Monday, May 2, 2016

Gravity Falls is RACIST??

EDIT: Woohoo! Finishing up a draft!
     Alright, so, I have recently become absolutely obsessed with the Disney XD cartoon, Gravity Falls. It took me a while to get around to actually watching it, but now, I definitely do not regret it, and I will go further into detail about this in my review post that I am in the process if writing. Keep in mind, this post might, and the review definitely will, contain spoilers, so read at your own risk if you have not watched all of the show. So let's get started, shall we?
     Of course, being me, as I was watching the show I had to think to myself, "I wonder what complaints there are about the show." I think there needs to be an internet rule parallel to Rule 34, "If it exists, someone thinks it's racist or sexist or homophobic". So I discovered that one of my new favorite cartoons is racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, and all around horrible. Oh my goodness I must be the scum of the Earth for watching it and laughing at Soos and not caring that a show that takes place in "small town" Oregon is mostly populated by white people. Speaking of which, let's begin with that!
     Gravity Falls is racist, according to the internet. Now, I've never been to Oregon, but I do own a computer and I was born in Maine. I'm pretty sure Oregon is a bit like Maine and can I tell you how many minorities I grew up with before I moved? I remember a girl named Anem from Pakistan. She had dark skin and her mother had an accent and I was fascinated with their religion and culture. I was five years old when I met her. When i try to think of anyone else...my next memory is after I moved when I was eight (and this IS including visiting Maine in later years). So, I understand why someone who maybe lives in New York or California or Florida will think, "clearly this state is really racist", and of course there are racists in these sorts of states, I'm sure. But as I've stated many times, the African Americans were taken to the south, the slave states. When they traveled north to freedom, there really wasn't a reason to go as far north as Maine (or in this case Oregon), and nobody wants to move up north it seems. No one from another country probably does either. When someone from Europe or South America or Asia decides to move to the states, they are more likely to move to Florida, or New York, or California where there are already minorities and it's usually more well known. I mean, there's a town in Oregon called Boring for goodness' sake! In fact, that's one of the places Gravity Falls was based on. We have come to believe as a politically correct society that having more minority characters tat are portrayed non-stereotypically (even if those stereotypes are often true) is the only way to not be racist. And this simply isn't true! This is realism, not racism. Now if this show took place in Florida, and all of the characters were white, not one Latino or African American, or even just very few...I still wouldn't accuse the creator of racism, but I would say he's probably never been to Florida and accuse it of being unrealistic.
     Another point of supposed racism is Soos and his "abuelita". For one thing, I can tell one of the people who accused Alex of racism has never been to a Hispanic household because she said that the fact that they changed the word "abuela" was offensive and mocking Spanish. Except that abuelita is a word. One of my old friends from elementary school called her grandmother abueita; it means "granny" as she explained it to me. Others will say the fact that Soos is portrayed as being, um, less than stellar when it comes to intellect and ability to separate fiction and reality is racist, simply because he is one of the few Hispanic characters, but for one thing, his personality is much deeper than that, and I also highly doubt the reason for this personality trait is because he is Hispanic. I feel like that's a coincidence. And can we just take a moment to appreciate Matt Chapman's work here? I didn't know that Abuelita was voiced by a man until I was curious if she was voiced by a Latina because I was planning on writing this post (I'll get to the reason why this mattered later). I knew he was a writer for the show, but the amount of voices he does and the range is simply amazing, but I digress...a lot. The fact that Abuelita "speaks very little English" is...not true, and also not unrealistic. You have to realize that I grew up for half of my life around a lot of Latinos and honestly, some of my friends' parents spoke much less English than Soos' grandmother.
     The one black guy is again, because it's Oregon (and not even Portland, it's a tiny town) and Candy's voice is not racist, she's voiced by a Korean (this is why I was curious about Abuelita's VA). Minorities are allowed to have a strong accent or slip into their first language without being a stereotype or condoning racism. Goodness knows I probably have an accent when I speak German or Japanese. It's natural. Sheriff Blubs is (voice by a black man) as far as I can tell, not a stereotype of anything except a bumbling cop, so I don't even understand. Maybe it's because I don't pay too much attention to stereotypes, but I don't see any African American stereotypes that he fits, and we can't forget that basically every character except the main characters are morons and weirdos. That's the point. He seems much more competent than his white partner, Deputy Durland.
     And last but not least, Grunkle Stan. Some people say that it is hinted that the Pines family is Jewish. I don't believe Pines is a Jewish last name but, I actually like this theory and I'll get to the reason in a bit. So, a lot of people think the Pines family is Jewish by ethnicity and say that Grunkle Stan being a conman and obsessed with money is racist or offensive. But the reason I like the idea that they are Jewish is because of who they are based on: Alex Hirsch and his family, and if you can't tell by the last name, Alex is Jewish by heritage. On top of that, it's not like he's saying all Jewish people are greedy or stingy. In my opinion, completely avoiding a personality trait in a character because of their race is just as racist, or at least almost so, as giving the trait because of their race. You are deciding their personality by race, not culture, either way. A black person can like watermelon, a Jew can be greedy, and a Hispanic may not speak English well. Likewise, a Latino can like watermelon (and one of my African American friends hated it), a black person can be greedy, and a white person may not speak English well. And you can switch those races around and add in another and will still be just as true.
     Racism still exists and it always will. You can be racist towards a minority or a majority and it doesn't make it any more or less racism. But in this case, I feel like this racism is in the eye of the viewer and not the intent, nor is it caused by racist ignorance. People now a days just want to find racism (and every other ism) everywhere, even if it is not present. I don't think Gravity Falls is purposefully or ignorantly racist. I think people just like to complain.

Why Are Self-Insert Characters the Worst?

     Another new post when I should be working on my drafts. Am I procrastinating by being productive? I guess that's not unusual.
     Why does everyone hate self-insert characters? *cough* Mary-Sues *cough*. Self-inserts are mocked endlessly on the internet, and there IS a reason for it. Many, many, MANY of them are just BAD. I'm sorry. You would think that a self-insert character would be a fleshed out, relatable (<---apparently Blogspot doesn't recognize this as a word :/), and three-dimensional because they are based on a real person, but this is, sadly, very rarely the case. Many people who are willing to create a self-insert character are willing to make that character a Mary Sue. Everyone likes them, and they have some cool power or importance, and for some reason in many cases are even more important than the actual canon main character of the fandom!
     That being said, some OCs are not bad, and therefore, some self-inserts are not bad. I'm not going to say that all, or even a lot of original characters are self-inserts, but you have to presume at least a few of them are. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.
     I have a confession. I write self-insert fanfiction for a lot of fandoms, most notably Kingdom Hearts (with how often I talk about this game series, I'm sure none of you are surprised). But I also write for Hetalia and a variety of other animes, Vocaloid, a few superheroes, and may end up doing something with Gravity Falls because I'm in love with the characters (as in, I love their development and as a writer appreciate their unique personalities, not that I actually have a crush on any of them, I'm not like that). The thing is, I believe I portray myself rather realistically to who I am: an awkward, socially anxious, emotionally unstable, weirdo teenager who must build up all of her courage just to say hello to someone she doesn't know. I may give myself a power, or weapon, if it is relevant to the fandom because I want to be a part of the action, but I never take away from the significance of the protagonist, and in the case of me being a part of the villains or unaligned (which happens a lot because I usually like the protagonists and the antagonists so therefore portray myself as being neutral) I have written and drawn myself being beaten (not killed) by the protagonist(s). Characters tend to like me, but it's my fantasy, of course they will, and in some instances, I even have characters that I would love to like me but believe they would not, actively dislike me in my own fantasy (that's a bit sad). The most important thing that I would like to point out here, is that I don't post it anywhere. I used to write OC fanficiton a lot, but they were never based on me except for sometimes having a couple of my personality traits like having depression or being a tomboy or artist. I may write self-inserts of many fandoms, but they are stashed away in composition notebooks that are intended for my eyes only.
     Personally, I use it partly as a coping mechanism. Having grown up being ridiculed and with very few friends, and developing depression and other emotional disorders, writing myself interacting with my favorite characters is a great way to bring my fantasies to life on paper and retreat away from reality.
     The thing is, some people DO post these, and for some reason, feel like people will enjoy them. But really, very few people like to read self-inserts, because usually they are boring, not creative, and poorly written. As a general rule, it's not a good idea to post them online if you don't want to be ridiculed.
     Again, as much as these types of stories are normally not fun to read, this is a generalization and self-inserts are not awful by nature. It is just that, from experience, they tend to be bad. With everything, a self-insert cannot be judged simply because it is a self-insert, I have actually read some pretty decent and even good ones, but usually I avoid them because it is rare that I find one I like. And I often have my doubts that they are ever actually inserting themselves into the story, as these characters rarely seem to have flaws (and when they do it's played off as being charming or quirky somehow, so therefore NOT flaws) and tend to be overpowered or over-appreciated. I might make a "how-to" of sorts about creating a good self-insert character, but I'm not sure.
     Now I will mention, this post is talking about self-inserts, as in the writer puts him or herself into the story, not an "x reader" or "reader interactive". That's for a future post.

Are Cartoons Exclusively for Kids?

     Alright, so I have lots of unfinished drafts for blog posts that I will probably eventually get done but this was something simple that doesn't require too much research that I could bang out quickly. If all goes well, I will be graduating this year, and in order to do that, I am going to be very busy for the next few weeks, so I wanted to get something to you guys before that happens.
     Anyway, the short answer to the question I have proposed in the title is, in my opinion, of course not, but I will obviously expand on this. I don't just mean that anime is technically cartoons (another subject I will approach eventually) and obviously anime isn't always for children, or that some cartoons such as The Simpsons and Family Guy are exclusively created for adults (and teenagers), even though when I was growing up, a lot of kids watched those as well in late elementary school and in middle school. I am talking about actualy "children's" cartoons. Rugrats. Spongebob. Fairly Odd Parents. Regular Show. Animaniacs, even.
     For one thing, if you research when televisions were prevalent in American households, compared to when cartoons first began airing, you will find something a bit odd. Or at least, unexpected, smost likely. Let's go away from America for a moment and talk about the First Cartoon Ever: Fantasmagorie, a French cartoon which aired in 1908. However, it is debated whether or not this is the first cartoon, or if "Humorous phases of Funny Faces", which came out in 1906, counts. Fantasmagorie is more widely considered the first, though, because many do not consider Humorous Phases to actually be a cartoon, so we will go with Fantasmagorie. You can decide for yourself by watching it here. The first American cartoon, Steamboat Willie (1928) is the earliest appearance of one of the most iconic characters in cartoon history: Mickey Mouse! along with some other well known characters in the franchise such as Pete and Minnie.
     From my research, it appears that the first television was also sold for commercial use in 1928, but they were not common in households until the forties, and even then, they were much less prevalent than they are in modern times. In fact, in America, the TV's popularity peaked in the fifties and sixties, and prices ranged from a little over one hundred dollars, to a bit over a thousand dollars. To put this in perspective, there were no HD, 3D, or wide screen.
     Let's go back to the past though to what I was talking about earlier. Cartoons appearing before televisions. So...who watched these? Where did they play? Many cartoons were shown at theatres before a feature presentation. As stated before, this is a time when televisions were non-existent. Most entertainment for those too old to play with rag dolls, climb trees, ride bikes, and play in the dirt, came in the form of a radio, which almost every household owned at least one of. Radio dramas and comedies were common as well as music and talk shows, so when the first movie theatre was opened for the public in 1905, it was a REALLY big deal, and for years afterward, it was still treated as a special occasion, especially when the Great Depression hit. In other words, the movie theatre wasn't playing Little Nemo or Snow White (obviously. Those movies didn't exist, but my point still stands). From what I can tell, children rarely accompanied their parents to the theatre, and I can find no record of a children's movie playing there until the thirties. That doesn't mean it didn't happen, just that I can't find it. So, in other words, adults saw a lot of the older cartoons before the television was introduced. Children, if not being watched by someone at home, would stay in the nursery at the theatre so the parents didn't need to worry about them, but the cartoons would be played before the feature presentation, not in the nursery.
     Fast forward passed the days of black and white shows, and go to Disney. Disney became a huge sensation, and was a company that did cater mostly to children, displaying what would have been considered wholesome, innocent, and possibly childish entertainment for kids. I don't see a whole lot of adults in the forties watching Snow White (although Treasure Island doesn't seem to be too far of a stretch). Even if parents didn't watch these movies, the children did, and this lit a spark that would change generations. Nostalgia is a powerful thing and as children grew up and had children of their own, Disney continued making movies, and these children had their own children, and Disney continued content. Many parents began to enjoy watching movies from their own childhood with their kids, and would watch the newer movies with their children as well. Cue cartoon television shows, not just movies. Do you remember Looney Tunes, Animaniacs, and Freakazoid? You might not remember the last two, but Looney Tunes is quite the well-known franchise, and half of the jokes and gags would never be allowed on modern television. The 90s seemed to be the era of dirty jokes and adult content slipped passed the sensors into children's television shows, so the parents watching could actually enjoy the cartoons, not sit there mindlessly listening to childish nonsense. Although cartoons are stereotypically a way to keep your child occupied on a Saturday morning while you clean the house or cook breakfast, we've moved passed that era, and now have whole channels dedicated specifically to children's shows, mostly cartoons, such as (old) Disney channel, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, and Nickelodeon.
     Speaking of the 90s, my father, who introduced me to the show Animaniacs, didn't even start watching it until he was in college, and enjoyed it immensely, just like The Tick. Shows now a days have  followed a similar trend of slipping in jokes for older audiences, but it seems much more difficult now, with stricter and more observant sensors and over-protective, butt-hurt parents who think the mere reference to a gun or a spooky image will turn their child into a raging criminal who shoots up their school or scar them and give them nightmares for life. A good example for modern cartoons is one I semi-recently became obsessed with, and one that many people (including my grandmother) are surprised is for children (and honestly, I don't think catering to munchkins was necessarily Alex's intent) is Gravity Falls. Spooky images, occasionally dark themes, and many adult jokes makes up this gem in a current coal field of crappy shows and to me is a cartoon that is much more understood by teenagers (and older children) and young adults, but can be enjoyed by mystery-loving little ones who don't mind getting spooked. It is the epitome of a show intended for everyone, or at least for all ages.
     I think we've all had those times where we doubted the amusement we received from cartoons. Am I childish? Do I need to grow up? Are people going to make fun of me? And if you haven't experienced this, I warn you now, please don't doubt your interests, it really doesn't matter. When I was growing up, I was a pretty mature child once I got to be about fourth and fifth grade (and honestly, even a bit younger). I was gifted and cursed with an above average intelligence which has only grown as I have, and therefore was not able to connect with other children that well. Sure, I played with dolls and toy cars, and I liked to watch Kids Next Door and Dexter's Laboratory, but I was often stuck in the middle of the ages between children who didn't relate to me and adults who didn't take me seriously because of my young age. By the time I was in middle school, I was ridiculed for basically everything about me, and when kids found out I still played with Barbies at the age of eleven (how dare I!) I was often mocked for being childish and immature. I stopped watching cartoons, even if I wanted to, because I had convinced myself that I was much too old for such childish shows, and I feel I missed out on a big chunk of my childhood because I was convinced I needed to grow up. After a lot of bad things happened in my life, I began to realize that it really didn't matter, and by the time I was fourteen, I had come to the decision that I would do what I wished (within the confines of reality and the law...sadly) and if people didn't like it, well, it really didn't matter. Even something like Gravity Falls is something I didn't start watching until the finale to Weirdmageddon had already aired, although that was because I had been very disappointed in newer cartoons and figured it would suck like most other new Disney shows.
     The thing is, like basically every other genre of television show, there are many different types of shows for many different audiences. Just like anime (Japanese cartoons) aren't exclusively for children, neither are western animated shows. If you like mystery, you can watch Gravity Falls, if you like humorous insanity, you can watch Animaniacs or Freakazoid. Why is it that we place the innocence and fun of children on a pedestal, and often reminisce about our childhoods, but then condemn adults who are just as productive in society but happen to enjoy the childish innocence of television shows that is not even necessarily intended specifically for kids?
     Long story short, if you like cartoons, so what? Your age doesn't matter. Just like it's okay for a kid to enjoy more "adult" hobbies like reading and relaxing. We have progressed so much when it comes to disregarding gender roles and the confines of stereotypes and profiling, but age is a matter that doesn't seem to have evolved.
     If you want to learn more about the evolution of cartoons and why they are not exclusively for children, check out this video by Saberspark on YouTube.