Thursday, December 27, 2007

Stereotyping as a stereotype

I joined an interesting conversation at my usual hangout on-line. As it turned out we were chatting, quite literally so, about character creation, and one of the participants had problems with female characters. The troubleshooting soon turned into a topic of stereotypes.

Even though this particular article is about gender it could be used for any labelling of a common occurrence. We even touched slightly upon the matter of culture possibly being a case of stereotyping. Now, be aware that I'm pushing forward my own thoughts and reasoning here. What makes sense to me could be an utter lie to someone else. Also bear in mind that this is a article about stereotyping, not about the stereotypes mentioned.

Back to the topic in question. Problems with creating female characters. There is a stereotype, or at least an archetype, to begin with. No matter how much we would like to argue that each person is a unique individual there was never much of a problem accepting the concept of a female character. From there goes that it should be equally easy to grasp the concept of a male character. That, in turn, should have us accepting that we do indeed play around with stereotypes far more easily than many of us believe.

The interesting here isn't if there is an implicit femaleness or not. What is worth taking note of is that there is an expectation of an expectation. What I mean with this is that we tend to expect others to be prejudiced, or at least to simplify reality by attaching labels to it. We, you and me, are of course far too tolerant, knowledgeable, understanding or intellectually advanced to fall into that trap. Or maybe not, even if it hurts to apply the negative to ourselves. Anyway, as a writer we cater for a reader. An average reader at that. At least if we aim at commercial writing. We write for a stereotypical reader of the stereotypical kind of writing we produce, and for that very reason we adapt our writing to handle expectations. Those expectations are in itself models of the real expectations. We simplify and use templates, no matter if we are aware of them or not.

I believe that this simplifying can be put to good use for a writer. In order to create the unique we need to be aware of the template. We don't have to agree with it, but we ought to recognize it and respect that the reason for the template is that it makes people comfortable because the familiar is comfortable. At the other hand, if we want a character to make a short appearance then it makes sense to stick to the stereotype unless we want to place ourselves in a situation where we need to explain the deviation from a stereotype. Mind you, the stereotype doesn't have to be true. This is not a matter of truth or right. It is only a matter of accepting a stereotype for what it is -- an oversimplification that has its grounds in an overall truth, a partial truth, a false prejudice or a mix of them all.

Now for the header. Falling back to stereotypes whenever a character has a very minor role in the story is, of course, a stereotype in itself. The less we see of a character the more we expect him or her to lack original individuality. There you have a useful stereotype if any.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

New project

Rather unsurprisingly there are news of Peter Jackson adapting Bilbo to the white screen. Two films with the usually absurd budget, but after the success with the ring trilogy maybe the budget isn't as absurd after all. Especially as fantasy as a genre seems to be associated with children's literature, and Bilbo should fit right in there, hefty body count notwithstanding.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

First reviews

And now the very first reviews of Arn, the movie, are out. I have found one in Aftonbladet and another in GP.

The first gave the film a pretty average review, main complaint being that it was too compact a representation of the trilogy on which it is based. The latter went more in the line of kill, main and destroy, as in kill the producers, main the actors and destroy the copies of the film.

Monday, December 17, 2007


And now the most expensive production in Swedish film history hits the white screen. Arn, a historical, albeit with fictive main characters, novel has been adapted for visual consumption.

News can be found at DN and of course SF, Svensk Filmindustri.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Potter mania is over -- almost

I found this little gem in DN.

Apparently Rowling is about to publish another Potter book, if publish is the right word. Seven copies total, all handwritten and all but one gifts to people involved with the other books. The seventh copy is to be auctioned for charity purposes.

Title: The Tales of Beedle The Bard.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Terry Pratchett

Seems to have come down with some bad luck according to Daily Mail and Paul Kidby.

Thanks to a fellow member at Forward Motion for finding the information.

All in all Pratchett seems to take it more like a Twoflower than a Rincewind.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

On science fiction and fantasy

I found this article which ties in nicely with my reflections on Swedish fantasy earlier.

Interesting to see how the author makes the claim that while fantasy is well received it is considered children's literature. I see a shadow of Rowling lurking in the corridors.