Hello, and welcome back!
Our coursework for this week explored the topic of Inclusive Design. A broad and far-reaching topic, inclusive design looks at areas and ways in which, with a little bit of planning and forethought, art and media can be designed to include commonly overlooked and discriminated against areas of society and culture.
Some of the areas that the course material looked at were:
- Accessibility in design and ways in which media can cater for people with disabilities that can affect the way that they consume content.
- Racial diversity (or the lack thereof) in media. As well as cultural appropriation and stereotyping.
- Gender and sexuality, with a focus on equalities such as more female roles in stories and media, not overtly sexualising all female characters and designs, and being diverse and respectful with portrayal of characters with varying sexual orientations.
- Diversity in the job market, and the ways in which men and women compete differently in both the world of gaming and the job market.
While I have had to deal with some accessibility issues in my previous line of study (multimedia), it was interesting to look at how it affects other industries.
I do try to be mindful of, and inclusive when it comes to my dealing with the other social issues mentioned in this week’s coursework in my everyday life, however, it was good to see how it applies specifically to the creative media industries.
Having recently been watching a lot of traditional 2D animation from the early days of Disney and Warner Bros, one area that I thought would be interesting to explore further from this weeks topics is that of racism in the animation industry.
Cartoons are a medium that by their very nature, rely heavily on caricature and exaggeration to help convey story and humour. (Amidi, 2012) In the early 1900’s, a lot of the racist stereotypes prevalent in animation were introduced due to crossover from comic strips of the time. Typical depictions of racial stereotypes are consistent across both mediums, however for visual humour to work, characters and imagery tend to be simplified and exaggerated. This often results in a negative stereotype, with Asians, African-Americans, Italians, Jews and the Irish regularly portrayed using negative caricatures in the early days of animation. This practice was common place from the early 1900’s, right through World War II when Japanese and German soldiers were portrayed using racist stereotypes. (Dubb, n.d.)
By the end of the 1940’s, racist stereotypes had for the most part disappeared from the animations of larger studios such as Warner Bros. (Cohen, 1997, p. 54)
Fortunately today, most people find derogatory and racist stereotypes to be offensive and grotesque, and these forms of caricature, as a result, have largely vanished from modern animation. (Cohen, 1997, p. 49)
(ETC News, 2014)
Inclusivity is a topic of very important discussion in today’s society, and I found it very helpful to look at it in some depth from a creative media perspective.
As artists, I believe it is very important for us to not only portray and discuss current social issues and topics, but also pave a way for positive change when we have the opportunity to do so. And while the animation medium will always use caricatures and exaggeration to effectively tell a story, it is important to think about your portrayal of characters from different perspectives to make sure you’re not offending or excluding people from your audience.
Thanks for reading!
Amidi, A. (2012). The Problem With Cartoons: They’re All Racist!. Retrieved from http://www.cartoonbrew.com/cartoon-culture/the-problem-with-cartoons-theyre-all-racist-64889.html
Cohen, K. F. (1997). Forbidden Animation: Censored Cartoons and Blacklisted Animators in America. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc.
Dubb, R. (n.d.). Racism in Animation. Retrieved from http://museumofuncutfunk.com/2013/02/02/racism-in-animation/
ETC News. (2014, October 5). Old Cartoons Were RACIST!. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ewb0ZspDtvs
Girls and Videogames by IreneMartini [Image] (n.d.) Retrieved from http://irenemartini.deviantart.com/gallery/48139165/Comic-Strips