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Author Topic: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation  (Read 4699 times)

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #25 on: March 11, 2016, 09:18:46 AM »
"Braveheart" came up in discussion with a friend the other night as well as the many inaccuracies in the movie.  I wasn't aware of them until they were pointed out to me and I'm sure that only those who are students of history or have taken an interest in the period for some reason.  Had more people noticed, or any or group or organization, some comments may have been made.
An this.

I'm so glad I found this video while looking for what made Braveheart so innacurate. It is just...woowww... I cant believe how much they got wrong.

Spoiler: Click to Show/Hide


Side note: Real life is much more interesting when looked at. Its ironic that by making things innacurate they take out some of the things that made it historic in the first place.

If Rowling had made the Native Portayal more accurate/just better in general, it probably would be even better than what she had written down at first.

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #26 on: March 11, 2016, 09:23:35 AM »
If Rowling had made the Native Portayal more accurate/just better in general, it probably would be even better than what she had written down at first.

Generally, if you're describing a supernatural belief of a group you are not a part of as flat out 'evil', you probably need to do more research.  Not saying it's always wrong, but the odds are particularly high that you're re-quoting propaganda.

Offline TairisTopic starter

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #27 on: March 15, 2016, 06:07:29 PM »
But why does it need to be accurate? It's fiction. It doesn't need to be accurate anymore than Dan Brown's horrible novels need to be accurate. They're meant to entertain not educate you about an entire culture. Authors should not be harassed into kowtowing to any group that decides how their culture should be described in a fictional book.

Would everyone be as up in arms if everything was about Scientology instead of Native American religion? Or would we be talking about how those crazy Scientologists were once again out trying to suppress dissenting views?

Why exactly is it that Native American religion is 100% sacred and should only be portrayed 100% accurately but everyone is a-okay with Good Omens by Gaiman and Pratchett that basically spoofs the entirely of christian mythology?

Offline Gadifriald

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #28 on: March 15, 2016, 10:08:45 PM »
I guess you've never heard the absolute fits that Christians have when their faith is in anyway represented in book or television or film in a way they don't like! Ever seen the movie "Life of Brian" by the Monty Python crew? Christians of all stripes were screaming to the sky about and had boycotts and more against the film! Moslems have killed people over cartoons! People of many faiths do not take kindly to having their faiths misrepresented and the rest of us sometimes support their stance and sometimes not. For the most part, people have a tendency to be more supportive and understanding of historically screwed over and oppressed minorities such as Native Americans when it comes them getting upset about such things. And it is hard to find minorities more screwed over and oppressed in history than Native Americans...
« Last Edit: March 15, 2016, 10:10:41 PM by Gadifriald »

Offline Anteros

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #29 on: March 19, 2016, 05:56:04 AM »
But why does it need to be accurate? It's fiction. It doesn't need to be accurate anymore than Dan Brown's horrible novels need to be accurate. They're meant to entertain not educate you about an entire culture. Authors should not be harassed into kowtowing to any group that decides how their culture should be described in a fictional book.

Would everyone be as up in arms if everything was about Scientology instead of Native American religion? Or would we be talking about how those crazy Scientologists were once again out trying to suppress dissenting views?

Why exactly is it that Native American religion is 100% sacred and should only be portrayed 100% accurately but everyone is a-okay with Good Omens by Gaiman and Pratchett that basically spoofs the entirely of christian mythology?

The difference is a matter of context.
Well known, rich and powerful organizations being incorrectly represented by someone from their own culture is different from an abused minority being incorrectly represented by someone from the culture that oppress them.
Native American culture as suffered immensely already and in a way, every lack of respect it suffers is one more aggression against it.
Put simply, the consequences of misrepresentation will  hurt the Native Americans more than it would the Catholic Church or the Scientologists, which is obvious given how well those churches weathered the various scandals they were involved in.

Offline Florence

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #30 on: March 21, 2016, 05:16:27 AM »
Oh, I attribute Rowling's offensive misinterpretation to pure ignorance! It is much the same as when American authors try to write things set in past cultures and times in Britain and Ireland and get things terribly wrong.

As someone working on a story that draws from a number of cultural sources that are not my own, including Japanese culture... which... lets face it... tends to be romanticized to an insulting to degree by us Americans... I like to think that its not as simple as "People are always going to fail at writing about things from different cultures."

I think its more, as others have said, that one has to do the legwork. Its more to say that "Lazy people are usually going to fail at writing about things from different cultures." Any and all foreign cultures I plan to draw from for my story are cultures I either know a lot about, or plan to learn more about and adjust my writing as needed.

But why? Why is this somehow worse than Braveheart or the literally thousands of books and movies that use Christian mythology for their fantasy universes? I'm not a fan of the Catholic Church but you have to admit they get used as a plot device more than basically any historical organization in the universe.



Braveheart falls under the same category as The Last Samurai for me. Its an entertaining and enjoyable movie, so long as you go in with the acceptance that its not even remotely accurate to its setting.

The difference, though, is that the Scottish and the Japanese are both prominent groups, with no shortage of sources you can turn to for historical accuracy. Christianity, as well. In fact, in Western culture, Christianity is widespread and pervasive. There is no shortage of clergymen willing to correct any misgivings you may have about Christian ideology.

Native American cultures, on the other hand, have a long tradition of persecution, genocide and cultural appropriation. They went from being the dominant cultures in America, to being pushed to the verge of extinction, in a very literal sense. Then, to add insult to injury, their beliefs and traditions have been constantly misrepresented, and often even used as a joke. I mean, for crap's sake, the Redskins are a thing. They're STILL a thing. Even though basically everyone has been begging them to change their name, they're STILL the "Redskins." Hell, in the Lone Ranger, Johnny Depp was basically doing redface. In 2013. (Yes, he argued that he has "Native American ancestry", but so do a LOT of Americans. Hell, I do too.)

The fact of the matter is, in America, and I'm sure the UK isn't much better, most people BELIEVE the fictional versions of Native culture they've been fed.

I'll be honest. When I first heard this story, I didn't get the outrage either. Instead of just plugging my ears and going, "if I don't get it, its not offensive", like some people do; I took it upon myself to figure out WHY its offensive, and... yeah... once you really start to grasp the level of both literal and cultural genocide that the native people of America have faced, and the offensive ways that their culture continues to be appropriated even to this day... its not that hard to understand why they're so upset.

Its easy to go, "If its not offensive for x, its not offensive for y", but that rests on the fallacious assumption that all cultural groups have had the same experiences.

As others have said, it boils down to context. Too often, people seem content to ignore context and nuance and pretend that a one-size-fits-all solution will solve every problem: Treat every group the same, ignore historical context, and then everything will get better. Its the same sort of outrage you'll often see whenever people try to support any historically disenfranchised group. Try and support black people, white people accuse you of being racist. Try and support women, men accuse you of being sexist. At the end of the day, you have to realize that the world is full of nuance, and full of gray areas. Not every group of people has had the same experiences, and as a result, not every group has the same degree of power. If we ever want TRUE equality, we need to acknowledge that, and do what we can to even the playing field; we can't simply pretend the playing field is already level and then get angry when people try to point out that its not.

... and I just NOW noticed that Gadifriald already covered both the Johnny Depp thing AND the Redskins thing... ah well.

As for Twilight, I find that offensive on a far more existential level, much like the existence of Jar Jar Binks.

Edit: Actually, I take back what I said about Braveheart. Its been a while since I watched it and I think I blocked out the last time I tried watching it as an adult. Come to think of it, it's... not even all that good really. I mean, not even taking into account the rather offensive (and historically... questionable) portrayal of the Prince Edward.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2016, 05:25:55 AM by Florence »

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #31 on: March 22, 2016, 05:02:51 PM »
It's been a long time since I read the Harry Potter books, and I haven't actually read any of this newer, apparently controversial stuff. J.K. in particular is no stranger to controversy though, and ever since the Harry Potter franchise caught on she's been going under siege from all around.

Now, it's my understanding, and please correct me if I'm wrong, that what she has written (The stuff that stirred this particular pot) is actually set inside the Harry Potter universe?

Offline TairisTopic starter

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #32 on: March 25, 2016, 07:34:10 PM »
The difference, though, is that the Scottish and the Japanese are both prominent groups, with no shortage of sources you can turn to for historical accuracy. Christianity, as well. In fact, in Western culture, Christianity is widespread and pervasive. There is no shortage of clergymen willing to correct any misgivings you may have about Christian ideology.

Native American cultures, on the other hand, have a long tradition of persecution, genocide and cultural appropriation. They went from being the dominant cultures in America, to being pushed to the verge of extinction, in a very literal sense. Then, to add insult to injury, their beliefs and traditions have been constantly misrepresented, and often even used as a joke. I mean, for crap's sake, the Redskins are a thing. They're STILL a thing. Even though basically everyone has been begging them to change their name, they're STILL the "Redskins." Hell, in the Lone Ranger, Johnny Depp was basically doing redface. In 2013. (Yes, he argued that he has "Native American ancestry", but so do a LOT of Americans. Hell, I do too.)

The fact of the matter is, in America, and I'm sure the UK isn't much better, most people BELIEVE the fictional versions of Native culture they've been fed.

So the solution here is to badger authors because we have a populace of morons?

And for that matter why is a fiction author somehow obligated to factually portray any historical item? Is it now somehow the responsibility of every author to educate people? If so James Patterson has written some many detective novels he should be required to be a federal agent and Harry Turtledove is basically the anti-christ.

I also find it odd that everyone is so picky about who qualifies for protection. Literally all of history is about one culture or another being destroyed, absorbed, appropriated, or melded. That King Arthur movie with Clive Owen butchered not just one culture's history but multiple, completely using whatever minute detail they wanted from christianity, celtic tribes, roman history, and a few other odd balls thrown in.

But while it got critically panned for being an awful movie, there wasn't any CNN articles about the 'harm done to the Celtic faiths and cultures'. Celtic culture was effectively wiped out by the anglo-saxons. Much like native american culture the language, history, and such is kept alive in a handful of isolated communities and primarily in historical texts. So what's the difference? Is there a statute of limitations on when a culture is 'mainstream' enough that nobody cares anymore?

Quote
If we ever want TRUE equality, we need to acknowledge that, and do what we can to even the playing field; we can't simply pretend the playing field is already level and then get angry when people try to point out that its not.

That is literally the opposite of equality. People always seem to confuse equality with fairness. That is, just like affirmative action and various other programs, telling a group of people 'You get special privileges because of your history'. But it also becomes clear that no one really cares about people being equal. They care about making sure people go along with what they consider 'fair'.

Equality means everyone has the same choices and opportunities. Equality is Child A is shorter than Child B, but both get to try out for the basketball team. It doesn't mean Child A should be allowed to join the basketball team if he's not a better player than Child B. Nor does it mean Child A should be somehow protected from anyone mentioning how tall he is in public.

It's been a long time since I read the Harry Potter books, and I haven't actually read any of this newer, apparently controversial stuff. J.K. in particular is no stranger to controversy though, and ever since the Harry Potter franchise caught on she's been going under siege from all around.

Now, it's my understanding, and please correct me if I'm wrong, that what she has written (The stuff that stirred this particular pot) is actually set inside the Harry Potter universe?

Yes, it seems to be kind of a 'history of the Harry Potter universe in the Americas'.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2016, 07:36:53 PM by Tairis »

Offline Florence

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #33 on: March 26, 2016, 02:47:01 PM »
That is literally the opposite of equality. People always seem to confuse equality with fairness. That is, just like affirmative action and various other programs, telling a group of people 'You get special privileges because of your history'. But it also becomes clear that no one really cares about people being equal. They care about making sure people go along with what they consider 'fair'.

Equality means everyone has the same choices and opportunities. Equality is Child A is shorter than Child B, but both get to try out for the basketball team. It doesn't mean Child A should be allowed to join the basketball team if he's not a better player than Child B. Nor does it mean Child A should be somehow protected from anyone mentioning how tall he is in public.

I don't have the time to write up a full reply to this right now (Easter dinner with family), but I did want to address this one point.

The problem is that we DON'T have equality. For a simple abstract; if Group A has 3 apples, Group B has 2 Apples, and Group C has 4 apples. Giving all three groups another apple won't make them equal. In fact, you may have to take an apple away from Group C to give it to Group B. At the very least, Group C isn't getting any more apples until Groups A and B have caught up.

Now, I'm not proposing we start stripping peoples of rights, but we have to acknowledge that, yes, the path to equality might not be fair to the people who have the most power right now; but it NEEDS to happen if we want to be equal in the future.

To bring this back a bit more to the matter at hand, this means that a one-size fits all solution CANNOT work. We cannot treat everyone exactly the same and expect inequalities to just even out on their own. We should be sensitive to the disadvantages faced by certain groups, and factor that into how we act. We cannot pretend that Christianity and traditional Navajo beliefs are on the same footing in American culture, for instance.

Now, of course that doesn't mean that we should ignore the practical concerns of the present, like who is most qualified for a job or a position on a team. However, if a disproportionate number of the people qualified for a position are of a certain group; we need to figure out WHY and not just simply hand wave it with the simple platitude that 'we gave everyone a fair shot'.

Now, I've really got to run, but I'll try to work out a more proper reply when I get the chance.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2016, 02:49:43 PM by Florence »

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #34 on: March 26, 2016, 03:31:13 PM »
The example I've seen is three kids standing next to a fence.  One is tall enough to see over it, the other two are not.  Giving them each a box to stand on results in the tallest kid and the second-tallest kid being able to see over the fence, but the third kid is still getting an eyeful of wood-grain - but that's 'fair and equal'. Giving a little extra consideration (another box) to the shortest kid means that everyone can see.  That's 'equity', even if the tallest kid doesn't get a box.

Offline Sethala

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #35 on: March 26, 2016, 09:27:08 PM »
I haven't read the story in question myself, so this is going off of just what I'm assuming the story is like based on comments here...

I think, in general, if a fantasy author is going to use elements from real-world culture in a purely fictional setting, they're allowed to have as much or as little regard to the truth of that culture as possible.  As an example, if the next Star Wars movie had a group of people that acted like Native Americans, and drew a lot of influence from their culture but also made up or changed a lot of things, that would be perfectly fine because, even though they've taken elements from that culture, it's clear that the culture they've created isn't the same culture, because it exists solely in a fictional universe.

Doing so with a story that does exist in our world, however, is a bit more of a grey area.  Sometimes, the story is fantastic enough to make it clear that many elements are purely fictional, and that you shouldn't take it as a history lesson - though unfortunately, I'm not enough of a movie buff to think of a good example offhand.  Other times however, it goes too close to looking like the culture presented could be true that it tricks people into believing it is true, or at least that some elements of it are true.  That, I think, is a valid target for criticism, especially if it's of a culture that doesn't get very much media attention otherwise.  From what I'm reading here, it seems that Rowling's new story gets closer to that end of the spectrum.

Offline Anteros

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #36 on: March 26, 2016, 11:59:37 PM »
I don't get why it's so difficult to just accept that some act will hurt some groups or people and not some others, or affect them in different ways or at different degrees?


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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #37 on: March 27, 2016, 01:13:55 AM »
Yes, it seems to be kind of a 'history of the Harry Potter universe in the Americas'.

I figured that was the case, but I wasn't sure.

If that is indeed the case and it's all fiction and not meant to actually teach anyone anything, then I can't see how it would be wrong of her to draw inspiration from native American culture and mirror them into her alternate, fictional world. I mean, the argument that it's not her world or whatever doesn't stand, because the Potterverse quite literally is her world.

That is of course not a comment on the quality of what she has written. If anyone feels that she's been too lazy with it and not make it into everything it could have been, that's fine! A lot of people feel like that about a lot of different fiction, but at the end of the day it is still fiction. It's not a comment on the actual diversity and history of various native American tribes and their society, it's a description of how her version of their society works in her made-up universe. If she was trying to pass it off as fact or claiming that it was a detailed and well-rounded look at their culture, then that might cause some issues, but it doesn't seem like this is the case.

This notion that: "My ancestors didn't survive colonization for this kind of treatment!" is outrageous in my opinion. A complete and total overreaction to something that is at worst a case of lazy, unfulfilling fiction. You might go as far as to even consider it rude. Is it an assault on the native American communities though? No, of course it isn't!

We have a shared heritage as humans on this planet, and we will inevitably have to share it. We can't go around saying that someone can't depict our culture without first consulting with an arbitrary number of people about it beforehand. You can't copyright history.

Am I completely missing the mark here? I don't feel like I'm particularly unfair by saying that very little harm has been done here. This is not a phenomenon exclusive to native American culture, this happens everywhere. How many times have we not seen laughable or crude depictions of African tribes as rambling witch doctors, or vikings that all stand 2.10 meters tall with bull's horns sticking out of their helmets. I'd dare say that at this point pretty much all cultures have at some point been misrepresented in fiction, but the whole point of fiction is that you don't have to be factual, isn't it?

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #38 on: March 27, 2016, 11:13:19 AM »
I'm not a moron and neither am I ignorant of how literature influences people.  What I am is someone who is descended from two groups of people whose existence give me perspective.  On the one hand I'm Irish, descended from generations who were the target of annihilation by the British.  Over a century back there were relatives who left Ireland for America because they were involved in a plot against the English which resulted in the death of an army officer.  Had they been captured they and their entire families would have been arrested and likely killed.  They lived in a time when their culture was demeaned and debased and their very language became forbidden.  They were oppressed and as a result at that time to be Irish was to be scum.

On the other side I descend from great-grandparents who were children when they left Germany around the beginning of the 20th century and later gave sanctuary to friends and relatives escaping Hitler and his twisted desire to wipe out the Jews.  Had that madman been successful in his wants he would have taken over the world for the sole purpose of exterminating not just a single group of people but any group he decided was not as pure as the Aryan race.

I see our Native American citizens who today live in poverty for the most part trying to maintain at least some of what their ancestors gave this world and I see others being taught all the wrong things about them because of people who have little to no respect for a civilization, a history, a culture that is on many levels more closely bound to the human spirit than any of the colonizing countries and peoples who have come to this side of the world and looked down on the indigenous peoples and deemed them unworthy of existence.

To speak out in any way against oppression, whether physical or cultural, is not to be scoffed at.  Had more people done this when the actual acts against any people were being carried out this discussion would not be necessary today.  To make a culture part of an ongoing project is not the problem.  The problem is the dissemination of thoughts and ideas that take away from any of us what rightly belongs to us.  We all deserve respect for who we are and where we came from and we all have the obligation to respect others and those things that make them who and what they are.

J.K. Rowling is a powerful person who has used her power in a way that is offending others.  That is her responsibility and something that she'll be remembered for doing.  Each and every person who reads what she writes and believes it to be true, and I can guarantee there will be more than a few, and then carries that distorted so-called knowledge out into the world and does harm can be laid at her feet in offering to her imagination.

Offline TairisTopic starter

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #39 on: March 27, 2016, 06:40:00 PM »
I don't get why it's so difficult to just accept that some act will hurt some groups or people and not some others, or affect them in different ways or at different degrees?

I have no issue with the concept. I have an issue with the public/cultural acceptance of 'you're not allowed to offend these people'. My question has been: why do Native Americans get supported for calling their religious belief's sacred and shouldn't be used without their approval but those same people will ignore Catholics or the like making the same arguements?

I personally don't care either way. I'm not Christian. I'm agnostic. But what makes me angry is when we start applying double standards. Either religious and cultural beliefs should ALL be considered fair game or none of them should be. Anything else is hypocritical.


J.K. Rowling is a powerful person who has used her power in a way that is offending others.  That is her responsibility and something that she'll be remembered for doing.  Each and every person who reads what she writes and believes it to be true, and I can guarantee there will be more than a few, and then carries that distorted so-called knowledge out into the world and does harm can be laid at her feet in offering to her imagination.

So it's the job of fiction authors to educate the world? That they should be held responsible because ignorant people spent more time in school getting high, drinking, or playing football? That is a terrifying sentiment.

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #40 on: March 27, 2016, 07:09:13 PM »
It's the job of fiction writers to remember they are writing fiction and present it as such.  Even the much vilified "Fifty Shades of Gray" was a notable work of fiction and not really presented as a BDSM manual.  However, there was and is a storm of criticism over it because of the distorted picture of the lifestyle it represents.

Any author is open to criticism for what they write and whether fiction or nonfiction when you present your work as fact you need to be able to stand the test and face the people who feel slammed.

I wonder why, when push comes to shove, it is fine for the author to say what they wish no matter how denigrating and wrong for anyone to take exception.  If Rowling is to be allowed to write what she pleases then those who find it distasteful have the right to express that opinion as well. 

Everyday people stand by silently and watch injustice happen then turn and walk away.  Nothing will ever make that right and just because so many do it isn't wrong to have someone else come out against something that hurts them. 


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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #41 on: March 29, 2016, 08:00:48 AM »
I wonder why, when push comes to shove, it is fine for the author to say what they wish no matter how denigrating and wrong for anyone to take exception.  If Rowling is to be allowed to write what she pleases then those who find it distasteful have the right to express that opinion as well.   

Well, I think this is kind of what I at least wanted to be at the heart of my argument: Everyone is free to express themselves however they want.

You brought up the Holocaust, and to that end I'd have to counter with the huge amount of WW2 and Nazi fiction that obviously serves no educational purpose. Everything from Wolfenstein to Indiana Jones has portrayed Nazis in one way or another, and I don't feel it's out of line to say that not every piece of fiction out there has been particularly respectful towards their victims or (On the other hand) German culture at the time. I'm not saying that to defend or attack anyone, I'm saying it because it proves that there's a great divide between fictitious depictions of a culture or a historical event, and biographical, educational pieces.

I'm not saying that anyone can't be outraged about whatever they like. I know of several pieces of fiction that I find either very distasteful or outright offensive. Heck, 50 Shades of Grey is a pretty good example of something I find disagreeable for it's lackluster depiction of what the BDSM-community is like.

What I'm saying is that the author of fiction doesn't have a responsibility to educate their audience unless they have explicitly stated that doing so is without their artistic vision. J. K. Rowling doesn't have a responsibility to portray Native American culture in any particular way, or inform her audience. 50 Shades of Grey isn't being sold as a "Do it yourself"-BDSM Manual either. You can disagree with their work, but you can't just attack the artist because you think their art is bad or offensive, that's not how society is meant to work.

At that point, what's the difference between attacking an artist because of their art, and attacking a culture because of their culture?

Saying that J. K. is "A powerful person who has used her power in a way that is offending others" is unfair, because she hasn't. She has used her ability to write to write something that some people have found offensive, but has hasn't put her power as a pop-culture icon behind it to further some degrading message or push an anti Native American agenda.

When J. K. writes something and it's clearly set in the same made-up universe as Harry Potter, then it is without doubt being presented as fiction. Even if you were in doubt, the mention of wizards should probably alert you to the fact that what you're reading is not real. Are the some people who are going to read what she wrote and later regurgitate it as though it was factual? Yes, I'm sure there are. That is the case with a lot of fiction though, and that is why we have education. It's the responsibility of teachers, educators and educational authors to teach and inform people oft what is actually true and what isn't. Authors of fiction and fairy tales do not share this responsibility unless they explicitly state they wish to do so, and even then you should remain critical and question whether or not they've gotten their information through research or made it up.

In conclusion, anyone has the right to be offended by anything, but we also all share a right to express ourselves however we want. We can't both have freedom of expression and at the same time say that certain subjects are under immunity and should not be touched. Whether or not the artists wishes to be particularly respectful or disrespectful towards any given culture or populace is up to them, but in this case I really don't think J. K. Rowling intended to hurt anyone. I also simply can't see what she's done wrong. The fact that I can't recognize the offensive or insulting nature of her fiction doesn't mean I'm saying it doesn't exist though, and if you really think there's something very hurtful there, then you're well within your rights to criticize it.

I won't say either party is right in this, but I will say that it's important to stick to the art and not go after the artist. The people who wish to attack J. K. directly because of this are going too far. One of the most important modern values in the western world is the right to express yourself however you want without fear of persecution, and this right extends to popular authors just as well as obscure ones.

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #42 on: March 29, 2016, 09:29:37 AM »
I have no issue with the concept. I have an issue with the public/cultural acceptance of 'you're not allowed to offend these people'. My question has been: why do Native Americans get supported for calling their religious belief's sacred and shouldn't be used without their approval but those same people will ignore Catholics or the like making the same arguements?

I personally don't care either way. I'm not Christian. I'm agnostic. But what makes me angry is when we start applying double standards. Either religious and cultural beliefs should ALL be considered fair game or none of them should be. Anything else is hypocritical.

So it's the job of fiction authors to educate the world? That they should be held responsible because ignorant people spent more time in school getting high, drinking, or playing football? That is a terrifying sentiment.

1)Mocking or misrepresenting a group in a position of power may offend, but it is unlikely to hurt.

2)Mocking or misrepresenting a group who has been systematically abused and belittled in part due to the way they've been represented by the dominant group is a perpetuation of that systematic abuse.

That's why blackface is wrong but the Wayans disguising themselves as white ldies is merely ridiculous.

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #43 on: March 29, 2016, 09:39:42 AM »
In an ideal world we would think before we spoke and remember that having the ability to say something does not confer the right to say it irresponsibly.

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #44 on: March 29, 2016, 01:23:40 PM »
In an ideal world we would think before we spoke and remember that having the ability to say something does not confer the right to say it irresponsibly.

What has J. K. Rowling said exactly that's actually offensive then? I believe all of this drama is actually about a just somewhat lazy depiction of Native American culture, but not a belittling or offensive one. What has she said that could be worth so much controversy? She isn't responsible for what happened to the Native American people, and she has every right to reference a fictional version of them in her fictional work.

If she was being openly racist or hostile towards them, then we could both agree that she was at fault.

What's actually happened though is that she has chosen to weave a real-life myth among the Navajo into her own, fictional narrative. A myth that very conveniently lines up with the mythology of the Harry Potter universe, where the notion of humans turning into animals is actually a thing that happens on a surprisingly regular basis. That, and the fact that she used the term "Native American Community" instead of referencing every individual group it seems.

Is the latter okay? Alright, it's a very lazy way, but the sad part is that unless you're either keenly interested in the Native Americans or a member of it's population, the broader term is probably going to be more effective. Is that a problem? Yes, I'd argue that it is. Is it J. K. Rowlings fault though? No, it isn't. Particularly the American population should be given a much wider understanding of who these people are and what their history is like. Taking the actions of colonists seriously and learning what the country was like before the America we know today existed would be a good display of respect. But that responsibility goes to the government in charge and the educators, not fiction writers.

Is the fact that she used this myth unacceptable? Honestly, I don't think it is. Could she have done it in a more respectful and educational way? She probably could.

But let's not forget that she's actually trying to expand the fictional Potterverse, and trying to include groups that are often entirely ignored by western media and fiction. I see no reason to believe that she wasn't trying to do something good. That this wasn't somehow meant to be a kind gesture. And while it isn't perfect, isn't it at least a start?

But then turning on her and being absolutely outraged as some of these people are, shouting profanities and being vicious rather than constructive.. Well, now people are either going to be purposefully offensive in retaliation or be too scared of similar outrage to include the Native American people in their own fiction.

So will you meet me halfway and say that while her actions are perhaps irresponsible, insensitive or even ignorant, responding with viciousness and outrage is also inappropriate?

We aren't going to cure racial and cultural tension in one fell swoop, but we still need to at least begin to try. Isn't inclusion the way to start working towards a better understanding of each other? And for all of her flaws, it seems J. K. is at least trying to include others. Her power as a pop-culture icon means that people might suddenly have some, if flawed, insight into cultures they knew very little or nothing about before, and isn't that at least a starting point?

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #45 on: March 29, 2016, 01:59:53 PM »
So I did a little digging into the topic of skinwalkers - carefully avoiding anything to do with Rowling - and noticed one thing that stood out.  Rowling's depiction is that the skinwalker is specifically evil.  In the Folklore Archives at BYU (link), there is a much different take on the subject:  Skinwalkers are depicted as more 'trickster' than evil.  Things like 'running alongside vehicles and matching their speed', or 'prowling around the outside of a dwelling'.  Even curses placed by skin-walkers are described as consisting of minor hallucinations, achy sorts of pain and other non-fatal and more specifically curable conditions.  This took me maybe ten minutes of Googling.

There is the possible exception of their origins, which are typically described by people who are not skin-walkers.  (Non-skin-walkers are not allowed to view the rituals of becoming a skin-walker, so the creation of such creatures is the most shrouded in mystery of all their activities.)  But then again, how many times has a minority group been accused of such things?  There are numerous stories of non-Christian groups conducting gruesome rituals involving desecrated Hosts and the blood of infants - all of which were used specifically as propaganda against these groups.

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #46 on: March 29, 2016, 04:39:40 PM »
So I did a little digging into the topic of skinwalkers - carefully avoiding anything to do with Rowling - and noticed one thing that stood out.  Rowling's depiction is that the skinwalker is specifically evil.  In the Folklore Archives at BYU (link), there is a much different take on the subject:  Skinwalkers are depicted as more 'trickster' than evil.  Things like 'running alongside vehicles and matching their speed', or 'prowling around the outside of a dwelling'.  Even curses placed by skin-walkers are described as consisting of minor hallucinations, achy sorts of pain and other non-fatal and more specifically curable conditions.  This took me maybe ten minutes of Googling.

There is the possible exception of their origins, which are typically described by people who are not skin-walkers.  (Non-skin-walkers are not allowed to view the rituals of becoming a skin-walker, so the creation of such creatures is the most shrouded in mystery of all their activities.)  But then again, how many times has a minority group been accused of such things?  There are numerous stories of non-Christian groups conducting gruesome rituals involving desecrated Hosts and the blood of infants - all of which were used specifically as propaganda against these groups.

Well, again, there is always the chance that the way J. K. implemented skinwalkers into the Potterverse wasn't meant to be accurate, but to work for the plot. I believe that she described as a group that were looked at with fear by others because of rumors spread by muggle witch doctors or shamans to cover for the fact that they themselves had none of the magical prowess they claimed to possess.

That being said, I have not actually read what she was written, and I'm basing this on information from 3 different news articles I've read on the subject.

Regardless, I think it remains clear that what she wrote was never intended to be educational, but rather sought to include Native Americans in the Potterverse. Something I don't think is in any way a bad thing, even if it was done somewhat haphazardly.

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #47 on: March 29, 2016, 04:45:26 PM »
Taking Oniya's post into consideration I need to ask:

1.  Is Rowling's research flawed or careless, or

2.  Did she deliberately sensationalize and distort the facts?

After all, she only cares about selling books and making money and is probably going through some sort of need to have her name out there again now that the Potter universe has petered out and her latest books sort of bombed.  She needed a new product and this latest work of hers looked like a good one.

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #48 on: March 29, 2016, 04:50:24 PM »
After all, she only cares about selling books and making money and is probably going through some sort of need to have her name out there again now that the Potter universe has petered out and her latest books sort of bombed.

Now you're being unfair..

You have no way of knowing what her motivations are and I'm sorry but in my opinion you're crossing the line into raw cynicism.

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #49 on: March 29, 2016, 05:17:52 PM »
My suggestion is as valid as any other that could be made for her motivation.  She didn't write to educate or uplift a culture.  The proof of that is in the pudding.  There is no other reason I can see for what she wrote especially when quite a bit of the criticism about her treatment of the subject matter called into question her ability to handle it appropriately.  The least negative word I could find that was used by those educated in Native American culture and history to describe her work was inept.

50 Shades of Gray outsold "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" in Britain.  Maybe I am being cynical but writing and publishing are businesses and success is measured in sales. 

She has a movie coming out soon.  "The History of Magic in North America" is a device to keep her name out there and have the public remain aware of her.  It's business and nothing else.

There is nothing wrong with writing to make money or garner fame.  Rowling was blessed with a great idea in the Harry Potter franchise and the talent to write it well along with the luck to sell it and the intelligence to quit while she was ahead.  Her career is the envy of every single author I know.