Whitewashed Urban Fantasy
Posted February 14, 2013on:
Come on, y’all…if you write a story and set it in a place like Broaddus’ Indianapolis, Chicago, Atlanta, London, or Las Vegas, basic demographic research will indicate the presence of people of color. To read and enjoy Urban Fantasy, I am expected to just accept that Black people don’t exist? You get the side-eye for that one.
Whether or not you like Urban Fantasy, the fact of the matter is that this subgenre of Fantasy has had an immense and global impact on people through literature, television and film.
It is because of this impact that we cannot ignore the messages that Urban Fantasy brings. Each time an author of this subgenre decides to tell a story, instead of working so hard to erase people of color out of existence, they should work just as hard to erase the problems that plague our society. And fanboys…do not say that writers should not have to be political; that they should be free to write merely to entertain. Every statement we make is political. Every sentence we write is potentially life-changing for someone. Such is the power of the word.
You cannot truly change culture without literature. We can pass a thousand laws saying that racism and sexism are wrong. We can make a thousand impassioned speeches to rouse the marginalized masses; but if everyone returns home after those speeches and sits down to read the latest installment of Twilight, or watch the next episode of The Vampire Diaries and their fictional worlds in which those same marginalized masses barely even exist – then how much change can truly be affected?
It is within the pages of books and under the light of the TV screen where we will reach people and change the world for the better…or worse.
Over and over again, we are told that our stories aren’t worth being told. We do not get to be the heroes. We are never “the one destined to come since man was young upon the earth”. If we are lucky, we get to be the “magical negro”; the “noble savage”; the sidekick; the Black person who doesn’t die in the first ten minutes of the film.
This is damaging to the psyches of people of color. And a devastating blow to the self-esteem of our babies.
So, don’t tell me writers just write to merely entertain, when entertainment has such a powerful, deep and lasting impression on the minds of us all.
My note: This obviously shouldn’t necessarily be your primary motivation to seek out and support fiction that is inclusive of multiple kinds of people, but it’s worth noting that ever since I started reading fiction by people who think critically about how real people in real cultures deal with and are dealt with by real politics, I have read much better fiction.
Or you can read urban fantasy about the same magical white people rehashed over and over again by people who learned everything they know about culture and politics from rehashes of magical white people rehashed from World of Darkness. Enjoy sifting through all that derivative crap; I quit.