Debunking White FantasyJuly 1, 2008
So watching white gamerdom go through it’s usual cycle of “Why aren’t there more POC gamers/Maybe the imagery is problematic/Oh no everything is just fine/No U!” is tiring.
So what’s up with white fantasy? At the heart of it is the white normative- around which the whole universe must revolve.
In fantasy, you can find societies that have room for dragon people, demon guys, 20 kinds of elves, etc, which function in this incredibly cosmopolitan fashion- yet ironically and most sadly, there’s no actual significant space for characters of color.
Well, why is that? All these weird species either boil down to alien non-human species or white people that look a little different and act funny. In other words, neither type threatens to dislodge the white normative. (Remember, human is synonymous with white!).
When and where we do see characters of color, they’re carefully shown with heavy stereotypical markers- asian people dress and act like this, african people dress and act like this, etc., because in that way, they’re not complex and full humans and threatening to the fantasy itself.
What is that fantasy? Well, the nature of modern fantasy is simplification- easy to understand roles, easy to understand problems that are almost always solved by either trying harder or having faith in your own badassery/love/whatever. People of color represent something difficult and complex- a real world issue unresolved (and fundamentally unresolvable as long as one wears the blinders of the white normative/white privilege/white supremacy at it’s heart).
Sci-fi suffers some of the same things, though sci-fi also has a strong tradition of accepting it’s role as a critique and mirror of the times, which is why you generally see more progressive break-outs of stories and imagery than fantasy.
And really, that’s the part where we reach the point of frustration and having to walk away from the foolishness.
It’s not enough that the media has issues, it’s when you watch someone who spent 2 years learning a fictional language, analyzing the theology of Tolkien, and who tries to compare the stories of their favorite fantasy with Babylonian Creation Myth, who YET cannot connect the dots between media issues which have pervaded Western media much, much wider than simply fantasy… that’s when you fucking lose it.
You know the ability to see is there, the intelligence, and even the geeky OCD to look at it hard and take it seriously, and yet… basically what the person is saying is that their fantasy white privilege is more important than you as a fellow human being. (A friend once pointed out that in these conversations, that concern doesn’t hit because they’re not considering you as human to begin with, so deep is the white normative).
And so, any attempts to have this discussion without a firm foundation in looking at fantasy as part of a larger media concern, will always fall back to the cycle of stupid above. Any concerns will be washed away either in straight up trolling or having to “convince” every comer to a random thread or discussion, at the end of which, there can be no victory.
After having gotten into many of these “discussions”, I’ve come to the conclusion that within white fandom, they don’t actually exist to discuss the issue at hand, or seek changes- they exist to provide the appearance of concern, the appearance of progressive thought, while letting things stay the same.
You can observe this for yourself because most end in simple flame-outs, a few white folks attempt misguided missionary efforts to bring in more people of color (mostly by making a story or game about some POC culture), which almost always involves NOT talking to said people of color directly, and a few others give support without actually doing anything.
For this reason, we kind of have to look at it the same way when McDonald’s decides to celebrate Black History Month- it’s a sham with no redeeming value.
At the end of the day, we can either keep waiting for these fictions to gain truth, or take our truth and build our own fictions. I already know which choice seems more sane to me.
Pt. 2- Debunking White Fandom
Amazingly, people prove my point as they protest it. Anonymous commenting? Racist slurs? “No U!” logic? Wow, what was I thinking when I said fandom was hostile?
For the less crazy, it’s tempting to try to even dialogue, but I realize this: Their words are already everywhere. Why should I give racist bullshit more space on my blog? We already know they’re crazy. And the crazy? They’re not going to learn.
So hey, thanks for the support. Let’s keep building this thing without these fools. Fantasy, fandom, roleplaying, sci-fi, geekdom, comic books, anime, whatever- all of this is not theirs to have. We’re taking everything back, including our imagination.
Part the 3