Wednesday 4 September 2013

Discussion post: Presentation of LGB characters

Hello and welcome to the first of our discussion posts. I thought a lot
 about how to present this, but in the end, I settled on raising a question/topic, giving my thoughts, and quoting other people as we go along, when they fit. Then, there’ll be a Q&A post, with everybody’s response to the questions I set, with no comment from me. I hope this format gets across everybody's views, and interests you.

So, the first one is about how LGB people are currently presented in YA lit. 

Stereotypes are everywhere, and this is true for every demographic of everything.  They’re set in people’s minds, and it’s really hard to avoid them. TV Tropes has a lot of lists of tropes, or conventions, revolving around the LGBTQ community in general and bisexuality and gender bending. A quick look over, I’d guess that about a third of these are very common stereotypes, in general or in YA literature.

I asked about bad presentations of LGBT people in literature. I’m really glad that most people couldn’t think of specific examples, because it means that there can’t be that many in prominent literature. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some, because there almost certainly will be, but still. 

There are some certain stereotypes that come through particularly. Suzanne says “I have been mildly annoyed by certain gay characters being presented as super emotional to the point of melodrama as this is borderline stereotyping.” Charlie says “Usually the side characters are gay, and if that's so, they're very camp and flamboyant. If it's a main POV character, they are always closeted until they fall for just that one  person. The gay best friend trope is so over used and so easily ruined.” I’ve seen a couple of times in teen fiction the “all gays are promiscuous” , but the one I see most is the “camp best friend” one.

The thing that often gets me when reading LGB fic is that sexuality is the one of the  first things presented about a character. In very explicit terms. For example, Boy Meets Boy, there’s chapter 2 which says “Paul is definitely gay”, and then in other books  that I don’t have to hand there’s things to that effect. And I don’t mind that so much, but the fact that it’s presented as a defining thing. Sexuality does not define a person. I’m sure for any character introduced this way, you can find a much more interesting thing about them than the gender of who they fall in love with.

That presenting first of sexuality, I find, comes across mainly when the person in question is a  secondary character (by secondary, I mean not the main one, nor the POV).  I get that secondary characters don’t need quite the detail of a main one, but my thoughts are put  nicely by Rie as “usually when they are main characters they are portrayed in a realistic fashion. When they are secondary characters they are a joke, a plot device, or a stereotypical version of themselves.”

Overall, whether a character is main or secondary, sexuality is often one of the facets of them that is most focused on. I understand the reasoning for this when a book is generally about this, ie a coming out story, but for when it isn’t the plot, I don’t see why. Luckily, we’re moving away from this slightly, and I hope representation will continue to improve in the future. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm not so sure where to start on this... hm, first off, I think stereotypes are something that simply cannot be avoided. I have done the cross-cultural, and although I found so many stereotypes/expectations were ridiculous, I also found so many were true. I guess what I'm trying to say is: They don't come from nothing. And then it's even more refreshing when you find something that doesn't fit into your (current) picture. And sometimes, it's exactly the stereotype you're looking for.
    I mean, that's why there's genres to pick from, right? Because we expect to find certain stereotypes within them. When I want naive and over-the-top stereotyped guys and a girl who needs some rescuring (despite all the power she may have herself), I pick up YA. If I want something more leveled out, and rather harsh then cute, I pick up NA or adult books. And it's not just about what is appropriate for the age, because we are all different in that regard, but what society stereotypes with the age group.
    Of course, that still gives you stereotypes you like and agree with, and others that annoy the hell out of you. I think the gay best friend is my pet peeve, but only if he doesn't only get shut down, but if he comes out empty as well.
    To the fact that sexuality is stated early in a gay book... I have the suspicion it's kind of a red flag for people. Saying "Yes, this is definitvely about gay people, if you don't like it, you still have chance to jump off this bus NOW, because nothing has happened yet". Other than that... I can't say it really bothers me. I mean, you usually find the love interest in a straight book very early as well, with a bit gushing and crushing and swooning. It's kind of the same thing for me. BUT it would definitvely be an interesting development if someone stated the gay part, and then later finds out he's something else as well. Like, more bisexual or sm added to the pot, whatever. Don't you think so?

    I'm a lover of good secondary characters in general, and I find myself more often then not closer to them than to the lead roles. I don't know why, maybe because there is still some left for my imagination to fill -- with good stuff -- while the main characters are all layed out, and I find them lacking. I ususally like finding out there's a homosexual sidecharacter somewhere. It signals for me that it gets more prominent in fiction in general, and that authors at least try to get out the proverbial comfortable bubble some more. And although side characters are -- by definition -- an means to an end somehow, I really dislike if they're like just a name and hair color. I want them to be as real and thourough as possible, because I think it makes you need less of them. And I associate less characters with alot more depth and feeling.

    Ok, enough of me ranting for now. Let's see what else comes up in this discussion. ^^ Thanks for starting it, though! =)


Thanks for taking time to read this!
Comments are much loved.
Nina xxx

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