I found this video the other day and have to share it. I love Poetry Slams. They are amazing. They remind me of my love for words, the power they can yield, and the strength of performance. The way you communicate your poem, the emotion you express, is as important as the words that leave your lips. (By the way, check out Samson if you want some more powerful poetry slam.)
Rachel Rostad (“To JK Rowling, from Cho Chang”) chilled me to my core. It was not what I was expecting and I hope you all enjoy it. If you feel like she is being harsh, she made a follow-up video about the criticisms she received.
Not only is she eloquent and makes fantastic points, but she accepts that she made mistakes. We all do. JK Rowling did. Rachel Rostad (the girl in these videos) did as well. We make mistakes with our characters and they way we represent ethnic groups and/or minorities such as the LGBT community.
I have noticed that Asian males are rarely portrayed as sexy heroes in Western fiction/movies/series. Watching The Walking Dead, I realised I was attracted to Glenn. What shocked me is that I was surprised??? WHY? It’s not that Asian men are LESS attractive, but our fictional sources (i.e. stories, movies, etc.) restrict their roles to be nerdy, shy, honorable, and/or sidekicks.
Studying psychology I learn about how powerful classical conditioning is (pairing one stimuli with the other, e.g. Asian male with smarts). Marketing depends on this constant pairing. Colognes don’t just smell good, they give you sex appeal. Make up isn’t just powder, it gives you beauty and friends. This car isn’t just a machine, it brings families closer together. We build associations, consciously and unconsciously, and it can be hard to pull them apart. I don’t think JK Rowling meant to create an Asian stereotype, maybe she just put the two together unconsciously. Races get paired with personality traits, just like our products do. It’s these restrictive and pervasive stereotypes that Rachel Rostad is arguing about. Fiction needs to break free from those shackles.
As a writer, I am often petrified to write about another race, culture, or sexuality that I am not familiar with. The most important thing is to do your research. Don’t be a lazy writer and just “guess”. We write for fun but if you make your work public, don’t spread misconceptions and contribute to the ignorance of readers. Teach them something. Open their minds to other personalities or stories that have not been told.
We can’t always get it right. We’re bound to make some stereotype or misrepresent a culture BUT at least try. Admit when you make mistakes and CHALLENGE society with your words. That’s my message to all you writers out there today.
– Ermisenda Alvarez