Thursday, June 01, 2006

Too Long For a Comment

My response to all the comments on my previous post here (which was actually started here):

Thank you for participating, I mean it.

For my reasons, Kali's pretty much got it right. I'm trying to get a feel for just how pervasive stereotypes are when it comes to Asian characters. We've got two main ones -- martial artist and brainy type. As a holdover from the 40s, we have our pulp type villains and our cultural powers. And then we have the nationalists, which are a problem with any foreign characters. Since looking at the list I discovered a proliferation of crime bosses (Yakuza mainly) and newscaster girlfriends. Sometime in the near future I plan to organize it into a good list by stereotype.

As for the culturally specific powers, well, I noticed when we don't have a martial artist or a scientist, we usually got some sort of wierd Asian mysticism, like the psychic dragon. I mean, seriously, when we have a character with Irish ancestry do they always automatically get ties to the faeries? With Italian ancestry are they instantly tied to the Mafia Ancient Roman Pantheon?

I don't think removing stereotypes in their powers and occupation are cutting out all ties to their heritage, personally. Stereotypes can get mixed up with heritage, but really it's the trappings of heritage. Jobs and powers based on their ancestral culture? Why? Why not simply show heritage through family life?

I mean, take the new Blue Beetle. He's Hispanic, a student. He's got mystical powers and a legacy that have nothing to do with Mexico or Spain. He doesn't have a stereotypical Hispanic job. Does that mean that being Hispanic has no effect on his character?

Or hell, take Tsunami (off the list for lack of research, I've only seen her in Young All-Stars #1) -- most of her history revolves around having witnessed her family being gathered up for Internment Camps during World War II. Take about being affected by your heritage! And that has nothing to do with her powers (which I think may be coutned as stereotypical after all) or her job (which I am unaware of) and everything to do with being Japanese-American.

I don't see how say, an Asian football player who has trouble with math and superstrength powers would be divorced from his heritage. This stuff is superficial. The actual character shows through in his civilian life and how he handles trouble. His heritage will show particularly through his family, where he was raised, and how he regards his family and hometown.

I'm going for American Comics rather than Manga, because I'm looking specifically stereotypes that white people have for Asians.

Anyway, so far I have Ishido Maad (whom I had shamefully neglected even though I read Young Justice) and Angela Cheung to add to the non-stereotyped list, and Jubilee to remove. I like Karma as an addition too, but, as Kalinara pointed out -- it's like naming someone with Celtic ancestry Wicca. I can't find out enough about Celsius.

That leaves me with The Quiz, Angela Cheung, Grace Choi, Ishido Maad, and Nico Minoru so far.

It's got to be better than this.

37 comments:

  1. Swift, from Stormwatch/Authority, is Tibetan, is very affected by her cultural heritage. However, her powers are having wings, birdclaws and super-hearing. As for her job: she's a professional superhero.

    I haven't read much Gen13, but Grunge is Asian. He's generally played as rather dumb, and his power is to take on the texture of some material he touches. He's a superhero/student/fugitive.

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  2. Part of the problem also lies with comics' preoccupation with martial arts and brainy folks to begin with - sfter all if you exclude those types from the lily-white Silver Age JLA, and the only folks remaining are Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Zatanna. Add that to the general lack of minorities who weren't crude stereotypes through most of the medium's history, and it's a tough character absence to overcome.

    But you can add Sidne from Solar Man of the Atom, Calamity from Troublemakers, Asia Minor in Fallen Angel, and One in Xero. (Although in the last issue of that series he was revealed to be white. And a she. It was complicated.)

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  3. "Asia Minor in Fallen Angel"

    He's not a stereotype? I thought he was a drug dealer with mob/yakuza connections who spoke broken english... all while being named "Asia Minor."

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  4. I think this may also be a case of inventing stereotypes in certain cases. Newscasters as a stereotype? I don't know about other cities, but we don't have any Asian newscasters in Pittsburgh that come to mind -- though that could also be construed as a fault; then again, we don't have yakuza running the streets either.

    Jubilee and Karma seems like safe bets to me. Fireworks powers? Never even occurred to me, much less I barely realized she was Asian-American for years. Karma = racially stereotyped name? Does it not stand to reason that an Asian-American superhero would want to put forth some semblance of her heritage in choosing a codename?

    By the current rationale, how could Tsunami NOT come off the list?

    So, in the end, can we agree that this also has something to do with comics being written predominantly by white (and frequently Jewish) men? On one hand, you could say there's no way a white guy would be expected to write an accurate Asian-American, etc., character. On the other hand, you could say there's a positive sign of other-awareness in having even tried.

    If more Asians (or any other non-white-male social group) gets involved in a medium, the medium would change to reflect its chemistry, no?

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  5. Somebody in an earlier post mentioned Knives Chau, from Scott Pilgrim. I don't know if you want to count her, since it isn't a superhero comic, but she isn't a stereotype. She's just an Asian girl living in Canada. Sure, she does martial arts, but so does everybody else in the comic. And it's more like video-game fighting than actual martial arts. So I think she should count.

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  6. I mean, take the new Blue Beetle. He's Hispanic, a student. He's got mystical powers and a legacy that have nothing to do with Mexico or Spain. He doesn't have a stereotypical Hispanic job.

    That is what baffles me about Blue Beetle. He is this completely normal kid, who happens to be Hispanic, but in the second issue they throw a Pandilla at him, and in the third issue they visit Mexico where their friend and her Drug-Lord grandmother (Drug-lady?) live. If in the fourth issue they have to illegally cross to the US, I am going to cry. It's like a poor normal Latino kid trapped in Stereotype-Land.

    Anyway, about other Asian characters. There is a Vietnamese Girl who owns a bar in 'FELL'.

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  7. Good post, depressingly short list. :-| But I think it goes too far to eliminate all the "brainy" types, because...well, there are a lot of Asians who become engineers, doctors, scientists, programmers, etc. In a way, you could say that our strong presence in those fields is part of how we display our cultural heritage in subtle ways: there's just a heavy emphasis on pursuing mathematics and the "hard" sciences in most Asian and Asian American communities. [I suspect it's partly because those are fields where one can do well professionally without mastering English - a boon for immigrants.]

    There's a difference between a stereotype and a cultural trend. Striking them from the lists because "Asians scientists are such a cliche!" would be like crossing us out for celebrating the Lunar New Year. :-) Couldn't we keep the scientists but set aside the ones who are stereotypically "nerdy?"

    P.S. What about Clancy from Nightwing?

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  8. Ferrous,

    the problem isn't the characters who are scientists (or for that matter, practitioners of Asian martial arts). As you point out, the cliché has a strong basis in reality. Similarly, if a character is the last in the line of a family of ninjas, or a defender of mainland China, it makes sense for those characters to be Asian (in short, no one is saying eliminate Lady Shiva and Dr. Mann).

    The problem is that there aren't a lot of characters who don't fall into those categories. Characters who are incidentally Asian, in the way Wally West incidentally has red hair or Ben Grimm is incidentally Jewish. And that there should be more of them.

    By that logic, I'd say put Jubilee back on the list. Except for her punning name, there's not really anything about her that NEEDS to be Asian, but it's nice that she is.

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  9. Jubes has a firework power -- there seems to be a trend by writers to create powers tied to racial or ethnic heritage -- as if for characters of colour, we exist only AS people of colour, and never something more. That might make sense if we're talking about a character from another nation and thus another culture, but Jubes is Chinese American. Why must her origin and powers be steeped in stereotype?

    How many Japanese characters, for example, have sun-related powers? How many Chinese characters have powers relating to stereotypically Chinese things (i.e. fireworks, dragons, Chinese mythology, etc...)?

    And as has been written for the new Blue Beetle, all characters of colour seem to inevitably get mistreated with some cliched racial stereotype story at some point in their history. Even Jubes has family ties to the Triads.

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  10. My dividing line is generally: what makes sense in the real world versus what only makes sense in Comic Book Land?

    Kung fu masters? Ninjas? Ancient mystics? Samurai? Total Comic Book Land thing - especially when they're supposed to be set in the modern-day real world. Modern-day Asians aren't beholden to ancient codes like bushido any more than Caucasians follow chivalry: the values those codes of conduct embodied may live on, but they're certainly not culturally codified in the same way.

    Whereas "brainy" types like doctors, engineers, etc.? Yeah, it's a cliche, but there are a lot of us in those fields, because it is true that a lot of Asians push their kids in those areas, so seeing them all the time in comics et al doesn't bother me. It certainly beats being invisible! So it bugs me that Ragnell seems to be lumping all "brainy Asian" characters under the same banner and tossing them into the same pile of stereotypes as the far more unrealistic stereotypes, like "kung fu master." It's like, in the process of trying to advance our cause, she's undermining the gains we have made.

    I'm a bit more ambivalent about certain real-world archetypes, like the Yakuza: yes, they are real; and yes, they do show up plenty of times in their native pop culture, to the point of being cliches in their homeland. But Western takes on such characters almost always fall back on those cliches which the writer(s) probably saw in movies et al, rather than creating bona fide characters in their own right.

    I want to see more Asian characters in more unconventional roles as much as anyone - perhaps even more so than most around here, since I've got a vested interest in the matter. I just don't want the relatively benign minor roles we do show up in to be disregarded because they're seen as cliche.

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  11. Does it not stand to reason that an Asian-American superhero would want to put forth some semblance of her heritage in choosing a codename?

    Why? Not all Asian-American kids feel a terribly strong tie to their ancestors' homeland. Not all white heroes have Anglo-European culturally specific names. Hell, not all black characters have names/powers related to Africa or slavery.

    For Karma: it's like having "Kabbalah, the Master of Magnetism", "The Golden Rule, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound."

    Tsunami's whole point was that she was the Japanese member of Young-All-Stars, so that they could explore elements of prejudice and propoganda in WWII, and elements of racism even among the other major characters. She's a good character, don't get me wrong, but I'd definitely argue that her narrative role as "the sympathetic Japanese person" makes her a token and not suitable for the list.

    I've actually seen the newscaster stereotypes in a lot of places. The one that first comes to mind is "Asian Reporter Tricia Takenowa" in Family Guy, but it's shown up in other things too. Possibly inspired by the success of Ms. Connie Chung.

    I don't think Ragnell or Jenn or anyone else is trying to say these are *bad* characters. But the newscaster thing or Karma's name or Tsunami's role or Jubilee's powers are still elements of stereotypes (if debatably relatively harmless) and if the point of the list is to find the characters that defy the stereotype, then those characters should be excluded. Even when they're good characters.

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  12. Ragnell--

    Here's one more for the list-- Gunslinger, from Astro City's "Confessor" arc is a flamboyant half-Vietnamese cowboy bandit who talks a bit like Yosemite Sam, which I'm pretty sure doesn't qualify as a stereotype.

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  13. I'd agree with the comments about Grunge and Shen belonging on the list, as someone who's kinda sensitive about orientalism being used to define Asian characters. I'm okay with Tsunami and Karma, too, though I'm mostly familiar with Tsunami as a sympathetic villain in All-Star Squadron.

    Despite the martial arts powers, I do feel the need to call out Karate Kid for being a hapa character who's been drawn to look hapa, unlike Connor.

    Also, the most hilarious Asian character to suffer from orientalism-as-character? Tao Jones from Infinity Inc. Cool power tho.

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  14. juliansinger.livejournal.comJune 1, 2006 at 8:59:00 PM GMT+2

    As the person who originally mentioned her, I quite agree that Karma (as a code-name) is completely ridiculous. I mostly mentioned her _despite_ the code name.

    (The New Mutants as a whole were this strange attempt at positive multiculturalism while still being extremely stereotypical. It was peculiar, looked at from a certain point of view.)

    I think there may be something to be said for putting problematic characters like Karma and Tsunami on the list and pointing out /why/ they're problems, but this is, obviously, Not My List.

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  15. Um, yes, my name is Kate. I am not my blog, and vice versa.

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  16. It turns out the SFGate's Asia Pop! column tackled the issue or Asian superheroes this week...

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  17. I have to say that until this discussion, it never occurred to me that Jubilee's powers were at all stereotypical. I just thought they were kind of cool without being tremendously useful. And of course I knew they were related to her superhero name, which was derived from her actual name, but that's not the same as being stereotypical. Not in a million years would I have thought of connecting her powers with her ethnic heritage.

    I'm not saying it's wrong to do so; just that it's quite a subtle point.

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  18. Kali: I realize Ragnell's point is to draw attention to those characters who defy the cliches. I just wish she had made more of a distinction between the "real world" stereotypes (i.e., newscasters, scientists, etc.) and the "fantasy" stereotypes (e.g., ninjas, kung fu masters, gangsters to a lesser extent), that's all. The real-world cliches bother me much less because race is usually incidental or irrelevant to these characters; while the fantasy cliches are very much based on inaccurate depictions of Asian culture and history - or just plain ol' bad cliches. [Honestly, how many "lost ninja clans" do we really need?]

    I have to say, I also think the "Jubilee's powers -> fireworks -> Chinese -> nationalistic" chain to be a weak connection, too. [Now, criticizing them for giving her such a weak-ass power? That I can get behind.] For the longest time, I didn't realize Jubilee was intended to be Asian American: she didn't "look" Asian most of the time - i.e., she was not drawn the way I was conditioned to expect Asian women to look in American comic books - and no real mention was made of her background, at least in the comics I (infrequently) read. This belief was probably reinforced by that Generation X TV movie a decade ago, where a white chick played Jubilee.

    So, y'know, kudos to them for not playing up the "exotic Oriental" factor with her; but turning her into a Caucasian is taking "colorblind casting" a little too far, IMHO... :-)

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  19. The real-world cliches bother me much less because race is usually incidental or irrelevant to these characters; while the fantasy cliches are very much based on inaccurate depictions of Asian culture and history - or just plain ol' bad cliches.

    Regarless of the source of the cliche, they're limiting images. If you don't see yourself earning a doctorate or anchoring a newscast and there's a lack of alternative images, you end up feeling left out.

    I have to say, I also think the "Jubilee's powers -> fireworks -> Chinese -> nationalistic" chain to be a weak connection, too.

    That depends on what your problem is... if you're complaining that the starting point for Asian characters are bits of orientalism, then Jubilee fits. No matter how positive the characterization was, she is an example of a character where the writer felt the need to look at the character's culture for superpower ideas, which would be ridiculous in a white character.

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  20. I wanted to add that I love Ishido Maad. He's a somewhat goofy federal agent, who also ends up getting together with Arrowette's mom! There's something awesome about that.

    One of the things I always thought was a bit annoying is that it seems pretty rare to see an asian man in a romantic/sexual relationship in comics/tv/movies. I'm not sure why this is.

    I really liked seeing the obviously sexual (though naturally not on panel) aspect to Bonnie and Ishido's relationship.

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  21. "If in the fourth issue they have to illegally cross to the US, I am going to cry. It's like a poor normal Latino kid trapped in Stereotype-Land." - Batiduende

    I had no idea. Wow. That stuff about Blue Beetle reminds me of the Firestorm restart with Jason Rusch. Around issue five or six, I saw that brother in a one-page shot... wearing a chicken suit.

    I promptly stopped buying that comic.

    So Ragnell, kudos for having this discussion here, but as a longtime comic reader, I think the real problem is that most comic writers can not divorce ethnic superheroes from their ethnicities long enough to develop powers and backstories that refrain from rehashing easy stereotypes. Everyday is Chinese New Year for Jubilee because her yellow skin is the costume she wears, not that bright trench coat.

    We'll never see an Asian/ Asian American character who's ethnicity was treated like one of Wally West's auburn follicles. Comic readers make comic Orientalism too profitable to ignore.

    I freely admit to some of this bias myself; whenever I read the cheesecake factory called Birds of Prey and find Black Canary knocking out bad guys with kung fu, it's laughable to me, because I can't associate this skinny, blond, blue-eyed Teutonic female with a kick-ass martial artist. It doesn't make sense to my warped American mind, postKill Bill.

    In contrast, Cassie Cain, raised from birth as a living weapon whose very language is martial arts? Sold. Works. Makes sense, even though it's stereotypical as hell. Even though it makes no more sense than Firestorm in a chicken suit.

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  22. Tsunami is a fascinating character just waiting for the right writer to take a look at her, but she's sort of a 'national hero' gone wrong, so she might not fit your list.

    She's an American who went to a school in Japan, where some scientists experimented on her while trying to create better Japanese warriors. They then briefly used her against the U.S. before she had a change of heart and decided to support her home country. She continued to support the U.S. even after her family was interned, though she was viewed suspiciously by just about everyone outside of the All-Star Squadron. (Often the All-Stars would view her suspiciously when they first met her as well, though Roy Thomas always made sure they had a change of heart at some point.)

    So she starts as kind of a stock national character, but her experiences (after she decides to support her home country) are a reflection of what many Japanese-Americans experienced in the War. There were many who fought in Europe, even though they were viewed suspicously by their fellow countrymen.

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  23. As opposed to naming a gay sorceror "Wiccan?"

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  24. Around issue five or six, I saw that brother in a one-page shot... wearing a chicken suit.

    Huh, the first issue of The Ray had Ray Terrill in a chicken suit. And that boy is blindingly white.

    Guess that was a racist portrayal too.

    Or maybe sometimes a chicken suit is just a chicken suit.

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  25. steven. are you aware of the historical connotations of black men in chicken suits? because your comment leaves me suspicious that you have NO idea what you're talking about here.

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  26. I have to admit, I don't know the connotation either. It wouldn't have occurred to me that that was something racial at all.

    There are elements about the portrayal of Detroit in Firestorm that bother me though. I can't put my finger on it. I suppose it might be similar to the "Stereotype Land" Batiduende mentions in Blue Beetle.

    For that matter, why does it seem like almost all black heroes in the DCU are from Detroit?

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  27. Oh God yes!

    I also know the one about the Japanese with buckteeth and Coke Bottle Glasses.

    And the Indian with a Peace Pipe

    and Jews with horns.

    There are historical connotations to everything.

    But does that mean that Dan Jolly and Chris Cross chose to place Jason Rusch in a chicken suit because he's black? Or could it be that, like Christopher Priest with the Ray and Dan Slott with Spider-Man, he just thought it was funny to put a superhero in a chicken suit?

    That is to say, sometimes a chicken suit is just a chicken suit.

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  28. Lady Shiva's from Detroit.

    And Steel's from DC, originally. I'm not sure where Michael Holt's from, but I think it's New York (at least, that's where the Spectre found him).

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  29. I wish I could find the picture online, but Firestorm in a chicken suit, drawn in a portrait-sized one page shot, clearly evokes the blackface performers of early Hollywood, like Mantan Moreland. It was Stepin Fetchit in the hen house all over again.

    And whether anyone "gets it" is not important. The writer's intentions are irrelevant. I personally don't see why any African American character needs an association with chicken in a comic book or anywhere else.

    The point is that even though some people may enjoy identifying Blacks and chicken, or Asians and martial arts, that interest does not suggest that the comics industry needs to rely on these base stereotypes to sell monthly issues.

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  30. I wanted to add that I love Ishido Maad. He's a somewhat goofy federal agent, who also ends up getting together with Arrowette's mom!

    Ishido Maad is Momhunter, Agent of M.I.L. OK, I won't finish this nasty joke.

    But, to expand on what I said about Blue Beetle, there are a few Latin characters that always pop up:
    1) Drug-lords
    2) Young Gang members.
    3) Juan Valdez types riding on a donkey, or taking a siesta.
    4) Third World dictators.
    5) Butt Rapists (Well, these only show up in Garth Ennis comics.)

    It's only three issues in and he has already met 1 and 2. By issue 20 he'll be traveling in a flying piñata that runs on chimichurri to fight Chavez in Venezuela or something like that.

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  31. Ferrous -- I don't know why I keep forgetting Clancy. She was on my mind when I typed this one up.

    Real-life stereotypes -- As they've said, it's limiting. They are still stereotypes. We get free of the fantastic stereotypes, only to fall into the mundane because of demographics? I don't even want to bother with the statistics.

    Someone on my Italian post a while back suggested that stereotypes could be used a dramatic shorthand. And yes, some of the best characters are attached to stereotypes (You all know why I hate Huntress, but I'm sure a number of people here love her and that's fine. Personally I can't judge that, as I'm fond of Lady Shiva who is a unbelievably huge stereotype, but kicks a lot of ass), but stereotypes are a big barrier to diversity, and I tend to prefer to see them twisted around or discarded. Some diversity within the diversity, if you will. There should be more stereotype-clear characters, more neutral American character concepts around.

    James -- I think I'd dropped Firestorm already by the point of the chicken suit. When you mentioned it, I was thinking the offense was a mixture of class stereotype and the southern-food stereotype though. I wouldn't have caught it either without being pointed to it.

    What you mentioned in your earlier comment about the martial artists reminds of something. Kalinara posted about a character called Voodoo (that she hated) and described her powers in detail. I saw the post before she put up the pics, and I was surprised when I saw her. She was white. The description and name screamed Afro-Carribean to me.

    Some people might say that means she was progressive, but I don't think so. I'd say what I was looking for in a stereotype-clear character. a character who, when described, does not make me think of any race in particular. I will not be surprised to find out that they are anything.

    Batiduende -- I have to agree with you on Stereotype land. That's more a problem with the book than the character. I'd say Jaime's clean of stereotyping, but they've gone lazy wtih the supporting cast and the plots.

    But I admit, I'm biased in Jaime's defense here. He has a nurse mother and a father who runs a garage. My parents did those jobs (along with part-time policing, volunteer fire-company, notary public, local government -- man it was a small town!) when I was growing up. I can empathize with Jaime getting snarky comebacks from his overworked mother when he whines, or having to help out in the garage.

    Everyone else -- I'll come back to, but I'm a bit tired right now and this conversation walked away without me.

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  32. It occurs to me that Tsunami has great potential as a Tokyo Rose stand-in (if you don't know Iva Toguchi's story, read it because it should be known).

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  33. Out of curiosity, is there a plan to eventually release a list of non-stereotyped comic book characters as well? Just so we have a frame of reference to use in future conversations?

    I can think of a few characters to leave OFF that list, for the record: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Hal Jordan, John Stewart, J'Onn J'Onzz, Thor, The Thing, Reed Richards, Johnny Storm, Mary Jane Watson, Black Panther, Magneto, Victor von Doom, Professor X, Wolverine, Rogue, Storm, Banshee... okay, every X-Men character except possibly Iceman... Black Lightning, Doctor Strange, Luke Cage, Nick Fury, Captain America...

    Is it just me or is it getting crowded in here?

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  34. Justin: No one's denying that there are a lot of stereotyped characters.

    Someone could take your list (and more) and analyze the frequency of the "all-american guy" stereotype for example (always white, daredevil, known for macho behavior and strength of will), just to name one example.

    But that's not the point of this post. The point of this post is to analyze specifically the stereotypes in *Asian characters*.

    Just because women are stereotyped, black people are stereotyped, Europeans are stereotyped, old people are stereotyped, young people are stereotyped, white people are stereotyped, hispanics are stereotyped and so on and so forth does not make *any* of this right.

    If you want a post examining these stereotypes critically, you should make one on your blog. It'd be good reading, I imagine. But this is a blog entry specifically about *Asian characters*.

    And thus, bringing that up as a "counter-argument" to a meaningful discussion like this one merely makes you look foolish.

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  35. Lyle -- I liked her enough in her origin, maybe it's time she came back.

    Justin -- Well, what stereotypical behavior are we basing it on? This list is for Asian stereotypes. Are we discounting for masculine stereotypes, feminine stereotypes, racial stereotypes, fantasy/sci-fi character stereotypes, heroic steotypes? Just about all of them are stereotypes (Jubilee, for example, is a stereotypical American Mall-Rat teenager). In this excercise, I specifically wished to see how the Asian Stereotype prevailed over the American Styereotype in Asian-American characters, and what stereotypes about Asians were prevalent in American comics.

    I realize your point here is to show that all characters are to some extent a stereotype. I understand that. Once again, stereotypes can be useful and interesting. Some of my favorite characters are stereotypes that are nevertheless done well. But they are actually a barrier to diversity and very limiting to the creative process when sued as a crutch. There comes a point where they should be placed aside because they've oversaturated the medium. From what I'm seeing, on the Asian side, the cliches have oversaturated the medium and in the future they should be placed aside when creating new and different characters -- in the interest of diversity and creativity.

    If you'd like to start your own list, go right ahead, but I suggest you narrow down a criteria and a goal first. It's easier that way.

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  36. OK, I think I've finally figured out why your list bugs me a bit, Ragnell: it's because it's based on concept, not execution; it focuses on the roles characters fill, rather than the personalities they possess. By focusing on their job description rather than who they are, you are essentially (if unconsciously) marginalizing a lot of Asian characters.

    Someone once said that affirmative action actually subtly demeans the accomplishments of minorities in this country, because it implies they couldn't succeed on equal footing with whites. That's sort of the feeling your criteria gives me: by ignoring all Asian characters who are newscasters, scientists, yakuza, ninjas, etc., you are essentially implying that who they are and what they've accomplished doesn't matter, because they happened to end up in a cliche role.

    As you've pointed out, though, stereotypical characters can be made interesting by good writers. The reason why an archetype becomes a cliche is because it is on some level appealing: the trick is making an old saw seem unique, rather than just a poor clone. Take your posts about Italian mobsters: there are a lot of bad cliches out there, but there are still a few good characters as well; if you ignore the lot of them, you're essentially throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    So to my mind, it is more useful to highlight those Asian characters you feel are well-developed, regardless of what role they play. Obviously, that's a lot more subjective and depends as much on the writers as the characters. Nevertheless, I think it's more useful to focus on execution rather than concept.

    Obviously, it's your list - you do what you want with it. I'm just pointing out why I find your criteria a bit annoying.

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  37. ferrous -- I think that goes back a bit more to who I am and how I relate to people, though. To me, a character's job is their concept. Bruce Wayne's a playboy millionaire, Dick Grayson's a gymnast, Barry Allen a scientist, Clark Kent a newsman, Lois Lane a reporter, Hal Jordan a pilot, Kyle Rayner an artist.

    And concept is amazingly important in the world of fiction, much moreso in reality. Because they're personalities are fluid, but the root of the character is the same.

    Really, all these characters are is what a writer has made of them. A good writer can transcend the stereotype and make it seem fresh and interesting, a bad writer falls back on it and makes it cliche and uninteresting.

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