Readers Lampoon Common Tropes Used by White Writers
TikTokers are taking aim at white writers for how they depict other races and ethnicities in their books, and the result is both eye-opening and downright scathing. People of color pointing out their offensive depictions at the hands of white writers and filmmakers is a tried and true tradition (one that extends to male authors writing women), and the topic resurfaced recently when TikToker Yurié Collins shared what happens when a white author writes about a female Japanese character.
She posted a three-part series highlighting this idea, with one of the videos going viral and receiving over 1 million views. Additionally, what was hilarious was that everyone in the comments also immediately knew what book she was referencing just from her short videos. Hence, although they’re presented as sarcastic jabs, most can agree that there’s plenty of truth to these videos. It didn’t take long for other TikTokers to share what it’s like reading about characters of their ethnicities from white authors.
Readers ridicule how white authors portray people of color
Collins’ series (parts 2 and 3 here) was clearly taking aim at Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, which was published in 1997 and made into a film in 2005. While labeled a “historical fiction” novel, Memoirs of a Geisha is riddled with historical inaccuracies, stereotypical portrayals of Asian women, and a wholly inaccurate depiction of geishas. The film was hardly any better, with most of Golden’s stereotypes carrying over into the 2005 movie. Additionally, many were angered by the film’s choice to cast Chinese actors in Japanese roles, which perpetuates a common tendency of white individuals to lump all Asian ethnicities together as one.
She also covered how such stories are often loaded up with overused clichés to describe physical features, as well as references to anything in general that non-Asian people associate with being Asian—not to mention how the white people in the stories are often presented. Collins’ videos inspired other TikTokers, like Dominican-American Mari (@mynameismarines), to show that these tropes really extend to pretty much every ethnicity. In her video, Mari points out similar physical description clichés in how Latina women’s skin is always described with comparisons to foods, along with the same tired playing towards others’ expectations.
Will white writers ever get better at this?
TikToker Haley (@the.page.sage) summed up the whole thing pretty well with this TikTok.
While authors like Golden wrote their offensive works over two decades ago, new content is still being churned out with similar tropes and stereotypes. Colleen Hoover, Sarah J. Mass, Piper C.J., Stephanie Myer, J. K. Rowling, and Donna Tartt are just a few modern authors who have gained notoriety and been called out for racism and offensive content in their books. Unfortunately, many readers aren’t often aware enough to catch problematic and racist content, which is why authors like these continue to enjoy popularity and high readership.
Even authors who make their racism and ableism overt, like C.J., somehow still manage to write and successfully publish or self-publish bestselling books. In her book, The Night and Its Moon, the sole POC character is forced into slavery and described as a “crazed animal,” while a disabled character is made to be the demonic villain of the story. Not only that, but her book can hardly be called a book with its nonexistent plot, lack of character development and depth, and numerous editing issues alongside allegations it plagiarized The Witcher. Yet, her books are still lining the shelves at Barnes and Noble.
The problem isn’t that white authors are writing about people who are different from them. The problem is that white authors are writing about others in a way that is extremely offensive, stereotypical, and littered with tired tropes. What’s sad is that many are failing to detect the problem until individuals like Collins and Mari point it out in a way that is absolutely impossible to miss. Fortunately, they have found a unique and fun way to raise awareness for the issue and to let white authors know how they really look when they write ignorantly about others.
(featured image: @babypinkhaus / @the.page.sage)
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