Okay. I’m going on another rant here and forgive me, but I saw something that just irks me so, and I’m feeling the need to grab people and shake them and beg them to just understand please.
So I’m reading various things on tumblr, related to Legend of Korra, the portrayal and representation of dark-skinned characters in fiction, and the question that comes around is: Why is this even important?
Let me answer that for you.
Okay, so I have a boyfriend. He’s black, and like me, he’s into cartoons, anime, tv shows, etc. On his facebook, he keeps an gallery of images of dark-skinned characters. Doesn’t matter if they’re Egyptian, South American, Indian, etc. Just dark-skinned characters in general. A friend once asked him why this gallery exists in the first place, and bf answered how they were all positive portrayals of black/dark characters in anime/video games/cartoons.
That someone, who was Caucasian, was like, oh, and simply though it was a small quirk, little hobby, something my bf does when he’s bored.
For bf and me, who are both persons of color, that gallery means much more than a quirky hobby. I can’t explain it well, but basically, it’s a huge deal for us, particularly him. It’s a collection of the few black/dark characters in fiction, it’s representation, it’s him seeing people who look like him be scientists and geniuses, do martial arts, kick ass, look beautiful, be human; it’s people who are dark-skinned be valued and be deep, developed characters and have their own stories and desires and goals; and it’s so damn rare in fiction that he has a gallery of about only 50 characters and that’s it. Compared to, say, the hundreds of thousands of light-skinned characters.
My bf, he’s a writer. He wants to one day make books and tv shows and movies where the main character will be anything other than a straight white male character. He’s making his life goal to do so.
Because growing up and even now, still, he was loved seeing characters that are black like him. Loved characters that looked like him getting to be heroes, go on adventures, save the day, be cheered on and loved - showing him that little kids like him, black kids, kids of color, can do anything they want and they are just as good as the white kids who are already heroes and adventures and princes and princesses and whatever the hell there is to be. In a society where he eventually grows up to tell me, one day, when we were out for a drive, how to respond if I ever get pulled over by a cop, to be respectful and calm and make no sudden movements - he doesn’t know if it’s different for Asians but still, be safe - and he has to do all this, be extremely careful simply because he’s black…well, it’s something when black/dark characters are portrayed as anything other than dangerous or expandable or a bunch of horrid shit.
And then there’s me, who’s Chinese and tans easily and, along with my dad, is the darkest in the family. And let me tell you how screw-up colorism, light-skin-is-better-than-dark-skin mentality is, because there’s my mom (pale) who looks down on my dad for having olive skin and would hush hush tell me when I was younger how ‘dark’ my dad was and how ‘dark’ his family was, it was such an unfortunate thing, let’s hope that I don’t turn out like them, and made it as if their being ‘dark’ (at most an olive skin tone, geez) had something to do with all their flaws and whatnot. And then she goes through the trouble of wearing gloves when driving just so her arms wouldn’t get tanned and take out an umbrella when going outside on a sunny day. And I grow up in this setting, being told how pretty I would be if only I was pale like her.
I hate it. I hate all that and love it whenever I see somehow who is olived-skinned or dark-skinned and they were beautiful - considered beautiful, are beautiful-, and I would know that I am pretty too. And I hope no kid would ever grow up in a screwed-up environment like that and they can look everywhere and see that their dark skin is beautiful, desirable as well.
So, Korra. Dark-skinned Korra, gorgeous and headstrong and desirable and powerful and Avatar, protector of the whole world - it’s one of the first time a dark-skinned character has been portrayed as so, main character of such a beloved mainstream TV-series. (My bf loves Legend of Korra and its predecessor series before it. I do too.) And if she is in fact getting lighter, even unintentionally. Well. That would be a devastating blow.
And that’s why skin color in fiction is important. Because of formative influences, of subtle stuff in psychology that worms its way into the mind of little kids, telling them this is how the world worked, this is how your life will eventually be, this is the way you should think. Of the simple fact of having positive role models for all types of children.
Please try to understand. And at the very least, please don’t just brush off and scoff these concerns.