a recipient of said privilege? Well, it makes you something.)

GVH I don't believe that articles like this harm their cause. How else do you get change, if people don't point out that change is needed?
Sure, TheDivineGoat, there's pointing it out, which is a good thing. Maybe in general terms, adressing Hollywood and the movie and television industry as a whole, pointing out that there's a difference in how people of different ethnic backgrounds get portrayed. Back it up by creating a lobby, trying to get legislation that helps people of colour getting into the movie industry, or at the very least getting it on the political agenda (which may then lead to just the kind of unwanted 'check-list' mentality I mentioned above, but that's a whole other point alltogether). There's certainly that.

And then there's targetting an individual show - something that, even for a show like Buffy (and as mentioned upthread, many others), has been done many times before. It even seems like there's more of these types of comments and articles now, then there ever were before. Because, certainly, this is not the first time articles like this have popped up (which - because they do have a point - is not persť illogical). But this causes fatigue in the very people one is trying to reach. It's the 'browncoat-effect' or the 'jehova's witness effect' or the effect any other group has, trying to recruit people to their cause, ideas or beliefs. And by aiming a critique at a show like Buffy repeatedly, which has a creator and fanbase probably very open to these particular points, they're creating a negative backlash to those ideas (already you're seeing people claiming this is trivial, untrue, uncalled for or people desensitised and just not paying attention anymore), while not really reaching people who might be open to this idea, but not having heard of it or thought about it before.

People like to enjoy their entertainment and Buffy fans in particular are very protective of the show and its creator. So I'm not sure repeated preaching on this issue is the right way to go, certainly not targetted in this way. And, obviously, this does not solely apply to Buffy, it applies to any part of popular culture. People don't like to get preached at, especially not if it targets something or someone they love specifically. Also, after hearing the same thing said many times, it starts to become a parody of itself.

Then again, pointing things like this out repeatedly might even be the way to go, because I certainly have no ready alternative and sometimes people just need to hear how things are to make them open their eyes. Because I certainly agree with Ciella that it'd be great if a new generation saw representations of the entire cultural spectrum in popular entertainment and feel it's the norm.

But along with the other questions I raised (and had no ready answers to) in my previous post, this is just a point I'm also not sure on. And seeing as I'm not even 100% certain that Buffy is a show or comic book at fault here (and even if it is, it's certainly nowhere near the worst of its sort), I don't think that articles like this are having a lot of impact. Then again: I may be wrong about that too, because just looking at the length of this thread may prove just the opposite.

Well, aren't I a bag of ready answers today ;)

Also, this having fallen of the main page, I'm not sure a whole lot of people will be reading any of the above ;)
embers; I'm not sure if you're agreeing with me or not. I was saying that, assuming a character is Hispanic because the actor is Hispanic might be bit of a prejudice in itself. "Yah vell," as my people say.

And I never heard it was the network choosing Charisma as crodelia. Bianca had a prior commitment; when that show was picked up, she had to decline Cordy after being chosen for the part. (I wonder if the character would have been depicted any differently; I would hope not, myself.)
DaddyCatALSO I didn't understand your position: are you saying that it is impossible for any Hispanic family to be a weathly family living in the Northeast, and therefore the character must be white even though the actress is Hispanic? Because then I disagree with you. Just as if Bianca Lawson had been cast as Cordelia then Cordy would have still been rich and bitchy, but she would also have been Black. But I am assuming that in both cases the race would never have been important as a plot point.
GVH, hopefully this doesn't sound rude, but the whole "encouraging artist to be diverse will turn into goverment mandated check lists" seems to be a bit of an over reaction.

As for the targeting thing, this site is dedicated to all things Joss, so of course you're gonna see criticism of Joss here. But bloggers like Karen, don't actually focus solely on Joss. if you look over her blog you'll see she's been doing this for a couple of years now, and in those years she's maybe mentions Buffy 5 times. She's not "targeting" Joss, she's simply doing another blog on another comic she found that had some issues. And of course we see it here because it's the post related to Buffy. In fact the vast majority of people who criticize Joss work also do the same for a variety of other subjects, but you here about it here because, well, it's Whedonesque. No one's targeting him or piling on him, hell, Joss is little more than a footnote in blogs and websites that deal with racism and feminism. I get the defensive feeling, but lots of people here love Joss and his work AND can still recognize and point out the flaws. It happens in season 6 discussions all the time.
Good post, Ciella.

Oops, I meant the one up above. This one is good too, but I really liked that first one. Hmmmm, maybe this was a bad idea. ;-)

[ edited by newcj on 2008-07-24 01:29 ]
Ciella, I certainly won't take it as rude. Unless you're being rude, then I would, because, well, that would make sense :). But, on to the point: if you'll look again at my comment I wasn't saying that this type of criticism will turn into government mandated check lists. I was asking the question: "where does it end?" and giving an over-the-top example.

As for the word "targetting", I used in my next post, I would like to point out that obviously I wasn't thinking that there are people out there, like the author of this blog, that are specifically targetting Joss or Buffy and nothing else. I get that what we see here goes through a whedonesque filter, because well, obviously :). But what I was saying is that taking specific examples, targeting specific things in pop culture (which, in our internet-savy days is silly to assume won't get to the fans of said material), as opposed to doing general commentary on the situation as a whole, might (note that I also mentioned I'm entirely not sure about that) hurt their cause more than it helps, for the reasons I mentioned in my previous two posts.

ETA: Also, I was not looking at just this single blog in my previous comment, but at a movement that is targetting specific pieces of pop culture (not singling anything out, but targetting a wide range of specific pieces), which means that this was not the first time we saw a piece like this on Buffy, nor will it be the last time (and the same is true for BSG and many, many other shows, books, comics and the like). Taken together, that movement may cause fatigue, a backlash or indifferentness to their cause (just like we get desensitised to violence on television or how people invested in genre entertainment started hating Joss Whedon because of the stream of 'missionary' work by Browncoats during Serenity's theatrical release).

[ edited by GVH on 2008-07-24 02:37 ]
I will take a (mini) stand and say that I think being aware of society's diversity, being inclusive, or incorporating representative characters has nothing to do with being a "good artist" - unless one's conception of a good artist revolves around having a social conscience. That's not at all my conception. I think the only thing a good artist need be is true to her or his art. Thus, I can't say that "Joss could do better" or "Joss needs to improve" because I absolutely don't agree that he's doing anything wrong. It seems to me that once we think we can tell an artist how she should *think* about a particular subject and how she must express those thoughts, we're in pretty dicey territory indeed. In fact, I'd even suggest, only mildly hyperbolically, that we're approaching Socialist Realism in setting "goals" and "targets" for artists - and in presuming to get inside their heads and tell them what to think. The only obligation of an artist, in my view, is to her own conscience.

All that said, I have absolutely no quarrel with raising the issues of under-representation and exclusion - these are important values to society. I just don't agree that we can dictate to any individual artist what her own values should be.
I'm going to drop a link to a Kurt Vonhegut story about the forthcoming equality, Harrison Bergeron .
But how can you continue to make progess without pointing out the areas you need to make progress in?

The point I was trying to make was that praise of progress also encourages progress, not just pointing out the flaws. Another site I frequent just recently had several blog postings critiquing the portrayal of strong women. They were put under a microscope with the assumption that there is some sort of ulterior motive on the part of the writers to either sexualize or desexualize strong female characters. There was no real praise of the fact that there are currently more TV shows with strong female characters than ever before. And it just goes back to praising a child for getting an A is as important as admonishing a child for getting a D. Positive reinforcement is needed to maintain progress. Or it becomes a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.

I just don't agree that we can dictate to any individual artist what her own values should be.

SNT: Criticizing or expressing opinion is not dictating. It comes with the territory...if an artist puts something out there, it's going to get reviewed and commented on by critics.

I, in no way, wish to regulate art via the government. It's completely unnecessary and contradictory to my values. Comment on and critique art, yes. But I would be the first in line to oppose government intervention. I don't even think curse words should be censored by the government. If I disagree with a piece of art, it does not mean I think it ought to be banned by the government. Quite the opposite.
Ah, sloppy phrasing on my part - I meant to write "I don't believe . . . " - I didn't intend to attribute that to any individual here (although I think in some respects it's the end-point of a belief in making artists "better"). I hope I've said often enough that expressing opinions is desirable, even necessary.
embers; No, I'm only, only talking about the actor chosen to play a character. I personally always thought of Kennedy as Hispanic. And I know there are more than afew wealthy Hispanics. I'm just saying that assuming a character is Hispanic only because a Hispanic actor is cast in the part is in its way prejudiced thinking. Star Trek's Khan wasn't Hispanic, the advisor in The Prince3ss Diaries wasn't Hispanic, and so assuming Kennedy had to be Hispanic because Iyari is is more than should be done.


As for Cordelia possibly being written differently had Bianca stayed on in the role, I'm just saying that the way Cordyw as portrayed, first super-b***h, then dating "The Geeky Guy," then super-b***tch again, some people would interpret portraying "The Only Black Main Character" this way as itself racist.

[ edited by DaddyCatALSO on 2008-07-24 14:40 ]

[ edited by DaddyCatALSO on 2008-07-24 17:03 ]
SNT said: "I think the only thing a good artist need be is true to her or his art." I disagree, because what if the artist is true to himself and he sucks, to sort of paraphrase Joss. People have been writing on what makes good art for centuries, and for some of us, the definition includes the representation of women and people of color.

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