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Characters of Colour in the Whedonverse
Högskolan i Halmstad, Akademin för lärande, humaniora och samhälle, Centrum för lärande, kultur och samhälle (CLKS).
2019 (Engelska)Konferensbidrag, Muntlig presentation med publicerat abstract (Refereegranskat)
Abstract [en]

Early on, the works produced by Joss Whedon and writers associated with him were recognised as feminist. This pertains not only to the prominence of female characters, but to the emphasis on co-operation and power-sharing that appear in many of the works. However, there were, also early, concerns about the portrayal of people of colour. I will here consider the entirety of Whedon’s oeuvre, whether he has been writer, producer, or director.

Whedon’s works do not feature many characters of colour; characters played by actors of colour might also be presented as white, thus further limiting the number of openly presented characters of colour. The portrayals of those characters of colour that do appear in his work are also not unproblematic. One particularly problematic instance of this, which I will focus on here, is the depiction of people of colour (especially but not exclusively women) as expected to exhibit strong loyalty to a white person (especially but not exclusively men).

Characters of colour, regardless of prominence, often appear as subordinate to a white character, whether this is due to a formal chain of command or an informal hierarchy. Examples of this appear in Agents of ShieldFireflyDollhouse, and Angel, to mention a few. Obviously, the hierarchy is more or less formalised in these texts, but it is generally clear to the viewers even when informal. The moral quality of the characters of colour is repeatedly judged by how loyal they remain to the white person above them in the hierarchy; this judgement may be openly referred to in the text or consist of how the audience is expected to perceive them and their fortunes, or lack thereof, in the arc of the plot.

As viewers, we tend to accept the hierarchies inherent in the plot, whether formal or informal; we are presented with a leader and a group of followers, who might also have an internal hierarchy. We are invited to judge the performance of the leader, including on how well the followers follow them, and to expect, if we approve of the leader, to see loyalty from the followers. Nevertheless, the demands of loyalty from the characters of colour tend to go beyond the normal expectation that they carry out orders and offer input, if necessary, and often includes emotional and psychologial support. This support is generally not extended in the other direction, making it a power imbalance rather than mutual care, with the less privileged characters taking on the labour of making white characters feel better. This paper will discuss some instances of this, and how simply including more characters of colour does not in and of itself solve the long-noted issues of race in Whedon’s work.

Ort, förlag, år, upplaga, sidor
2019.
Nyckelord [en]
Joss Whedon, race
Nationell ämneskategori
Övrig annan humaniora
Identifikatorer
URN: urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-40547OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hh-40547DiVA, id: diva2:1350161
Konferens
Dublin 2019 – An Irish Worldcon, Dublin, Ireland, August 15-19, 2019
Tillgänglig från: 2019-09-10 Skapad: 2019-09-10 Senast uppdaterad: 2019-10-01Bibliografiskt granskad

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Hildebrand, Kristina

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