Thursday, July 26, 2007

When Your Characters Are All Mixed Up

First off...I'm back! No, I didn't fall off the face of the planet. My eyes needed a rest from the computer, literally. I spend a lot of time staring at screens, whether it's for writing, surfing the Net or making an ulitmate playlist and all those hours were taking a toll on my beautiful greenish eyes. I like my eyes and well, I need them so I had to take a forced hiatus from the blogoshpere. But thanks to time, some anti-reflective lenses and the Good Lord, here I am.

So here's something that's been on my mind, especially for all you aspiring screenwriters and filmmakers out there: How do YOU go about describing biracial and multi-cultural characters? For example, I'm working on a script where the main character is black and white (African-American/Irish-American). Do I simply write that upon first introduction of the character in a direct way or do I let the story flesh that out in a more subtle way? I want to create stories where people just don't come in neat little racial packages because in real-life a lot of people aren't just "one thing".

That got me to thinking, how does society view biracial people? Well, let's think about that...let's put this into a little scenario: If _______ walked into an elevator with you, what would YOU view them as? Insert the following names into the blank space:

*Tiger Woods
*Barack Obama
*Halle Berry
*Jessica Alba
*Alexis Bledel
*Wentworth Miller
*Rosario Dawson

Do you think of Tiger as an Asian-American man? Barack and Halle as "white"? Jessica as Danish-American? Alexis as Hispanic? Wentworth as "black"? And Rosario as...well, she's a bunch of things. Do you see where I'm going with this?

These questions didn't start off as a "race thing", it was birthed out of craft, that is me trying to better understand the ways of screenwriting. But nevertheless, these questions are very much clear and present. So what do I do? How do I write it, how is Hollywood writing it? And better yet, is Hollywood writing it right?

Maybe I'm thinking too much about it or maybe I should write a book. Either way, what are your thoughts on the matter? I'm eager to know, so sound off...


Joy Kennelly said...

Hi Karen, Interesting observations. I used to have a friend who was mixed and we actually worked on a documentary about this topic. I still have the promo we did on it.

I was so involved in this discussion I also worked for a long time with a non-profit group that wanted a color-blind society.

My son who I placed in an open adoption at birth is half Nigerian and half me - (English, Irish, Finnish and German) so I'm especially interested in this topic.

If you asked me personally about all the celebrities you mentioned, I would say they're all mixed. I detest the term mulatto and think it's derogatory.

I think we're all mixed, but since race is such an issue in America... Okay, that's my take.

Glad your eyes are back to normal - looking forward to reading more posts!

SolShine7 said...

Thanks for stopping by Joy. I agree with you in the term mulatto, it's so not cool.

Angela/SciFiChick said...

Welcome back!

Jason said...

Welcome back Karen - I was wondering if you dropped off the earth.

This is good insight. I've tried to include a cross-cultural mix in my novel, but do I obviously say that Bill is Native-American or Dr. Ravi is Indian? So far I try to let the context speak for itself.

Glad you're back!

Beaman said...

Green eyes, wow!