Alright, this is another doozie. Let’s get one thing out of the way so that I can add context to this post.
I am a member of a certain minority group within the realm of the United States of America. For starters, no, I’m not hiding my identity because I’m afraid of prejudice, and no, this isn’t going to be an article about “under” representation (My thoughts on forcing
representation on writers are here). I only choose to keep my identity vague for the time being because I don’t see it as anything worth mentioning.
But you might be asking yourself, why is it that I decided to bring up my ethnicity in this discussion? Wasn’t the QuestingAuthor vehemently opposed to identity politics taking over literature? Is he a hypocrite that has lied about each of his opinions? Well, don’t worry my friends, none of my stances have changed on anything. But I have an issue with a certain character that was recently created with my ethnicity.
Just a few hours ago, I was surfing through the vast lands of the interwebs, and after scrounging through a pile of memes and rare Pepes, I found a video about a certain artist whom belonged to my ethnicity (I’m going to start calling it Gorovian so that the sentences are smoother). The artist, being a Gorovian himself, had decided to create a character that would represent the Gorovian identity. Paraphrasing: “I wanted to make a character that was a symbol of unity for all Gorovians in the world.” Now, if you’re anything like me, this last sentence made you cringe. There were a number of mental checkmarks that set off in my mind when I first heard this.
1. Probability of prioritizing symbolism over characterization. Check.
2. Probability of using character as a living soapbox. Check.
Probability of being Lauded for only the character’s identity rather than their personality. Check.
These three things are already enough to give me a healthy reason to be skeptical of this character. Now, to the artist’s benefit, I personally have not gotten the chance to read his work, nor do I plan on doing so. Not because I’m boycotting it or anything, but because I don’t usually consume his type of creative medium. Am I saying that this character is poorly written? Of course not. I couldn’t possibly know, this character could be one of the most complex ones ever made for all I’m aware of!
But I doubt it.
Just looking at the gentleman’s way of describing this person that he created really makes me believe that this character won’t be a character at all. There is little that I have heard of this character that tells me about how they act. Sure, I’m told she’s a Gorovian that she lives in a large american city and what-not, but this just tells me what a
character is. The only thing that I’m aware that this character does is participate in civil rights protests and fight against colonialism. These are the only forces opposing her of which I am aware, because it’s all that the artist said in the interviews. Which only shoots off even more red flags in my mind. Oh, and don’t even let me get started on her abilities.
I’d rather not get into detail with naming her skills to you, because I wouldn’t want you to get a negative impression of a character that has barely even reached the public eye. But suffice to say, if she has all the abilities that the creator described, without any flaws, then I have good reason to believe that she’s a Mary Sue. She fights for righteousness, she’s overpowered, she’s a symbol, she’s a soapbox for the author, and she was designed as a role model for the Gorovians. Each of these things, individually, are not bad. But all of these traits lumped together have the potential of dehumanizing what could be a decent character.
This Gorovian character’s description should serve as a cautionary tale to anyone that wants to represent anything with the characters that they create. Always make sure that your character is an actual human being with a personality and THEN you should begin attaching the symbolism to him\her. As I’ve said before, this isn’t me mocking a character just because of their ethnicity. Remember, I’m a Gorovian as well. A message, no matter how important you think it is, should not define all of a character’s actions.
But in the case of you somehow finding out what I’m referring to, please don’t take my judgement as final. As I’ve said before, I’m only reviewing this character based on interviews with the creator rather than having read the actual work. You might like it for all I care! So take my words with a grain of salt.
As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.