This is a topic that’s probably well overdue being discussed but hasn’t been for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that both mods are white and from cultures that don’t really get considered “exotic”, so everything that follows is based off observation and listening to people who do suffer under this stigma.
It frequently goes hand in hand with tokenism, since the included character’s minority status must be “justified” somehow:
[Text of the comment above: “The ONLY way a person can choose a dark skinned avatar is to pick a Witch Doctor!? …what’s the real message here?”]
Frequently, it’s not just the people but also their religious or mythological figures who get horribly misrepresented in the name of trying to blend titillation with a ridiculous claim of authenticity.
We already covered Sheva Alomar in Resident Evil 5, the Witchdoctor in Diablo 3 and Kali in SMITE – but those are actually pretty straight forward examples. Frequently this trope feels the need to “whiten” the character, gets combined with evil is sexy or feels the need to make them “special” to warrant inclusion.
And these are just examples where there’s named characters – rather than nameless secondary characters or background decoration.
Some of examples of living real world groups who get caught up in this, particularly in the sexual exotification of women from the group:
- All the nations of East Asia (who are frequently assumed to be represented entirely by China and Japan)
- All the nations of Africa (who are frequently lumped into one image that doesn’t really represent any of them)
- All the nations of Native Americans (who are frequently lumped into one image that doesn’t really represent any of them)
- All the nations of the Polynesian islands (who are frequently lumped into one image that doesn’t really represent any of them)
- Romani (frequently referred to by the racial slur G*psies)
- Modern South America (particularly Brazil)
- Voodoo (along with other Afro-American faiths that are frequently mistaken/misrepresented as being interchangeable)
- Islam (particularly harems)
- Hinduism (particularly Kali)
- Yoga (particularly Tantra)
- Military/espionage/law enforcement
- Sex workers of all types in all cultures
All of these groups already have more than enough problems with harassment and oppression without pop media reducing them to one-dimensional stereotypes.
Pre-emptive Rhetoric Debunking:
- Yes we are aware that many of these groups have views towards sex, nudity and sexuality that are considered unconventional by the western world. That doesn’t mean it’s respectful to reduce them down to sex objects or assume that view can be twisted without causing offense or promoting harmful misconceptions.
- We are 110% of behind improving representation for everyone, however it has to be good representation, not crappy harmful representation. If you’re concerned about your ability to do the former and not the latter, we we recommend studying up on “writing the other” and looking to sources like medievalpoc for information and inspiration.
- If you’re getting ready to send us a response about how “x group isn’t y-ist”, then it might be worth listening jsmooth995 talking about discussion of race on his own channel and at a TEDx talk.
- Psylocke’s sexy got cranked up massively once she got an Asian body.
- Princess Kitana’s latest promotional imagery is, amazingly, even worse than her traditional look.
- More information about situation with the previously mentioned Thunder Plain and petition against Monte Cooke Games and the specifics of why that particular act of cultural appropriation is available at the petition itself.