Being that I swim deep in an ocean of privilege, I hesitated on this one. The only representation concern I personally have is that of atheism, which is problematic, but not nearly as problematic as other groups. But, I have a couple examples that I believe really do justice in representing groups that rarely get deserved representation.

I'm not going to focus on any one group, so this is going to be a bit scattered. Then again, I really don't want to claim that any one group is represented in full. Give a fiction a full cast of characters and you still can't fully represent any group. But, these are the examples that I think do the best with the task.

Firstly, we've got Elisa Maza. Detective Elisa Maza of the NYPD is the Gargoyles' human ally and, arguably, a human member of the Gargoyle's clan. A big difference between her and the 80s cartoon version of April Oneal is that Elisa Maza is never a damsel in distress.

Elisa Maza, also, has an African American mother and a Native American father. This is an important part of her character, that comes up at least twice in the series, and not in pat "and look how bad racism is" storylines. But, it is not the entirety of her character.

In terms of showing viewers an example of a woman being strong without sacrificing femininity (Elisa Maza is always both strong and feminine, without having to compromise either) and a person of color being a person with a different ethnicity rather than a different ethnicity expressed as a person, this is good representation, I think.

However, in a show that focuses on issues of bigotry, she doesn't experience much in the way of bigotry. Now, a kid's show has its limits, so this might be understandable. But, there are only two occasions that spring to my mind.

One time when she and a couple gargoyles found themselves on the lost island of Atlantis, where various sentient creatures such as gorgons and Cyclopes and minotaurs live, and she was suddenly the subject of anti-human bigotry in a turnabout of the normal conditions. The other was that Tony Dracon, who holds minor rank in organized crime and is generally a jerk anyway, had the sexist habit of calling Detective Maza "Sugar".

So, while I think she does a good job, a job done rather well because she's a character first and representation second, we need someone else who gives us a hint of what dealing with bigotry is like.

For that, I'm going to go to Cherry Littlebottom. For those of who haven't read Terry Pratchett's Discworld series (and you really should), I'll provide some background.

In the Discworld, the Dwarves have a different attitude with regards to sex and sexuality than we humans. All Dwarves are Dwarves. When two Dwarves fall in love, they are two Dwarves and what's going on under all that leather and chainmail is no business of anybody but those two. There's no distinctions made on the matter of sex. All Dwarves are referred to as "he".

On the one hand, this is nice. If you're born into Dwarven society, or adopted in as the case of Captain Carrot, regardless of what your biology is, you have an equal chance of being respected in whatever field you go into, and an equal chance of having respect as a homemaker.

On the other hand, it's a little like the Model T. You can be whatever gender you like, so long as it's male. That means taking part in stereotypical male pastimes like quaffing large amounts of beer, being rowdy, getting into bar fights, etc. If you're into that, that's all well and good. But, Cheery Littlebottom wasn't into that.

Cheery Littlebottom, who came from Uberwald and studied with the Alchemist's guild, had learned that humans have another option. So, Cheery changed name to Cherry and did something unheard of among Dwarves, adopted the feminine idenity and personal pronoun.

She wore makeup (only a little at first), wore a long skirt (chainmail, of course), and had her helmet modified so as to allow more adornments. Of course, she was still a dwarf, so she would never go without her axe and helmet and would certainly never shave or trim her beard. But, that didn't mean she couldn't have a pink axe and a braided beard.

It did mean that she would immediately, regardless of how quietly adopted this new identity and how much she wanted to do so without causing a stir, face bigotry from other Dwarves. They can't really say why it's so wrong. It's not like people didn't already know she had legs. But, now they were... there under a skirt!

Even Captain Carrot, otherwise unabashedly a good guy, initially expresses a kind of soft bigotry. You've probably heard the kind, the kind where they're technically free and he won't take away the right, but he really wishes she wouldn't... do that... in public like that. And, he's immediately shown to be in the wrong about the whole thing.

The bigotry towards Dwarven women is so strong that it becomes a driving force of one of the bad guys to squash this cultural movement towards Dwarven women. People hate Cherry not because of anything she does, but because of her self-identity. They hate her in a realistic way and she weathers that hatred with realistic, if not openly heroic aplomb.

To be clear, I don't think that Terry Pratchett intended Cherry Littlebottom to be a representation of transgender people, neither do I think she does so naturally. It's stated that Cherry is, biologically speaking, female. And, while it's not expressly state, I think that Terry Pratchett's intent is that those Dwarves who follow her into womanhood are also female. (Although, in my personal head-cannon, it's a mixed bag. It's still nobody else's business what's under all that leather and chainmail, regardless of the identity a Dwarf wishes to express with the leather and chainmail.)

I do, however, believe that Cherry Littlebottom is a good representation of people who's identities do not fit the pre-defined acceptable identities of a society. If the LGBTQ invites her in, she'd be a good addition. But, any identity that society deems dangerous or immoral (without actually causing any harm) could find an ally in Ms. Littlebottom.

To contrast for negative example, I'm going to go back to Gargoyles and look at Lexington. I like Lexington. He's a tech geek. He's not one of the strong Gargoyles. He's more nervous than the others. He's even tender. And, according to Greg Weisman, he's gay.

It's almost good... sort of. But, he's not said to be gay or shown to be interested in other male Gargoyles in the show. So, he's not really representing. A part of me also wonders if he isn't a bit of a stereotypical choice or if the decision to write him as gay didn't result in a bit of stereotyping. After all, he is smaller and less physically powerful.

That said, he's not as bad as the Super Friends. Let's see, we have Apache Chief... because regardless of his power that's his identity. We also have Samurai, who's only Samurai characteristic is that he's Japanese. Black Vulcan is... yeah, you get the point.

Still, DC did improve by the time we got to JLU's John Stewart and the related show Static Shock.

Now, of what I've done so far, this is where I'm most certain I've gotten something wrong or missed some essential detail. So, I'm not only going to invite comment, but correction as well. Please.
The common go-to for making a teen heart-throb, someone's got to be the tough, angsty one. And, it's so easily done wrong. The problem is similar to that of comic relief, in that angst done wrong is just annoying.

For the positive examples, I have Zuko (yes, I will be going back to that well often), Nick Knight from Forever Knight (a show that I hope doesn't date me horribly), and I'll even include Josh from Being Human.

I think that there are two parts you have to keep in mind when writing angst. The first, of course, is that there has to be a reason for the angst. Zuko's reasons change, throughout the series, but they start out with his father's emotional abuse, followed by his father purposely burning him followed by a banishment. Zuko wants what he cannot have, his father's affection. (Simple explanation for a complex character, I know, but it works for now.

Josh is a classic werewolf, full moons turn him into a monster. That and he simply doesn't have the social graces that Aiden has to help him take difficulties with grace. But, hey, classic monster werewolf, big green hulk, those are both good reasons.

The second part is that there has to be a part of the angsted character's life that isn't about the angst. Unlike what we might see in certain shows or movies, people who brood in their angst aren't usually trying to get the world to see how angsty they are. Angst is fear, after all, and it feels like weakness. So, a lot of the time, people with angst want to cover it up, feel something else, smile once in a while.

Zuko has a mission to focus on... then trying to build a life as an exile... then trying to fit into a Fire Nation that... Okay, it feeds back into his angst, but the point is he's doing something, not just angsting. Josh cares about people, makes dinners for a semi-normal experience, and cares about people.

Nick Knight makes a good contrast against my negative example, Edward Cullen. Nick, in his past, killed people without maintaining the "they were evil" excuse and has a genuine guilt over that. Edward's only guilt is about his bare existence at all. Nick is an officer of the law keeping to that duty. Edward seems to have two modes, angstified and controlling, and the angst seems both too showy and too shallow to be believable.

(By the way, if you want to look over some good deconstruction of Twilight, you can find it here )
I've been thinking about doing this for a while, so here's my attempt at a blog.

Because we all have things to complain about, particularly when it comes to fiction, my first post will be the start of a series, what I'm going to call Stuff Done Right. The premise is to discuss certain ideas, tropes, story lines that have often been done poorly, aggravatingly, unhealthily, highlighting the parts where they've been done, in my opinion, right. There will be some contrast, so complaints will be had. And, I invite people to disagree with me on these topics.

To start off...

Stuff Done Right Episode 1: Comic Relief.

Examples of comic relief done well include Columbo, Patrick Troughton's and Matt Smith's Doctors (Tom Baker's defies classification), Broadway of Gargoyles, and Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender. (By the way, please check out for a deconstruction of the A:tLA series.)

I think this poses a good range of comic relief characters done well (and, yes, this means that a main character can be comic relief within their own series). They each have slightly different ways of doing what comic relief does, relieving the tension through comedy. And, they each scale differently on the question of how much they're in on their own joke.

Some make you think them less intelligent, some make you think them less sane, and some make you think that they're smart and sane and just not good at paying attention. But, I think the unifying quality is competence. You cannot deny that any of these characters are completely competent in their strengths that are invaluable for their respective roles.

For instance, let's look at two shots of Broadway from the same episode.

Here we have a big, goofy kid of a character. The context of this shot is that he's watching a movie, so big goofy kid is a good description of Broadway... at times.

This is the same character in the same episode with just a change of context. That's him crushing a future-style gun in one hand while holding the owner of said gun in the other. That isn't unthinking anger on his face, that's knowing anger with a purpose.

To contrast this against comic relief that didn't work we have...

... a character that gets into trouble and gets in the way.

That's a quick (stop laughing, please) jot of my thoughts on the matter. What do you think?



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