Saturday, January 31, 2015

ACCEPT STEREOTYPES (I'm a minority, and I do this! Read on!)

I'm a gay who plays flaming gays all the time, and I'm a latino who plays ghetto latinos a lot. At first, I wondered if this was 'problematic,' since I was taught from a young age that stereotypes are bad. But then I realized that if I wanted to go 'against' a stereotype, I could go ahead and write something else MYSELF. And if people wanted to pay to see it, great! If not, oh well. I was taught at college that having only a niche audience is okay too.

I don't know the formal definition of "stereotype," but from the way people use it, it seems to mean a reoccurring personality trait or habit within a group of people that everyone recognizes happening within that group because they see it all the time, but because it's unflattering, people call it a "stereotype" so you're a complete asshole if you point it out. Stereotypes are also not-demeaning, but those are discouraged from being show too often too ("look! it's a latino family with a lot of money!" "wow you're racist for reminding me how latinos often aren't wealthy." "oops my bad"). It's useful to identify stereotypes so you don't ASSUME it every single time about every single person of that group, since you would many times be wrong by assuming every gay is flaming for example, but, the problem with using "stereotype" as a weapon against writing/art we don't like is that it encourages us to stop others' freedom to portray people however they like and however they see them, and to talk about people as they very often are.

One stereotype that comes to mind is the easy girl. Couple thoughts: nothing wrong with being easy. Also, maybe it's not a stereotype in that it's not as common as we see in entertainment, but maybe the writer knows 10,000 chaste women and 1 easy woman, and he wanted to write about that easy woman because it was uncommon to him but still interesting. Maybe someone who grew up in the suburbs went to NYU, got an apartment in Washington Heights, saw me having a ghetto interaction in Spanish with someone, and he saw it interesting/funny/amusing so he thought he'd write about it. Maybe a writer saw me make out with two guys at the same time in a car and she wanted to write about slutty gays who are at risk of STDs. They are and should be totally free to write about their observations/experiences.

If a stereotype is harmful for someone, then the answer isn't to police that creator/artwork. That sounds more silencing to me than to make sure I'm portrayed as not-promiscuous (LOL) and that I'm just like all white people (nope). Everyone is welcome to guilt writers and artists as much as possible though, but the artists don't have to listen. I hope to the heavens that we won't resort to stopping "stereotypes" by legal means to "protect" groups. I would be in a lot of trouble if straight people didn't know gays are generally slutty and all of a sudden they saw my enormous bags of condoms -- in fact, that could put me in a dangerous situation. If very feminine women weren't allowed to be portrayed on TV, how would women know it's okay to be sexual, and how would guys be socially/romantically/sexually prepared for the lady that wants to get down to business asap and not after date #4? They might be aghast and the "stereotype," well-hidden, would just be rebirthed. Keep in mind there are a lot of paradoxical stereotypes living alongside each other too -- the well-to-do latino family that rose above, the married gay couple that have been together for 30 years and are both 45 years old. (I am literally only using examples of my own minority groups because otherwise they would doubtlessly considered sexist/racist/homophobic -- what a world we live in!)

Stereotypes don't apply to everyone -- it's not homophobic/sexist/racist to think so, just illogical -- but they reoccur all the time. If you want to stop a stereotype for whatever reason, the blood-curdling truth is, you can always start with yourself. As for me, I will keep being a flamer in jest, and change my personality when I talk Spanish sometimes. Sorry I can't be more helpful to my minority groups. If you want to portray someone against a stereotype and there is no public interest (no one's paying tickets), well, to the voting poles to force artists to portray different minority groups in entertainment in flattering ways! Or, keep looking for that audience. They exist!