brooksmoses: (Default)
[personal profile] brooksmoses
So The Toast posted an essay on the Black woman character in the new "Ghostbusters" movie as she shows up in the trailer. In particular, an essay about the ways that at least in the trailer she's reflecting all the stereotyped Hollywood (and broader-culture) portrayals of black women.

You could read this for the view on "Ghostbusters" and what to make of it as a social-justice-promoting movie for its having an all-female ghostbusting team, and whether you're likely to like to movie.

You could also read this as a very clearly encapsulated illustration of the ways that "I included a positive character who's not a standard white male, so I'm doing my part for diversity" can fail in ways that are worse than not including them, and exactly why that failure state is possible. There are no doubt all sorts of subtleties and corner issues and ways that well-intentioned writers can unknowingly do this badly -- but this isn't one of those cases. This is a very clear and easily-explained and obvious (at least once explained) example, and the things that lead to the problems are big and easy to see.

This seems like a good antidote for writers who are worried that they will do this sort of thing by accident. Go, read this. Here's what the problem actually looks like, and how it works, and why. This isn't a subtle trap that people run into despite trying not to; it is not at all hard to avoid this instance of this problem. It is not at all hard to do a lot better than this. And, once you've written a thing, you can ask people to beta-read it and tell you if it's doing this in a subtle way -- and, if it is, you now know how the problem works so you can fix it.

As is usual with The Toast, also read the comments. The comments are good, and add extra commentary -- such as one that points out the importance of taking responsibility for why your audience is laughing at your jokes, as well as for making them laugh.

Date: 2016-03-15 04:49 am (UTC)
johnpalmer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] johnpalmer
I'm of two minds on this. The original Ghostbusters were 3 scientists and an ordinary guy. But it does irk me that it's "and the black guy/gal". And I can see the complaints about the stereotyped behaviors, even by a comic who's in on the joke.

But I also kinda see "so, what, we *can't* cast the black woman as the ordinary person?" and maybe a bit of "OKAY, FINE, criticism noted! But the movie is made, what do you want, blood?"

I do recognize that it's important to make these criticisms, even if some of the choices were more goofs than racist/sexist/etc.. (I'm not sure you can call casting a loudmouth black woman as a mere "goof," mind you. But I could believe that certain choices that deserve criticism *are* more goof than malice or indifference.)

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