Robots, mutants, and kittensJune 16, 2009
I’m pretty much with Willow on this one…As much as I love me the idea of Robo-noir, it does make me wonder- why is it that mainstream media has an easier time building empathic “minority” characters who are robots, aliens, mutants, ghosts, or otherwise literally non-human than they are at having actual characters of color?
To be sure, Penny Arcade touched on this same subject with Resident Evil 5 and the slope of the fantastic, I think that’s exactly what makes it a shield against really thinking about it.
When you have weird non-real beings, and caricatures of discrimination, it’s easy to toss in the same realm as pure fantasy, and not really think about what it means in the totality of it. Just like how war with aliens isn’t the same as war between humans- it’s fantastic enough you immediately go to the land of faerie tales and magic and it loses it’s bite.
And I think that’s the big difference between X-men and say, Bayou. X-men goes fantastic enough that it stops being about discrimination- no one has to worry about the oppression of blue monkey people by giant 50 foot tall Sentinels… whereas in Bayou, the magical threats are just reflections of the human threats- the story begins with fishing a lynched boy’s body out of the Bayou…
How many people even realize The Dark Crystal is a story about survivors of genocide? Muppet Elves and vulture people go a long way towards masking the content.
I think this is why a lot of POC spec fiction gets thrown into the phrase, “magical realism” – in fact, it’s not less fantastic than any given vampire, werewolf, ghost, whatever story- it’s that certain ugliness of humanity isn’t shied away from, isn’t masked by robots waving guns at giant bugs, but that even with magic, history is history and people are people, and not all of it is pretty.