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I think it’s sad that certain character descriptions “can’t” exist because it becomes a caricature.
I understand that it in the world of stories, there are trending tropes and character descriptions. Some of those we love and want to see more of and then there are those that we would rather quit seeing. I came across the idea of phrasing “Caricature versus Character” after a English summer class I took where we were assigned to read “A Raisin in the Sun.” There were many characters that could be stripped of their right to be characters because many of their qualities go along with stereotypes.
The mother in the story was the matriarch after the father died, the daughter went off to college and came back with new ideas, and the husband wasted money on booze. These are tropes that we have seen before, but I don’t think that makes these characters any less legitmate than others. I think the problem comes into play when their story is seen as the only story.
As an African American woman, I am particularly conscious of this warring dynamic. In this world, sometimes I have to prove that I am of value by not alinging with stereotypical things that I actually like and I hate that.
Yes, I was in the orchestra in college and we played music like the Firebird Suite and I still go to my brother’s concerts where they played music from Swan Lake, which I also enjoy. However, I love listening to Lizzo with a splash of Cardi B too.
Yes, I grew up doing a lot of ballet, but I’ve always secretly wanted to be able to breakdance.
Yes, I am a very quiet and introverted person, but once I get really comfortable with you, I will start joking and I might get a little loud. (Bump the “loud black girl” stereotype crap or that I’m only here for comic relief).
I don’t want my existence to be validated by a politics of respectability and I don’t think that characters in stories should have to experience that either. I think the problem is that we reduce a character to stereotypical traits instead of remembering that they are a whole person.
I would encourage you to like yourself for who you are and what you like no matter if it fits a stereotype or not because you are a whole person.
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