So here's the thing. I'm not sure if this is worthy of "calling 'myself' out" or not. To err on the transparent side and also to just raise awareness, I thought I would write about my concern. (Especially since the story was always intended to be conscious media.)
Before I explain that concern, it's important to understand that within the last year and a half, I went through Layla F. Saad's "Me and White Supremacy Challenge" and continue to work on her material with a friend of mine. I am still new at the work. I am awkward with it. I feel fumbly, and I expect to take some falls. It is also important to understand that I've always considered myself a proud mixed breed and I mention that because I, like most white/ white/light-passing people did not think I "needed" to do this work. As an environmentalist, I had noticed an ongoing battle between (what I will call) modern light culture and indigenous (typically) darker or more melaninated cultures and so I decided I would do it. My point is, that by doing this work I became and continue to feel ever increasingly more sensitive to actual events and media depictions of our darker brothers and sisters in the world. (I'll have to do a blog post dedicated to what I have started to see in films, both old and new.) When you do the work, you begin to see that the darker one is, the more oppression that person may face in many places in the world. Most people reading this will probably be able to think of examples that defy the previous statement. Yes, exceptions exist. But overwhelming global data tells a different tale.
Now, my "concern". It has to do with the image below...
Is it offensive? To be honest, I don't really know. If it was made by someone other than myself and I was looking at it, with the work I have been doing, I might at very least pause and ask. And what would my ask be? I might ask if there was an unconscious racist connection being made. Think banana republic. Now, when I wrote this comic, that was not written in or intended. The artist was instructed to make a diverse rave scene. What was asked for specifically was that an ape costume and a banana costume be in the scene and preferably dancing close together. This is because I have always seen ape and banana costumes at parties but never seen them together. (In the upcoming novel, RAVE: Mythophrenia, I write this meeting of the Ape and the Banana into that story as well since this comic book is acting mostly as a visual prequel for the novel anyway.)
This particular comic book project has been going on for probably almost a decade if not more. The first draft I have of this page being colored was back in 2011 and it was a different colorist. Both versions have this cute raver as a being with higher melanin content. I never batted an eye back then, but I was not yet sensitive to the level of being able to see the stereotyping that frequents so much media. More than anything, I was a little sensitive that the banana seemed so overtly sexual and I wasn't sure how I felt about banana girl being in close proximity to him. Along the many year journey there were other artistic differences I had with the art that got turned in. Mostly it had to do with the issue of over-sexualizing the art (as that is not what the scene represents to me and part of the reason I fell in love with the scene specifically).
We make choices with our art. Sometimes they are made for us, say my managers. Sometimes you are part of a team. But that means we are still co-creators. We have eyes to see and mouths to speak up. Be on the lookout. I never saw an issue until I went to upload my file for distribution.
Even after some training around stereotypes I did not see this, and any concern has come too late. Solution? For now, since I don't know if anyone will take offense or not, I will leave it as is. IF I do have an outcry, well, the print version of the comic will come out later IF the community wants it to. At that time perhaps this spread could be revised and hopefully people will accept my apology, "I'm sorry if anyone finds this offensive" and you may certainly call me out as the main visionary.
and now music...
Thanks for reading this. Feel free to reach out to be about this issue.
Since there is an ape here and apes and monkeys are both primates (and it's nice to always have a musical accompaniment), I am sharing Tommy Trash's track below. Plus I see that the song title is fitting in that I want to call attention to how and what we create. There is a lot of copycatting in art. I would hate to know I inadvertently added to a long history of racial stereotyping.
Anyway, there was another track I really liked (and that helped me write a chapter in my upcoming novel) that I could not find on YouTube and can no longer find in my iTunes. So for now, Tommy!
Oh wait... I found it ;)
A game is being played. Pay attention. #ArtisticDisclosure
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