Fantasy vs. Reality in Storytelling

This is an outgrowth from the discussion at Ars Marginal about the Chosen One motif found in televised and printed media.  Some of the discussion moved towards using more historical references for developing better characters of color OR telling their stories, as opposed to the pure fantasy of White Heroism that has permeated Hollywood-based productions since its inception.

This, however, is part and parcel with the conundrum that people of color face when developing stories to tell for a greater audience.  Although People of Color can draw from “real life” struggles because their lives involve having to struggle against White Privilege and White Supremacy in the United States, it leads to a perception that the same people of color have no interest in fantasy-based stories (ala “Lord of the Rings”) or science-fiction/space fantasy worlds (Star Trek, Dune, Hitchhiker’s Guide, etc.).  When you have people who spout the kind of nonsense as the first comment in this post here, you start to get a sense of the way racist and uninformed commentary can shape the worldview of fandoms almost naturally.

I keep coming back to my post on Missed Opportunities because it highlights a theme I’ve been trying to promote:  If we want to change the world we live in – and what we see in that world, then we need to show everyone what that world would like.

The main reason why we don’t have many characters of color who are shown doing great things that “help” Mankind is because the stories of these People of Color are whitewashed in the name of “making a dollar.”  Or, the stories of people of color are all but ignored for the same reason.  Could you imagine a character for a show based on Dr. Sarah Fraser, who upon being appalled by the indifference of a crowd in helping a child in distress, used this to fuel her aspiration into becoming one of the first Black doctors in the country?  And if anyone ever uses the “There were no Blacks in Europe” in the Victorian Era, kindly point them to this guy.  And never let anyone tell you that Black Women played no role whatsoever in the American Civil War – Mary Bowser was a woman who was a top Intelligence Agent for the Union Army because she was able to play on the racist assumptions of Whites, particularly the Confederates (Black people were stupid, and could not read, write, or understand English).  And I could go on and on and on.  And not just for Black people, either.

But not only are these stories not considered, characters based on these very real people are rejected by the suits, even when they make the most sense.  Instead, the reality becomes fantasy when a person of color’s history and accomplishments are played instead by White actors and actresses.  Fantasy continues to choke reality when said contributions by People of Color are not even acknowledged by the staff or the fans.  Fantasy is important because through Fantasy is the perception of Reality;  it is usually through fantasy works that children have their “life lessons” reinforced, especially with as much television that most modern American children are exposed to on a daily basis.  In turn, for most adults, this fantasy reinforcement becomes a sole source for information (or confirmation bias) for not only themselves, but for other people, in particular, People of Color.  This is why it is important not only to call out those who engage in racism and supporting White Privilege, but also looking at productions created by people of color and looking at the characters within.

Because, in the end, the fantasy of storytelling is used to argue about the basis of reality.

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5 Responses to Fantasy vs. Reality in Storytelling

  1. The discussion on fantasy is interesting considering recent UK works in this genre. One of our family fantasy shows, Merlin has two black regular characters (including Guinevere) and regularly features non-white characters. Robin Hood also featured a Muslim character and later a black man.

    We’ve also had non-white characters turning up so frequently in period works that people are complaining (incorrectly to an extent) that it’s unrealistic.

  2. jarronnelums says:

    You know this is the problem I have with:
    Teen Stories (most of them tend to be pretty angst white kids )
    urban fantasy: (it’s just white kids in the nice part of town in adventures. oh don’t go into the ghetto)
    and the comic series Runaways (which I can’t read it due to it’s hidden racial meanings

  3. I know that this post is over two years old, but when you said, emboldenedly:
    “then we need to show everyone what that world would like.”
    did you really mean:
    “then we need to show everyone what that world would look like.” ?

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