Per request by my pal Danni, who mentioned how little Tony/Rhodey is out there, I will talk longwindedly once again on the matter of race in fandom. Specifically, slash fandom, though I will expand beyond that to fandom and media at large at times.
So we begin with a basic question: Why is Tony/Rhodey so unpopular, with even Jarvis/Tony - an AI with no physical appearance - outstripping it in levels of fan attention?
Is that the only cultures that people ever want to focus on in worldbending are essentially anything and everything outside of Europe. Cultures which either perished with strong tribal ideals, or continue to prosper today still using tribal ideals. It’s almost as if the majority of artists out there are skimming over Europe altogether because designing something tribal is more interesting than designing a more metropolitan character. Which to me is kind of beyond ridiculous, if the Incas and Mayans can elicit inspiration then anything Anglo-Saxon can certainly illicit the same response.
Imagine firebenders from Spain who mix bending with the finer forms of dance and still retain influence from when Islam controlled Spain during the eighth century. Imagine Danes whose ancestors were the mighty vikings and the waterbending which would make their culture some of the most successful sailors in recorded history (Also imagine vikings hurling around gigantic ice spears, terrifying, I know). Imagine earthbending Celtic tribes rushing into battle in a terrifying display of cracked earth and pillars of stone (Imagine the looks on the romans faces, just think about it). Imagine the slopes of the alps covered in gleeful airbending children learning the finer points of how to glide and create small snow flurries.
The point being: When thinking about worldbending look at the world as a whole and not just the areas you find interest in. Look at every culture from the Romans to the Australian Aboriginal Peoples, from Native Americans to the Italians during the High Renaissance.
You are essentially saying that Europe would make ‘Worldbending’ better because Europe = Civilzation.
You can come up with a better argument that doesn’t offend several hundred of those “interesting” tribal folk, I’m sure.
the awkward moment when THE WHITE PEOPLE ARE SO UNDER-REPRESENTED OH MY GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWD
This is offensive not just due to the problematic wording OP has used because:
World building in
- The Harry Potters Series
- Lord of the Rings
- Game of Thrones
- Chronicles of Narnia
- Chronicles of Phydain
- ETC ETC
Almost any Classic disney movie made before the 80’s
and a bunch of other stories I’m too tired to list now
various other stories in film/literature/animation
Pixar movies etc.
and other classic tales have have heavy European cultural influence have not even been QUESTIONED as to why they are mostly exclusively European cultural influence and MINOR non European influence.
I really hope you’re not wishing or stating that Avatar only needs “Asian/Native/People of Color” influence only as a backdrop or as side kicks.
And most of the time, when any series/story has a central theme of being non-european influenced is adapted of shifted towards popular media (covers on book publishings, etc)
Guess what happens.
Film adaptations of such stories push towards the main characters being caucasian instead/push towards something more ‘relatable’ aka generally European visual.
Do I even need to say the word?:
Gedd in the Earthsea books:
Gedd in ‘popular’ media Sci Fil adaptation:
Sokka and Katara in the series:
Sokka and Katara in the Last Airbender Movie:
Is it entirely possible that you can allow EVEN ONE story where the characters may not look like you, not have your culture and still relate to the characters?
A lot of us Asian/African/Native viewers can still enjoy GoT/Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings, and accept that the stories are finished, world building and universe is based on Celtic/Nordic/Medieval France/England.
It would be interesting for Avatar to have a European culture, yes. And it’s fine that you think so or play with visual ideas!
But you could also say it would be interesting that they include African culture/Middle eastern culture/benders.
But please do not pretend that European cultures do not get media representation, because that is not true and poor wording on your part.
The only time/s I have seen people get upset with said world-building is when they include ONE Poc in a cast of characters who are not
and then you get responses like this:
even when the sources state that the characters were people of color
If this is an uncomfortable perspective for you, please do some research.
Will you consider that at least?
Cosplaying in and of itself can be stressful enough; I’ve definitely had convention days when I did not feel confident enough for tight spandex. But for non-white fans, the additional pressure felt when not playing a character of the same ethnicity can add an unspoken anxiety to the experience. It often feels like a white cosplayer can not only dress as their favorite characters of color but also do so in the most offensive way without comment. But when a non-white cosplayer colors outside the lines in the same way, there’s a risk of getting an awkward look because—instead of seeing the costume—no matter how perfect it might be, others see the color of your skin and you can see the confusion in their eyes: Why is a black girl dressed as Zatanna?
Worse are the ones who aren’t confused, but then think they’re being inoffensively clever. You know there probably weren’t many Black USO Girls in the 1940s, right?” Or, my personal favorite, “Wonder Woman? I thought you would’ve done Nubia.
It’s an extension of the “default to white” privilege many fans still engage in on a regular basis.
An article in the April issue of Wired Magazine confirmed and put into words a theory I’ve always secretly harbored: young people who engage in paracosmic play are developing creative skills that pay off later in “real life.” The examples are numerous (is the upcoming novel-turned-movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter anything but a historical AU fanfic?), though the article cites the Brontë Sisters (best known for Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre) as a prime example of those who began writing early through creating and building upon imaginary worlds as children.
“It now appears that, like the Brontës, kids who engage in paracosmic play are more likely to be creative as adults. In 2002 researchers Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein conducted an elegant study. They polled recipients of MacArthur “genius grants”—which reward those who’ve been particularly creative in areas as diverse as law, chemistry, and architecture—to see if they’d created paracosms as children. Amazingly, the MacArthur fellows were twice as likely as “normal” nongeniuses to have done so. Some fields were particularly rife with worldplayers: Fully 46 percent of the recipients polled in the social sciences had created paracosms in their youth.”
When I started in online fandom in 1999, mostly writing fanfiction, I was always looking for relatable figures to participate with. Often I had to create them out of thin air, or widely embellish the often slim back-stories that side minority characters were given in my favorite fandoms. I was willing to do the legwork that Joss Whedon wasn’t for characters like Kendra (and, fortunate enough to even have a personal computer to engage with the fanfic communities) and, thanks to years of not being recognised in Halloween costumes, I’ve grown used to having to explain that I’m dressing as non-white characters and why I’m doing it. But what happens to the kid who isn’t encouraged to participate because the white default removes the impetus from the start?
Paracosmic play isn’t the only childhood activity that nurtures the development of creative skills, but for me the benefits are too great to ignore. Fandom turned me into a writer, taught me Photoshop, forced me to learn how to code by the age of 13, showed me the basics of web design, and helped set my course of study in college. All of these elements helped me score my first job after college. Spending years making the singer Monica look like Max from Batman Beyond for online role-playing paid off when I was asked to design ads for a Tony Award winner’s concert series. I can’t imagine what my own life would be like if fandom hadn’t shaped it the way it did, and I’m going to guess that there’re several white fans who would say the same. Luckily, they have a framework to participate in that’s constructed specifically to cater to their needs."