Dear Insane Children,
Here’s an update to yesterday’s post where I shared details about our Dorothy character from OZ: Adventures. Omri had a look at your comments and made changes – resulting in what I think (?) is a final design for this character.
Let us know in the comments below what you think! For my part: I love her!
Excellent work, Omri!
And a point of interest generated by some of the comments over on my Instagram in relation to this Dorothy design. Some people suggest that the “race swapping” going on here isn’t called for. Some heated exchanges (as you’d expect) around those comments.
A couple of points I find interesting:
First, I murder Alice’s parents and wrap the narrative of Alice: Madness Returns around child abuse and the psychological manipulation/destruction of Alice… and no one bats an eye. Or I change “Red Riding Hood” into a native islander/Japanese person in Akaneiro… and again no one says anything about it. But people don’t like a black Dorothy? What’s going on here?
Second, among the first characters presented for OZ: Adventures was a Spanish Conquistador. And he brings with him (across the Atlantic on his trip to explore the New World) a kidnapped Aztec woman (Necahual) who is pressed into service as a guide/interpreter. And we saw a few complaints – mainly from Spanish people – who dislike the constant negative attention given to their ancestors. (There’s an entire topic here to be explored – The Black Legend or Myth of Spanish Conquest).
What can we take from this?
Well, first, these are obviously sensitive topics. But so is child abuse… and not once did I get an email from an actual child abuser saying, “Hey, I don’t appreciate the characterization! Leave us child abusers alone!” Because child abusers don’t have a sense of righteous indignation. They know they aren’t being falsely portrayed… they know they are what we say they are: monsters.
Around the equally sensitive topics of race and slavery – the situation has been made much more immediate and personal for everyone alive today (esp. in certain countries).
But I want to make clear that my goal here isn’t to paint a simple picture of “Spanish bad” and “Americans racist” because I believe there’s more to these issues than the end results of slavery and/or racism.
As I asked in my comments over on Instagram: Who benefits? (Cui bono)
Because I do not believe that we – human beings – are predisposed to racism. Nor do I think we’re all sitting around thinking, “Man, I’d really like to enslave some people today!”
People make excuses for these behaviors. And more often than not those excuses are manufactured by others and fed into a population to attain particular goals.
Look at the author of “The Wizard of Oz” – he infamously wrote anti-native-American screeds calling for war and genocide against native people. His motivation appears to be fear – fear of violence from “the other” and fear that if settlers don’t “strike first” they won’t live to regret it. Along the way, he “othered” or dehumanized the native population (literally called “savages” in those days).
There’s a history to this business of “othering” and it points to powerful money interests who used American settlers on the frontier as the “tip of the spear” against native Americans. They pushed those native Americans further and further west (like my ancestors, Choctaw Indians, who ended up near Texas/Oklahoma via the Trail of Tears) – while simultaneously incentivizing settlers to push further west into those same territories. To no one’s surprise, conflict and violence followed.
The fear and hatred were manufactured. And it was enforced via laws that forbid association between blacks, natives, and settlers. Division, fear, and hatred were used to control those populations – who generally outnumbered the ruling elites back in the big cities. The greatest fear for the ruling class was that those populations might band together and rise up as one.
Well, I don’t know if you are aware… but those same tactics of “othering” and control by fear and division are still very much in use today. The difference is that the methods have been turned into a science – and huge amounts of money have been invested in perfecting the ways in which we are all convinced that other people (those, over there!) are less than human.
We are made to feel righteous in our beliefs. Our morality is hijacked. Our sense of empathy is turned against us so that we think hating The Other is justified on the grounds that they deserve it for X, Y, Z reasons. What’s more, they need a good bombing!
And that brings us back to the indignation that people feel when we bring up American racism or Spanish conquest. Because we – the people of today – want other people to know… we’re not like that. We’re good people!
How far would we go in our desire to prove that we’re good people?
That brings me to one of the core issues I’m exploring in Oz:
- How far would Dorothy go to protect Oz from the sorts of harm she’s endured?
- How far would the Spanish Captain go to prove to his Aztec captive that he’s only trying to protect her?
- How far would our WW2 pilot go to get back to his superiors with the information he thinks will win the war against the monstrous enemy?
- How far would our scientist from the future go to prove his theories right and save Earth from destruction?
And at what point do they cross a line – forfeiting their humanity for the sake of a distorted ideal?
Curious to hear your thoughts on this theme. Let me know in the comments below!
From Shanghai in Semi-Lockdown,
PS: Yesterday, they lifted the lockdown for our local area. But it’s a sort of bittersweet event – since if we do leave our micro-community, we’re only allowed to do so on foot. And there’s nothing to do outside… the shops are all closed, etc. So… we’ll basically remain inside anyway!