Complaints, complaints II — The Return of Doug Funnie

Okay, we’ve restocked our load of piss and vinegar and we’ve loaded our shotgun for bear! UNTIL WE TELL IT, WE JUST CAN”T MOVE ON!

My first “Complaints” post drew a bit of private praise, especially from those who welcomed a return to more pointed commentary. To which I say, I’d love to do more of it but I was literally up until dawn writing that first one (I’m ssslllooowww) and this one will take just as long. Especially since this time I”m taking on everyone’s FAVORITE SUBJECTS: Race and gender. It’s a good thing comics never talk about religion or we’d be here all night and day! And if I can predict one thing with dead certainty it’s this: Gene PHillips will show up in the comments.

¶ Ground zero for recent discussions poor, poor DC Senior Story EditorIan Sattler who hit an instant five-way bingo with this classic, when asked at a panel about recent incidents in the DCU that saw minority characters getting bumped off and replaced with whites:

“It’s so hard for me to be on the other side because it’s not our intention. There is a reason behind it all. We don’t see it that way and strive very hard to have a diverse DCU. I mean, we have green, pink, and blue characters. We have the Great Ten out there and I have counter statistics, but I won’t get into that. It’s not how we perceived it. We get the same thing about how we treat our female characters.”


This has been pilloried from dusk til dawn on sites from Racialicious to Scans_Daily. When Fangirls Attack had an epic round-up of reactions which ranged from lulz to flamethrowers. David Brothers at 4th Letters has been reacting to this and the reaction ever since with a series of posts here, here and here. Oh and a special appearance in the Beat comments here.

Nut graph:

John Stewart is the only Green Lantern to not show up on any covers. Hal, Kyle, Guy, Alan, all of those guys get covers. Hey, pop quiz! Does the JLA have a Luke Cage? No? Well… name a black supporting character in a DC Comic on the level of a Sam Wilson! Steel? Now name another. Or hey, name one on the level of a Robbie Robertson. Just Lucious Fox? Really? Whatever happened to Ron Troupe? Remember him? Married to Lois Lane’s sister, had a kid with her? Oh, right. Lucy Lane is back and superpowered. Ron and the baby are a footnote and a question mark.

DC Comics isn’t a racist company and it isn’t run by racists. This does not, however, mean that they cannot do and say stupid things that are racist. Killing Ryan Choi is not, in and of itself, racist. Ditching Ron Troupe and marginalizing John Stewart is not racist. Replacing Jason Rusch with a more boring version of Firestorm isn’t racist. These are perfectly valid story choices that, in a better world, would have taken place in stories that were worth reading.


His mentioning of John Stewart is particularly interesting. Stewart is a supporting Lantern, and sometime lead character in the DCU since his debut in…oh look, it’s Green Lantern/Green Arrow!
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Given this issue’s proximity to the bludgeon used to pummel Sattler into baby seal meat, and remembering that this came out in a time of post Civil Rights Era readjustment in America, it’s not too hard to guess that Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams created John Stewart to be a Strong Black Character from the git go, in a DC Universe that wasn’t too big on minority supporting characters at the time. Since then (and I’m no Mark Waid, so I’m just going by the Wikipedia page) he’s bounced around in various roles, including a starring run in Mosiac, and is currently doing whatever it is people do during Brightest Day. So kind of on the d-lo for now, even as Green Lantern gears up for a Major Media Push ahead of the movie, starring Ryan Reynolds. Which makes sense, because Green Lantern (Ryan Reynolds) is a white dude, not a black dude, so why confuse people who don’t know the character’s history.

However, John Stewart’s great moment in the sun came during the Justice League Cartoon era (2001-2004), when he WAS Green Lantern.

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The line-up of characters on the show was specifically set-up to reflect more diversity than just a bunch of white guys and a green guy. (Heck there are two girls, something unheard of these days.) This cartoon wasn’t really aimed just at kids, despite airing on the Cartoon Network, but I can tell you right now that diversity is Really, Really Important in kids cartoons, because then sociologists and educators and all can say “Look, this cartoon promotes diversity! It is good for the children!” and big corporations like to hear that and feel good about themselves.

Sometimes it doesn’t go well.

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Oh sometimes it goes very very bad. I found this in a post by Joe Singleton, which has all kinds of gruesome observations:

The first thing I notice is, they’re all male. Second thing….three out of four of them are bare-legged and the fourth is shirtless. Of course . . . We all know that ethnic minority types wear less clothing than wholesome WASP types, right? Ugh!


Of course, Super Friends had the worst minority characters of all times, but it also had the worst CHARACTERS of all times — if we could only return to this ideal of equality for all, maybe things would go better.

Cut to the present. With all the bad feelings about racial diversity in the DCU flying around — much of it directed at Geoff Johns, rightly or wrongly, Johns has taken to the Source Blog to reveal that all sorts of opportunity for minority characters in the DCU. To make up for all the newly demoted non-white characters, the New Aqualad is in fact, African-American.

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Despite having “Aqua” in his name, he also hates to swim and lives in the desert, because that’s what you call CONFLICT.
Now, what I noticed about all this was New Aqualad’s dual purpose origin:

At the same time, as previously announced, the YOUNG JUSTICE cartoon series is just around the corner featuring Robin, Kid Flash, Superboy, Miss Martian, Artemis and the all-new Aqualad who will be appearing very briefly in BRIGHTEST DAY #4, but really comes into his own in BRIGHTEST DAY #10 before hitting the small screen this fall.


That’s right, New Aqualad was created for a KID’S CARTOON.

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Here we have the basic Justice League cartoon line-up just trimmed down a bit — there’s super lad, revenge lad, fast lad, mythological lass and black lad, but Green Alien and Alien Lass have been combined into Green Lass.

I have no idea which came first — the cartoon or Brightest Day — but in this case, diversity was good for everyone, including the children. Luckily, new Aqualad isn’t being Black Vulcanized and will appear in actual comic books with dramatic covers by David FInch.

Johns has also been raising excitement online with teasers of a screen test that shows that for hispanic teen Jamie Reyes, aka the new Blue Beetle is also being kicked around for a possible TV treatment:

I feel very fortunate to have been a part of Blue Beetle’s introduction way back in INFINITE CRISIS. I’ve said it before, but thanks to the BLUE BEETLE series launched by Keith Giffen and John Rogers with a great design by Cully Hamner, Jaime Reyes rocks. Great character, great story, great look. He’s already appeared in animation, had action figures and right now he’s on my computer in live-action glory. I have an early special effects test that has been floating around of what his armored scarab-suit could look like. This isn’t final. This isn’t greenlit. It’s only a test that was done. We still have a long way to go to see if we can get this off the ground and a lot of people to jump on board…but check out some stills:

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In a previous post Johns talked a bit about all the synergy going on:

Our goals with the DC Entertainment are to not only bring you BATMAN and SUPERMAN, but also introduce new characters in the comics and film, tv and animation simultaneously with our partners at Warner Brothers – in this case, the talented crew who’s heading up the YOUNG JUSTICE animated series, including Greg Weissman (who actually wrote CAPTAIN ATOM back in the day!).


While TV appearances seem to be the impetus for some of the diversification, don’t get your hopes up. Minority characters don’t fare very well on TV either.:

Veteran Producer Suzanne de Passe, a former president of Motown Television, offered up her thoughts on the disparity. Noting that it was not that long ago that the broadcast networks had such shows as “Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” “The Cosby Show” and “Living Single,” she laid the blame on media consolidation.

“I have witnessed what consolidation of content and distribution in entertainment and media has done to significantly slow down and diminish opportunity for minority professionals rather than accelerate and increase it,” she said. The networks that used to make shows aimed at blacks “now only offer a minority cast member here and there and a long list of contributions to minority charities under the catch-all word, `diversity,’ ” she testified.


That whole link is worth reading for anyone whose been following this topic since it gives some idea of how all this is handled when there is actual money at stake. It also contained this classic correction:

An earlier version of this post said the stars of NBC’s “Undercovers” are African-American. Actually, neither are American. Boris Kodjoe was born in Austria and Gugu Mbatha-Raw is from England.


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In a way this correction explains the whole reason we even need diversity. Gugu and Boris. What were you expecting? English people and Austrian people don’t always look like we expect them to look. It’s a surprise element. Keeps us on our toes. Conflict.

This whole thing made me think about Doug Funnie. You know, from Doug, that cartoon that ran back in the 90s. I was editing some Doug comics back in the day and had occasion to meet with the creator, Jim Jinkins, who was a very nice fellow, to explain the show to me. One of the things he’d done on purpose in Doug, he felt, was remove race altogether by making the kids purple, blue, orange…whatever. I remember thinking that the show was really about suburban white kids who happened to be blue, purple, whatever, but it was a nice thought. If there’s one thing Doug wasn’t, it was multicultural.

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This blogger agrees, although he’s a bit harder on the show than I am, probably because I worked on the licensing:

However, Doug tried to make a statement. If you look at it, every supporting character around Doug is some wacky shade except, of course, for Doug Funnie, who is a regular white kid. The main character is white in world full of colorful yet ancillary characters. What does that tell our children? It tells them only the white race is deserving of a spotlight. Only the white race is worthy of being the star of the show. All other skin tones must remain in the background. No, only Caucasians are worthy… and hyper intelligent dogs, of course. Also, take a notice of the coupling on Doug. Every parent is coupled with someone of the same color (or very close proximity) and they produce children of the same color. So, in the TV series Doug, races never mix, the colors never blend. With that logic, Doug would never get with Patty simply because they’re not a matching set.


“…we have green, pink, and blue characters.” Maybe the DCU is set in Bluffington and we never noticed before.

Whoa look at the time! I’m looking at the bingo card, and I still haven’t even gotten to the bonus square:

We get the same thing about how we treat our female characters.


Okay, the complaining will have to continue tomorrow.

Comments

  1. Joe S. Walker says:

    The Beat’s writing style has become noticeably self-indulgent in recent posts.

  2. Kevin Hynes says:

    Take that Doug Funnie!

  3. I have to admit, though, that if I was going to the trouble of making all my characters multi-coloured for the sake of non-specific diversity, I wouldn’t then turn around and give the lead character a real-world skin tone. It’s not that it necessarily sends any particular message; it’s just… odd. Presumably the idea is to de-emphasise the fact that it’s an archetypally white setting (which is fair enough), so making the lead character white seems a strange choice. It feels like making him racially non-specific would make more aesthetic sense, quite aside from any other considerations.

  4. Considering his long tenure in the animated Justice League (and all the merchandising that comes with it), I’m going to guess that for most kids today the definitive Green Lantern is black.
    Until Ryan Reynolds comes along and makes him white again.

  5. I think in the case of Doug, people are reading waaay too much into things. “it teaches our children only whites are deserving if the spotlight”? are you kidding? I mean, last I remember Doug wasn’t particularly good at anything except journal writing and the occasional notebook doodle.

    Doug had your typical moral messages and the importance of friendship and blah blah blah, but an underlying message of white superiority? that’s insane, people need to get a grip.

  6. Kevin Hynes says:

    Most kids think that Green Lantern is John Stewart, honestly I think for the Green Lantern movie it would have been a better move to go with Stewart. It’d seem at least different, maybe they’ll include Stewart in the film? Not sure, don’t have the cast list in front of me.

  7. That error with “Undercovers” reminds me of when Marvel made the same error when promoting Reginald Hudlin’s then-new Black Panther. Something about “Marvel’s first African-American superhero.”

    I mean, African, yes. But American? He’s a frickin’ king!! Of his own country! Do marketers not even think about the words they’re using?

  8. “Most kids think that Green Lantern is John Stewart, honestly I think for the Green Lantern movie it would have been a better move to go with Stewart.”

    Yeah, it probably would have, if only for the sake that one could have more easily found a better actor for the lead than mediocre Ryan Reynolds.

    “I have witnessed what consolidation of content and distribution in entertainment and media has done to significantly slow down and diminish opportunity for minority professionals rather than accelerate and increase it,” she said. The networks that used to make shows aimed at blacks “now only offer a minority cast member here and there and a long list of contributions to minority charities under the catch-all word, `diversity,’ ” she testified.

    One could also probably substitute the name of a certain recently reconsolidated comics company in for “networks” and the statement still becomes valid. Institutionalized racism and sexism most often takes place when the suits in charge still have their cultural blinders on even in denial.

  9. But hey…let’s let everyone look at the shiny Blue Beetle screen test instead, and never mind the fact that it’s not even a green-lit series yet.

  10. The biggest reason for all this diversity and messages and different shades… The Children’s Television Act of 1990.

    Each television station must broadcast three hours a week of “educational and informative” programming for children (look for the E/I bug on the screen.

    That’s why you have Doug and Pepper Ann and Recess. They all have a message, just like Fat Albert and He-Man and GI JOE.

    (Hey… were there any white kids on Fat Albert?)

    That Doug post seems to be satirical. If you really want to dissect a cartoon, go look at Betty Boop’s transformation from a sexualized French Poodle to a more humanized appearance.

  11. Kevin Hynes says:

    Always thought that Rocko’s Modern Life was an excellent representation of wallabies.

  12. In fairness to good ol’ Doug on the subject of races mixing…when the show was moved to the Disney channel (or Disney’s ABC lineup or whatever it was), didn’t Roger (who is green) and Bebe (who is…blue-ish purple) end up dating for a bit? I seem to remember something like that.

  13. Josh,

    Before recommending that people “get a grip,” perhaps you should try viewing the world from any perspective besides your own.

    Doug may not be a building-smashing superhero, but he is the spotlight character. The post you quoted even used the term “spotlight.”

    If you’ve ever been one of the great many people not considered “normal” for the simple fact of not being a white, heterosexual Christian American male…or even THOUGHT about what it might be like to not be one…perhaps you’d understand rather that raging that people “get a grip.”

    Perhaps you need to “get a grip” on the fact that the world doesn’t revolve around you.

  14. “That Doug post seems to be satirical.”
    Let’s hope so.
    I figure it’s just trying to drive home the point that no matter how diverse most entertainment is, the central character is usually whitey. The reason this is percieved as damaging in kids’ entertainment is because repeated use of a white protagonist enforces the idea that white guys are the baseline normal people and everyone else is different.

  15. great round up. i think this article’s theme of money is really what it comes down to — if the people in charge of guiding the stories don’t seem to care right now about whether there’s tangible, balanced diversity in their comics, then i don’t expect anything to change until the effects start to show up in the accounting department.

  16. Synsidar says:

    . . . didn’t Roger (who is green) and Bebe (who is…blue-ish purple) end up dating for a bit?

    The Wikipedia entry on Doug doesn’t mention that, but does say that Beebe had an on-again/off-again relationship with Mosquito, Doug’s blue-skinned best friend. Note that Theda, Doug’s mother, had pink skin and blue hair; Phil, Doug’s father, had orange skin; Judy, Doug’s older sister, had tan skin; “Dirtbike”, his younger sister in the Disney production, had white skin. Doug had a crush on Patti Mayonnaise, an orange-skinned, athletic blonde.

    Teletubbies was a multiracial show, and taught kids that people of different colors can be friends:

    The degree to which “Teletubbies” can engage toddlers – we’ll leave American adults out of it for the time being – was amply demonstrated after the closing credits. Those who liked the show already had favorite Teletubbies and had formed some unshakeable views.

    When we wondered aloud if the Teletubbies were boys or girls, for instance, Jenny Milliman, 4, was able to accurately peg who was which despite the fact that that the (obviously secure) male Tinky-Winky carries a red purse.

    In addition to their different-colored rompers, the Teletubbies are multiracial, representing white, black, Latino and Asian backgrounds. Asked if they were related, 4-year-old Lauren Hutchinson was firm.

    “No,” she said. “Because they’re different colors – purple, red, yellow, green. But they are friends.”

    Sattler was thinking of aliens, of course, when he referred to various inhuman skin colors, and aliens can be used well or badly in stories. When humans unite against an alien threat, differences such as skin color disappear. There’s been an abundance of interspecies romances in comics — TV Tropes has a list — and those romances can be done well or badly too.

    When a story is written well, everything in it is effective, including the handling of minorities, when it’s written badly, people can look bad, despite the writer’s best intentions.

    SRS

  17. From David Brothers:

    “DC Comics isn’t a racist company and it isn’t run by racists.”

    So what’s the point of this latest bruhaha? I love how David (and now Heidi) can’t quite bring yourself to label DC as a flat-out racist entity….but spends the rest of his argument “leading the jury” to exactly that conclusion.

    Brothers continues:

    “This does not, however, mean that they cannot do and say stupid things that are racist.”

    Objectively racist (i.e. creating stories that flat-out state that black people are inferior), or subjectively racist…a standard nobody can conclusively prove or disprove to anyone’s satisfaction?

    “Killing Ryan Choi is not, in and of itself, racist.”

    That’s not what I’ve been hearing. It’s essentially what set off this whole firestorm (no pun intended).

    “Ditching Ron Troupe…

    Okay, time out. Ron’s been gone from the Superman books for some time, long before Ian Sattler or any of the “not racist” regime at DC were in place. In fact, most of Superman’s supporting cast has been mothballed (including Clark Kent, for God’s sake) in favor of…whatever it is they’re doing with the Superman books. Hell, Ron’s wife Lucy Lane was made into a super-powered psychopathic murderer working for her evil dad…so Superman’s supporting cast (outside of the eternally unchanging Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, and Lois Lane) isn’t the best place to go looking for rock-solid consistency.

    “…and marginalizing John Stewart is not racist.”

    Yeah, if you define “marginalizing” as making him a prime focus of Tony Bedard’s Green Lantern run.

    “Replacing Jason Rusch with a more boring version of Firestorm isn’t racist.”

    You must not be reading Brightest Day, since Jason is still very much a part of the Firestorm entity…and a situation that still appears to be in flux. By the way, even if Jason was booted, what is it about the Ronnie Raymond Firestorm that’s inherently “boring”? Could that be a bit of “unintended racism” coming from Mr. Brothers…since white = boring status quo?

    Nah…couldn’t be.

    Conveniently missing from Brothers’ mass-indictment was the JSA’s Michael “Mr. Terrific” Holt, a world-class genius and leader who’s a huge fan favorite, or fellow JSA members Jennifer “Lightning” Pierce, Jakeem Thunder, Marcus “Amazing Man” Clay, and Sonia “Judomaster” Sato?

    How about long-time fan favorite Amanda Waller from the Suicide Squad? Or recent JLA members Black Lightning and Vixen…or current JLA members Dr. Light II and Cyborg? Apparently, they didn’t fit with the “DC as clueless country club” premise he and Heidi are working so mightily to maintain.

    “Does the JLA have a Luke Cage?”

    You’re pointing to Luke Cage as the ideal of racial visibility at Marvel? In my reading, he’s essentially a marginal character that’s done…what exactly?…since he was brought back into the New Avengers fold. But to answer the question of whether or not DC has a character of Luke Cage’s calibre, I’d point to the aforementioned Ms. Waller, since babysitting felons is Luke Cage’s new role at Marvel. Promotion, or demotion? Depends on what axe you have to grind, I guess.

    All of this is not to say that comics have not had a spotty (or even disgraceful) record when it comes to minority characters. From the flat-out offensive (and truly racist) depictions during the Golden Age, to the awkward “Black (fill in the blank)”, jive-talkiing, g-dropping characters of the Bronze Age, it’s been a bumpy road. But at the same time, it’s depressing to see a (too) flip comment by a DC editor spun into this vast pseudo-sorta indictment of DC’s not-racist-but-racist insensitivity.

  18. Which flip, dismissive comment is more irritating?…

    A: Ian Sattler:

    “I mean, we have green, pink, and blue characters. We have the Great Ten out there and I have counter statistics, but I won’t get into that. It’s not how we perceived it. We get the same thing about how we treat our female characters.”

    B: The Beat:

    “Here we have the basic Justice League cartoon line-up just trimmed down a bit — there’s super lad, revenge lad, fast lad, mythological lass and black lad, but Green Alien and Alien Lass have been combined into Green Lass.”

    Actually, how about both of them? Yeah, Sattler’s comment was a groaner (though hardly racist), but on the other side, Heidi makes an honest attempt at inclusion on the Young Justice series sound like an exercise in connect-the-dots WASPy cluelessness (i.e. “black lad”)…yet if “black lad” or “green lass” weren’t there, then it would still confirm DC’s WASPy cluelessness.

    See how that works? Knock the hell out of DC for whatever it is they do, since you’re starting from the premise that they ARE racist (wait…”racially insensitive”) and spinning reality wherever it needs to go to conform to it.

  19. I think there’s more anything-ism in the average TV commercial than in comics, but on occasion, comic writers and artists just blunder through in a rush to meet deadlines and don’t think about what they’re doing. They too-easily fall back on ethnic stereotypes because they’re recognizable to most readers and it’s one less thing to think about.
    As an American Indian, I’m often appalled at they way we’re written in comics. You’d almost think comic writers never met a red man, before.
    Of course, it’s the same when they depict smart people. Intelligent characters seem to have no limits, no areas of specialization, smart is smart and can apply to anything, regardless of the technical expertise and experience that may be absent.
    I think you can put a large number of the racial, ethnic, sexual blunders down to deadline fever or just plain laziness.

  20. “I think in the case of Doug, people are reading waaay too much into things. “it teaches our children only whites are deserving if the spotlight”? are you kidding? I mean, last I remember Doug wasn’t particularly good at anything except journal writing and the occasional notebook doodle.”

    And yet he was still the star of the show. That’s kinda the point.

    I agree with the observation that giving him a real-world skin color among all the Andorians and Martians and whatnot was a bizarre misstep.

  21. “While TV appearances seem to be the impetus for some of the diversification, don’t get your hopes up. Minority characters don’t fare very well either.”

    Did any of you blink when Static Shock’s animated series ran on the KidsWB for four years?

    Doesn’t anyone remember all those Humantas & NAACP award nominations that series used to rack up? I don’t remember if all involved with the series won or not, but I do remember numerable mentions about it in my old WB employee intranet bulletins.

    And @Mark Engbloom – when I was a kid – a white kid growing up in Parsippany, N.J. back in the early and mid-seventies, I might add, both Black Panther and Luke Cage were the “shit” to me. Jungle Action & Hero for Hire were my favorite titles to rush over with my bike to the neighborhood stationary store to pick up.

    It didn’t really bowl my stepfather over, because once he saw me bring in comic books with a black super hero in them, he’d try to rip them up (and he damn well succeeded with Hero for Hire # 1 – I could’ve been swimming in dough today if he hadn’t tore that one), so I had to hide those somewhere in a special shoebox.

    But Sweet Freakin’ Christmas, in no way was Luke Cage ever a marginal character to my adolescent four color reading discoveries.

    ~

    Coat

  22. Good grief.

    Kill or replace a white character – not racist.

    Kill or replace a minority character – racist.

    Nice logic there.

  23. nWoJeffDW says:

    This argument has become overblown. Bottom line is, if any of the characters folks are complaining about getting the shaft sold worth a damn, they would still be front and center in the DC Universe. DC tried to do diversity. They screwed up. You can’t kill beloved characters and replace them with minority characters. It smacks of political correctness. People saw right through it and rejected it.

    Incorporating the Milestone characters is the first step DC should take to diversifying the DCU. Everyone else needs to just chill. If you want to support minority characters, vote with your dollars. DC is a business. They will put out what sells.

  24. “But Sweet Freakin’ Christmas, in no way was Luke Cage ever a marginal character to my adolescent four color reading discoveries.”

    Coat: I was referring more to Cage’s role in the modern Marvel U…which apparently entails standing somewhere in the room with his arms crossed and issuing snide comments.

    But even in his 70′s “Sweet Christmas” heyday, he was nowhere close to being the prime mover that David Brothers was implying he was in contrast to DC’s alleged soft-pedaled, incidental minority characters. Again…not diminishing the character’s appeal, but just calling into question Brothers’ claim that Cage is some kind of A-list star. He’s not…and never has been.

  25. All this reminds me of James G. Watt’s quotation about affirmative action…

  26. Synsidar says:

    Coat: I was referring more to Cage’s role in the modern Marvel U…which apparently entails standing somewhere in the room with his arms crossed and issuing snide comments.

    That was about all Cage did in NEW AVENGERS, because the stories rarely had the characters doing anything substantial. Spider-Man and Wolverine were just as ill-used. That’s the problem with assessing the treatments of characters separately from the stories they’re in. Writers who rely on formulas will generally rely on stereotypes as well, either because they lack the ability to be more creative or because they don’t want to be creative.

    SRS

  27. nWoJeffDW, you realize that to some people, JOHN STEWART IS A BELOVED CHARACTER, don’t you?

  28. Brett says:

    Regarding ethnicity in the DCU / the John Stewart Green Lantern:

    Does anyone remember, he was Green Lantern from volume 1, issues #182-200; featured as one of the leads in Green Lantern vol 2 for at least the 1st 13 issues, then given a three or four issue spotlight which spinned him off into his own series, Mosaic. He was prominantly featured on the covers of nearly all the above mentioned issues, including every single cover of his own magazine.

    Oh, that was DC Pre-Didio.

    Still, if I’m reading all this correctly, the issue people are taking offense with is how badly DC editorial treates the ethnic characters in their comics. But I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again:

    DC treats all their characters disrepectfully, regardless of race. It’s why their comics sell so poorly.

    Could it be more obvious? Have you seen how they regard their caucasion characters, the ‘bread and butter’ of their entire operation?

    Superman and Batman haven’t appeared in their own comics in almost two years. Wonder Woman is regardedly like the ugly step child kept locked in a DC store closet without food or water. Speaking of… Aquaman, Hawkman and Hawkgirl have been so viciously mauled by DC editoral over the years, they’re no longer recognizable. In fact, they have been so mutilated over the years, you wouldn’t even know which ‘face’ to put on the back of a milk carton if you wanted to find them. And Didio hasn’t made life pretty for any of the white faced Flashes either. Ask Roy Harper how DC has abused him, recently giving him dead cats to fight with instead of arrows.

    The point is, given the poor and amateur quality of work coming out of DC, any character (that’s white, black, hispanic, oriental and/or otherwise) spared of appearing under the DC ‘bullet’ is a blessing in disguise.

  29. Army of Dorkness says:

    About Doug: I don’t have any personal experience with the show, but until this was quoted “If you look at it, every supporting character around Doug is some wacky shade except, of course, for Doug Funnie, who is a regular white kid. The main character is white in world full of colorful yet ancillary characters. What does that tell our children? It tells them only the white race is deserving of a spotlight. Only the white race is worthy of being the star of the show. All other skin tones must remain in the background, ” I was thinking from reading the descripition that Doug would be considered an outsider the was learning what it’s like to be a minority or outcast and thereby teaching kids the value of diversity and lessons that being “different” doesn’t mean “bad.” Guess I was WAY off. Whatever.

    darrylayo, nerd says:
    06/17/2010 at 11:42 am
    ” perhaps you should try viewing the world from any perspective besides your own.”
    and “Perhaps you need to “get a grip” on the fact that the world doesn’t revolve around you.”

    Pot. Meet kettle. Maybe the people that like to read racial insensitivity into EVERYTHING are the ones that need to get a grip…Maybe not. I have no idea because I don’t know Doug, but as I said, I was seeing a completely different message from the description of that show than some people.

    Next person…”Do marketers not even think about the words they’re using?”

    They absolutely do. That’s the problem. “African-American” is the substitute PC version of “black” so when someone would be described as “black” in a normal instance “African-American” is substituted without any thought put into it. Thing is I think no thought was put into the term to begin with. It’s a dumb hyphenate term…it should be done away with. I don’t use it. I use “black” when needed. For example, it seems to not make sense that the new Aqualad is black…if you’re from an undersea race which sunlight cannot reach, why would you have any pigmentation at all? No wonder he’s being called Token Lad.

    Next person…”They too-easily fall back on ethnic stereotypes because they’re recognizable to most readers and it’s one less thing to think about.
    As an American Indian, I’m often appalled at they way we’re written in comics.”

    Even Scalped? Honest question. I haven’t read it yet so I have no idea how the characters are written.

    And next…”You’re pointing to Luke Cage as the ideal of racial visibility at Marvel?”

    To me, Luke Cage is just as much a stereotype now as he was then. Which makes me curious about why Bendis loves that character so much.

    Sweet Christmas, indeed.

  30. Kevin Hynes says:

    Dead cats? . . .really need to read that Arsenal series. . .

  31. Matt D says:

    Weirdly enough, the current Justice League line-up, which Robinson has said is going to last for a while, has more females than males.

    Robin’s (maybe not so) big 7 is

    Batman, Mikaal, Congorilla

    Supergirl, Donna Troy, Jade, Jesse Quick.

    … not that anyone is really reading it, but still.

  32. Synsidar says:

    How would people react if Power Girl was African-American and the same sorts of jokes were made? Drawing her as a blonde bimbo and joking about her looks is acceptable because it plays to stereotypes that many readers aren’t bothered by.

    SRS

  33. David Riches says:

    hmmm … interesting ideas here. Lots to talk or squabble over. Brings lots of questions to mind.
    In no particular order, whatever became of the Milestone Universe? How come no one mentions Storm or Forge from the X-Men? What about diversity in Riverdale for Archie Comics or do people look at that say too whitebread for me? honestly we are talking visible racial minorities here as opposed to some fat dude in a wheel chair? Oh wait DC has Barbara Gordon for that! Marvel has Matt Murdock for that! But what would the Paraplegic Associations or the Institutes for the Blind say on those characters or even role models? Do I even want to recall DC’s Bloodlines comics with a diverse group of alien enhanced people acting like superheroes escaped from quarantine? Probably not.
    If you really wanted to look at racial non conformity we could just bring up the whole JLI / Justice League Europe and how they turned to be 99% Caucasian in the mix even going so far to have a Mr Bean type running the British Justice League Embassy I wonder if there were branches in the African or South American continents and who staffed them.
    Oh and maybe we should stay away from the cartoons before someone tries to compare Hey Arnold to Phineas And Ferb? At least whe the Scooby Doo gang travels they try to embrace their cultures around the world even if they leave them behind at the end of the episode.
    This is just the questions off the top of my head.

  34. Heidi, you know you’re supposed to speak my name at least 2 more times to summon me– but OK, just this once:

    A quick gander at Brothers’ blog has me largely agreeing with his position that it’s damn near impossible to enforce racial equity through percentages, much less getting good stories out of it. It does seem a bit reverse-racist to assume that a writer can’t decide “I want to bring back the Ray Palmer character because I have a dynamite story I want to tell with him” rather than assuming that his return has to be a capitulation to a racist hegemony.

    Erasure works both ways. I didn’t care when the ’89 BATMAN made Harvey Dent black. The character’s ethnicity didn’t have much of anything to do with his character. Making Nick Fury black, however– albeit the Nick Fury of an alternate world– does “erase” the prominence of a Caucasian character (specificially Irish-American) whose background WAS important to his character. Where do we Scots-Irish go to complain?

    Heidi (I think) said:

    “(Heck there are two girls, something unheard of these days.)”

    I thought AVENGERS got the ball rolling with more’n-one-girl-per-team in the 70s, and that most teams still tended to have more than one female in comic books. Maybe you were talking TV shows/cartoons, but there’s still Power Rangers, Huntik, lotsa anime…

    And of course we should never underrate the Scooby Doo influence.

  35. The hate runs strong in these ones.

    Nobody argues that DOUG is a racist show

    we are saying that having a bunch of blue kids supporting a main character who IS caucasion is NOT “diversity.”

    All of the “chill out” comments are written by people who are annoyed to even be asked to consider the existence of colored people. And I mean REAL colors.

    There is a lot of contempt and mean-spiritedness in many of these comments. It’s sad that these commenters don’t even seem to realize that being so dismissive of minority concerns Is a luxury of the majority.

  36. @Synsidar: “How would people react if Power Girl was African-American and the same sorts of jokes were made? Drawing her as a blonde bimbo and joking about her looks is acceptable because it plays to stereotypes that many readers aren’t bothered by.”

    While I think that this conversation/discussion is becoming a bit overheated, I couldn’t let this comment go…not sure exactly what point you’re trying to make, but last I checked there weren’t separate water fountains labeled “for blonde bimbos,” nor were there blonde bimbo lynchings while the law looked the other way, etc. In other words, you’re creating a false analogy by comparing two very different situations.

  37. “While I think that this conversation/discussion is becoming a bit overheated, … but last I checked there weren’t separate water fountains labeled “for blonde bimbos,” nor were there blonde bimbo lynchings while the law looked the other way….”

    Right…because nothing cools down an overheated discussion on race quite like dousing it with the gasoline of segregation and lynchings. Where did THAT come from? In other words, can the premise that DC Comics is racially insensitive (racist) be questioned and vigorously challenged without the implication that the challenger denies the reality and historic horror of racism? Good Lord, people.

  38. “How would people react if Power Girl was African-American and the same sorts of jokes were made?”

    If she were being drawn by R Crumb readers might view it as penetrating satire.

    (Where’s a smiley when you need one?)

    I think it’s valid to say that negative traits (or traits some view as negative) are “safer” projected on some ethnicities and not others, but I’m not sure this particular example itself is all that illuminating.

  39. Brett says:

    “How would people react if Power Girl was African-American and the same sorts of jokes were made? Drawing her as a blonde bimbo and joking about her looks is acceptable because it plays to stereotypes that many readers aren’t bothered by.

    SRS”

    My point exactly.

    So, why do people expect DC to treat their ethnic characters any better than they treat the caucasion ones?

    Expecting the current regime at DC to treat any of their characters respectfully is like asking a three year old to manage a resturant. A child in the kitchen with food?

    Expect a big mess.

    Personally, I just want to read good comics, it doesn’t matter what color the character is. But, the publishers of today make it almost impossible to find a good comic in any color.

  40. Synsidar says:

    While I think that this conversation/discussion is becoming a bit overheated, I couldn’t let this comment go…not sure exactly what point you’re trying to make, but last I checked there weren’t separate water fountains labeled “for blonde bimbos,”. . .

    My point is that if a reader is looking for good writing, formula fiction that relies heavily on stereotypes is lazy, offensive, or both. Racial stereotypes can be more offensive because readers are more sensitive about them, but from a writing standpoint, they’re no worse than sexual, cultural, or ethnic stereotypes.

    The editorial systems at both Marvel and DC contribute to the problem of bad writing through lowest common denominator marketing, “illusion of change” policies re characters, and serialization. Until their approaches to publishing material are overhauled, the problems with stereotypes and bad writing are likely to continue.

    SRS

  41. I think Brett’s nailed it. If senseless, incoherent, and destructively impulsive things were only happening to DC’s minority characters, then you’ve got a case. But the ham-handed treatment extends far and wide across the DCU…making DC an “equal opportunity” ruiner of characters.

  42. Frenchy the Love Dragon says:

    If Power Girl was African American, it wouldn’t be her jugs that were big….

  43. See, now that’s REAL racism….

  44. Mark E. I agree with Brett in that the DCU may well have gone “Super Friends” on us, with ALL characters being treated horribly.

    But the point I was getting at is that there are some places where you just can’t get away with a lack of diversity, i.e. kids TV, and it seems like this is helping drive a return to diversity in the print DCU. The larger reality is that a lack of diversity is marginalizing — the surprise #1 smash hit movie this past weekend starred a Chinese man and a black youth — and no one cared.

    Also, Mark, I think you are not helping matters at all by your reactionary stance every time this subject is brought up. Are we really living in a “post racial” society where at least discussing these issues is important? Really?

    I fail to see how reflecting a world of many races, cultures and classes is somehow artistically dishonest. Or why labeling “straight white male literature” as just that and not “literature” is not mere honesty.

    At least this time a few non-straight white males have joined the discussion. Much more interesting!

  45. Brendan T says:

    It strikes me that Amanda Waller is one of the best examples of diversity in superhero comics. She’s a super capable overweight black woman who can stare down Batman and is, functionally, one of the most powerful figures in the DCU.

    That doesn’t excuse the many other problems around. I just find it interesting.

    One thing that’s bugged me for ages…why isn’t there a whole lot of diversity among aliens? 90% of the time, alien races are shown to be 100% on the same page which just…doesn’t really happen. Also, there’s not a whole ton of diversity in terms of race or even species on many foreign planets.

    I’m sure if someone wanted to create a condemning rant about racism by way of alien proxies in comics, they’d have plenty to use.

  46. Joe S. Walker says:

    “I fail to see how reflecting a world of many races, cultures and classes is somehow artistically dishonest. Or why labeling “straight white male literature” as just that and not “literature” is not mere honesty.”

    The label is invariably applied as a term of contempt. Purporting to “reflect a world of many cultures, races and classes” while indulging one’s own prejudices is entirely dishonest.

  47. Joe Walker, WHY is that a term of contempt and “Women’s book,” “Chiclit,” “AfAm literature,” “GayLit”…not? Very curious.

  48. Joe S. Walker says:

    Read through this thread and others like it. There’s hardly a reference to straight while males (or “whitey” or “whitebread”) that isn’t hostile.

  49. Army of Dorkness says:

    “But the point I was getting at is that there are some places where you just can’t get away with a lack of diversity, i.e. kids TV, and it seems like this is helping drive a return to diversity in the print DCU.”

    Get ‘em before they’re taught about race and stereotype. It’s easier to have diversity in kids stuff because they’re less likely to give a damn or even notice. Try changing things for a predominantly white male comics readership, and this is what we get. Meaning a hit and miss reception followed by a “return to our roots” decision of bringing back the typically white original or most beloved version. And I think that has more to do with a resistance to change and not a resistance to non-white characters.

    *Just because this sort of thing bugs me…

    Frenchy the Love Dragon says:
    06/17/2010 at 5:26 pm
    If Power Girl was African American, it wouldn’t be her jugs that were big….

    Mark Engblom says:
    06/17/2010 at 5:30 pm
    See, now that’s REAL racism….*

    Mark, you might be joking… but that’s not “REAL racism,” it’s stereotyping. Yes, they’re different, folks.

  50. why isn’t there a whole lot of diversity among aliens?

    Because, as with the human/animal/sentient vegetable characters, the alien characters are there to be used in examining aspects of the human condition. They’re not really well-rounded species, and often aren’t meant to be. They are, more often than not, literal ciphers.

    (unless cipher doesn’t mean stand-in, in which case fart on it).

    I mean, you could (try and) create a completely alien civilization, complete with languages, cultures, cliques, genders, religion and space-disco-dancing (God Damn You, Gil Gerard), but unless you’ve got an interesting story to hang it on (hello Professor Tolkien!), then all you’re doing is doodling on graph paper. An intersting intellectual exercise.

    (I’m sure there’s some kind of anthropic bias at work, too – like, even if the author doesn’t expect their aliens to look like us, they expect them to share our (very relative) homogeneity, c.f. Martians in the DCU. And again, if there *are* multiple sentient species evolved on the same world (e.g.: Babylon 5′s Centauri/Xon), they’re usually there to make some sort of broad cultural point relevant to our world.)

    Occasionally, somebody tries to hang a lampshade on it. Some things don’r suit chintz, though…

    //Oo/\

  51. otistfirefly says:

    >>>Good grief.
    Kill or replace a white character – not racist.
    Kill or replace a minority character – racist.
    Nice logic there.>>>

    Well of course… what do you expect in America?
    Fire a white man – not racist or sexist
    Fire a minority or woman – racist/sexist

    Criticize a white president – not racist
    Criticize a black president – racist

    Criticize a male Speaker – not sexist
    Criticize Nancy – sexist

    Crime against a white person by black person – not racist
    Crime against a minority by a white person – racist/violation of civil rights

    Welcome to America in the 21st Century

  52. “Also, Mark, I think you are not helping matters at all by your reactionary stance every time this subject is brought up.”

    What about simply disagreeing with a point, in this case that DC has a race problem, in any way “reactionary”? Sure, I offer a different viewpoint in (what I hope to be) a rational and passionate way, but you’ll have to give me some examples of how my participation in the discussion is “reactionary”. I realize you may not welcome or agree with my perspective, but…wow. I had no idea I was such a firebrand….to the point where you seem to be tracking this sort of thing. LOL!

    “Are we really living in a “post racial” society where at least discussing these issues is important? Really?”

    By “discussing” do you really mean “agree with”? Because if you are after a united chorus of agreement here on the Beat, I must have missed that policy statement. I thought I was discussing the issue in (what I thought) was a calm, reasoned manner. How does offering a differing opinion compromise our “post racial society”? After all, you brought the topic to light by responding to the various blogosphere responses to Sattler’s infamous quote. Plus, I wasn’t the only one to take exception to the racial (semi) accusations of Brothers and others.

    “I fail to see how reflecting a world of many races, cultures and classes is somehow artistically dishonest.

    Um….Heidi? Where did I say otherwise? Is there anywhere you can find where I claimed reflecting diversity is somehow “artistically dishonest”? Seriously, where did you pulling that out from? Disagree with me all you like, but please don’t put words in my mouth.

    “Or why labeling “straight white male literature” as just that and not “literature” is not mere honesty.”

    Again, no idea where you got this from, Heidi. It certainly wasn’t me.

    And you know, if my participation bugs you so much, please feel free to ban my ass. Of course, there will be others who strongly and consistently disagree with you in the future…so keep that “ban” button handy.

  53. otistfirefly says:

    And ms. Beat – not all of us white males are anti-diversity. One of the points made above is that, basically, if Static and Luke Cage suddenly sold 100,000 units a month, you BETCHA you’d see some up-front diversity from Marvel and DC. I know it’s a cliche, but business cares about: 1) PROFIT and then down the line, depending on the company, diversity or appearance of diversity. Business cares about the GREEN first and all the other colors later. (Not Martian Manhunter green, mind you.) One of the big problems I’ve seen is the crying wolf syndrome – finding racism/sexism where it isn’t, which this story/comments are FULL of. I just find so much of this appalling for the simple reason that there IS a lot of sexism and racism in this country – and it all does not come (contrary to popular belief) from the all-powerful white man. The constant discovery of perceived racism/sexism where it does not really exist makes it hard for ACTUAL VICTIMS of this behavior to be taken seriously at times, sad to say. It’s like when Sarah Palin (or “Todd”) went Grodd-shite and likened Letterman’s joke to “raping” their underage daughter. Ummmm… NO, not even close. ACTUAL rape victims should have risen up and told the future first couple *shudder* to shut the hell up.

  54. LobsterAfternoon says:

    There’s a pretty simple lesson that almost all comic creators should learn from the Ryan Choi thing. Don’t kill characters. It doesn’t work as a shock trick, it doesn’t show us that their killer is badass, and it wastes a character that someone out there probably liked. Just shelve the character until you or someone else down the line knows how to use him/her.

  55. Darrylayo

    I really wish I knew what the hell you are talking about.

    Maybe it was because I was actually part of Doug’s target audience when it came out, but I seem to remember liking the characters for their different traits/character quirks/personalities and not really giving two s***’s about what their skin color was.

    And somehow you get from my comment that I’m afraid to recognize “people of REAL colors”? I could be green and from Mars for all you know, but thanks for pulling wild accusations straight out of your a**.

    For the record, I still think the whole thing is crazy. Nobody my age, minority or not, was looking at Doug going, “wow, it’s too bad I can’t be like the pudgy white kid who wears the same green sweatervest every day of his life. I guess I’ll have to settle for all the other characters who are portrayed as much cooler than Doug ever could be.” Doug WAS the outcast, the middle-school social minority. AND he was the “star”. Being different is GOOD. That’s the message!

  56. LobsterAfternoon,

    I agree and I believe readers every where agree with you too.

    All of us wish both DC and Marvel would just give it up already. Stop killing and corrupting ALL their characters and just tell a good story!

    Thing is, creativity is dead with the current regimes at DC and Marvel.

    It’s why killing their characters then mining the graveyard has become the sole means for selling comics at the big two, also why they’ve saturated the market with comics like Marvel Zombies and Blackest Night.

    So I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

    Don’t fret if your favorite ethinic or caucasian character is killed because chances are, someone’s going to dig up the body and forget to kick off the maggots.

  57. Lobster Afternoon
    “There’s a pretty simple lesson that almost all comic creators should learn from the Ryan Choi thing. Don’t kill characters. It doesn’t work as a shock trick …”

    Good heavens, yes … unless there are indeed younger readers coming into this hobby, I can’t understand why comic fans would find the death of any character shocking — especially when you know they’ll eventually be revived, resurrected, revamped, and/or retconned.

  58. David Riches says:

    You know a weird thought occurred to me. You see to me the start of Green Lantern is Hal Jordan, then becomes the Corp then we break down to Guy, John, and Kyle and at a sideways Alan, and Jade! Now I loved the Mosaic that featured John Stewart and it had little to do with race and mostly to do with exposition. Oddly enough the Ryan Choi Atom parallel’s that early exposition that was in Mosaic that kept you thinking about the characters development. The really odd thing is when both series got very weird in their story telling that you had the reader support drop off and cancellation came. I wonder if one is a possible echo of the other? does race factor into the story telling or is just incidental to the whole?
    This is something to be looked at!

  59. LobsterAfternoon says:

    I think race is incidental. There are a lot of dumb fans who aren’t racist, they just want to see the characters they read about back in the 1950s or whatever. And creators back then were racist, so everyone made white characters.

  60. With the exception of Gaylord DuBois – he created Turok, Dinosaur Hunter and dozens of other Indian characters for Gold Key.

    ~

    Coat

  61. otistfirefly says:

    >>>And creators back then were racist, so everyone made white characters.

    Wow. That’s an amazing statement. You know for a fact Seigel and Shuster were racists? Bob Kane? Gardner Fox? Stan Lee? Jack Kirby? C.C. Beck? What an incredibly stupid thing to say. Perhaps, YA THINK, since the white population in the 30s=70s was, what, 80-85% that they geared their characters to the most common demographic? As I said earlier, it’s all about the green baby. Just because they didn’t have many minority characters in those years DOES NOT MEAN THE “CREATORS BACK THEN WERE RACIST”!

    Of course, that’s part of why race relations are what they are. Ignorant statements like yours that attribute racism to just about anything you can possibly name.

  62. Joe S. Walker says:

    For decades nearly all the people who worked in American comics were either Jewish or Italian. Think they never knew about racism?

  63. Justin Blauvelt says:

    I think they should stick the show doug back on and the rest off all the old cartoon shows i used too watch it every saturday and sunday mornings now they got these dang new shows out that are not interesting or anything bring back the oldes shows not these stupid new ones

  64. Chaussure Gucci, cela se produit ment rapide et efficace . celui-ci comme la fin p la Model Week londonienne, lorsque ces modles ont confirm pour Todd Lynn, Temperley, Aquascutum Michael van der Pork ainsi que Louise Gray, au Milan serve assister not casting storage containers . Gucci.

  65. Gabby says:

    I used to watch Doug all the time but never put much thought into him being white because damn near everyone on tv was white. So I can see how a child would interpret this as being the norm. I think a lot of white people have a hard time understanding that they are not the norm because they are shown this message all the time and apparently now they can’t even grasp the idea that if anything it is MORE important for kids t see diversity they met not explicitly say or eventhnk about it but it s ignorantto think that diversity isn’t important for kids t see. Maybe not to you because of the white privilege that exists in this country but it’s very important fr minority kids to see lack of representation can and often times does have a negative effect on their self image just because they don’t yet have a full understanding of race doesn’t mean it’s not a problem kids don’t always know what they need that s why they are kids and not adults. As adults we should know better than to assume it’s not important or that It won’t have an effect on them. Please educate yourself because you seem very ignorant. We are clearly not living in a post racial society thts the craziest shit I have ever heard do you know what the Clark doll test is? Read up on it and then tell me how post racial we are and how little kids care about diversty.

  66. Lycan HaMier says:

    OK, I just want to put out a comment here since everyone’s talking about the effect on the children. I was a kid when Doug was out. If anything, to me Doug symbolized the over-generalized America in a different way. You see, if you wish to change an air of discrimination (of any sort), you’re likely needing to change the thoughts of the “majority” (as a side-note a very interesting term for those of us who are from my part of Texas – where WASP kids were maybe 33-50% of the classroom). You see, its Doug who falls for Patty Mayonnaise. It’s Doug who, in terms of colors, is thrust into a whole new world (though I don’t recall that being directly mentioned in the show). Though we in the audience may isolate him as the “normal” kid, in his universe that was the furthest from the truth. So back to my America analogy… WASP Americans finding themselves in a world where there’s more diversity, more culture, more heritage than their own. To be immersed in something larger and more (cue the buzzword) diverse than themselves. To experience a culture, learn from it, and not expect it to become what you are. This is where it shifts from just being about “America” to about anyone, everyone, in this planet.

    Although, just when it comes to the art of literary criticism… it’s fully possible to take an antagonist’s traits and turn him into a hero, and vise-versa. At this point, at least to some extent, what people see in a show may, just may, reflect more about what’s in an individual’s heart than that of the authors, producers, playwrights (and playwrongs). Remember though, this was the 90′s. Though we kids didn’t know it at the time, things were still touchy in the grand scale. I would hope that we have progressed further along these years rather than move backwards.

    (By the way, I do wonder, if we were to include our own ethnicity into this, if anyone would find some comments to be surprising? )

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