Diversity of xkcd comic characters

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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby natraj » Fri Jan 08, 2016 12:07 am UTC

i don't know what that has to do with anything at all. even if you assume that zero (entirely fictional) women are capable of defeating (entirely fictional) monsters on par with men is hand to hand combat the only way to "overcome" a monster? a completely and utterly fictional monster that can have any kind of weakness the author desires it to have? in any sort of universe the author wants to set it? are women incapable of utilizing firearms? magic? their wits? with just as much skill as men?

that you would think that argument has any kind of bearing doesn't really show anything except an astonishing lack of creativity.

also, this whole 'overcoming monster' thing is only one of that list of tropes and there is really entirely zero reason at all that women shouldn't have as many stories told as men with any of the other archetypes, either.
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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby Alexius » Fri Jan 08, 2016 10:27 am UTC

Do you think Randall may have seen/been shown this thread? The hair on the avatar in today's comic doesn't look straight to me...

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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby Zohar » Fri Jan 08, 2016 1:43 pm UTC

I highly doubt it. He hasn't posted or been on the forum since June 2009, unless he's using a hidden or different account.
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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby Copper Bezel » Fri Jan 08, 2016 2:11 pm UTC

While I don't think there's anything related to a connection there at all, I don't think that's particularly solid evidence that he's never looked at the forums in the interim. I'm guessing the cookie would have expired in the last six years, and he could still in fact look around the forum without logging in. = /
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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby jewish_scientist » Fri Jan 08, 2016 2:39 pm UTC

Angua wrote:Funnily enough, a work does not need to be about minority oppression for a minority character to be cast. The fact that you think it would be awkward if today's character with one line happened to be wearing a hijab kind of indicates the problem right there. You suddenly jump straight to comparing it to actors feeling as though they only got the part because they fill a quota, when in reality all that is happening is that a few extra lines are added to a comic.

The OP was in no way suggesting that it be done all the time, just occasionally.

Ohhh. I misunderstood. I thought that the OP wanted a brand new character added who was a minority, just because there was no character on the cast who was a minority. If Randell made an extra (like this tailgating guy) a minority, I would have no problem with it.

Copper Bezel wrote:The implication of forgetting that Cassie is black also implies assuming otherwise that she's white; it wouldn't have made sense for your example to say that you sometimes forget that Jake is white.


I want you picture the following scene. There has been a bank robbery. You and your partner, Jim, were the first to respond. You are both fresh from the police academy and eager for your first big bust. When you arrive, the robber is running down the front steps. You and Jim jump out of the car with your weapons drawn. Before your feet touch the ground, you hear, "Eat lead pigs!" 2 shots ring out and you feel several drops of blood hit the side of your face. Out of the corner of your eye, you can see Jim fall down, limp as a wet towel. You bring your gun up and take a deep breath. The robber moves his sights on to you, but he never has the change to pull the trigger. You squeeze once and hollow out his eye. You run over to Jim as soon as you holster your pistil. Fortunately, he was hit only once; unfortunately, he was hit directly in the knee-cap. The bullet went through and through, leaving nothing but fragments of bone in its wake. You know that Jim will live, but fear that he may never walk again.

When you pictured that scene, what color socks were you wearing? I am willing to bet that you did not picture your socks, even though you knew that you were wearing socks. By asking the question I forced your mind to quickly go back to that scene and add a color; until then though there was no color. Socks' must have a color; but your socks did not. In real life, this is impossible; but in someone's imagination, the only things that exist are things that are put there. The same thing with the time, bank's name, Jim's eye color, neighboring building, and infinite other details. Because you did not imagine them, they do not exist, even though they all must exist in the real world.

When I picture the scene where Cassie and Jake kiss, I do not, consciously or unconsciously, give Jake a skin color. He definitively has skin, but I 'forgot' his skin color. That detail was not added by me, so it does not exist. The same thing for when Rachel fights a lion; she has blond hair, but I do not picture her with it. When Ax meets Marco's dad for the first time, I give them almost no details; their eye color, skin color, hair color, height, and clothing are so irrelevant that I forget about them. In a person's imagination, default is 'not existing'.

If you had said "Imagine someone is trying to make a sit-com, but decided they really wanted to include a straight male Muslim and a straight male pacific islander, and now imagine how difficult that would be and how uncomfortable it would make everyone" ... what?

What I meant was, imagine that after getting everything ready (script for the pilot, character dynamics, personalities, and casting), a corporate executive said a new character must be added, and told you how that character must look, act, and what his job is. Everything that was planned must be thrown out and redone. If I had to rewriting an the majority of a script in order to add a character I did not want, I would get ticked off.

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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby Zohar » Fri Jan 08, 2016 3:16 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:When I picture the scene where Cassie and Jake kiss, I do not, consciously or unconsciously, give Jake a skin color. He definitively has skin, but I 'forgot' his skin color. That detail was not added by me, so it does not exist. The same thing for when Rachel fights a lion; she has blond hair, but I do not picture her with it. When Ax meets Marco's dad for the first time, I give them almost no details; their eye color, skin color, hair color, height, and clothing are so irrelevant that I forget about them. In a person's imagination, default is 'not existing'.

Um, yeah, socks are not the same as race. A more apt example would be "Think back, how many arms did you imagine Jim to have?" - most people would probably reply "two". Just as most people, lacking any race indicators, would assume a character is white, just as most readers of your paragraph would assume the other cop (not-Jim) is a man. Thus you should add race indicators. Just like if you say "Oh Dumbledore was totally gay", you should have something explicit in the source material to back that up if you want brownie points from the LGBTQ community.

What I meant was, imagine that after getting everything ready (script for the pilot, character dynamics, personalities, and casting), a corporate executive said a new character must be added, and told you how that character must look, act, and what his job is. Everything that was planned must be thrown out and redone. If I had to rewriting an the majority of a script in order to add a character I did not want, I would get ticked off.

I don't think anyone is saying that? Also we're not talking about necessarily adding new characters to existing works, we're talking about, when people do casting (or when Randall does drawing), they consider a more diverse crew.

In the Aziz Ansari show "Master of None", episode 4 ("Indians on TV") has Aziz's character audition for a comedy role in a new show about three room mates. A friend of his, another Indian actor, also auditions, both of them do well. The subject comes up about how, if both actors get hired as two room mates (even though the roles weren't specifically written for people of Indian or South-East Asian descent), the show would suddenly become "The Indian show". That's closely linked to what we're talking about - the assumption that just adding diversity means you have to revamp your entire script. Obviously your acting choices may impact your script (a redheaded actor's character might have been bullied as a child, a very pretty actress's character's opinions might have been ignored when younger because her friends assumed she wasn't smart, whatever), but it doesn't mean changing everything - it means accommodating to your actors, and it's something you do in TV. If you're writing a book or drawing a comic, you get to choose your actors in advance, and there's no reason not to choose a diverse cast (see: SMBC).
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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Jan 08, 2016 5:05 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:While I don't think there's anything related to a connection there at all, I don't think that's particularly solid evidence that he's never looked at the forums in the interim. I'm guessing the cookie would have expired in the last six years, and he could still in fact look around the forum without logging in. = /


Certainly, but it does point in that direction. It's technically possible, but it seems unlikely that he's been lurking for six years and never found a single thing he wanted to comment on, when he was perfectly willing to comment before. The more plausible explanation is that he just stopped, or mostly stopped using the forums.

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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby Copper Bezel » Fri Jan 08, 2016 6:05 pm UTC

Yeah, I was being overly picky. Saying that Randall hasn't posted here for six years gets the point across pretty well. I do find it unlikely that he'd never take a look at the forum.
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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jan 08, 2016 7:49 pm UTC

Zohar wrote:I don't think anyone is saying that? Also we're not talking about necessarily adding new characters to existing works, we're talking about, when people do casting (or when Randall does drawing), they consider a more diverse crew.

In the Aziz Ansari show "Master of None", episode 4 ("Indians on TV") has Aziz's character audition for a comedy role in a new show about three room mates. A friend of his, another Indian actor, also auditions, both of them do well. The subject comes up about how, if both actors get hired as two room mates (even though the roles weren't specifically written for people of Indian or South-East Asian descent), the show would suddenly become "The Indian show". That's closely linked to what we're talking about - the assumption that just adding diversity means you have to revamp your entire script. Obviously your acting choices may impact your script (a redheaded actor's character might have been bullied as a child, a very pretty actress's character's opinions might have been ignored when younger because her friends assumed she wasn't smart, whatever), but it doesn't mean changing everything - it means accommodating to your actors, and it's something you do in TV. If you're writing a book or drawing a comic, you get to choose your actors in advance, and there's no reason not to choose a diverse cast (see: SMBC).

And depending on the genre, it may require changing literally nothing about the story.

Hermione could have been played by a black girl from the beginning, and due to the lack of coverage of the muggle world and the lack of information about human race relations in the wizarding community, there's probably not a single line of dialogue that would need to change. Sure, a real black girl would have had different experiences growing up than a real white girl, but in a fiction with most characters fairly removed from the real world, those differences in implied backstory may never come up.

And in something *totally* removed from the real world like Star Wars, there's no need to even assume a difference in backstory. You could mix up every new character's race and gender and, apart from a few dialogue tweaks, the only difference would be how whiny the fanboy pissbabies got.
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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby KrytenKoro » Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:58 pm UTC

So off topic

as a thought experiment if you took 10 25 year old men and 10 25 year old women, trained them in hand to hand combat for three months, then had to rank their combat efficiency, what do you think it would look like?

Whichever one had the gun, or was smart enough to fashion a weapon. I can't easily remember any "Confronting the monster" stories, besides stuff like Hercules where the strength is explicitly magical, where the hero's power relied on our pre-tool-using asset of physical strength.

I am willing to bet that you did not picture your socks, even though you knew that you were wearing socks.

I would like my money, then. I did not picture socks because my character was not wearing socks.

When I picture the scene where Cassie and Jake kiss, I do not, consciously or unconsciously, give Jake a skin color. He definitively has skin, but I 'forgot' his skin color. That detail was not added by me, so it does not exist. The same thing for when Rachel fights a lion; she has blond hair, but I do not picture her with it. When Ax meets Marco's dad for the first time, I give them almost no details; their eye color, skin color, hair color, height, and clothing are so irrelevant that I forget about them. In a person's imagination, default is 'not existing'.

I can see what you're saying, but assuming your assertion is true, it is far and away not the norm. There are copious accounts of readers assuming a specific skin color that was not mentioned in the text, and being very vocally upset when the text is illustrated/animated and the character "looks different". Hell, there are copious accounts of readers assuming a skin color that conflicts with what the text specifically says and getting pissy about it (http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-tur ... nger-games).

Everything that was planned must be thrown out and redone. If I had to rewriting an the majority of a script in order to add a character I did not want, I would get ticked off.

Not only is that bog standard for any sort of production, but there's nothing any more difficult about the request being that the character is "Pacific Islander" than that they are "white" or "a nerd". It's simply less common...due to very obvious and well-documented bias in favor of white, cis, male, fit, well-off implicitly if not explicitly (for all the talk of how much job trouble a character has, I with my steady job couldn't afford their house or activities in a thousand years), socially successful implicitly if not explicitly (same, ex. George Costanza), weakly religious (leaning toward Christian) characters in Western media. You could probably throw English-speaking in there, as well.

Just like if you say "Oh Dumbledore was totally gay", you should have something explicit in the source material to back that up if you want brownie points from the LGBTQ community.

I definitely agree that it's not the most courageous to not say Dumbledore was gay and Hermione was black right out of the gate, but I'm willing to give her some leeway because of the state of publishers there and then (for an analogy, see what CN UK is doing to Steven Universe). At the very least, I feel there is something important about her now, when she has such a large audience and so much influence, flipping the conversation entirely and forcing them to approach the question assuming black or homosexual as the default. It definitely doesn't feel like she's just trying to win "PC Brownie Points" (i.e. changing the default criteria to "You need proof for them to be White or Straight") -- there's something important in her forcing the audience to confront that reversed PoV.
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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:29 pm UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:I definitely agree that it's not the most courageous to not say Dumbledore was gay and Hermione was black right out of the gate, but I'm willing to give her some leeway because of the state of publishers there and then (for an analogy, see what CN UK is doing to Steven Universe). At the very least, I feel there is something important about her now, when she has such a large audience and so much influence, flipping the conversation entirely and forcing them to approach the question assuming black or homosexual as the default. It definitely doesn't feel like she's just trying to win "PC Brownie Points" (i.e. changing the default criteria to "You need proof for them to be White or Straight") -- there's something important in her forcing the audience to confront that reversed PoV.


I award her zero points for retconning. Now, if we look at Dumbledore, eh, it doesn't matter. For his role in the story, literally nothing changes either way. Straight or gay is entirely irrelevant, it's just a random detail thrown out later.

Hermione, though, you've got pretty solid evidence in the text. Not least of which is that she sort of DOES use white as default for everyone, and describes exceptions. This is, as previously pointed out, pretty common...but doing that shouldn't really win you recognition. It's definitely not brave, and this sort of retconning smacks of "han shot first" stuff. Yes, Hermione could have been written as black, and the story would have functioned the same. But...it wasn't. And trying to sort of get credit for it after the fact seems kinda fake.

Note that this is independent of actual casting. For a theater production, it really doesn't matter who is cast. Recasting outside of type is...not even very original in theater. You could flip the genders of everyone involved, and it would be a relatively minor aesthetic choice. It's not a continuity break with movies or anything, because it's not really in the same continuity. It's a reinterpretation. The choice isn't an issue, the perceived using it for attention/retconning/unearned status on the part of the author kind of is.

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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby Angua » Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:42 pm UTC

She didn't retcon Hermione. She merely supported having a black actress in the role.

She hasn't said that the movies got it wrong, or that she was black all along. She pointed out that it's a description that doesn't say it's definitely white, and that the role can be played just as well by a black actress as a white one.

Like, seriously. This is one play that people are flipping out about. There were 8 movies. There was a giant shitstorm on the internet about Hermione in one British play casting a black actress in the role, and JK Rowling said that it was fine and didn't even contradict the books. That's why she did the tweet. Not trying to get 'PC brownie points' - just trying to shut up the racist whiners.
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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Jan 12, 2016 12:10 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Hermione, though, you've got pretty solid evidence in the text. Not least of which is that she sort of DOES use white as default for everyone, and describes exceptions.
Apart from that, what "solid evidence" is in the text?
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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby KrytenKoro » Tue Jan 12, 2016 12:28 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Hermione, though, you've got pretty solid evidence in the text. Not least of which is that she sort of DOES use white as default for everyone, and describes exceptions.
Apart from that, what "solid evidence" is in the text?

There's a line in the third book about her having an obvious brown tan, and lines in the fourth and fifth book about her blushing pink. Her mother is also described as pale, at one point. Outside of the books, Rowling outright illustrated her as caucasian: http://holykaw.alltop.com/harry-potter- ... -rowling-i

None of that is "solid", and can easily be explained away, but it does lean towards white.

Honestly? I very much prefer a black Hermione. It nicely accentuates her driving character with SPEW and so on, lending some weight to why she cares so much about social justice.

Mostly what I'm trying to say -- yeah, Rowling didn't have a breakout smash hit with in-your-face black and gay main characters. However, given the circumstances at the time and place, I'm not entirely confident she could (or could now, if she was starting off), so while it can be considered having sold out a bit, now that she does have the freedom to speak her mind to her audience, it does seem like she's making positive contributions, encouraging people to examine the fact that they treat white and straight as the default. Not groundbreaking, certainly, but also not something that many other people with as large an audience do. I think she's helping.
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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Jan 12, 2016 1:10 am UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Hermione, though, you've got pretty solid evidence in the text. Not least of which is that she sort of DOES use white as default for everyone, and describes exceptions.
Apart from that, what "solid evidence" is in the text?

There's a line in the third book about her having an obvious brown tan, and lines in the fourth and fifth book about her blushing pink. Her mother is also described as pale, at one point. Outside of the books, Rowling outright illustrated her as caucasian
Lightskinned black people tan and blush and can have white mothers.
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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby leady » Tue Jan 12, 2016 10:58 am UTC

There is also the fact that she is written (deliberately) as the quintessential upper middle class white bossy girl in a private school. Its almost like lumps of Harry Potter were stolen from the worst witch (yes I read that as a child eons ago)

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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby Zamfir » Tue Jan 12, 2016 11:37 am UTC

quintessential upper middle class white bossy girl in a private school.
You sure? I always took the muggle-borns to be the magic-equivalent of lower class kids who got in on a grant or something, but who don't really belong. Hermione fits the stereotype - excels at school work but doesn't quite understand the skills that actually matter.

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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby leady » Tue Jan 12, 2016 12:10 pm UTC

She is an outsider true, but as a Brit I see the archetype in the character - I'm pretty sure its intentional (after all its a "British public school book") and the muggle piece is a side issue, the McGuffin to drive the plot.

Note she's not upper class like say that bad kids family are - basically in terms of British class structure...

baddy kid - upper / aristocrat
Herm - upper middle
Ron - upper middle
Harry - lower

Harry is the outsider in the public school system, which ironically is the "rags to riches" narrative amongst all the others :)

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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby morriswalters » Tue Jan 12, 2016 12:39 pm UTC

The two positions aren't mutually exclusive. Her background as a muggle is precisely that of an upper middle class child, the juxtaposition of that life against a life in the wizarding world where she is no longer of that privilege is one of the conceits of the books. The conceit works best if she is white.

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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Jan 12, 2016 1:07 pm UTC

Sure, and all kinds of other things you can read into the plot work better if she's black or mixed-race (same with Harry himself, actually).

My point was that there's no explicit evidence in the text one way or the other, which remains true regardless of what stereotypes you want to imagine onto the characters from outside.
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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby leady » Tue Jan 12, 2016 1:23 pm UTC

Still I strongly suspect that if Hermione was explicitly black then it wouldn't sell as much because the novel is explicitly a nostalgic throwback to the imperial class based system.

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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby Chen » Tue Jan 12, 2016 1:51 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Sure, and all kinds of other things you can read into the plot work better if she's black or mixed-race (same with Harry himself, actually).

My point was that there's no explicit evidence in the text one way or the other, which remains true regardless of what stereotypes you want to imagine onto the characters from outside.


Prisoner of Azkaban has two separate color descriptions for her:

They were there, both of them, sitting outside Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor — Ron looking incredibly freckly, Hermione very brown, both waving frantically at him


Presumably this is the "tan" one, though the description "very brown" would be exceedingly odd to use for an already dark skinned person.

Hermione's white face was sticking out behind a tree


This is while they're trying to free Buckbeak so it could be an indication of fear, but even so I don't see why you'd use that particular way to describe a dark skinned person as fearful.

So there are two conclusions. One, Rowling is terrible at writing good physical descriptions of people, or that Hermione was intended to be white. Now, even if she was intended to be white, that doesn't really change Rowling saying there's nothing wrong with having a black actress represent her in some medium. It does kind of make her saying she never specified the race a tad disingenuous though.

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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby jewish_scientist » Tue Jan 12, 2016 2:43 pm UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:
When I picture the scene where Cassie and Jake kiss, I do not, consciously or unconsciously, give Jake a skin color. He definitively has skin, but I 'forgot' his skin color. That detail was not added by me, so it does not exist. The same thing for when Rachel fights a lion; she has blond hair, but I do not picture her with it. When Ax meets Marco's dad for the first time, I give them almost no details; their eye color, skin color, hair color, height, and clothing are so irrelevant that I forget about them. In a person's imagination, default is 'not existing'.

I can see what you're saying, but assuming your assertion is true, it is far and away not the norm. There are copious accounts of readers assuming a specific skin color that was not mentioned in the text, and being very vocally upset when the text is illustrated/animated and the character "looks different". Hell, there are copious accounts of readers assuming a skin color that conflicts with what the text specifically says and getting pissy about it (http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-tur ... nger-games).


That is very interesting. When I hear people say that 'white is the default', I thought they meant 'when asked for a skin color, and no evidence is available, people will answer white'. Really people mean, 'a character is white until evidence to the contrary is provided'. If those seem like the same thing to you, or it does not make any sense, that is because you do not live in my head.

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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby leady » Tue Jan 12, 2016 3:52 pm UTC

The hunger games is a terrible example in many ways. You can argue that Hermione is interpreted mostly from the 3rd person story description, conforming to the readers expectations. The hunger games is written in the first person and no one is that colour blind.

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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jan 12, 2016 4:16 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
KrytenKoro wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Hermione, though, you've got pretty solid evidence in the text. Not least of which is that she sort of DOES use white as default for everyone, and describes exceptions.
Apart from that, what "solid evidence" is in the text?

There's a line in the third book about her having an obvious brown tan, and lines in the fourth and fifth book about her blushing pink. Her mother is also described as pale, at one point. Outside of the books, Rowling outright illustrated her as caucasian
Lightskinned black people tan and blush and can have white mothers.


The specific words were "Hermione turned a bright shade of pink". That's not exactly using the word blush, which of course happens to most folks, but doing so in a way that indicates at least fairly light skin.

And you've got Chen's examples.

Plus, yknow, there's the pictures on the cover. Now granted, covers can totally be inaccurate, but it does contribute to the portrayal, and she certainly didn't raise a fuss about the covers before. And the author has explicitly said that Hermione is a self insert of a younger her.

I mean, you can pretty easily justify any one of these things, but overall, it's fairly hard to actually say that she wasn't originally depicted and intended as white.

On the flip side, you had people being surprised that Cho Chang was depicted as Asian, because...I have no idea.

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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Jan 12, 2016 5:36 pm UTC

leady wrote:She is an outsider true, but as a Brit I see the archetype in the character - I'm pretty sure its intentional (after all its a "British public school book") and the muggle piece is a side issue, the McGuffin to drive the plot.

Note she's not upper class like say that bad kids family are - basically in terms of British class structure...

baddy kid - upper / aristocrat
Herm - upper middle
Ron - upper middle
Harry - lower

Harry is the outsider in the public school system, which ironically is the "rags to riches" narrative amongst all the others :)


It's a fairly significant plot point that Ron and his family are poor. Or, at least, they're poor when it is convenient in the plot to remind you that they're poor. Not that the economy in the wizard world exactly makes sense either way.

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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby natraj » Tue Jan 12, 2016 6:48 pm UTC

yeah, it's also p significant that harry is filthy rich (in the wizarding world; the dursleys seem pretty solidly well-off, too, they just treat HIM badly but he certainly doesn't come from a lower-class background at any point, he was just abused before he got to hogwarts and then suddenly discovers oh man wait i am fabulously wealthy and can buy whatever i want instead of living in this closet) so i don't know wtf leady is on about actually.
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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jan 12, 2016 7:25 pm UTC

natraj wrote:yeah, it's also p significant that harry is filthy rich (in the wizarding world; the dursleys seem pretty solidly well-off, too, they just treat HIM badly but he certainly doesn't come from a lower-class background at any point, he was just abused before he got to hogwarts and then suddenly discovers oh man wait i am fabulously wealthy and can buy whatever i want instead of living in this closet) so i don't know wtf leady is on about actually.


Yeah. It's not so much a tale of a poor downtrodden person as it is standard wish-fulfillment, etc. Ordinary kid suddenly discovers that everything is awesome, he really is special, and all that. The appeal is pretty straightforward, and discovering you're really rich plays into that perfectly.

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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby leady » Tue Jan 12, 2016 7:52 pm UTC

(I can't believe I'm writing an economic analysis of Harry Potter...)

The Weasleys aren't poor in the sense of the British class system though and that's what counts. Hell the dad works in the equivalent of wizarding whitehall :)

They are poor, like those real life upper middle class families that struggle to put their 5th child into private school are :)

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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby KrytenKoro » Tue Jan 12, 2016 9:03 pm UTC

leady wrote:(I can't believe I'm writing an economic analysis of Harry Potter...)

The Weasleys aren't poor in the sense of the British class system though and that's what counts. Hell the dad works in the equivalent of wizarding whitehall :)

They are poor, like those real life upper middle class families that struggle to put their 5th child into private school are :)

That, and while Harry's rags-to-riches happens...quite quickly, from an economic standpoint, he's still very much Cinderelling it up when with the Dursleys. The bulk of the story focuses on the social/emotional rags-to-riching, where he's just now learning how to have friends, how to cope with school politicking, and other things most of the upper class students deal with like breathing.

Hell, even the money he does have comes with the caveat that he doesn't have the legal right to spend it at his own discretion until later in the series. It's less him being wealthy and upper class, and more that there's a specialized basket of deus ex machina somewhere, if Rowling really gets in a pinch.
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Re: Diversity of xkcd comic characters

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Feb 09, 2016 2:28 am UTC

[Hmm, sorry, turned out to be very long! I hope it's now not too OffTopic! But this sub-subject was being discussed!]

It's been a while since I read the HP books (first four only1), and have seen the films only once each, so my thoughts are probably wrong, but:

Harry Potter is of ruling class roots, by his father, but the 'old money' family of his father's line being 'polluted' through the out-of-class marriage to his mother (a muggle-born, like Hermione), for which his family have been branded 'class traitors' amongst those who consider breeding (which, after a while, necessarily becomes in-breeding) important above all else. Thus he ill-fits the upper-class stamp, but to more lowly people within the wizarding community he is still technically ruling-class by right of birth. Add to that his aura of fame (which, like his family connections, he has gone through childhood being unaware of... to the benefit of his personality, one feels) and he's both an object of awe from 'below' and of disgust from 'above', fitting into neither world. (Worlds within a world that he never even imagined!)

Thus I'd classify HP as legitimately upper-class, but he attains during the series an additional celebrity status that builds upon his "Louise Brown"-like celebrity-merely-through-his-own-existence.

Snape evidently had a poorer 'mixed' background, but a generation earlier when the pretentiousness of the classes still counted for more. (Something even James Potter couldn't ignore, in his own immature way, even though the muggle-born Lily Evans would eventually choose James over a carelessly emotional Snape.) He found solace in working hard and fought hard to carve himself out a 'niche', from which he gained his hard reputation. I'd place him in the Professional Classes, but in a business that's makes him hard to relate to his 'level peers'. Funerary Director vs Bank Managers, maybe. And a 'jobbing tradesman' as far as many people are concerned, who would rather have as little to do with him as possible.

The Weasleys are a clan that I'd say was roughly equivalent to a family that has descended from a minor baronetcy, landed to the extent of possessing a long-standing (and never modernised) rural manor built during better times several centuries before. They have just enough connections (at least until their exclusion from high society for daring to not talk down upon 'unworthy' tennant peons) for each generation to gain entry, in muggle terms, at least a second-class university by way of some historic monetary grant, laid down by a legacy to support the children of Old Boys and thus their children's children in turn, and from there attain a mid-level position in the civil service. (It appears that it's "Hogwarts or nothing" for all British-based wizardry, at least for O- and A-level equivalent education (secondary and sixth-form... whatever that is in today's money. There appears to be no 'Wizard University' save for excelling and perhaps staying on at Hogwarts past age of enforced education there. This may be a feasible version of the system in a system where the hidden magical society is so much smaller and caterable-for than the muggle one.)

I'd probably put Ron, therefore, in the 'old-no-money' category, with his father (and then whoever heads the family after him) being a "Baron Hardup" character, with all non-first male children of the line (and all girls) having to make their own ways in the world, perhaps as the equivalent to muggle-wise farm managers or finding themselves eventually become important in various businesses (or founding their own... e.g. the twins).

While I've never seen Hermione as 'black', or non-white, socially Britain can be a lot more colour-blind, at least to those non-Anglo-Saxons that don't go out of their way to epitomise 'urban' culture. It helps if you're light(/not-too-dark)-skinned, but these days it's more about attitude.

[aside]People like Lenny Henry (except in some of his own-colour-slanted comic personae, or in repeating for comic effect situations in his actual parental home) has a fairly neutral accent that can be overwhelmingly his native Midlands (Dudley) accent or even the educated 'sub-RP' class. (And then, because he's good at accents, he can go overboard into the far end of RP, or even various 'American white' ones.) Alexander Siddig (born Siddig El Tahir El Fadil El Siddig Abderrahman Mohammed Ahmed Abdel Karim El Mahdi) plays a 'natural born English' character in Dr Julian Bashir in Star Trek: DS9, and related works, and I never really noticed him as being anything other (the light presumably-Arabic skin not being a clue, nor the character surname, given the large amount of variability in the 'English' surnames that I know. (My own, IRL, has been mistaken for Maltese, or else near to there in the Mediterranean; it's actually pure Scottish! But you'll have to take my word for that, as I'm not usually in the habit of saying even that much about my RL name, on open forums.)[/aside]

...but back to Hermione. She is, you might imagine as far as the magic world is concerned, like a muggle-world offspring of immigrants who has done well at school and been deemed worthy enough of an academic scholarship. Part of this is that she fits well within the culture of this form of education. She readily adopts the equivalent to the academically-educated air, which in this case is the magical proficiency, whether by just natural aptitude or by hard work once she discovered the aptitude. She has the air of being the start of a new New Money dynasty or (as I think it is supposed to turn out) adding her brilliant business acumen to the Weasley's historic landholding to buff up the fortunes of that family. I get the idea that Hermione's parents' muggle-class is "Upper-middle", and Hermione herself seems (at least when not deemed to be 'mudblood', by certain others) capable of becoming the wizard-class equivalent of "Upper-middle" in her own right, even without the above marrying in. Like a Kate Middleton, except with a more distant royal than she got... although if early fan-expectation had stuck it would have been Harry (Potter), which would have been a lot closer to William ('Wales')

The Malfoys are "old money, still money, too attached to the archaic and out-of-date class-structure" Upper Class, of course, and Draco has been brought up to believe in this historic 'superiority'.


Obviously the parallels between our own world and the wizarding one are a little hard to work out. Only a generation ago we've had the (English) Civil War with arguably a rather truncated version of Oliver Cromwell/He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's victory over the established Monarchy/Wizardry status-quo, before returning to a post-Interregnum 'happier shinier, at least on the surface' attitude of wizardry (power) over mugglery (the people), and in fact HWMNBN's parentage is an old gentry family with some political and military clout (seemingly as per Cromwell's).

Then we're also seeing an "Industrial Revolution", of sorts, as the muggle-world seems to be sneaking into the wizarding one at an increasing pace (considering how middle-ages and pre-enlightenment the latter seems to be based upon, and who knows how long it took to become that, or else it was even developed like that long before the muggle-world and had originally inspired that's 'upgrading' (through leaks that we'd only recognise as 'legend' and myth and fairy stories) from the likes of rural serfdom!

And now perhaps we're also seeing a post-Empire immigration (such as with the Empire Windrush), although that might be an overstatement of the current situation, and we may be talking more about something more like the Huguenots (skilled workers, albeit with funny accents and ideas, whose descendents nevertheless largely blended into their adopted culture so that soon only the really snooty would place them lower on the social ladder than their similarly well-to-do peers without such a family background to them).


But the above is an amateur assessment of the HP universe, based upon no particular expertise in the Potterverse (or affinity with it). And also with the nagging feeling at the back of my mind that Rowling's works just haven't been developed enough to make for a fully-consistent and understandable setting. There's seven books, only, stuck to a pre-planned arc largely based around a single focal point, which strike me as a formulaic mix of Billy Bunter and The Worst Witch, at least to start with.

The seventh Discworld novel was Pyramids (a good stand-alone novel, or perhaps a starter in the Pyramids/Small Gods/Hogfather 'set'), and I often push people towards starting with Guards! Guards! (which is number 7a, i.e. the one between 7 and 9), unless I want to give them Mort (#4, and then hesitantly jump onto Reaper Man at #11, Soul Music at #16) and onwards with the Death/Susan arc) or Wyrd Sisters (#6, up the Witches set and thus into the Tiffany ones, getting back to Equal Rites at a later date), because I think they'll take to one or other of those arcs rather than the Guards one, for some reason.

I very rarely give them TCOM and send them up the Rincewind/Wizards trail, from the off. Usually I see how they do with the "from where it started to get good" books, then suggest they can visit the proto-Discworlds and go back up in strict publication order to fill in the gaps.

With the Potterverse, I may have been recommended to read the books (see footnote) but have never (in turn) thought to recommend them onwards. Maybe because everyone who might appreciate it already has read them, but it's not even been a conversational aside, mostly. Perhaps more books (across diverse parts of the culture, even if it's something within an offshoot of The Ministry, or even events occurring amongst previously unknown protagonists who are associated with the Durmstrang Institute) would have helped. Just like the Discworld didn't become (in spite of some 'fan requests') the "Rincewindverse", and all the better for the diversity and different focuses, IMO.


.

As to the xkcd characters, they're all black, technically. Except when they're set upon black backgrounds, when they're white. That's assuming that the faces just aren't coloured in.;)



1 Those were the published books when someone persuaded me to read them, on the assumption that I'd find them to be good. I ranked them as so-so, however, so didn't bother with the others and only saw the films on the small-screen as convenient opportunities arose.


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