Presentation on Stereotype and the Ethics of Representation.

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Nov 14, 2013 (3 years and 1 month ago)

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Stereotype and
the Ethics of
Representation

David Steiling

Ringling School of Art

Stereotype and Clich
é

Both terms from printing that refer
to techniques that facilitate the
speed and lower the cost of
production through the use of
pre
-
set images or phrases.

Comics and Stereotype

“…the stereotype is a fact of life in
the comics medium. It is an
accursed necessity

a tool of
communication that is an
inescapable ingredient in most
cartoons…


Will Eisner

Graphic

Storytelling

“In comics, stereotypes are drawn
from commonly accepted physical
characteristics associated with an
occupation. These become icons
and are used as part of the
language in graphic storytelling. In
film, there is plenty of time to
develop a character…In comics
there is little time or space. The
image or caricature must settle the
matter instantly.”

Stereotypes

Good and Bad Stereotypes

For Eisner the question is not
whether one should use
stereotypes but rather how to
distinguish between “good” and
“bad” stereotypes.

Stereotypes

Are not metonymies like most icons but
are representations of idealized
character types that are not based on
observation, but on previous
representations, which themselves
were often based on previous
representations. These chains of
representation are often not refreshed
with new observation. Over time
these stereotypes tend to become
widely accepted standards of
reference.

African
-
American Images
in the Comics: A Case
Study

Frederick Str
ö
mberg in his book
Black

Images in the Comics

provides numerous examples that
illustrate how stereotype is actually
used in the comics.

Stereotypical Images

o
None of these stereotypes tell us
anything about black people.


o
These stereotypes tell us a lot
about white people.

Stereotypical representations are not
really present in a narrative to
enhance the readability of the
narrative or to develop the characters;
they are usually present to reassure the
reader of the safety of their opinions
and prejudices, whether this is known
by the author or not.

Alternative Strategies of
Representation


Observation

forming a representation
based on actual observation,
representation that reflect individuality
instead of stereotypicality.


Iconic metonymy

reducing the
information from an observed
representation into a caricature.


Retaining the same level of caricature
through all the representations in the
narrative.


Observation

Iconic Caricature

Retaining the Same Level of
Caricature

Some Other Considerations

o
The position of the creator in
relation to the representations.

o
The centrality or marginality of
the character in relation to the
narrative.

o
Active vs. Passive qualities in the
character represented.

o
Biases reflected in the visual
composition and character
poses within the images.


Using Other Representation Conventions

o
Funny Animal Conventions

o
Superhero Conventions

o
Manga/Animé Conventions

Virtual Reality Implications

As narrative evolves into various
modes of interactivity and virtual
reality, will schemes of
representation discard stereotype?

Image and Objectification

o
Are our fantasies
focused more on
individuals or on
stereotypes?

o
The more
stereotypical the
objects of our
fantasies are
represented, the
more easily we
can objectify
them.

Stereotype and Intimacy

o
Intimacy requires
specificity and
individuality. One
cannot be intimate
with a stereotype.

o
More virtual
interactivity seems
to require more
individuality of
representation. The
more individuality,
the more potential
for intimacy.

Stereotypes abet Violence


o
Violence is easiest to perpetrate on
stereotypes.

Until recently, representation in
interactive gaming was capable of
little individualization, so there was
a natural dependence on
representation that used stereotype
or simple iconic forms of character
design. As the range of possible
representations widen, will gaming,
and its virtual reality successors
continue to depend on
stereotypes?

Can the writers of the next generation
of virtual realities learn from the
history of the comics. It is not just a
question of “good” stereotypes
versus “bad” stereotypes. The use
of stereotypes is corrupting in itself.
One of the features of this
corruption is how the use of
stereotypes teaches the audience
to read the narrative of their own
reality in stereotypical terms.

The case history of Black Images in
the Comics shows how the use of
stereotypes has compromised the
work of the most important and
valued artists in the form. What may
be betrayed is the compact
between artist and audience that
any reality the artist presents has
been observed, observed no
matter how interior, absurd, or
personally scewed.

Ethics, effectiveness, reputation and
empathy are all compromised when
artists resort to stereotypes. Audience is
narrowed and distanced. Any sense of
fairness or equality within the narrative is
disturbed. The promise of virtual reality is
to enable the transfer of dreams. Will we
all be able to place ourselves fairly
within those dreams? Will the
dreamspace of virtual reality be a place
of empathy or one of violent unconcern?
Choices in representation will shape that
space.


Itunes Site

http://podcasts.rsad.edu/comics