August 27, 2013

Queer Issue: When Bigotry is Addressed in Fiction, It's All or Nothing

Last night, while watching the Buffy spinoff Angel episode "Are Now or Have You Ever Been"on Netflix streaming, during a flashback set in the 1950's I noticed a brief moment where a black family was being turned away from a hotel while the hotel manager went on and on about the "Vacancy" sign out front was "a mistake". For those with a smidgen of knowledge of history will recognize this as a nod to the horrible practice of hotels and other businesses would outright refuse crucial services to people of color. The point of course, was to make it next to impossible for people of color to travel or engage in certain kinds of business.

For a little while into the Angel episode I thought that this would be it, that this would be an isolated moment in the story. Well, it turned out I was wrong. While giving away the relevant plot details would be rather spoilerish of me, I will say that the episode ended up addressing racism in a rather significant fashion.

Of course, during the time where I found myself assuming that the episode was not going to substantially address racism, I got to thinking. It seems to me that whenever a story/novel/movie/tv show episode, wants to address racism/homophobia/transphobia/biphobia/ableism/sexism** it almost always does so in a Very Big Way. Maybe not a Very Special Episode Way, but usually it will come close. There is almost never a passing reference to a minor example of bigotry or an example of a micro-aggression regularly faced by a minority group, unless it is worked into a narrative that is specifically intended to focus on one of the aforementioned *isms.

This in of itself, is not a bad thing. Obviously given my hobby of reviewing queer films, I think that more films (and other works of fiction) need to do more towards presenting the experiences of the LGBTQ population and other minorities as well.

However, wouldn't it be nice if more writers and other producers of fiction, were willing and able to include references to micro-aggressions as well passing nods to the bigotry faced by minority groups regularly as part of narratives that are not intended to focus primarily on some form of bigotry?

It does become something of an issue, me thinks, for works of fiction to only address "big issues", as it means that there is little focus on the daily lived experiences of most minorities. Focusing on "minor issues in passing" could go a long way towards changing that. Not of course as a substitute for "Big Issue" narratives, but in addition to.

Just some food for thought.

**I list these as those are all of the *isms that I can recall off the top of my head as having been addressed in some significant fashion by a major work of fiction. Obviously there is a small fortune of isms' that aren't being addressed at all or in a significant fashion.

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