On Writing : Cultural Appropriation & Writing by Jeff Lyons

Jeff Lyons

Cultural Appropriation & Writing

I've been reading a bunch of articles by non-white authors about cultural appropriation and writing. When is a culture being appropriated vs. being depicted creatively? Is it cultural appropriation for a white writer to write as a black/brown/(pick a color) character? Is there any difference between that and just wearing black-face (I've heard this criticism btw)? Is it possible for a black/brown/(pick a color) person to appropriate white culture (whatever that is) in a story? How does a writer know when they are appropriating and not just being a writer and doing what writers do (or any creative person)? Wondering what other writers think about this. (try to keep the nutbar responses to a minimum... you know who you are.)

Anthony Moore

The difference between cultural appropriation and creative depiction is a fine line. One is an attempt at being inclusive while the other borders on being racist and pandering. If you grew up in a mixed neighborhood or traveled and experienced different lands and you write what you've seen and know thats fine. When all you know is one culture and you're basically taking stereotypes and inaccurate representations because they fit your idea of what your believe others people are like, that's wrong. As a writer (and a person) you should always be true to yourself. If you don't know it, don't write it.

Tony Huo

Let me preface this by saying: I don't want to see people pulling their eyes into a slant and calling themselves Asian as much as I don't want to see people prancing in kilts and calling themselves Europeans. A large part of cultural appropriation comes from making presumptions out of ignorance. If you make an effort to study and assimilate from the culture you are depicting, while staying vigilant to avoid painting a certain demographic in a poor light at the expense a mere joke, I say you are welcome to it. Let's take Mary Zimmerman, a very prolific, shall I mention Caucasian, playwright. She adapted and dramatized the Chinese legend, "The White Snake." The extensive dramaturgical research and respect she had writing the script was without stereotypes, ignorance, and presumptions in every process of the original OSF production. Where would she have crossed the boundaries in the creative process? One red flag would be if she had written the male love interest Xu Xian as a Long Duk Dong troupe.

Kay Luke

It's bull shit. Is a non-white writer writing Sci Fi appropriating white culture? Personally, I'm human and I'll write about human culture as I see fit. I've had many friends and associates of many races, and I derive my characters and situations from my own experience. Anyone who doesn't like the fact that I've had Black and Hispanic and Asian and European and Native American and Pacific Islander friends can blow it out thier racist ass. I shall continue to write what I know, PC censorship not withstanding.

Kay Luke

Jim-- I'll go out on a limb and say that thee and me are the only ones here that understand what a zero sum game is.

Jeff Lyons

Kay--you're not. :)

Thivanka Perera

If you don't have a white protagonist, you are in deep shit in this shitty industry ....

Kay Luke

Jeff-- I happily stand corrected!

Kay Luke

Hmm-- I keep screwing up my post. Anyway, Thivanka-- You're wrong. A not-white protagonist doesn't make up for a crappy script. The real question is why must the protagonist have to be not white? Do you think if Denzel is interested in the part his skin color matters? It doesn't.

Allen Clark

I could get deep in this but I won't. What I will say is this we are talking about an industry that has been moved by one kind one color for so long that to begin to understand the stories of other cultures from their perspective is a must as it has been historically noted that minority writers and females have been left out of the loop in many cases. I do believe that anyone can write another ethnicity into his/her works and it contain truth but again without anyone getting upset we are talking about an industry that has opened the doors slowly for the vision of many to finally make it to the screen.

Kay Luke

Too many people are quick to assign devious motives instead of dealing with the simple fact that this is a market-driven business. BUSINESS, not political party. And making a movie is an expensive proposition. Studio's invest in movies that are apt to make money and that's the only criteria that counts to the stock holders.

David E. Gates

You don't have to be a murderer to write about a murderer.

Douglas Eugene Mayfield

Ditto many of the comments above. 'Cultural Appropriation' is a poisonous black mailing anti-concept designed to freeze people in their intellectual tracks and make them feel guilty if they happen to write about someone they aren't. So far as I am concerned, the less said about such a stupid lie, the better, other than 'Reject with prejudice any and all unearned guilt'.

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