Defaults

In “Are Dark-skinned Women Really Unattractive?,” Maurice of The Thinking Man’s Zone poses a question with an easy knee jerk reaction for some people (“Of course not!”).  But that answer is like putting paint over the way world often works, and, while I don’t agree with all of Maurice’s thoughts, I certainly agree with the gist.  Ideally, of course not, but we live on top of a lot of history in which one kind of beauty has been pushed for a long time.  This reminded me why I sometimes relate to characters like Hellboy more than anyone else who’s supposed to be noble in various forms of fiction.  In the most broadest sense, I suppose I’m someone formed in the western mold–just not someone whom entirely fits in with the physical western defaults for good and beauty.

A lot of my favorite characters do (fit that mold), and it’s always easy enough to chalk up my enjoyment of them to some default or universal experience.  Beyond that, movie- and film-wise, there are certainly a few actors and actresses outside of the classic hero or heroine archetype.  But they very rarely get to ruminate on the way their looks can put them at odds with the world, or if they do (and they’re not in a comedy), it’s the entirety of their existence.  They’re a bit like the moral in a story (and, on a practical level) just as dismissible.

A low-quality crop of character used to show character in critical commentary

Hellboy, via Wikipedia – © M. Mignolia

But when a character is only kind of human, like Dark Horse comics’ demon raised by a good-natured human, the “Who am I?” question gets a buffer zone from the reality of how the appearance of race can rank who we find particularly human or not.  Hellboy’s origin, in a strange way, parallels Superman (super-strong being found by surrogate parent), only Hellboy doesn’t look like the all-American hero.  He literally looks like the ultimate villain.  In the movie version of the character’s continuity, he’s fated to be.  But, ultimately, he’s a character who is defined by his being human–just a moody one for whom a sense of humor is pretty important.  He’d love nothing more than to not know anything about where he comes from (very non-ideal-molded human), but it’s also something he has to come to terms with.

I occasionally watch Parks and Rec, a great show on NBC that probably doesn’t need much of an introduction.  It centers on Leslie Knope, an upbeat small town politician, and the people who work or live around her in fictional Pawnee, Indiana.  I’ve often found it how ironic it is–that a character as meta politically correct as Leslie is unaware of the tropes given to Donna Meagle, the least fleshed out character on the show.  She likes to party;  and she’s a bit of a ‘diva,’ according to the character’s Wikipedia listing as of when this was posted.  And she’s played by someone who I know can be every bit as funny and human as the all the other characters on the show.  But she doesn’t look like Rashida Jones.

(Oh.  According to Wikipedia, Hellboy was in a featured ad of a Celebrate Diversity comic catalog.  Reading that made me shake my head and laugh a little.)

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