Representation Matters Pt. II: “But why don’t you make your own characters?!”

Here we go, everybody. I’m thankful that there were bloggers who liked the first blog post in my Representation Matters series on the Ospreyshire blog. I wasn’t sure how people would take to my thoughts and personal experiences, but I’m glad there are those willing to read about them.

Let’s get to part 2 of this series.

I mentioned this in passing, but I remember seeing/hearing this quote which I see as a retort for those who have legitimate gripes with either the lack of (positive) representation or racial stereotypes: “Make your own characters!”. Those same people who say that are those who don’t have to deal with being derogated by their complexion en masse, let’s be honest here. It really shows an entitlement which inadvertently proved that study about TV watching in that previous post right if you really think about it.

Oh, I decided to heed those words, but not for the reasons that they would expect.

Some of you know this, but I have written multiple books. I have covered multiple genres and book formats such as novels, novellas, novelettes, and cell phone novels. One of my goals when I started writing the first Revezia book back in 2014 was to come up with multi-ethnic casts. With that particular series, it deconstructs and inverts so many tropes and cliches associated with fantasy, fairy tales, and one might argue a certain “canon” of sorts. The main character of the first book Terminal Rescue is Shamakani. He’s a black prince who leads a search/rescue operation for various healers in the area, is a talented swordsman, and he has a serious attitude even though he can be too serious at times to his detriment (I’m not going to write a Marty Stu character). In that series alone, I have protagonists of all ethnic groups and walks of life and that’s also the same with Hollandus Landing which is the first part of my cell phone novel series (It’s also free if you want. Just saying.). It was exhilarating creating these characters, but even then, I still had to be respectful. I’m thankful to have grown up in a multiracial city and I’ve talked with my friends to see if something was okay or not when it came to writing characters outside of my ethnic persuasion. This may sound cheesy, but I wanted to have that sense of humanity by having dynamic characters who are a certain ethnicity instead of just having their race define them. Trust me, there’s a difference.

Recently, the character I created who really helped increase my self-esteem a bit is Kasamba from Revezia: Sika Uvira Chronicle and the Revezia Electrum trilogy (Sika Uvira Chronicle is also free). Kasamba is a DIY inventor who can create various gadgets. He’s very intelligent, but also self-loathing and underestimates his own genius. Instead of being some muscle-bound freak, he is on the thinner side and uses his smarts and inventions whenever he is in a bad situation. I gave Kasamba some quirks like being really into indie movies while giving internalized snarky commentary on the state of mainstream films in a wink wink nudge nudge kind of way. His name is actually Tshiluba (a Congolese language) for “To Console” because writing him was a consolation to me and he’s able to do so for others in ways he doesn’t realize. After finding out I was of part Congolese descent, I thought I would incorporate that into this character and even his environment. He’s from a modern city on planet Revezia, has lots of decent technology equivalent to what we have on earth currently, and there’s not an ounce of poverty porn in his hometown! Not everything in Africa looks like mud huts, war zones, jungles, or the Pride Lands, GOT IT?! I’ve never even been to the continent and even I know that.

I guess by me creating my own characters, stories, or even art, this was therapy of sorts for me. I felt empowered by making some wonderful characters that I hope others could appreciate. If one person tells me that they really liked this hero or that hero especially if it’s someone like them, then I’d be beyond blessed. I would encourage you to give it a try even if it’s just a short story or drawing your own original characters if you ever felt that way. Mainstream media wasn’t going to placate me, so I have to take things in my own hands through my fiction, music, poetry, etc.

Hope you enjoyed reading this. What are your thoughts on representation? Have you felt like you had trouble relating to so many fictional characters? How do you discuss the concept of positive representation to others?

Representation Matters Pt. I

I thought I would make a multi-part post series about representation. Some of you know that it’s an issue that is dear to my heart. Recently, I’ve been having some revelations from likely and unlikely places when it comes to this particular situation.

Let me tell you a personal story and how things correlated to a study I found out about with a video and a separate site.

I’ve always struggled with low self-esteem even to this day. When I was a child, I have to admit that I watched more TV than I should. Sure, I read a lot which certainly helped, but when I wasn’t in school or reading, I’d check out the TV. I watched a lot of cartoons and live action shows. One thing I wondered was that there weren’t many heroes who looked like me. There were a few token characters here and there, but none were really compelling. They were either the token best friend or comic relief. Some characters that I did find very interesting would only be there were only in a few episodes. One I can remember was Bishop from the X-Men cartoon back in the 90s. He was the first black male superhero I ever saw and I thought he was cool with his time traveling ability while also being legitimately tough. I’m sure I had an action figure of him amongst other heroes of different races. Even though I didn’t have cable until I was in high school when my family moved, I still watched the basic TV shows and I saw the cable stuff when I was at my grandparent’s house or at a friend’s place. As someone who would be considered an ethnic minority in America, it was tough finding positive representation in mainstream media. Sure, I have a white dad, but someone like me is obviously not considered Caucasian and I’m not just talking about my skin tone, but I digress. Some idiots have said online “Why don’t you make your own characters?” years ago. Oh wait, I’m a freaking indie author and I’ve made multiethnic casts in my stories. Just saying.

What really caught my eye was a video I saw that had a slideshow as part of it. The featured image is a screenshot from said video that featured statistics from different ethnic groups of children watching TV. I wasn’t surprised about some of the statistics when it came to the ratios despite not thinking about the numbers or hours. What really floored me was the last stat as shown in the picture: “Children’s self-esteem generally decreases as TV watching increases; except for white boys.” The rationale makes perfect sense especially in Western media. Most protagonists are white males where they are the lead characters, the most desirable, most heroic, and the most idealized characters in the show. This surprisingly applies to villains, too. Even they have agency in their stories and they may have some strengths like being legitimately threatening, powerful, smart, etc. The Joker certainly comes to mind among other examples. This is not meant to shame anyone, but the stats can really speak volumes on how impressionable children can get their values or see their own worth (or not) depending on their race or gender. Here’s a bit more information on that issue: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/tv-children-self-esteem-black-white_n_1616957.

Anyways, I will be talking about this sporadically (hopefully once a week) about positive representation in the media. I never realized how much of a psychological effect it had on me and I want to share these findings mixed with my own personal experiences.

The screenshot is property of Jabari Osaze from the video “Seven Little White Lies” on YouTube.

I Longed For Someone Like Me

When I was in front of the silver screen or the tiny screen
When I immersed myself in hardcovers or paperbacks
I felt empty on the inside, but didn’t even know it then
As a child, I was impressionable
The others found their heroes (however fictional)
While I looked for others who didn’t look like me
Grasping for something to boost my esteem
As I died on the inside while being oblivious
The others found their heroes or morals
When they NEVER applied to me
The others assumed I was a villain
Who deserved to be punished at all costs
Even when I minded my own business
No prince, no superhero, no fairy tale protagonist
Looked like me
Years later, I was forced to create my own worlds and heroes
While it was constructive, I wished I did it sooner

Allured by Violence (Altar of Gore)

Explosions, dismembering, beheading
All flashy and sensationalized
Cannibalism is extolled with a titanic congregation
Because it’s committed by the arbitrary good guys to be the hunters
To attack whatever prey is declared to be evil

Blood flows like rivers
At the sound of epic applause
Body counts become mathematics
By those regardless of royal or common stock

The arousal of wars, battles, scuffles, and everything in between
Is a symphony played worldwide
Maybe it’s like what Mariemaia said with history being an endless waltz
Yet the beat of peace is skipped or diminished
As millions suffer while other millions are orgiastic as the others get eliminated

Self-defense by the persecuted is villainous in the eyes of many.
There is a permanent underclass already declared by those with melanin
These targets are snuffed with impunity
As the congregation moans for more gore

Deception is an indirect form of violence
While there are no guns, fists, or bombs
There is cerebral assault to the minds of those subjugated
A perpetual scapegoat and prescribed lies are concocted
To keep the bloated pantheon appeased

The deities in the industrial machinated complex
Become hallowed by boots and bullets
Keeping the masses craving for more
As bodies drop
They thank the pantheon unseen
As those corpses didn’t look like their own
While those who resemble them
Project their internalized self-hatred
To be like the select

They Dreamed of Devastation and Deceit (Circle of Lies)

They claimed that continent was so dark
Not only because of the melanin of their majority
They’ll protect the native creatures
Yet laughing at the deceased bodies and mistreatment
Arousing those who inflict the suffering on millions even before that cursed scramble

They project a utopia of either animals only or having those who look like them walk around or live there
Empire and golden states of minds dictate this false narrative
Assuming they’re not projecting and magnifying poverty, corruption, or war-torn areas
How ironic. Their people and certain others have been moving in

Cobalt, tin, oil, copper
Among numerous others are exploited
An unfair trade to make such an understatement of the decade.

They purposefully ignore smart apartments, luxury hotels, and even locales safer than (supposedly) more “civilized” nations.
Funny how they call themselves nations while others are called tribes
The artifice and constructs of foreign tongues beg to warp minds

A continent where genocides have been afflicted on them where their perpetrators walked off without being behind bars could only be ignored for so long
How tragic is it when all that’s being mailed back are whips, severed skulls from the natives, or maybe artwork when it’s not an empty and insincere apology

So many deluge themselves in the circle of lies to feel euphoric
As they don’t want those with melanin to exist (whether they admit it or not)
They want to see a continent full of strangers like them and only those who look like them
Whatever god they believe in or not, all of them should pray every day that those living there or scattered don’t think like them.

These history books have been silent about these matters. Who ever thought that autodidact endeavors would become useful for unlocking truth when some desire it regardless of the learner’s pigmentation?

While there are issues that can’t be ignored, there is also solace that cameras, books, or online channels don’t dare to show.