What's new

Viewpoint Controversial themes in writing/RP

Jannah

I suppose I'm back. Hello again.
Some comments in the thread about which themes you personally avoid in RP intrigued me. It seems not wanting to write anything relating to homophobia, racism, and other forms of bigotry is a common response that came up. While it is a perfectly valid one, especially as writing is a form of escapism for some, it did get me thinking and I did not want to derail the original thread. Is it ever acceptable to portray these themes in writing, even if the writers themselves are not bigoted? Is it possible to portray these themes, even in a negative light (such as the bigoted characters being antagonists in the story)? Lastly, is it truly possible to separate the content of the art from its creator?

I already know how I feel about the topic, but I do believe it was generating some interesting discussion so thoughts?
 

Jannah

I suppose I'm back. Hello again.
Nevermind. Feel free to ignore this. It seems the other thread got derailed regardless.
 

Merciless Medic

Walking Pokemon Dictionary
I'm still going to be adding my thoughts to this. XD

But it is possible to separate art from their creator. There have been rappers who don't take drugs and still rap about drugs. They rap about killing, but they've never murdered anyone. And it's okay to play as bigoted characters, just as long as everyone is comfortable with it. Obviously, don't include it if someone is uncomfortable with it and it doesn't need shown. However, I like to add a bit of bigotry in some form, especially if it makes sense in the setting (or if it is likely for it to crop up because the few who are bigoted live in the same area). Just because I like drama and I want to see how our characters get through it. Whether that be giving them a nice, cathartic beat down, or ruining their lives socially.

I know I'm not bigoted nor do I kill or torture people nor was I a child soldier (yet I make a lot of murderers or people who were indoctrinated to become soldiers as children and love torturing people) lol but some people have sudden opinions of others based on their experiences and how you say things, and that implicit bias comes out in them lashing out because they don't want to deal with those people who allow bigotry in their RPs when it is supposed to be a safe space for them. They then immediately think you are bigoted yourself, even though you aren't, but that's just them defending themselves from a perceived threat. I don't like the policing, but eh, what can you do? They're just upset. XD Nothing wrong with that.

But it is possible to portray this in negative, positive (god forbid), and neutral ways of seeing it. Most people wouldn't like to partake in it at all.
 

Melpomene

Writer of Tragedy|Art by ROYTHEART|
Supporter
Ahem.

Yeah the thread has turned into a shitshow and I am waiting for mods to lock it... Welcome to the internet ig.

Regardless!

As I said, I think it can be interesting to talk about controversial issues. Now, I do always believe they should be talked about in a respectful fashion. Context and framing is really key here. I think virtually any topic can be written about, but you have to write it with care. Books these days have sensitivity readers for a reason. And I recommend usually roleplaying with someone who knows about what controversial stuff is going to be talked about and is fully onboard with it or else things are gonna get... uncomfortable for everyone involved lol.

I am a poc, so maybe that is a bit different but Idk, I guess I don't really write to escape so that may be a difference between me and others? I like to make sure my partners are comfortable with everything going on in the RP before I write it.

So... yeah, I think it is possible to separate art from artist and writing about controversial subjects does not make someone a bad person as long as they do it very respectfully.
 

Jannah

I suppose I'm back. Hello again.
Ahem.

Yeah the thread has turned into a shitshow and I am waiting for mods to lock it... Welcome to the internet ig.

Regardless!

As I said, I think it can be interesting to talk about controversial issues. Now, I do always believe they should be talked about in a respectful fashion. Context and framing is really key here. I think virtually any topic can be written about, but you have to write it with care. Books these days have sensitivity readers for a reason. And I recommend usually roleplaying with someone who knows about what controversial stuff is going to be talked about and is fully onboard with it or else things are gonna get... uncomfortable for everyone involved lol.

I am a poc, so maybe that is a bit different but Idk, I guess I don't really write to escape so that may be a difference between me and others? I like to make sure my partners are comfortable with everything going on in the RP before I write it.

So... yeah, I think it is possible to separate art from artist and writing about controversial subjects does not make someone a bad person as long as they do it very respectfully.
This is pretty much my exact stance.
 

Melpomene

Writer of Tragedy|Art by ROYTHEART|
Supporter
This is pretty much my exact stance.
Yeah, I know RP is not supposed to be the pinnacle of literature but I still like telling a story, ya know? Though, I will be completely honest and say I usually write fantasy so my stories don't involve much real world controversy and just fantasy parallels. I have made many very... morally grey characters that are not exactly supposed to be sympathized with but I think are very interesting to play.
 

Jannah

I suppose I'm back. Hello again.
Yeah, I know RP is not supposed to be the pinnacle of literature but I still like telling a story, ya know? Though, I will be completely honest and say I usually write fantasy so my stories don't involve much real world controversy and just fantasy parallels. I have made many very... morally grey characters that are not exactly supposed to be sympathized with but I think are very interesting to play.
I guess this is just a super important discussion to me since I mostly write historical fiction.
 

Melpomene

Writer of Tragedy|Art by ROYTHEART|
Supporter
I guess this is just a super important discussion to me since I mostly write historical fiction.
And there are certainly historical events and points where it is very... hard to ignore some of the more controversial problems? Like if you want to RP through any of the wars you'll be ignoring like... half of the historical context sometimes if you don't acknowledge controversy. Like WW2... has literal Nazis hahaha.
 

Jannah

I suppose I'm back. Hello again.
And there are certainly historical events and points where it is very... hard to ignore some of the more controversial problems? Like if you want to RP through any of the wars you'll be ignoring like... half of the historical context sometimes if you don't acknowledge controversy. Like WW2... has literal Nazis hahaha.
Exactly my point. I'm not a Nazi just because I choose to write stories that have Nazis.
 

Merciless Medic

Walking Pokemon Dictionary
And there are certainly historical events and points where it is very... hard to ignore some of the more controversial problems? Like if you want to RP through any of the wars you'll be ignoring like... half of the historical context sometimes if you don't acknowledge controversy. Like WW2... has literal Nazis hahaha.
Exactly my point. I'm not a Nazi just because I choose to write stories that have Nazis.
My husband was just called a nazi and his character he was cosplaying as for Star Wars on Tiktok was called a nazi because they have the same style of coat or guns.... and if the style is the same, then that character must be that thing. Which that's not how that works.

When he wasn't XD he's definitely not a nazi. It was just an attack that we did our best to ignore. XD

But yea, respect has to come first when dealing with subjects like this. Otherwise, you get unhealthy arguments and debates.
 

Merciless Medic

Walking Pokemon Dictionary
I also like to RP not just to escape but to fight things I wouldn't be able to fight or change in the world I live in because there's literally nothing I can do to change what's going on right now. XD
 

Melpomene

Writer of Tragedy|Art by ROYTHEART|
Supporter
My husband was just called a nazi and his character he was cosplaying as for Star Wars on Tiktok was called a nazi because they have the same style of coat or guns.... and if the style is the same, then that character must be that thing. Which that's not how that works.

When he wasn't XD he's definitely not a nazi. It was just an attack that we did our best to ignore. XD

But yea, respect has to come first when dealing with subjects like this. Otherwise, you get unhealthy arguments and debates.
he should have said: "don't accuse me anakin, I have the high ground!"


Exactly my point. I'm not a Nazi just because I choose to write stories that have Nazis.
Oh absolutely. There is definitely a difference between condoning behavior and depicting it. I mean, shit, I am basically writing fantasy Machiavelli right now hahaha. I don't think I am evil? But he does some preeeettty awful stuff.
 

Jannah

I suppose I'm back. Hello again.
he should have said: "don't accuse me anakin, I have the high ground!"



Oh absolutely. There is definitely a difference between condoning behavior and depicting it. I mean, shit, I am basically writing fantasy Machiavelli right now hahaha. I don't think I am evil? But he does some preeeettty awful stuff.
When I write a bigot, whether as a NPC or main character they are never intended to be sympathetic characters. They are quite clearly villains. Most of them meet their eventual downfall too.
 

Melpomene

Writer of Tragedy|Art by ROYTHEART|
Supporter
When I write a bigot, whether as a NPC or main character they are never intended to be sympathetic characters. They are quite clearly villains. Most of them meet their eventual downfall too.
Yeah, and that can actually be extremely fruitful in all honesty. Look at Lolita for an example. Humbert is not supposed to be a good person and Nabokov makes that very clear. It's uncomfortable but literature doesn't need to be comfortable.
 

Onmyoji

HanGuang-Jun
Moderator
Supporter
One last warning. If personal discussions and attacks continue in this thread, it will be locked permanently. Please drop the subject related to personal attitude towards other users from the other thread.
 

s e v e n

bite me
It can, but obviously those aren't the types for you because they are definitely pretty reactionary. But those are the types of people to just kindly ignore and let them think they win for the time being XD some have retracted those statements and were just put off by the topic. They were more put off that it happens in RP but it seemed like everyone was just beating their points into an already battered horse into the ground.

I tend to stay away from people who jump to insults first and ask questions never/later. It's too stressful, especially when all we're looking for is a friendly/neutral debate.

...Goddamn you're right. Thank you for being considerate and not immediately jumping to insults to be honest, that is pretty kind of you.

For the sake of the thread, I will answer seriously. But I guess whatever I will write here will simply be reiterations of what I have already written (if people cared to read).

I do not condone people writing bigotry for the sake of being a bigot or pushing a bigot agenda. The most important thing when approaching literature like this is context and framing. How do you frame these actions? Is it relevant, is it needed? What is the message you are trying to convey? Is To Kill a Mockingbird a racist fiction for depicting racism? I would assume most will answer no. Then that is the same way with us writing (unless Harper Lee got the 'can write racism without being racist' badge, then in that case consider me a racist I guess)

I am not at all invalidating people who would rather stay away from these topics, or write "just for fun". Social commentaries can be a bit hard to swallow when you're tired and reaaally just want to take a break and write cute romance scenes and that is fine. The thing is though, some people do want to write "darker themes" (I placed in quotation since I am aware 'dark' means differently from one people to another) and exploring the true humanist values. It does not make you evil to question what morality is, does it not? I say this is the rawest way to explain why someone, or in this case I could be so fascinated by these themes. But alas, the key is to be considerate in writing AND in choosing your partners: simply set your limits and make it clear what you enjoy writing. If your partner disagrees, then that will be the end of it. Neither is wrong, just 'not one's cup of tea'. I don't like vanilla, you don't like chocolate.

Is it possible to separate the creation and the creator? My answer is yes and no, depending on how you write. Me personally, I put a little bit of myself in my writing (not to be confused with self-inserts, those are not my thing personally, but you do you). Your stories are only truly breathing once you put your heart in what you write, usually subconsciously, but inevitable to happen when you simply care about something wholeheartedly. Whether a cause, a story, or a character. So my writing speaks a lot about me and what I care about, and it means a shit damn ton.

So I think no. If your writing means a lot to you, then your story becomes an extension of you. But would you judge a writer based of only one character? Would you say Tolkien is Sauron himself? Is Sauron a good person? But what do we judge Tolkien for? The world he had created. The stories, the tales of bravery, and what it means to choose to be good. THAT is Lord of the Rings, not you know. Whatever the hell Sauron was doing. And speaking of framing, it's not like we don't know who's the good guy who's the bad guy here, no? That is one example of how to frame a story properly, albeit a bit more 'in your face', but I digress. Your values and messages show, because otherwise I don't think it would make for good story.

But that is my opinion of course. If you want to debate, do DM me civilly, please?
 
We're all just ice cream in RPNation's hot car, but I'll do this with non-roleplayer examples just to be safe.
Is it ever acceptable to portray these themes in writing, even if the writers themselves are not bigoted? Is it possible to portray these themes, even in a negative light (such as the bigoted characters being antagonists in the story)? Lastly, is it truly possible to separate the content of the art from its creator?
Rod Serling made the Twilight Zone to confront bigotry in ways censors wouldn't allow for anywhere else, the golden age of comics O.Gs were much the same. More recently, a 2011 Korean drama about a real-life child abuse scandal led to public outcry that rewrote their legal system for the better, and Taika Waititi's movie about Hitler won him an Academy Award, which he dedicated to indigenous youth.

So non-evil people confront evil themes all the time, but it's worth bearing in mind it can be done carelessly and badly, see Fight Club, meant to be a takedown of toxic masculinity, instead they made it look too cool and people made fight clubs and introduced "special snowflake" to our vocabularies, oops.

So, probably something to handle with a very light touch.
 

s e v e n

bite me
We're all just ice cream in RPNation's hot car, but I'll do this with non-roleplayer examples just to be safe.

Rod Serling made the Twilight Zone to confront bigotry in ways censors wouldn't allow for anywhere else, the golden age of comics O.Gs were much the same. More recently, a 2011 Korean drama about a real-life child abuse scandal led to public outcry that rewrote their legal system for the better, and Taika Waititi's movie about Hitler won him an Academy Award, which he dedicated to indigenous youth.

So non-evil people confront evil themes all the time, but it's worth bearing in mind it can be done carelessly and badly, see Fight Club, meant to be a takedown of toxic masculinity, instead they made it look too cool and people made fight clubs and introduced "special snowflake" to our vocabularies, oops.

So, probably something to handle with a very light touch.

I agree, the topic isn't the issue, it is the HANDLING. "There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written or badly written."
 

Merciless Medic

Walking Pokemon Dictionary
but it's worth bearing in mind it can be done carelessly and badly, see Fight Club, meant to be a takedown of toxic masculinity

I mean, when I watched it, I saw the dude having a mental breakdown as a second personality from his Disassociative Identity Disorder created a new version of himself called Tyler (ever wonder why you never hear the protag's name come up at all besides Tyler?) and it was... considering I have DID, it's definitely really... jarring to see it. Tyler was a version of himself that he wanted to be and the mundane things of his life got more and more unbearable. Until that crash or whatever he gone through. Once he had it, everything got even worse and he soon got depressed, and then Tyler ended up popping in more fully because the protag needed him to shake up his life a little. And then he divulged into it too much. The dude was beating himself up and those people joined him thinking that beating yourself up and learning how to fight was cool. He would switch in very subtle ways and you never see Tyler and the protag together with anybody else unless you see one of them in the background. Once one came into view, everybody else will put their attention on the one that was more active (Tyler became more and more active). That was also why the issue with the woman was confusing. The protag didn't even know Tyler was a portion of him until later.

Still, I didn't really see toxic masculinity. I just saw someone's lack of treatment for a debilitating disorder go unnoticed until the very end where he essentially "killed" the personality, which you can do by the way. It requires trauma, but good lord is it painful.

Though, I guess I don't see toxic masculinity in it at all, maybe I'm just missing something. XD Was turning all those men into non-individualistic slaves for Tyler's rampage a toxic masculinity thing? Because it looked quite grotesque. XD
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
It is absolutely possible to portray these things in a respectful light. Where the issue is for most people, I would presume, is roleplaying specifically.

After all, you do spend a lot of time in your character's head. If you write out hateful things from the perspective of the aggressor, it can feel jarring. It can make you question the motives of the writer, too. I mean, have you been on the internet? I wouldn't be too shocked if someone genuinely hated POC and wanted to write it out under the veneer of "Ahahaha, it's just MY CHARACTER, guys! You have no right to feel uncomfy!" It's kind of similar to some guys writing out their male characters harassing women and it feeling like an obvious wish fulfillment. I am not saying that the writer is always 100% a bad person and that those are always motivations, but you really shouldn't be shocked that some people may side eye you.
 

nerdy tangents

icon by picrew
Edit ::

So my phone is fighting me so I’m gonna do the tl:dr version :

know your readers when it comes to writing bigotry. A non straight person of color is going to identify very differently with historical racism or homophobia then a straight white person.

And it’s also okay for people to not want to read stories where the people like them are dehumanized. It’s okay to want just a bit of fun escapism.

I struggle with that in fantasy stories. I love deconstructing the bigotry in the fantasy worlds we create, but I also have to acknowledge sometimes people just what to pretend to have magic powers. And that’s valid.

Especially with how perpetually awful real life is for a wide variety of people, it’s okay to just want to turn your brain off and make a happy story where there is no dehumanization allowed.
 
Last edited:

GojiBean

That One Fear In My Enemy's Eyes
Hoyo!

Everything that exists in our world is fair game for writing (not always role-playing though).

When writing your own stories, there are no rules or hard restrictions other than what you are personally comfortable with. For example, if you're writing your own novel and your lead character is female, and she happens to be raped which leads to a revenge quest, then that rape is a perfectly viable story beat that you can write with pride. If other people don't like it that you touched on that topic for your story, that's too bad. They don't have a say in the matter. If they don't like it, they shouldn't be reading it. Period.

So, never be afraid to write your own stories. If they use sensitive socio-political topics, so be it. There's not a single person or group of people alive who have the right to say "you can't write about that."

When it comes to role-playing, obviously every site has their own rules about what topics they will and will not tolerate appearing in their forums and posting threads. So you must respect that. As the site owners, they have every right to determine what content is and is not shared on their platform.

But when it's just you writing for your own enjoyment or professional future goals, write anything and everything that you want.

Never restrict yourself based on the sensitivity of other people to topics that either interest you, or that you think need to be written about.

Cheers!

~ GojiBean
 

Saturninum

HONEEEEYY? WHERE'S MY SUPER SUIT?!
I'm gay. I grew up in rural, flaming homophobic, threaten-to-kill-you-for-breathing-in-their-daughter's-direction Appalachia. I had people threaten to run me over with their boosted trucks, threaten to shoot me in the head with their hunting rifles, peers tell me they were staying away because they thought I had a particular disease, adults proudly tell me I was going to burn in hell...the whole homophobic experience. Suffice to say, I've seen and been victim to the crux of violent homophobia in the modern age. Here's where the real hot topic comes in: it would be offensive for a writer to ignore that plight completely. It's typically not done maliciously - just straight or cis people trying to avoid stepping on toes - but still, it's irking to watch people try to act like everything's kumbaya and homophobia doesn't and has never existed. Like, that was a pretty big part of my early gay experience. You know, the whole trying to avoid getting murdered by angry rednecks and all. I wasn't welcomed with big, open arms and a "we accept you!!" from everyone in the community.

If you're aiming for realism or historical accuracy, you can't just ignore huge problems in ethnicities, religions, or other discriminated against groups' backgrounds. It's like whitewashing Thanksgiving by telling kids that the Pilgrims and Native Americans got along perfectly well, and they all had a nice little picnic and shared cultural differences with each other. Rightfully, many people would tell you that's absolutely horrible because you're completely ignoring the part where Native Americans got massacred by the Pilgrims in an attempt to make it family-friendly. And that it's also bad because you're convincing the kids that it was actually a good thing and his people didn't do anything wrong.

In the same light, I have a Choctaw character that belongs to a 1960s setting in rural Louisiana. Let's be frank here. The 1960s were racist as fuck, even without being in the buttcrack of the south. If I were to be uncomfortable with racism, I should not write an indigenous character in that time period, in that place - they're going to be called slurs, experience xenophobia and racism, and probably have threats made against them at bare minimum. Erasing the -phobia and mistreatment in the pasts of certain groups is a bad habit to get into, because you're essentially wanting to reap all the benefits of 'diversity' without any of the consequences. Those people in real life don't get to just ignore all that nastiness, because for them, it's a real part of what they went through or are going through, and there's a good chance it ain't going away anytime soon.

Is it acceptable to say 'but Saturn I'm writing for fun I don't want all that gross stuff in my RP?' Perhaps. But if that's the case, you should really consider whether or not realistic or historic settings are for you. If you don't want racism, homophobia, or any other -phobic topics in your RP, you can always make your own setting that isn't set in a realistic portrayal of rural Louisiana in the 1960s. In my personal opinion, nobody should be erasing the struggles of minority groups from existence just because it makes them uncomfortable. That's sort of the point. You should feel uncomfortable about it, because the people who actually went through that shit felt a whole lot worse than just 'ew icky.' Know what you're getting into. Realize that not everything is flowers and puppies. If you don't like that, reconsider writing that character, or reconsider the setting to exchange it for something not based on reality.

I'm sort of soapboxing here. To get relevant again, no, someone writing a villain or character that's -phobic doesnt' mean they're -phobic. I've written homophobic characters before. I, advocate for being flagrantly gay because women are cool and it's 2021 for god's sake, am obviously not homophobic. It's important to draw the line between IC actions and OOC actions. It's the same idea of my character punching yours in the face doesn't mean I want to punch you.
 

Jannah

I suppose I'm back. Hello again.
I'm gay. I grew up in rural, flaming homophobic, threaten-to-kill-you-for-breathing-in-their-daughter's-direction Appalachia. I had people threaten to run me over with their boosted trucks, threaten to shoot me in the head with their hunting rifles, peers tell me they were staying away because they thought I had a particular disease, adults proudly tell me I was going to burn in hell...the whole homophobic experience. Suffice to say, I've seen and been victim to the crux of violent homophobia in the modern age. Here's where the real hot topic comes in: it would be offensive for a writer to ignore that plight completely. It's typically not done maliciously - just straight or cis people trying to avoid stepping on toes - but still, it's irking to watch people try to act like everything's kumbaya and homophobia doesn't and has never existed. Like, that was a pretty big part of my early gay experience. You know, the whole trying to avoid getting murdered by angry rednecks and all. I wasn't welcomed with big, open arms and a "we accept you!!" from everyone in the community.

If you're aiming for realism or historical accuracy, you can't just ignore huge problems in ethnicities, religions, or other discriminated against groups' backgrounds. It's like whitewashing Thanksgiving by telling kids that the Pilgrims and Native Americans got along perfectly well, and they all had a nice little picnic and shared cultural differences with each other. Rightfully, many people would tell you that's absolutely horrible because you're completely ignoring the part where Native Americans got massacred by the Pilgrims in an attempt to make it family-friendly. And that it's also bad because you're convincing the kids that it was actually a good thing and his people didn't do anything wrong.

In the same light, I have a Choctaw character that belongs to a 1960s setting in rural Louisiana. Let's be frank here. The 1960s were racist as fuck, even without being in the buttcrack of the south. If I were to be uncomfortable with racism, I should not write an indigenous character in that time period, in that place - they're going to be called slurs, experience xenophobia and racism, and probably have threats made against them at bare minimum. Erasing the -phobia and mistreatment in the pasts of certain groups is a bad habit to get into, because you're essentially wanting to reap all the benefits of 'diversity' without any of the consequences. Those people in real life don't get to just ignore all that nastiness, because for them, it's a real part of what they went through or are going through, and there's a good chance it ain't going away anytime soon.

Is it acceptable to say 'but Saturn I'm writing for fun I don't want all that gross stuff in my RP?' Perhaps. But if that's the case, you should really consider whether or not realistic or historic settings are for you. If you don't want racism, homophobia, or any other -phobic topics in your RP, you can always make your own setting that isn't set in a realistic portrayal of rural Louisiana in the 1960s. In my personal opinion, nobody should be erasing the struggles of minority groups from existence just because it makes them uncomfortable. That's sort of the point. You should feel uncomfortable about it, because the people who actually went through that shit felt a whole lot worse than just 'ew icky.' Know what you're getting into. Realize that not everything is flowers and puppies. If you don't like that, reconsider writing that character, or reconsider the setting to exchange it for something not based on reality.

I'm sort of soapboxing here. To get relevant again, no, someone writing a villain or character that's -phobic doesnt' mean they're -phobic. I've written homophobic characters before. I, advocate for being flagrantly gay because women are cool and it's 2021 for god's sake, am obviously not homophobic. It's important to draw the line between IC actions and OOC actions. It's the same idea of my character punching yours in the face doesn't mean I want to punch you.
As someone who enjoys writing in realistic historical settings, I'll say this is spot on. It would feel much worse to erase those themes and pretend they didn't exist. When I'm looking for RP partners I do also make it quite clear in my interest checks that I am interested in exploring darker and more controversial themes and that those who aren't comfortable with that may not be the best partner for me.

Of course I do write the fluffy shit sometimes too if I just want a break from the heavier stuff, but I do like having the freedom to explore these topics. It's not always easy to be honest about these occurrences of the past, especially if one is part of the group who did the oppressing, but that's precisely why we should be open and honest about them. Society needs to learn the truth instead of it being sugar-coated and as a politically conscious person I like to create stories with meaning. Sometimes the most difficult conversations are precisely the ones we should be having. It is happening here in Canada right now regarding the residential schools and our colonial past. As someone with indigenous family I welcome it 100%.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top