My acquaintance describes herself as a twenty-something white girl from the states and also a (very un-famous!) comic artist currently in the production stages of a new comic. Concerning the comic book, it’s crime/drama featuring a female lead police officer, with a dash of the paranormal. It’ll be a mixture of science-fiction and mystery. The closest thing to compare to it would be the X-FIles. Here are her words:
“This is a story that I’ve been working on for ages and I’m very excited about it. I desperately want to turn out something worth reading. I’ve been doing some research for a while but I still have some major reservations about writing a black female main character. I guess my biggest concern of all is that people will find the story mishandled or offensive.
So, assuming you like science fiction, crime-dramas, and comics in general, I would love you forever if you could answer a few questions:
- Should I even make the attempt?
- I know that people in the entertainment industry constantly fetishize people of color, or butcher the story in the attempt, or parody the culture, or any number of horrible things and my biggest fear with this project is that I’m going to stumble into that myself.
- So what are some things I should absolutely avoid doing (if any)?
- What are some things you’d like to see in a police drama involving a female lead?
- Is there any topic that shouldn’t be handled by me?
- Are there any resources that you think I as a writer would find helpful? (I’m always looking for more blogs.)
And because I have nowhere else to put this, I guess I’ll just tack this on at the end:
I just want to tell a riveting sci-fi story. I want to entertain my readers and write believable characters. The main character is from Bermuda, her ethnicity isn’t an arbitrary choice made by me in an attempt to look edgy by writing outside my comfort zone.
- No slang or Ebonics – I think this would be very hard to pull off without offending. Regional dialectical talk is one thing Ebonics is tough to do well. Uhm no twerking I would say but maybe sci-fi and twerking go together.
- I think the character should be fully developed as any other character – a developed back story, modern day aspirations which are reflective of her unique identity and someone from Bermuda. I think it is important to show some snippets of the difficulties faced by a black women but these should be the sides and her personal development as she encounters life’s difficulties should be the main course.
- I think the humanity of the character should be early established. I feel this from a writing perspective because it sort of would serve as a safe guard in a way from unknowingly perpetuating stereotypes.
- I would say stay as far away from stereotypical depiction that were used in the past to portray negros: nappy hair , big lips, etc
First a bit of context: Throughout the early decades of the post-civil-rights era black people tended to view their image in media, particularly in movies, through a prism of “positive” or “negative.” These simplistic terms served a kind of Rorschach test of images that could make black folks comfortable or uncomfortable. Denzel Washington as a strong-willed, heroic Union soldier in “Glory”(1989) was considered positive. Denzel Washington as a crooked Los Angeles cop in “Training Day” (2001) was negative. He won Oscars for both, but his corrupt cop was polarizing, since it implicated black treachery, with white indifference, in urban crime.
I think character complexity will be very important with that said. Anyways that is all I got at the moment. Anyone one has more to say please leave a comment.
Some thing I read that could be interesting: The Perceived Realism of African American Portrayals on Television