Stereotypical representation in Graphic narritive: East vs the West

14 Mar

Character portrayal functions differently between the east and the West coast. Graphic  narritive can serve as a great platform to create loveable, plausible and in depth characters, however, there are no instructions to follow in order to create a good character in this medium and illustrators form their characters by manipulating one variable drastic lyrics to lay down the foundation for character development. That factor is stereotypes!

Stereotypes play a massive role in character formation no matter how intense or subtle and the manipulation of that factor can determine a characters future, as far as development goes.

Let’s take superman for example. We all know him, slick hair, overpowered abilities, wants to protect man kind, yada, yada.but if you remove the costume, he is no longer superman. Over years of reading visuals, viewers have become accustomed to associating purpose with image, assuming that appearance is connected with who a character is or what they stand for. 

This is especially the case with minor or villain characters. The evil French guy with the sinister moustache or the bad guy who looks like his mommy dosnt love him (Or her).

Character stereotypes is inevitable as well as nessasary, mainly because it is the key to making characters instantly relatable and refer able to readers. Readers would be more invested if they are reading a character they can relate to. However, Minor Characters in western comics end up in the habit of being overly stereotyped to server as a ‘filler’ character, which acts as a stepping stone for the main characters succsess. This in turn leaves no room for development, because their image is stereotyped so much, that readers can guess what their character represents, because the visualisation of the character gives it away. 

If one of my characters is a black guy, who is a criminal, that ALWAYS has a weapon with him, you would automatically assume that he’s a lowlife  (and rightly so). This in turn will make you forget about the character because he serves more as a plot device then a character. All the characterisation is locked within his appearance. 

This is apparent for Western Graphic Narritives, but for Eastern Graphic narritive (most notably manga), they take a diffrent approach. 

Ever heard of the saying that ‘all Asians look the same’? (I ment no offense by that, seriously).in Japanese art, they take this concept, and mix it into their narritive. Most asain characters share simular facial traits and more noticeably, hair styles (that being spiky-ish hair). This may sound strange as a concept, but as a result, manga creators can focus more of the narritive and how that narritive shapes the characters they create, rather then creating the characters to drive the narritive forward. 

A lot of Oriental main characters may look simular, but because viewers have become accustomed to the generic look of manga characters, creators can use their characters as a ‘Blank Canvas’, creating their character through changing the narritive. Characters can turn from being morally strong to mentally unstable like Light from death note, from a feature that is placed within the narritive. The chance in narritive in turn, changes the characters appearance. Injuries and scars for example are a product of a tough battle a character had to go through and can serve as a good remember for when the narritive took a sharp turn in its storytelling.

This is a good technique to use and a safe technique to use when developing a character. Character development becomes a tree, with many branches to venture down. Of course the downside to this is a lack of stereotypical visualisation because as I mentioned before, creators use the concept of Asians looking simular to each other.

I beleieve there needs to be a balance to this sort of thing. It allows viewers to be reminded of what the character stands for, but use the development and the narritive to stretch and test the limitations of a characters values and morals. Don’t get me wrong though,those ways that are mentioned before are great ways to create a character. Because of it, there are alot of creative characters out there. I just believe that it’s not the only way to create a truly unique character.

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Posted by on March 14, 2017 in Uncategorized


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