Posts Tagged ‘Childrens Literature’

A Post Colonial analysis of
Stanley Bloom’s Binny and Belloe

My friends … under the fur we are all the same … I beg you to remember that … – Oggy, the Red Squirrel

Let’s face it. In Western Culture, we have a long history of being rather inconsiderate and sometimes downright condescending or degrading to Others. How this looks in practice depends on the work and the time-period. Consider Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which presents the mysterious Eastern European as a bloodthirsty vampire who tempts women into sin – or better releases from the shackles of societal norms the women who are already giving into their sinful natures so that they can be free to express it. Pick a work by HP Lovecraft. If the villain is not from a non-white ethnic group, he or she was probably heavily influenced and brought into acts of evil by someone who was.

We do our best to improve this, but face it. We even manage to mess that up. Our ethnic characters tend to fall into one of two categories. They are the token character – a female in a mostly male cast, a non-white and/or non-Christian ethnic member in a predominately white and/or Christian cast. The way to tell if your diverse character is token or not is to examine their role. Are they merely the background so that you can show ethnic/religious diversity in your story, or do they take actions that affect the plot? The former is definitely token. The second can be, depending. But that’s a discussion for another time.

The other way we tend, in white Western culture, to present other ethnic groups is as the “noble savage”. These are the ethnically diverse characters in stories dominated by white European and/or American protagonists. The noble savage displays some special skill, insight, or power that aids the white character in some way.

Some beloved examples: Dick Hallorman in The Shining, Oda Mae Brown in Ghost, Azeem in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, most movies that Morgan Freeman has been in.

So when a story attempts to tackle our perceptions and attitudes of race, I like to pay attention and see just what the story is doing, and if it is doing it effectively.

Enter Binny and Belloe