The character as an example of the whole culture.

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The character as an example of the whole culture.

Post  tara on Sat Jan 31, 2009 8:32 pm

Edit: I'm not really sure where this topic should go. Maybe the Blue Room since it's a personal creative issue (hence where I put it), and maybe the Red Room since it could be debatable, and maybe the Clubhouse because it falls into the huh? category, but feel free to move it, since I have nooo idea.

I've run into this issue not only with my LGBT characters, but with any minority.

A while ago I read the book Gods & Monsters, and it was a special edition where the author wrote about his experience making the movie. In the essay he mentioned how Sir Ian McKellan initially turned down the role because he thought it was yet another "gay death" book. He realised that the book was more than that and changed his mind, but this has been in my head ever since. I'm afraid to make my LGBT characters ultimately unhappy. I mean, they can have issues, they can be sad, but I've been sitting on this short story I've been writing for over a year because it ends in the boy committing suicide, even though the reasons he commits suicide more have to do with his disappointment in himself as a person and the people around him, rather than his sexuality. And it also takes place in the past, so the issues of being gay were even more prominent ... But why can't gay people just be unhappy separate to their sexuality? To quote 30 Rock: Why can't we all just not get along?

Anyway, does anyone have a similar problem? Not wanting to kill people off because they are the "example" of an entire culture? I know this is exactly the kind of thing that will disappear if we make more comics, if we make more insightful comics, if we make it less a minority, but at this stage of the game it's still something that I think about. I mean, I'll still kill people off, and I'll still make them unhappy, because it's what the story is about, but what goes on in the mind is a bit more complicated than what is on the page.
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Re: The character as an example of the whole culture.

Post  Fly Hue on Sat Jan 31, 2009 8:43 pm

Hmmm... I've never run into this type of problem. Then again, I'm probably just too shameless to have the empathy to realize that one character may represent an entire community... But as far as advise goes, if you feel yourself strong enough of a writer, then I think you can pull this off. The big goal in this would be making the audience aware of the specific reasons why he decided to take his life: What issues factor, and which ones don't have so much of an impact (in this case his sexuality.)
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Re: The character as an example of the whole culture.

Post  tara on Sat Jan 31, 2009 9:04 pm

The character in question has a lot of issues. He was basically abandoned by his self-involved parents a child, goes through a lot of sh*t. Then he gets kicked out of Harvard for "associating with people of questionable nature", and this is the straw that breaks camel back, etc. and he decides to end it. He's not so upset about being gay, but he's upset because when he got into Harvard he felt that for once he was doing something people would notice and be proud of, and so when he was kicked out all of his sense of self-worth got a knife in the gut. So ... uh. He does kill himself because he's gay, in a way, but only because he was kicked out of Harvard because he was gay, not because he feels any shame about his sexuality.

But yeah, you're right, I should trust in the words to try and convey that. The thing is, it's written in first person, the narrator being the guy who is in love with him, and so any kind of motivation expressed in the text will just be speculation at best from an unreliable source. And he couldn't quite comprehend the nuanced reasons for someone to kill themselves. On top of that, I like to leave things unanswered, just as a personal story fetish. So I wanted to leave it open to interpretation, but this only lets other people interpret it the WRONG way.

God, this is confusing me, ha!
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Re: The character as an example of the whole culture.

Post  ReiDavidson on Sat Jan 31, 2009 9:22 pm

I don't think you should worry so much about people's closed minded stereotyping. Write the character, not to the audience. Write it so you like it. If you like it, someone else is sure to as well.
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Re: The character as an example of the whole culture.

Post  tara on Sat Jan 31, 2009 9:34 pm

ReiDavidson wrote:I don't think you should worry so much about people's closed minded stereotyping. Write the character, not to the audience. Write it so you like it. If you like it, someone else is sure to as well.

That's very true!! That's the only way to write it, I think. But after it's written and out there ... Should we be held accountable for what we say? I mean, we would say that people who express homophobic ideas are doing something wrong, and we feel strongly about that, and we feel that they shouldn't think and say such things. So at some point we should be aware of the world and the consequences of what we write. But maybe that should be in my head only AFTER I've finished the story. It's only about half done right now. ASHAMED. (Although it's more of a novella than a short story, I think, but all the same, pretty lame after so long.) So it's kind of frozen me, too much thinking.
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Re: The character as an example of the whole culture.

Post  ReiDavidson on Sat Jan 31, 2009 10:38 pm

I think people can form their own opinions. So no, you aren't accountable.
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Re: The character as an example of the whole culture.

Post  tara on Sat Jan 31, 2009 10:48 pm

I suppose if we always worried about what people thought, no one would write or draw or so anything. So basically we've decided that my brain needs to shut up. XD
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Re: The character as an example of the whole culture.

Post  Joneko on Sat Jan 31, 2009 11:05 pm

Part of this isn't an issue with anything you write so much as an issue of society. If the character was black and there happened to be race issues, I don't think people would assume that they killed themselves because of race. If there were gender issues I don't know that anyone would assume that they'd killed themselves because of gender. And if it was a religious issue...etc etc.

I actually just had this conversation, about being pigeonholed into a particular stereotype or whatnot, with Professor Suzanne Johnson, who I think you might really benefit from reading the work of (she's my developmental psych prof and big on LGBT issues). We were talking about the fact that if people don't know you're gay, they might attribute things to your personality or your experiences or your being as a whole and consider things in that context. But once you say you're gay, suddenly, the context of everything seems to change. For example, she goes from being "that psych professor" or "Professor Johnson" to "that gay professor" (of which there are a few).

So I think you should ultimately write it as you see fit, and consider something cool: ten years from now, when someone picks it up and reads it, they may read it completely differently and their gender preference will be as much a factor as anything else, or cause as much a pause as their hair color.
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Re: The character as an example of the whole culture.

Post  Skyangel on Sun Feb 01, 2009 11:03 am

This is a very interesting point Tara raises here. I do tend to agree with the others that it is your story, and if you think that it is better the way you have planned it, then stick to that, if you are happy with it regardless of what the audience think.
My own personal view on transexual stories though is that in real life so many do actually commit suicide or are murdered because of it that maybe it would be nice to see a story now and then that could offer young transexuals a more positive future to boost their morale. I read the prequel to 'Heard' (Seen?) when I first came on DD and found the idea of the lead girl contemplating suicide somehow too obvious and rather depressing, but I was pleasantly surprised and relieved when at the end she was saved.
I saw 'The Gwen Araujo' story on TV last week and just like 'Only boys cry' it was pretty sad viewing. A few weeks ago we saw a doc about the first 'pregnant man'; Basically a full op transgirl to boy living with another woman as man and wife. But because the wife could not concieve the 'hubby' decided to have the baby. It was a real nice documentary; The couple were amusing and sensible. They described the logic of what they chose to do and why, but what I loved most was the honest reaction from their neighbours. Real macho men, smiling and saying to the camera ' A girl with a beard that lives with another girl and gets pregnant.. what the hell's that all about?' with genuine confusion; but with a smile too. It really made my evening.

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Re: The character as an example of the whole culture.

Post  tara on Sun Feb 01, 2009 7:58 pm

I remember reading about the pregnant woman, yes! I would have liked to have seen that documentary. Sounds like it was really good! And I actually didn't get through reading Seen, I don't know why. I started it a bunch of times, but I could never get through it. But I do enjoy Heard! I like how realistic it is. She doesn't magically bump into a girl who happens to be gay, but meets a whole BUNCH of girls through a planned meeting through a friend. And I still have no idea what will happen there.

And thank you for all the insightful comments, guys! I really like how context fits into it, Joneko. How oh she/he does that because they are GAY. Etc. It's like that for some degree about any minority, I think. Oh she says that because she is a WOMAN, not because she has her own viable opinions on the matter.

The story is actually based loosely off real events (like a really crappy movie might say to get more cred). A few years ago I found an article online about how some people committed suicide after being kicked out of Harvard for being gay. So there is that, and then considering my character's mind and how it works, I couldn't really change the ending of my story. So even though it is the TRUTH of the matter, it might be too depressing to want to be read!

I really should work on it, but I've been busy updating my comic instead, ha.
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Re: The character as an example of the whole culture.

Post  ReiDavidson on Sun Feb 01, 2009 11:39 pm

omg I thought you made up getting kicked out of Harvard for being gay... That's awful. >.<
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Re: The character as an example of the whole culture.

Post  Fly Hue on Mon Feb 02, 2009 8:23 pm

I took it as believe able when she mentioned that it took place a long time ago. We've come a really long way in only a few years. To think, only thirty years ago, only one generation, homosexuality was still considered a mental illness!
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Re: The character as an example of the whole culture.

Post  tara on Mon Feb 02, 2009 8:30 pm

Yeah, and now I can't find the article, even though I'm looking. It was a while ago! If anyone can find something on it, I'd be grateful.

Edit: OH. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_Court_of_1920_(Harvard)
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Re: The character as an example of the whole culture.

Post  Jase on Sat Feb 21, 2009 8:49 am

Honestly, I think you just need to write the story so it conveys the messages you want as well as possible; people may misinterpret, or read it the wrong way, etc, but if you worry about that all your life you'll never create anything. Just do your best and make sure you're happy about it.

Actually, there's going to be a little homosexuality in a comic I recently started (and have been itching to start- and planning- for years) and the characters are going to have issues. But actually, the issues related to sexuality are going to be minimal. But mostly, the issues around sexuality can be so huge there's no reason not to make them a focal point.

I do want to say one thing on the point of what the people have mentioned- the "man" who became pregnant. Now, I don't want to offend anyone and please remember this is my personal opinion. If you don't want to know any more, please stop reading now.

I am FtM transgender. And the idea of being pregnant- of carrying a child- of giving birth- of being a mother instead of a father- disgusts me. It is entirely unnatural in my mind, because I am a man. If you can be okay with something so overwhelmingly femanine happening to your body, I don't think you can say you're a man- and neither can he.
Did you know, as a woman, he was a fighter for gay rights? That for years he fought for the right to marry his girlfriend; until one day- out of the blue- he announced that he wanted to be a man? That none of his friends or family saw it coming?
And that once he was legally a man- he married that woman pretty quick?
Being gender dysphoric- that is, physically the wrong gender- is a lifelong thing. It's not a mindset and it's not something that just happens one day. You live with it all your life. Wouldn't you think his/her nearest and dearest would have noticed something, at some point, in his/her life? Doesn't it seem a little suspect that the right to marry his lesbian partner was the centre of his life both before and after? And the fact that he's then fine to do something which is incredibly femanine with his body; which would produce femanine hormones, and make him feel like a woman... There is little I'd not do sooner than to become a true man for several years, then put my body through that.

...Anyway, that's not even the topic the thread was made for; but it's a subject that makes my blood boil. More than once I've had people mention it; and it almost always comes up when people are aware of my gender and I mention that I'd like children. I hate the very idea of being associated with it- to my mind, he's no man. He's someone who couldn't deal with the prejudices other people had against his sexuality and so decided to change it by changing his gender.
[/rant]
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Re: The character as an example of the whole culture.

Post  ReiDavidson on Sat Feb 21, 2009 11:01 am

Hmmm, sounds like an issue for the red room. :3nod:

Btw, your the first FtM I've ever met. o.o I have like a bazillion MtF friends, but...
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Re: The character as an example of the whole culture.

Post  Jase on Sat Feb 21, 2009 11:21 am

Yeah, MtFs are a lot more common, perhaps because society is less accepting of men being femanine so the only way to be themselves is to go all the way.
But yes, getting WAY off the original topic here. xD Perhaps I should just make a topic there to discuss it with you...?
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Re: The character as an example of the whole culture.

Post  ReiDavidson on Sat Feb 21, 2009 11:24 am

it could be interesting!
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