Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Writing Multicultural...Part 1

Multicultural fiction is trending, and it's about time!

I recently tweeted a rant: that instead of teaching American History properly in this country, we devoted a month to most ethnic groups or different races. I find this lazy and self-indulgent.

Writers, we are often highly and widely read (not all reading material is 'well'), so it is nearly impossible to explain where we often find our research, our writing advice, and so forth.

On the topic of writing about folks who may not share your cultural backgrounds, I've found numerous articles over the years: some helpful. Some VERY helpful. Others...not helpful at all.

Some authors interviewed exclaim they had difficulty writing children convincingly.
Others, the difficulty lay in switching genders - some male authors said they had a trying time writing convincing women.
Some female authors, their male characters were their Achilles' heel...
One article, the writer couldn't figure out how to portray the elderly!

I know I don't have your answers.. I can only tell you what worked and appears to work for me.. With everything else, remember I mentioned being widely-read?
This also means being widely entertained.
I've been a foreign cinema fan as far back as Kindergarten. But it took some cheesy and some cliched stuff before I expanded my horizons.

This takes me to the first jumping-point.

1. Don't Knock the Martial-Art Film

Why? For some reason, our society views these films as 'chop-socky' nonsense hailing to days when many Occidentals thought all Oriental peoples wielded nunchaku, carried Sai blades, or katanas. And we once thought Asians and Asian-Americans were all black belts in a variety of martial disciplines.

Yes, these were stereotypes, and yes, stereotypes have a sneaky way of going from Funny to Downright Dangerous.
But, before you wonder where I'm going, I promise, unlike many martial-art movies, this has a happy ending.*

The more I watched these films, the more I became inundated with different Asian cultures, symbolisms, and history. Though I could not travel to these places, I was learning things.
I didn't know it at the time, but I credit these films for helping me into other genres in Asian cinema!

I still watch Hollywood films. I don't have a choice, I'm an American, and it is my film industry, and puts out the second-largest amounts of movies and films in the world!
(Sorry to those who thought Hollywood was the most prolific. It's not. It's just the most Profitable film industry. That prolificity goes to India's Bollywood)

Also, when viewing the Asian-American in contemporary Hollywood film, just how far have we come? Far. But not far enough.

Asians have contributed much to our American landscape, and still feature quite low in the pop culture and modern media.
We may want to knock the old time martial-art movies, but those films made many of their actors STARS!

When I began consuming foreign Asian media (books, movies, comics), the cultural references became familiar, the dialects a little easier to detect, the historical background a little lighter to digest.

Don't Dis(respect) the classic martial-art movies.

*Martial-art film buffs know what I mean

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