Friday, November 26, 2010

What race is your character, and do they "act like it"?

This insults me, and probably not for the reason most people think. I side with the plastic surgeon, who explains that many of his Asian patients who opt for double eyelid surgery (i.e. Chinese/Koreans/etc who make their eyes look larger by getting a crease artificially made in their eyelid) are not trying to look Cauasian, but just better. And it insults me near the end when the white news reporter makes it sound like we get this surgery because we somehow shun our race or are trying to lose our "cultural identity". Why do Cauasians get tans? Because they want to look black or Hispanic? I don't think so--they just want to look like other Cauasians who have naturally darker skin. And while I'm sure some Asians get eyelid surgery to look more white, just as many get eyelid surgery because they want to look like Asians who have naturally large eyes.

That's right. Asians with naturally large eyes. Contrary to popular media in the States, we do not all have narrow slanted eyes and flat noses. What about Thai, Vietnamese, or Philippinos? Why can't we get eyelid surgery because, I dunno, maybe we want to look more like Zhou Xun:

Or Zhao Wei:

or Bea Alonzo (Philippino)?:

Why can't Asian girls get eyelid surgery without people claiming that she wants to look like this?:

Did you know being Asian also could mean being Mongolian, which means you might be born with Chinese features but Russian-esque blue eyes and blonde hair? (Btw, this is Day's race in Legend, a Mongolian/Russian mix):

Or that African children can also be born with blue eyes?

And what about hapas?

I'll speak a little for Asians. Asians can live in London and speak with a British accent. We can also draw (even if it's not anime!), recite 80's hits, suck at math, not be in the Triads or Yakuza mafia, rock at electric guitar, hate Chinese food, flunk out of school, have no interest in martial arts, be Muslim, or be born with naturally wavy hair. (I don't hate Chinese food, btw--my mom can attest to that. :) But I do have naturally wavy brown hair, just like my Manchurian/Mongolian grandmother.) We don't all want to look white just because of European influences throughout history. And we don't even all have last names with one syllable. My official last name might be Lu, but through my mother's side, my last name would be Aisin-Gioro. Manchurian. Thai people have some of the longest last names I've heard, and Philippinos have Spanish last names.)

Just because you're Hispanic doesn't mean you can't speak English well. Just because you're African doesn't mean you have black or brown eyes. Just because you're Native American doesn't mean you wear feathers, speak like a philosopher of nature, and have "savage beauty". These things may occur in a race, but they do not define a race. When including minorities in fiction, I think writers should try to expend more effort in researching the race in question. Add something unique that's not typified in today's media. Do some digging. It'll pay off with richer characterization and less blatant stereotyping, even if that stereotyping was done innocuously, with good intentions.


Emy Shin said...

Thank you so much for this post!

It never once crossed my mind that some Asians might be double-eyelid surgeries so that they look Caucasian. Asians I know (myself included) are much more concerned with looking like other Asians who society deem "beautiful."

Marie said...

I totally agree--I never thought that Asians who opted for double-eyelid surgery did it because they were casting off some sort of cultural identity. :)

Nini V. said...

This post rocked! It got me thinking and I'm sorry if this comment will sound as if I'm rambling on.

On a slightly random note, the thing with Jorge reminded me of this one book I read in high school, "Romiette [sp] and Julio." I still own the book and liked the premise: a black girl and a Hispanic boy falling for each other. But the author, who's black, pretty much ruined it by having Julio speak random Spanish: de nada, que pasa. I agree with you that there are some Latinos who'll use those words. But for some reason, it came off as fake and stereotypical. At times, it was even funny. A character would say something in Spanish and immediately translate it into English; even when they're speaking to someone that speaks Spanish as well. It's like "Dora the Explorer" in prose. The author also ruined the story by having the gang members' signature color be purple, but that's a different point.

I'm glad that you pointed out the Asian eyelid surgeries. I've heard of them before and assumed, just like the reporter, that it was because they wanted to "look white." It's a bit hypocritical/ironic/whatever on my part. Plenty of black women have added hair woven into our own hair. Because the unnatural hair is usually straight, it leads to others believing that we do this to "look white" (granted, this may have been true years ago). I've never had weave but I get the feeling that it's a lot easier to deal with and we just might want longer hair and different styles; hey, white women do it, too XD

And on a last note, the post title made me think of one of my secondary characters. My protagonist is white and her former best friend is black. They reason why they split up is because the black girl was told that she "acted white," that she didn't act like a stereotype and now feels the need to do so.

Last random note: the word verification for this comment is "skank." I'm so immature.

Anonymous said...

Europeans are great because we fuck a lot of races and mix our DNA.

simple as that, Asians have only been fucking other Asians thus only have Asian features.

Europe welcomes Asian for fucking

its a honest post

Anonymous said...

"Europeans are great because we fuck a lot of races and mix our DNA"

LOLOLOL. Shameless confession.