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Is it just my imagination? - Hotitudinosity
fiction by jalabert
Is it just my imagination?
When I began writing in the Stargate: Atlantis fandom everyone seemed to be rushing to jump aboard the McShep bandwagon. Though I've enjoyed many stories featuring that pairing, I must admit, I don't get it. Anyway, I instead chose to focus my stories around Lieutenant Aiden Ford. Why Aiden, you ask? He was very handsome, in on all the major action, but not the central focus of the story. That gave me a lot of room to not only develop stories from a perspective different from that of the series but also to shape him as I saw fit. I could have done that with almost any of the cast, actually, but Aiden was obviously doomed to be pretty wallpaper. The powers that be did such a lousy job of character development that in SGA's third season they have yet to give the show's ostensible leading man a raison d'etre. Disappointingly, Aiden was dropped from the show when they couldn't figure out what to do with him. There were undoubtedly other factors contributing to the decision to remove him (and the actor who portrayed him, Rainbow Sun Francks) from the show, but that doesn't alter the fact that his character was undeveloped and poorly written to the point of being undermined as a credible member of the expedition. (Of course, the same can also be said of John, Teyla and Elizabeth, as well.)

It really pissed me off that the powers that be chose to replace Aiden with a white man who not only reads as black but whose character better fits all three of the traditional roles to which blacks are routinely relegated in science fiction: alien, noble savage, and bad-assed enforcer. (To their credit, Stargate: SG-1 somehow rose above that stereotype with Teal'c--though I suspect that most of the credit for that achievement lies with Christopher Judge, who--as the bad-assed alien enforcer of the Goa'uld system lord and later as a member of SG-1--never donned the mantle of noble savage. But having taken the extraordinary step of casting a young, educated black man as the second in command of the Atlantis military force, the SGA writers totally dropped the ball and simply didn't know what to do with him. Funny, I can reel off at least a dozen ways his character could have been put to better use in nearly every episode, beginning with the pilot and ending with his last appearance on the show.

Probably the nadir of season one for Aiden Ford was "The Eye"/"The Storm" arc, in which, given an opportunity to allow Aiden to demonstrate his leadership, the writers instead made him look like a cranky, inexperienced kid. I doubt that the SGC would have sent such a person to Atlantis as Colonel Sumner's second in command, much less recruit him into the Stargate program. Of course, we were also supposed to believe that they'd send a whiny, mama's boy wimp of a doctor as the chief medical officer and a loose-cannon Air Force major no one wants to deal with off to the Pegasus Galaxy, too. Someone once theorized that the SGC sent all its expendable people to Atlantis. I don't buy that, although I certainly do buy into the notion that the masterminds behind Stargate franchise probably sent their most expendable writers to SGA.

But I digress; I started this essay to talk about fan fiction, not to whine about the failure of the show, which, for the record, I no longer watch. My point was that I write fan fiction that focuses on a black character. I did not choose to write him simply because I am also black. But when I post stories, the few comments I receive from people often seem genuinely surprised that I can find stories to write about him. (Then again, I am equally perplexed that people can find stories to write about Parrish, who appeared in the series for what, two minutes? He wasn't even around long enough to merit a first name and yet there is far more Parrish-centric fic than Aiden Ford-centric fic out there.) I have heard on more than one occasion the excuse that "I can't get into his head," or "I can't relate to him." And yet, these same people apparently have no problem getting into the head of or relating to an astrophysicist, an Air Force officer, a doctor, an engineer, an alien, an elf, a Hobbit, a vampire slayer, or a teenage boy with magical powers--as long as they're white, of course.

Tell me something: can it be that hard to write a black character? Or is it simply a lack of imagination? Could it really be any more difficult than writing stories from the perspective of a man involved in clandestine gay relationship while living in a city in the middle of the ocean on a planet in a galaxy thousands of light years from planet Earth? Could it be any more difficult than say, writing stories in which men become pregnant or turn into women? (I don't get that, either.) Surely, writing a black character can't be any more difficult for a white woman than it is for a black woman to write white characters? All right, perhaps I have an advantage in this case. I live in New York City and interact with white people all the time and the fact is that many white people live in communities where there are either no black people or de facto segregation limits interaction. But I've written medical stories without having a background in medicine. Five years before I set foot in the United Kingdom I wrote stories set in England. I've written action/adventure stories with no formal knowledge of military procedures. I can go on and on listing things I've written about without any knowledge or training or firsthand experience.

I've never allowed inexperience or ignorance prevent me from writing the stories in my head. I take each idea as a personal challenge and use it as an opportunity to learn. Fan fiction allows me to venture into worlds I could never experience in real life. I've gained insight into other cultures, fields of endeavor, arts, sciences, and a whole host of other things I might never have given a moment's thought to otherwise. Every story I write is an opportunity to expand my horizons just a little or to play with an idea. Sometimes it's about making myself write about a topic that I'm uncomfortable with. Sometimes I challenge myself to write a certain amount per day. My current project involves a Fibonacci sequence and each subsequent chapter is longer than the previous one. The idea is to take myself to a place I've never been before each time I set out to write. I am not afraid of a challenge.

I am not afraid of writing characters who aren't "white enough." As a matter of fact, I am in more danger of writing characters that aren't "black enough" for someone's liking. My most challenging story this year was an AU in which Aiden was a hip-hop artist. I know far more about Chopin than I do about hip-hop--and prefer Chopin--so I was forced to rely on a young woman of Asian and Caucasian descent to not only tell me about the hip-hop scene but to guide me with the lingo. But outside of that foray, the truth is I actually don't write Aiden Ford as a black character, any more than I write John Sheppard or Rodney McKay or Elizabeth Weir as a white character. I write them all as the people they are. In my imagination, Aiden is a young man who manages to balance youthful exuberance with the persona of a seasoned Marine. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr., that has nothing to do with the color of Aiden's skin, but everything to do with the content of his character. I write my characters, all of them, as human beings. And maybe, if other writers, including those who are paid to write the show, focused on the humanity of each character, the color of their skin might cease to be such an impediment. It doesn't take some special "in" with the culture or the race. All it takes is a little imagination.

Now, perhaps you read all of this and thought, But I don't want to write about Aiden Ford, or any other black character. He's not part of my OTP. Perhaps not, but that's a rant for another time.


69 comments or leave a comment
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mulder200 From: mulder200 Date: July 22nd, 2006 02:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Preach! It's too bad you can't write stories for the show itself, then it would really get ratings.
jalabert From: jalabert Date: July 22nd, 2006 12:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
There's not enough money on the planet...

superl99 From: superl99 Date: July 22nd, 2006 08:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmm... that's a very interesting point. Obviously all the ff I've written is whiter than the whitest thing, what with the lack of minority characters in P&P, but it's not something I've ever really thought about. I think there is a big fear of offending someone by portraying a character in a way that may come out cartoonish or a blatant stereotype. I think also with something like P&P, you'd have to make a point of saying, 'I'm making this character black, behold his blackness and here's how he behaves,' and because of the background of the story, you'd have to also have a specific agenda for making a character of another race. Hmm, actually mixed race would be quite a good modern upgrade for E&D... anyway, I digress.

My point is, for something like P&P it's a bit more understandable not stretching to non-white characters. For something like this, though, where the character already exists (not that I have any idea what you're talking about specifically, as I don't watch any SGs), it does seem a bit odd for him to be so ignored in ff. I can only come back to the idea of fear of offending. You've seen where I grew up; whitey white suburbia land. If a character is poorly developed as you describe, I would feel skittish about writing him because I wouldn't feel qualified to understand him. I would be afraid that, if I went on the assumption of the sort of life I would think a white man in his position would have led, I could get an uproar saying I had made him 'too white'; conversely, if I tried to imagine his life as 'stereotypically' black, that I could be accused of at worst racism or at best not knowing what I was talking about. So I just avoid it, and I suspect others would as well. I would hope that political correctness is probably more to do with it than any inherent racism.
jalabert From: jalabert Date: July 22nd, 2006 02:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's precisely my point. It's all about fear of offending. I think the problem lies in the notion that one has to write "white" or "black" in the first place. The character I write about doesn't sound particularly "black" and as you well know, neither do I. The whole idea that someone "needs" to sound black or white or whatever becomes an insurmountable obstacle, when the point should be to write the character's voice. Dialect is part of that, but it's not as important. In the AU story I mentioned in my essay, I eventually took out much of the hip-hop lingo I'd written. It didn't detract from the story (and probably made it easier for people to understand), because I established the cultural distance between Aiden and the other characters with a brief description at the start of the story and then threw in a few subtle visual cues here and there as a reminder to the reader. I also established his differences by others' reactions to him. Another example, perhaps more relevant to you: One of the SGA characters is a Scot and he's often written with what is ostensibly a Scottish accent, much to the horror of real Scots, who also take issue with the character's accent on the show--and the actor's the son of Scottish parents who emigrated to Canada.) When I write Carson Beckett, I acknowledge that he's a Scot, occasionally use expressions (learned from you, of course) but otherwise, write him exactly like any other character.

I'm not by any means suggesting that white people attempt to write about the black experience. I'm not talking about writing from a black perspective. I'm talking about writing fan fiction that truly reflects the cultural and ethnic diversity of the show. I'm talking about getting past the whole "I wouldn't feel qualified to understand him" argument. You understand me, don't you? That didn't take any great effort on your part. In fact, you would never have guessed that I was black before I told you, since we met and became friends online. Aiden Ford could have just as easily been cast as white or female without any need to change his dialogue. It's only in the writers' perception that the color of his skin renders him inscrutable. We're not a separate species. We have the same needs, the same interests, concerns and fears. On the whole, there is much more to bring us together as people than divide us. And if writers have the creativity to envision the myriad plot angles and twists and scenarios that make up the world of fandom, it simply boggles the mind to hear that they think that writing a black character is beyond their ken.

One final point: you're right to suggest that if you were to write a story about a black woman writer who lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, who had an earned doctorate and taught at a college, knitted like a fiend, and loved the works of Jane Austen, someone would say that your character was "too white." I'd say you were writing my biography. Am I any less black because I'm in the 99th percentile of my race? I don't think so. That is my black experience.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 22nd, 2006 03:36 pm (UTC) (Link)


I didn't know you were black, I was lurking around thinking I was the only black woman out there who liked slash. (Actually I am bi-racila but that's another story LOL)
I too was saddened and confused by Aiden being replaced by Ronin who is as shallow as they come. He doesn't even need to be there....
But I have read a few stories with excellent black characters in them, Mag 7 being one that has a consistent character. I would like to see more...
I did read a few Deep Blue and some ER that were OK but I'm not big fans.

Keep writing Aiden my friend as I love your work and love him. I never got the McKay Shep thing wither, but I do like Shep and Aiden and CArson and Aiden and...LOL
jalabert From: jalabert Date: July 22nd, 2006 10:35 pm (UTC) (Link)


Oh, there are lots us out here!

I'm a big fan of "Aiden and..." too, but you've undoubtedly noticed that. I'm undecided as to whom he'll be paired with in my next major work.

Thank you for your kind words. I intend to continue to write Aiden for as long as I have stories to write so you're in no danger of losing him. ;)
Re: WOW - (Anonymous) - Expand
From: selmak Date: July 22nd, 2006 07:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

I'll play devil's advocate here.

No, it's not that hard to write a black character.

It's not that hard to write an OC which was a short, Indian Space Ship Captain in the B5 universe who just happened to be female. I did once, and I loved the character I created. But i'm probably the only one.

I often get that comment of a reader's inability to get inside a character's head because god forbid, I write George Hammond fan fic. I am probably the only out there that does. People get sincerely skeeved because in my few fan fics, George is a living, breathing human being who likes having sex. And the comments I get on my fics include "I need mind bleach" but to my delight, one person actually read my story and wrote a comment of "I had to go back and watch the first few seasons recently and while I was doing so, I unexpectedly realized that yes, George Hammond has a sexy voice. You really might be onto something."

[It certainly helps that I am a shameless fan grrrrl about Don. One of the highlights of last year's Joisey Con was listening to him discuss Dante's "The Inferno" during breakfast. While it may be a con personality, as opposed to his real personality, he's got such a joie de vivre that I enjoy listening to him.) I enjoyed him so much at the cons that I went through my previous SG DVDs just to watch him in his scenes. And I was amazed about what a big gaping hole his departure was. General Jack-Jack did nothing for me.

But we're really not talking about writing for a black character. In my personal Fat White Chick (FWC) opinion, the people that can't write AF/GH/Other Secondary Character or claim to be unable get into their heads, is because they lack the imagination to actually write them.

Also, let's be honest, a great deal of fan fic writers want adulation, and you'll get more adulation from the masses if you write a crap S/J fic than if you write a prize wining GH or AF story.

To write fan fic, especially DECENT character based fan fic, you need to be captivated by the character. (I will henceforth start a flame war by saying most S/J is just harlequin romance material with no basis in reality.)

Let's look at poor, dear Aiden. Hopelessly underwritten, and when he was written, he had wild personality swings. Hardened Warrior (check!), geekish fan boy going backwards through the gate (check!), little bro' with a big bad crush on Shephard (Check!). Honestly, he did nothing for me. I liked the character, yes, but I didn't LOVE the character and want to get inside his little head and give him the backstory he was so badly lacking. Yet Wraith!boy Aiden made my toes curl because he had conflict, he had a plot line and he was in transition, he was becoming more than a mixed up character plot device. Dare we say, Wraith!Boy Aiden had potential. Then he disappeared, presumably dead. Talk about fangrrrrl interuptus :)

As for Conan/Ronan, I'm glad to hear that someone else besides me thinks the character is a joke at best, and a stereotype at worst. My sister and I just want to Fast forward him the minute he comes on.

To restate my point, I think the reason why people don't write for 2ndary character is not so much of skin color but because they lack the imagination and the motivation to actually write something new that might (god forbid) require them to expand their minds and do some honest to god research. Why put all that effort into it when you're not going to get a standing ovation from the huddled masses?

I write fanfic as a personal challenge. I like taking the various characters, breaking them apart and then trying to reassemble them. Sometimes my ideas work, other times, people get really sincerely skeeved because I like my George Hammond with a dark side. I actually wrote one fic where George Hammond sees Jack O'Neill, Samantha Carter and Daniel Jackson together for the first time in the Children of the Gods and he realizes that he hates them because of that little incident in 1969 which forever changed his life and forced him to work towards his General Stars, taking time away from his late wife. *gasp!*

I don't think it's so much a skin tone issue, but just a general laziness. People don't usually want to put that much effort into things. It's far easier to recycle.

That's my two cents.


hsapiens From: hsapiens Date: July 22nd, 2006 08:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I'll play devil's advocate here.

You and I will have to agree to disagree about racism here. I think there's a huge helping of it. Thus the fact that Parrish is more popular than Aiden. The lack of interest in Aiden is not solely because he's secondary. I think it also explains the general lack of interest in Teal'c in the SG-1 world. However, racism isn't the sole reason, either.

(I will henceforth start a flame war by saying most S/J is just harlequin romance material with no basis in reality.)

Which is a pithier version of what I said below about slash. I think, in fact, it describes a shockingly large swath of all fanfic of any kind that has to do with a romantic pairing.
hsapiens From: hsapiens Date: July 22nd, 2006 08:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've tried to craft a comment on this 3 different times. I don't have anything new or thought-provoking to add, though, so I keep starting over. Alas, number of attempts do not increase my profundity. :(

You already know my opinion of the modern crop of Stargate writers: incompetence and missed opportunities are their hallmarks. Aiden's fate, sadly, does not surprise me.

The lack of Aiden fic speaks more directly, I believe, to fear. We've discussed the stifling effects of fear on creativity. You are particularly fearless and imaginative (so, yes it IS your imagination though perhaps not in the way you meant it) when compared to most fanfic writers. For you, writing is not only a hobby but a chance to learn something, to stretch yourself in new ways.

That isn't an impression I get from the great majority of fan fic writers. Fan fic, to me, seems much more about treading very familiar paths, even mind-numbingly boring ones, because it gives emotional pleasure. I think that's part of the phenom of OTPs, but that, too, is a different topic. I think it's also why Daniel rarely sounds like an archaeologist, Sam like an astrophysicist, and so on. Rarely is fan fic about the art of writing.

I don't think most slash has anything to do with gay. It's as gay as the two women getting it on in the pages of Playboy is lesbian. It isn't women generally stretching their imaginations to encompass what the gay experience is as much as it is writing their own romantic fantasy starring two gorgeous men. Thus, the complaints about "feminizing" men (a term that STILL irks me to no end) and the bizarre m-pregs. Strangely, writing slash about men in a military installation in another galaxy, complete with MREs that are heated and BDUs with zippers, is less of a stretch of their imaginations than writing a consciously "black" character because their characters are, in essence, mirrors.

Add to that the fear factor and an unconscious form of racism (exclusion by ignorance), and I guess I'm disappointed by the fandom even if I'm not very surprised.
From: ctrl_issue Date: July 22nd, 2006 11:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

My apologies for interrupting…

I think I should start off by stating that I’m recovering white trash. I was raised to be a racist, snotty little bitch. I’m trying to overcome that. That being said, I have to say, this isn’t something confined to Stargate. It’s everywhere, and to be honest, it pisses me off that it’s so rampant in my fandom. My itsy-bitsy little fandom.

Stargate is not my fandom, but Static Shock is.

I know enough about SG to know whom I like and what I don’t like, and the reasons why it isn’t my fandom. Static Shock is a cartoon/comic book (though I write for the cartoon) about a black superhero, Virgil, whose power is electricity. A black boy is the star. Unfortunately, all the fanfiction seems to focus on his white sidekick: Richie, whose powers are ‘super-genius’.

Now, I will admit that I pair up Virgil/Richie. They’re my OTP. Unfortunately, there’s just as much, if not more Hotstreak/Richie. I say unfortunately because these two –white- characters share maybe four scenes with each other, and Hotstreak is an enemy. Not only that, but he’s not even the main villain. Sure, he gets spotlight, but he’s not the main villain. Why do they pair up the two whites? I’ve no idea. But they do. Side note: These are two of the very few white characters in the show compared to rest of the ethnically diverse cast.

A lot of author’s just find it “easier” to use Richie. And while part of it may be related to the mannerisms, and cultural differences, I don’t think they can really claim that as an excuse. Why? Because they're still more than happy to write Asian characters for anime, manga, and the very rare American "Asian inspired" show. A lot of people forget that, unless otherwise stated, all anime and manga characters are JAPANESE. Not white. Not Euro-raised. The hair/eye color and designs for eyes are there to indicate personality.

There are other examples of writers and fans not taking the black characters seriously. The best example that I can think of is highlighted on Wednesday night with Criminal Minds. *sigh* Shemar Moore plays Derick Morgan, the expert on obsession crimes, but in the end... all he does is kick down doors. And while I'll be the first to admit I wanna build a house with nothing but doors and not a single knob -just- so he can kick them all open, I'd prefer the character to be taken a bit more seriously, more deeply, and more professionally.

Anyway, back on topic. I’m a white female who enjoys slashing black males and white males and Asian males and alien males and just hot males in general. For me, it’s not so different than writing about being hopelessly in love, or having super-powers, or space travel, considering these are all things that I’ve never done.

Writing fiction is about using my imagination and having fun.

Unfortunately, as much fun as I get out of writing, it’s very rare for me to get any from reading, seeing as how there are far fewer people who’re willing to write the kinds of stories I enjoy, which, funny enough, are the kinds of stories I write. It’s sad, but it’s there.

I’m sorry, I’m rambling. I’ll stop. I just… wanted you to know that you aren’t the only one who gets upset by this.
jalabert From: jalabert Date: July 23rd, 2006 01:07 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: My apologies for interrupting…

I'm delighted that you added your voice to the discussion. I am a fan of Static Shock, though I've read very little of the fic--mainly that of a friend of a friend, who, like you, is white and slashes Virgil and Richie. Your example makes an even better indictment than mine. Static Shock is a show where blacks are clearly in the majority. The idea that the dominant slash pairing tends to be white and features a minor player can't be read as anything other than racism. You'd think that if they liked the show enough to write about it, they would have observed enough of Virgil's character to find his voice, mannerisms, speech, etc.

And few prime time shows manage to rise above the stereotype, unfortunately. Why go to the trouble of creating the character if you aren't going to use him? (I'm with you on that door thing, though.)

I find that I write a lot more than I read, these days, too. I used to read fic voraciously till I got so tired of reading the same thing repeatedly. I try to find things to read, but nothing holds my interest these days as much as my own stuff. And that's just depressing.

Thanks for commiserating. I'm going to have to check out your fic.
From: rydra_wong Date: July 23rd, 2006 08:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Okay to wander in?

Thank you so much for writing this, because this is such a huge issue within fandom (and one responsible for some previous kerfuffles), but nobody seems to have mentioned it during IBARW yet.

At the moment, I'm trying to decide if I have the courage/stupidity to try writing something about being a white person writing characters of color in fanfic.

Because on the one hand, I don't write them "differently"; it's about writing the character, whoever you're writing.

But at the same time, I do try to be self-critical and avoid any unconscious stereotyping or assumptions I might be bringing with me.

And there are points when someone's specific cultural background (whether that's being a young African-American man, or being a Jaffa from Chulak or an Abydonian - or being a white guy from the US South like Cam, for that matter) is potentially going to affect their perspective and the experiences they bring to a situation.

And I do try to work interestingly/subversively with aspects of Stargate canon that I find problematic.

So. Um. Yeah. Very glad you raised this.

P.S. Oooh, Fibonnaci numbers as a structuring device? That's a fantastic idea.
jalabert From: jalabert Date: July 23rd, 2006 12:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I purposely reduced this discussion to the simplest level because this issue is so huge. The exclusion of people of color is so blatant and so inexplicable that it makes me nuts. I'm glad you contributed to the discussion; I've read your lovely Teal'c fic and you portray him with great sensitivity (and maximum hotness). Yes, certain storylines or issues would require more than a passing mention of color, but at the moment I'm just arguing for putting us out there as human beings.

I haven't even touched on the subject of women in this issue. Writers seem to be able to get around that touchy subject by simply negating their race. As long as the white man is in charge, it seems perfectly okay to have black women in stories. No one bothers acknowledging the fact that Teyla is black (but then, you can call her alien and blame her skin tone on the sunlight in the Pegasus galaxy, can't you?).
From: rydra_wong Date: July 23rd, 2006 12:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
with a white man who not only reads as black

FWIW, I believe Jason Momoa is mixed-race, Native Hawaiian/Euro-American.

But (being a cynic) I'd agree that, especially playing an "exotic" alien, he may be more acceptable to a mostly-white audience than an African-American actor.
hsapiens From: hsapiens Date: July 26th, 2006 01:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Just butting in to let you know that jalabert is currently away on vacation and that's why she isn't answering comments at the moment. She isn't coming back to a computer until next week - sob! - but I'm betting she'll pick up the discussion then.
mulder200 From: mulder200 Date: July 23rd, 2006 08:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love sci-fi and fantasy but the thing that annoys me is how there are so few poc! And if they are, they are usually cast in minor roles!

Christopher Judge said in an interview that he tried for ages to get his character hair but the producers wouldn't go for it. He shows he filmed a scene in dreadlocks(sexy) but that cut it. And have you noticed the eps. that feature the most character deveolpment for Teal'c are written by HIM. Coincidence?! I think not.

ANd the really sad thing about Rainbow is the producers talked about it but they couldn't decide what to do with his character so they wrote him off. WTH?!

IMO, it seems like if POC want to be presented the way WE want ourselves to be, we just need to do our ourselves. I'm not saying white people can't do POC but judging from tv and movies, thay can and have done worse.
hsapiens From: hsapiens Date: July 26th, 2006 01:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Just butting in to let you know that jalabert is currently away on vacation and that's why she isn't answering comments at the moment. She isn't coming back to a computer until next week - sob! - but I'm betting she'll pick up the discussion then.

(p.s. I just adore that pic of CJ. Oh do I wish I'd been at that con. *sigh*)
(Deleted comment)
hsapiens From: hsapiens Date: July 26th, 2006 01:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Just butting in to let you know that jalabert is currently away on vacation and that's why she isn't answering comments at the moment. She isn't coming back to a computer until next week - sob! - but I'm betting she'll pick up the discussion then.
icarusancalion From: icarusancalion Date: July 24th, 2006 04:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Actually, it's Bates that I miss. He played the hard-assed marine to the core. His lines were just as bland as Ford's, but he made his character radiate on the screen.

In my opinion Rainbow Sun Francks just wasn't a very good actor. For example, when it came time to describe the explosives needed to capture a Wraith I didn't get that he was really into the weapons. It came across too much like, well, a high school kid who'd memorized his lines for the school play. He could deliver them, but he really missed the boat on creating his character.

In several of the Behind The Scenes commentaries Rainbow talked about how impressed he was that the other actors had their characters together so quickly, and I just winced for him. Because... that something that he, as an actor, should have been able to do. He's a pretty face, but didn't bring much to his role.

Now, someone tell me why they got rid of Bates.

thegrrrl2002 From: thegrrrl2002 Date: July 25th, 2006 07:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
My thoughts exactly. Bates was a fantastic character, and well-acted, too. Ford had his moments, but the character never appealed to me. Bates always said what needed to be said. He wasn't afraid speak his mind and create conflict and yet it was always clear that he had good reason to do so. He came across as the real thing, in a way that Ford never did for me.

Regrettably, his role as military hard-ass is now being filled by Caldwell. Maybe the writers felt they needed someone higher in rank to give the character more standing, since Bates was hardly in the position to question Weir's decisions. But it really bugs me that they felt they had to get rid of a fabulous character to so.
iamaki From: iamaki Date: July 24th, 2006 05:07 am (UTC) (Link)
hello! i'm a friend of cntrl_issue. i'd like to say a few things about what you have written regarding this issue - mainly focussing on white people being able to write black characters. (forgive me if this has already been discussed but i didn't read through all the comments) i understand your comparison to other kinds of characters (astrophysicist etc) but to be honest i think it is different when it comes to white people 'relating' to black characters.

as a white female, (who has been dating someone black for a while now) there are many things that i am only now being exposed to. i think, and i'm sure you'll agree, that there's still a huge wall between whites and blacks. speaking personally, i can't imagine what it is like to be black in the united states. i also think a lot of white people really don't have an understanding of black culture and the forces (society, economy, oppression) that have helped to shape it.

so in a sense it's like trying to 'relate' to an alien race. but an alien race that we are not really 'allowed' to talk about. there's a lot of guilt there. guilt that we don't quite understand what to do with. and many people, myself included, are afraid of being seen as racist. most of us only have stereotypes to go on. and i feel bad that in my 30 years, i've only had personal relationships with 3 black people. and until i started dating my boyfriend, i'd never actually discussed race with anyone seriously. but i think it's a common problem in white society. we don't know HOW to talk about it..

oh and by the way, if you are ever interested in writing anything about this for www.culturegroove.com, that would be great. i've already got a couple of article on race. :)

thanks for posting.

From: rydra_wong Date: July 24th, 2006 01:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Personally ...

I can understand saying "OK, I don't know enough about the African-American experience to write, say, a story about Aiden's family background or growing up as a young black man wherever-he-grew-up" (sorry - my knowledge of SGA canon sucks).

But I think part of jalabert's point is that in a whole lot of stories - especially in a scifi fandom - someone's race/culture is really not going to be a major part of the story, if it's part of the story at all.

If you're writing, say, "Aiden struggles with his developing feelings for McKay as they try to survive after a crash-landing on the planet Snarg" - then really, "black culture" is not going to be a major factor here, any more than you need detailed knowledge of Canadian culture to write McKay trying to figure out some Ancient device.

As long as you can avoid dumb-ass offensive stereotypes (e.g. "Aiden is black therefore he must have a huge penis and natural rhythm! Also he is primal and close to the earth!") and write the character, you're probably good.

I do think background knowledge of all kinds enriches writing, research = good, and I think white people ought to be educating ourselves about the experiences of people of colour anyway.

But it's too easy to get paralyzed by anxiety and fear of "getting it wrong", and I don't think that "avoiding writing the characters of colour" is the answer. Because - to make an obvious point - African-Americans are not in fact aliens who experience things in some radically incomprensible way.

And of course there are a whole lot of characters of colour who don't require any knowledge of the experiences of African-Americans (or any other Earth people of colour), because they are aliens or live in the far future or whatever.

If "lack of knowledge of African-American experience" was the only barrier, then there should be plenty of fic about Teal'c and Uhura and Dayna and Tuvok and (etc. etc. etc.)
From: wychwood Date: July 24th, 2006 10:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for writing this :) I do agree that racism is something that a lot of (particularly white) fans aren't really aware enough of. We need more people to remind us of these things.

Although, just to make the point - I really don't think that Ronon is "a white man who reads as black", if only because Jason Momoa is a Native Hawaiian. Of course, that doesn't negate your points about potential stereotyping of black characters. But SGA actually does have a more ethnically mixed cast (primary *and* secondary) than a lot of shows out there; that's not to say that it doesn't have a long way to go, or that it's as mixed as one would ideally like, but I think it's better than a lot of the competition.
hsapiens From: hsapiens Date: July 26th, 2006 01:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Just butting in to let you know that jalabert is currently away on vacation and that's why she isn't answering comments at the moment. She isn't coming back to a computer until next week - sob! - but I'm betting she'll pick up the discussion then.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 24th, 2006 01:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
The reasoning of why no black character fanfiction often reminds me of the big discussion of why not more female (het, femslash) fanfiction. With one of the main argument often being "Well there are no intersting female/black characters around. The black/female characters are boring.". An argument that might have had some validity at some point, as tv writers start to improve that excuse holds less and less water.

I guess a very shallow reason is still plain attraction (and if it is true that every girl wants to marry her daddy that means that most white girls think white when they think attractive). Combine that attractive black males being more visible in the media (actors, rappers) is a more recent thing, maybe it just takes more time to sink in (don't know why though).

Personally, I'm also a person who never got the big appeal of McShep and who totally thought that Ford was the cutest thing about season 1 (and I rather like Ronon and Ronon/Teyla in season 2).

But yeah, it always struck me as an interesting phenomenon that fandom seems to have much fewer problems with "aliens with dark skin" than with black characters. I mean, I have no proof, but I always suspected that Worf and B'Elanna (Klingons, I think played by black actors) got probably a lot more play in fanfiction than Sisko or Tuvok. Just like people are probably more likely to write Ronon or Teyla than Ford. Because they write them as alien, not black.

Oh well, *goes back to watching Blade The Series and years for Blade/Krista and Blade/Shen and pretty much anything/anybody*
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 24th, 2006 06:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

Me too

Oh I was just thinking I hope someone starts some Blade the Series Slash.
I'm glad I'm not the only one watching and thinking that way.
From: zgirl714 Date: July 24th, 2006 05:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've always found it pretty easy to write black characters and I know about three black people at most. Then again I tend to write people first and then their race, religion, and demonic status later.
hsapiens From: hsapiens Date: July 26th, 2006 01:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Just butting in to let you know that jalabert is currently away on vacation and that's why she isn't answering comments at the moment. She isn't coming back to a computer until next week - sob! - but I'm betting she'll pick up the discussion then.
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