The Sunday Tweet: NAinUF: Characters II – Supporting Roles
Today’s tweet comes from Poleth’s Quill, who raises several interesting points on Native American characters in Urban Fantasy, specifically UF with the romance suffix added. To quote:
Books closer to the urban fantasy/horror end often have white love interests, but some of the more paranormal romance end have Native American love interests. This is usually a man, set opposite a Northern European or mixed race woman (who as described previously, is intended to represent a Northern European woman in most cases, even if she’s mixed).
Unlike main characters, the love interest is emphasised as being other and mysterious. Descriptions of the love interest tend to be exoticised, focusing on him as savage, animalist and otherwordly. He has flashing black eyes and ebony hair. These will be mentioned frequently. In addition, it’s rare for him to be mixed race and he will have grown up on a reservation.
This is likely to be an import from the romance genre, where there’s a market for books with innocent white women falling into the arms of Native manly men. The reader is expected to identify with the white woman, not the Native American man.
What I find interesting is that these books are largely written by women for women, and that the authors chose to keep alive a series of stereotypes that don’t hold up to close examination. Add to it layers of sexual assault as sexual fantasy plus colonialism/imperialism and I got to wonder what is the appeal of these books to writers/readers?
Sexual violence as part of sexual arousal is well understood, the whole S/M industry would not exists without it or for that matter most of porn. The thrill of the forbidden coupled with giving in to base instincts can motivate deep sense of arousal. And defenders of this type of literature would say that like porn, “It’s not real, it’s just a fantasy.”
But is it?
Would it have the same appeal if the rapist was a rich white male? Or the daughter’s neighbor or schoolmate? What about using the Other as a symbol of sexual violence?
This on top of other stereotypes that only show that the author did not do the research and it is content to populate the story with what Polenth describes as “pancakes” (soft and fluffy but very flat). Is that the kind of story you want to read or write?
Which begs the question, what does it say about you?