Friday, February 8, 2008

No, try not, do or do not...there is no try

This link leads to an essay to which I just want to say WORD.

I rarely mention politics in this particular blog aside from how it impacts the plot and setting of the comics (or animated series) I may be watching.

But I just want it out there, that this blog is me mentioning tropes and fighting against oppression and racism enabled invisibility on TWO fronts.


And yes, my feelings on several feminist blog movements is that NO - You don't get my allegiance for free. You don't know me just because we both have innies, tattas and wombs. Do not count on me to back you up unless you have a cause I've already stated is worth my strength, my voice and my energy.

On that note....

Free Image Hosting at

Does this look like a multi-ethnic group of girls to you?

The author claims that Theater Jane, aka Fat Jane is Asian and that Sporty Spice is Latina.

Now that she's said who is supposed to be what, I can kind of see some corralations. But I'm not supposed to be putting a book up to my eyeball, and then eyeballing well known art of a public latina figure to figure out that's a brown skinned young woman who happens to be athletic.

I also shouldn't be trying to figure out if one girl's eyes have the requsite eyefolds or if she's just so chubby, her eye shape has changed.

What does this have to do with assumed alligance? Well I've found myself wondering in the past two days since that interview went up, if the interviewer would even have said anything if I hadn't brought it up first - if she wasn't already aware that I as a WoC had issues with the book and we happen to speak about race SF/F + Comic genre semi frequently.

More over the author's response leaves me cold. She's rambling on and on about diversity and how important it is to her and yet her initial response?

That’s a total bummer! Not white at all.

No, Ms.Castellucci, when (young) women of colour look at your book and don't immediately see themselves it is more than just a bummer. It's yet another book, yet another aspect of fiction and entertainment and the world where we're invisible, were we don't count, where we're not important enough for someone to tell the artist to do more than add some bushy eyebrows and give another girl a short straight haired bob.

Ms Castellucci again says While it’s true that my main characters are white, their worlds are not.

And I call foul.

Don't tell me I have to read book two to see more of the diverse world when book one didn't hold my interest.

Also, why the hell is the book called THE PLAIN JANES if the Latina and Asian Janes don't count as main characters?

Are the main characters only; once upon a blonde Jane, now totally dark haired and emo + her white crush + her white sort of nemisis + the other white Jane + her white parents?

And as for "And Theater Jane, totally Asian"

Just which Asian culture does this Jane call her own? Is she Japanese, Korean, Taiwainse, Chinese, Chinese - Mongolian, or from the Philippines? Do you even know?

Do you even know why it might matter that in a book where the town calls for a curfew on teenagers and start to restrict their freedoms why in the first book there should have been parents of one of those minority students feeling uneasy about that?

Do you even know why that might matter if Theater Jane was Japanese? Or Taiwanese or Chinese-Mongolian?

For that matter, was anyone in that book Jewish? I honestly can't remember, that's how much of an impact your characters failed to make.

Just making it clear, you can be all for diversity as much as you want. You can claim to be trying to walk the walk, but nothing's showing.

And the minorities very likely aren't supporting you in email.


  1. I just want to say WORD to your post. I read that interview about five minutes before I came across your post, and my half-formed thoughts were what you express here.

    I didn't think the Janes were PoCs either, from the preview images I saw. The interview made the author come across as only shallowly well-intentioned, if that. She might think she's got diversity and subtlety in there, but as far as I know it didn't come across to any of her readers.

    Just which Asian culture does this Jane call her own? Is she Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, Chinese, Chinese - Mongolian, or from the Philippines? Do you even know? Do you even know why it might matter that in a book where the town calls for a curfew on teenagers and start to restrict their freedoms why in the first book there should have been parents of one of those minority students feeling uneasy about that?

    Especially appreciated those two paragraphs. There are different cultures, and it's the writer's responsibility to bother to learn about them rather than the half-assed effort of slapping on a vague label.

    Thanks also for the essay link.

  2. WORD as well!
    And on that note which kind of Latina is the other she Puertorican (YAY! ME!), Costa Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Ecuadorian, etc.?

    I teach a small Comic Design class over here and I was super surprised when on a coloring assignment (color two pages of silver age Legion of Superhereos) they colored all the human peachy white despite me saying their from other planets and despite having a lengthy discussion on how few comic characters represent us ... food for thought...

    I have to say I thought all the Janes were white...


  3. Rosa,

    Yes to your 'which culture does Athletic!Jane honor/celebrate/represent'.

    I was just too pissed that apparently bushy eyebrows means Latina (Hello Brooke Shields, I didn't know you were a chica. Now I am educated.)

    Also no offense to any White Allies Against Racism, but if PoC can't fanwank seeing some PoC identity in there,(which we shouldn't have to do in the first place) how much easier is it for all those white-folk who don't think about race, unless someone's on the news discussing Obama, to think all four girls were just like them - the way they're always the majority and always represented in media?

  4. much easier is it for all those white-folk who don't think about race, ... to think all four girls were just like them...

    As a white male, I'll put my hand up to this- I really, totally didn't pick any of the Janes as non-white. In my defense, I didn't see anything in the text to tell me otherwise.

    Would it have been better or worse if some sort of shading had been used to indicate differing skin tones? Clarifying or patronizing?

  5. Owesome:

    I have no idea right now what would have been more clarifying.

    Because you're right, there's nothing in the text that says they're not white. And Ms.Castellucci, as the one responsible for the text, is also the one claiming the multi-ethnicity.

    I'm currently stuck thinking that as there are light skinned Latinos and as several Asian ethnicities are also light skinned that it was either a) an easy spin for the interview, or perhaps an excuse created before that particular interview but after things were well progressed in publishing/marketing the book itself.

    Or b) The writer didn't care to make plain to the artist that more would be required than bushy eyebrows and slightly almond shaped and perhaps smaller seeming eyes.

    The more I hear people's replies of "There's supposed to be people of colour in that group?", the more the author's attitude and response of 'Bummer' seems belittling, shallow, callous and all around generally unpleasant.

  6. Thanks for actually mentioning Mongolian... My daughter is Mongolian and I would love to see a character in a comic she could look up to. So far there are just the evil red eyed Mongolian bad guys in Mulan. Most people don't even know Mongolia is it's own country!! So thanks again!

  7. To My Daughter's Mongolian:

    I have to admit to not knowing as much as I could. I was looking at grasslands online and remembered that Monglia has sweeping plains.(All those nature shows from my youth -> geek)

    I stumbled onto a wonderful website that filled me in on the history of the land and how they faired under China's rule and the struggle to retain their culture. It was enough for me to think about them as a distinct Asian peoples.

    But you bring up an excellent point. When you (general) end up thanking someone for remembering and mentioning a group of people as a separate ethnic entity, that's a sign that the world is desperately in need of public signs and symbols of diversity.

    It's not enough to just to see a country's name mentioned for sixty seconds during coverage of the Olympics (opening ceremonies).

    Also, I hear you on the Disnification / Vilification of certain culture.


    Great post! >:D

    I'm tired of having to try to figure out if certain chars are Asian or whatever... sometimes I can't even tell.. and I'm totally with you also with the whole "all Asians are ASIAN and that's all" stuff >:\

  9. So your complaint is that there is not nearly enough visual information in the simply drawn characters to immediately convey their ethnicity, except for when there is an element, but that is far too stereotyped so you don't like it.

    I am all over greater cultural diversity in comics, and it's something I struggle with, myself. But if I introduced a character with a different ethnic background from my own and immediately got shouted at for not making it obvious enough without including stereotyped traits, or thinking through every aspect of their background, you know what? I might end up doing what most everyone else does, and avoid all the grief by making everyone white.

    I agree, the Asian and Latina Janes weren't obvious to me, either. But their backgrounds weren't as relevent to the story as, say, The Re-Gifters.

    It would be wonderful if I had people of differing ethnic background that I could call on to help me give depth to characters. You know where I could find anyone like that?

  10. Karen El:

    My original post and my comments since have pointed out that there were neither visual cues nor textual cues as the ethnicity of the JANES now claimed to be minority characters.

    I have also said I find the author's response to be shallow and somewhat insincere.

    As for the rest of your comment, I suggest you both re-read my post and google white privilege + unpacking because I think you just offered me a job being your Minority Translator. And frankly, you can't afford me.

  11. I agree, the Asian and Latina Janes weren't obvious to me, either. But their backgrounds weren't as relevent to the story as, say, The Re-Gifters.

    But that's the point. Why does ethnicity have to be "relevent to the story" in order for it to be stated? So it's not important to have characters of colour unless it's the "Asian episode"? So, should all background characters in television be white too unless the episode specifically is about a character being non-white? >_>;;

    Do ppl of colour only exist when their ethnic backgrounds are "relevent" otherwise their ethnicity is unimportant, and they might as well be white b/c white is default right?

  12. Willow, yes. I agree it could have been better. In fact I think I already said that.

    I'm not defending the author's comments. I don't speak for her.

    And I totally knew you were going to throw white privilege at me. Of course anyone who actually gives a damn about being more culturally diverse in their work, but admits she doesn't have the experience to do a good job on her own must be absolutely brimming with white privilege, so let's make sarky comments and shoot her down for even daring to ask for help.

    My mistake. I thought you were about promoting cultural diversity. You're quite good at the opposite.

    I just want you to know that if you ever see some of my work that includes culturally diverse characters, it will be despite you, rather than because of you.

  13. I was considering something when I read this.

    Why not get the teenager girls this is directed to, and ask them what they think of how they are represented? Of course, this is slightly idle, but as a teenager, this did pop into my mind.

    But I'd like to say something about ethnicities in identity. Mostly, the idea that sometimes backgrounds aren't as relevant to a story.

    Perhaps. But they are very relevant to the people in the story. To their identity. Especially if you are an immigrant. I personally (sorry for putting my life in this!) needed to know where my family was from, to be sure of who I was in relation to the world, because I country hopped for all of my life.

    A character's background helps make a character. Your heritage, your ethnicity is part of your character. This seems to me really important, when it comes to introducing characters. I think this might be part of why the lack of textual hints for the ethnicities is so... well, its bad. You don't have to make special situations of mentioning a character's ethnicity. You should actually make it an everyday, everymoment thing in the books- because it is an everyday fact that the characters are living through.