I attended MileHiCon over the weekend (an awesome local SF Lit con), during which time I went to a “Writing Characters with Mental Illness” panel. A relative of mine has fairly severe shizoaffective disorder, so I’m familiar with what mental illness looks like IRL, but I’m not a healthcare professional so I like to get some actual professional views on the matter, ya know? The panelists were all either suffering from mental illness themselves or professionals in the field. And I did get some use out of the panel, but not nearly as much as I could have. Part of the reason why? They spent a big chunk of time helping everyone defend themselves from charges of Cultural Appropriation. You gotta say “It’s not a disability, it’s a different-ability” sort of thing. FFS. At one point one of the panelists said “No matter what you do, some people will attack you for writing mental illness. Ignore them, please! Do it anyway! We need more characters struggling with mental illness in our fiction.”
So yeah, the CA-police are having a chilling effect, but people are pushing back. So, hooray for that?
I’ve been told a few times that straight white guys will never feel the sting of Cultural Appropriation. (Actually I was told this by a straight white guy who said he’d never feel it, so he didn’t have any right to have a voice in the conversation.) I think that’s a very silly thing to claim, because there are many types of culture, and almost everyone belongs to SOME minority culture that can be “appropriated.” As proof of this I would like to submit this review of the movie “Pixels” by Movie Bob.
Movie Bob is LIVID about the appropriation of video gaming culture by one of Hollywood’s biggest douchebags, Adam Sandler. Says Movie Bob:
>“it’s so oppressively, endlessly, bald-faced cynical about the disingenuous appropriation of its own supposed reason for existing.”
“[It’s] so fucking glib and self-satisfied with its own sleazy cash-grab existence that it takes time out to make sure it also shits on the sort of more earnest, heart-felt version of the same idea that someone who gave two shits might have made”
“It plays at being this sentimental ode to glory days of classic video games, but clearly doesn’t have a fucking drop of sincere interest of what’s made these characters and imagery so enduring or even what made the game so compelling for all these years.”
“It’s always nakedly the work of a bunch of shit-gargling fuckwits with zero love or understanding of this stuff beyond the ability to sell tickets based on ‘Hey, remember Pac-Man?’”
As a video game geek myself (and old enough to have played most of these games in my childhood), I sympathize strongly with every single thing Movie Bob says. In fact, I challenge every white male video game geek who thinks Cultural Appropriation is bullshit to watch this review so they can understand what other people feel when they say their culture is being appropriated. Are you telling me to you don’t feel even a spark of anger at Sandler/Hollywood after seeing that impassioned rant? Cuz I’m not sure that’s possible.
And now, having seen the other side, reconsider your position on cultural appropriation. Don’t just take a reactionary “Screw you, I can do what I want” stand. Take a principled stand. Stand firm with “It is better to allow cultures to mix. The things that are bad about “Cultural Appropriation” are more correctly termed either “Racism” or “Being An Asshole” and should be fought as such, and the things that are good about Cultural Mixing are being destroyed by the Cultural Appropriation Police. That is why the term Cultural Appropriation is toxic. Its only real effect is to eliminate the good things that we want to keep around!”
Hate Pixels because it is shit. Don’t support Cultural Appropriation Policing, because that would destroy wonderful things like The Wizard and The Last Starfighter as well. We will accept Pixels because sharing culture and understanding between groups is more important than making sure Adam Sandler can’t shit on a culture’s values. We will not raze the commons in an effort to punish the free-rider.