RAZORED ZEN: Stereotyped Characters

Monday, November 08, 2010

Stereotyped Characters

I’m enjoying AMC’s series, The Walking Dead, but last night’s episode took its first misstep for me. It wasn’t enough of a misstep to make me abandon the series, but it will make me a little more cautious about the show. That misstep was introducing a standard-issue racist character. Let me see, the character is big, white, southern, male, lacks self-control, loves guns and violence, hates folks that he addresses with the “N” word, and is crude to women. Are there people who meet that stereotype? Probably. There are people who meet just about every stereotype. But I consider it a problem in a TV show, or in literature, when you can hear the first words out of a character’s mouth and instantly deduce everything about them.

The stereotypes in Avatar were a problem for me with that movie, especially the blue-skinned “Native American Noble Savages.” And that movie had its share of human racists too, the main one being the military commander, who was big, white, apparently southern, male, and in love with guns and violence.

This is not to say that written fiction never does this sort of thing. I like to read pulp stories and you can sure find the stereotypes there, inscrutable and evil “Orientals,” oily and criminal “Italians,” murderous heathen “Indians,” simple obsequious “darkies,” etc. Or you can read a certain brand of modern thrillers with their stereotyped Nazis and Islamic terrorists.

To a certain extent, I can tolerate stereotypes, although much less with main characters than with secondary characters. I understand that writers have to sketch some secondary characters quickly in order to get on with the plot, and stereotypes let the reader do a lot of the work of defining such characters. I can tolerate stereotypes that appear in fiction from a time period like the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. I can also tolerate stereotypes better if they are neither hateful nor overly positive. I’m mostly OK with the bookish librarian, the absent-minded professor, the football jock, the overly bright kid, but my patience quickly wears thin with the Noble Savages, the white racists, and the black crack dealers.

I believe I’m seeing fewer of the blatant stereotypes in both movies and literature these days, and I’m glad for that. I don’t see as many black urban youth gangbanger crack dealers on TV as I once did. I don’t see as many weak women victims who can’t outrun their male tormenters even though the villains are “walking.”

But certain stereotypes still seem pretty common, and the white male, southern, gun lover racist one is particularly prevalent. I will admit that I’m probably sensitized to this one in particular because I’m a white southern male who owns guns. However, I’m not very big, not crude to women, and though I dislike plenty of people I dislike them on their own merits or lack thereof and not on the color of their skin.

Am I right that the white male southern racist seems a particularly common stereotype today, or am I only noticing it more because of who I am? Am I right that many other blatant stereotypes are decreasing in entertainment? What other blatant ones are left? Any examples?

And, in other news, David J. West has a kind review of Swords of Talera up over at his blog. Thanks, David. Glad you enjoyed.
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62 Comments:

At 10:33 AM, Blogger ArtSparker said...

It's a cheap shot - although having said that, some of the people who go into law enforcement are people who have been picked on and want to get a bit of their own back, which works with the evil white sheriff.

 
At 10:44 AM, Blogger Bill Crider said...

I thought last night's episode was a let-down, too. I might not go back.

 
At 11:28 AM, Blogger Stephen Tremp said...

I'm not so sure if its the stereotypes that are disappearing as it is there is a theme of "Can't We All Just Get Along?" I was watching Star Trek (the recent movie0 recently and it was a iverse crowd. Its just that in the end, they all got along rather than having a showdown where there was only one winner.

 
At 12:16 PM, Blogger Tom said...

I think a lot of stereotypes are used for a specific purpose, especially in film and TV. Avatar is a good example. Cameron used stereotypes to tell a familiar story, with familiar characters so that the viewers focus wouldn't be on the characters and plot itself, but rather on the pretty movie he was making. One could also argue that his use of those stereotypes was a social commentary on social evolution. No matter how much we humans like to think we have developed, we're still basically functioning on base instincts and attitudes. There is an evolutionary basis for most common human attitudes, mistrust of "those not like us" is the most common, and one we all suffer from, even if subconsciously.

Of course, I could be way off base, and opening myself up to being schooled by the guy with the PhD in Psychology here. :)

 
At 12:39 PM, Blogger Heff said...

I actually thought the racist portion added a good element, but that's just me. 10 to 1 says "Johnny Redneck" will show up again.

So far, I'm REALLY enjoying The Walking Dead, but I fear (and I've told MANY people) that this show will PROBABLY end up being a soap opera of sorts with a few zombies added on the side for good measure.

So far it's GREAT though.

 
At 12:52 PM, Blogger Charles Gramlich said...

Artsparker, certain jobs probably do foster a certain similarity among those who work the job, because of the demands of the work.

Bill Crider, Definitely was more static than the first and less attention getting, although I enjoyed the "smelling like the zombie's Stuff"

Stephen Tremp, that may definitely be playing a role. I bet it is for sure in the casting decisions being made.

Tom, I think you're probably right, especially with Avatar, and since it was somewhat directed at younger viewers who might not readily recognize the stereotypes it might fly pretty well with that crowd.

Heff, I think it's definitely that he's going to show up. They even had the one character kick over the tool box so he'll be able to gain access somehow to the hacksaw. So far, yes, I'm hanging in there.

 
At 1:16 PM, Blogger Deka Black said...

Stereotypes... One i don't like is the weak women and the noble savage. This last i hate it above all else.

Simply i don't like it. here in Spain we have our owns streotypes. As all, cruel and derogative.

Is a subject inwhich i do not think often. And i should to avoid some mistakes in what i write.

Oh, one last thing. About the review: My bosses are delaying my paycheck. THIS is a stereotype sadly true.

I think stereotypes are good for characters of one only scene, or comic relief. For characters showing more often... sometimes are good if you want something cheap and easy for some reason.

 
At 1:23 PM, Blogger Deka Black said...

By the way, i know is a bit off-topic, but i'm worried with write with pulp style, And first i must know what is pulp for me. harder than i think Bur i know a thing: action and fun.

 
At 1:26 PM, Blogger SQT said...

Thank you for saying it Charles-- I don't think it's said enough. I get tired of the anti-military stereotypes (like you mentioned in Avatar). I married into a military family and not one person fits any of the stereotypes. My father-in-law is a two star general and if you met him you'd never guess. No "Great Santini" around here.

I will give "The Walking Dead" the benefit of the doubt, though I was slightly disappointed. I assume they're trying to make the point that people revert to their basest instincts under stress and maybe racism and sexism would be big issues and they just combined it all in one character. But it should have been more subtly done to keep up the quality of the show.

 
At 1:52 PM, Blogger Okie said...

I think stereotypes in characters and even, to some extent, in general storytelling has its place. It's hard to get away from a lot of the over generalizations that are so ingrained in our world.

Still, I think if an author/director/etc is going to use stereotypes, that person needs to be aware of the degree to which they'll be used and the end purpose.

I think some writers/directors often try to go the other way and be too "out there" or at least give the perception of being "against the grain." I work for a company that does "training and consulting." When we create training videos or catalogs or marketing materials or whatever, there is always a HUGE push to meet some "proven" criteria of what will be a diverse group of people...a crowd that will be most believable to any audience as being a valid cross section of america. Most hilarious to me are when part of our training focuses on "true" meetings that happened but the recreation requires us to change 80% of the actors in order to be a "real" representation of our office.


Anyway, I digress...I think stereotypes and generalizations are fine to be used. To an extent, their use can be called "laziness" as they take some of the onus off of the author to get across a concept...but at the same time, they can be very liberating since the author can focus his/her other energies at getting at the heart of what is important to the work.

 
At 1:54 PM, Blogger Okie said...

And one addendum (which I thought I wrote, but I obviously didn't) is that I agree that in addition to just general "overuse" of a stereotype, an author/director needs to be RESPONSIBLE in using a stereotype....the examples you present of racism or complete misrepresentation of a type of person...those situations should be used with caution and the author should be certain to think through the implications of their use.

 
At 1:59 PM, Blogger BernardL said...

You are absolutely correct. Easy target Hollywood can exploit over and over again without fear of repercussion. Since you are a white southern male I understand your problem with the way Hollywood lumps stereotypes into their movies depending on the amount of flack they get rather than any basis in reality. Hollywood is already hosing down our returning veterans as wild-eyed monsters to be feared more than the terrorists they fought on our behalf overseas. Good Post!

 
At 2:02 PM, Blogger Ty Johnston said...

With some trepidation of sounding sympathetic to such characters, I find the big white male redneck racist who likes guns one of the few stereotypes that seems more prevalent nowadays.

Do such people exist in real life? You bet. Are they common? Not at all. Living in the South, and being from the South, and being white, I've definitely known lots of folks who are prejudiced, and some who are downright racist. Very, very few of those would meet the stereotype. Generally, in my experience, most of them are fairly well-meaning folks who just don't know any better. I don't mean that as an excuse, but just as I've seen it. Education, personal education, is key to getting these types of people to change their viewpoints. I've seen it happen numerous times. Heck, I've helped such people (family members) gain a different viewpoint, not that I claim to be the most enlightened person in the world.

Also, admittedly, I've seen hatred and bigotry become entrenched within some individuals, generally ones who feel they are being pushed socially, politically, emotionally, etc.

 
At 2:15 PM, Blogger Shauna Roberts said...

I haven't noticed an increase in male Southern bigots, but I have noticed an increase in some other stereotypes.

The one that particularly annoys me is the thin, fine-boned woman who can beat up three burly bad guys. I'm not saying there aren't women like that, but why are all the women heroines like that? The benefits of high body mass and strong muscles in a fight suggest (to me at least) that the best female fighters will include very few delicate waifs and many big-boned women who work out a lot.

 
At 2:23 PM, Blogger Charles Gramlich said...

Deka, I understand money woes. Been there myself. You're right that stereotypes can be useful in comedy. I hadn't really thought of that but it's true.

SQT, I came periously close to an anti-military stereotype for one particular character in Cold in the Light. I didn't really realize it until later, and he does have quite a few nonstereotypical points as well, although he is a villain for sure.

Okie, because stereotypes also change very rapidly sometimes it's pretty much impossible not to use them in some cases. Take the Kick Butt Heroine. At first it was a refreshing change, but then it began to become a stereotype very rapidly. Responsible use of stereotypes is certainly important. I think that's one thing that bothers me about the white male southern racist. I suspect its overuse begins to persuade folks that it's true.

Bernardl, I think so too, and they are looking at their audience, who their work is targeted toward. They can stereotype those who a work 'isn't' targeted toward.

Ty Johnstone, I agree. I've met racists, of all colors, but most do not embody the stereotypes. Many are quite surprising in their variety of characteristics. And because of that, our reactions to them have to be complex as well. It's often disconcerting to meet a person who is perhaps a racist in one sense, but then find out that they actually have other admirable characteristics. This is the problem with negative stereotypes in that they make it too easy to dislike the person whereas a real person would evoke a much more compplex response.

 
At 2:24 PM, Blogger Charles Gramlich said...

Shauna, I agree. I almost used that example of a growing stereotype, and one which has emerged very quickly.

 
At 2:26 PM, Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

It is just so easy for writers to throw in someone like that, isn't it? No one is simply this or that. Maybe they will make him more nuanced over time. I haven't seen the second one yet. Darn.

 
At 2:31 PM, Blogger Steve Malley said...

I'm afraid stereotyping and a certain (probably unconscious) racism is still very much alive and well in TV and movies:

Terrorists (especially scary brown ones) need no more motivation than they 'hate America'. THink about how often black men are the 'comic-relief buddy', the 'red-shirt expendable' or worse, simply hanging at the fringes with no real stake in the plot except to show that all those white folks really aren't racists.

And if a black man *does* show up as the lead, he's generally celibate. Certainly waaaaayyyyy more than any white male heroes I can think of.

Hitch got the girl, though he never actually kissed her. And of course, he helped the fat white loser nab himself a supermodel. Come to think of it, they sure kissed a few times, didn't they?

And if Legend and Hancock have taught me anything, it's that a strong black man would rather 'just be friends' with a white woman than save his species!

It burns my blood, but it also shames me that I didn't really notice all this until it was pointed out to me.

Until then, I mostly bristled at the way every tattooist I ever saw in a movie was a biker with a ZZ Top beard, a pervert who'd spit whiskey on underage jailbait, a psycho who chains up beautiful women in his basement to 'disfigure' them or, at best, a greedy idiot whose ink opens the way for Dark Forces to Destroy Us All...

 
At 3:06 PM, Blogger ArtSparker said...

I've just linked this post & comments in an edit. Wonderful comments here as an appendix to the post!

 
At 3:25 PM, Blogger Charles Gramlich said...

Patty, yes, there's that hope and maybe they will. Playing off stereotypes can be effective.

Steve Malley, there's a lot of walking on eggshells in the movies and TV, but they don't always do so. They don't mind breaking some eggs in some cases while in other cases they'll be very very circumspect.

Artsparker, yes, it's evoked some great discussion, which I love to see.

 
At 3:59 PM, Blogger AvDB said...

I was just watching Avatar last night, and thinking some of the same things, especially about the military commander. He was as one-sided as you could get.

The Big White Redneck is a common theme. It's very prevalent in True Blood. In that show, you're either part of the Cool KIds Club, or you're a big, dumb, redneck (the women being the judgmental, passive-aggressive type, the men being your aforementioned racists). But, I can tolerate it more in that show, because it is about race, and simply uses vampires as a substitute for real minorities.

I wasn't overly in love with the one episode of The Living Dead that I saw.

 
At 4:07 PM, Blogger Travis Erwin said...

As a white southern male who owns a gun or three I sure hope the world realizes stereotypes are not always correct.

 
At 4:32 PM, Blogger Charles Gramlich said...

AvDB, I haven't seen True Blood although I've heard mostly good things about it. Military types make easy villains too, I guess. Too easy oftentimes, as in Avatar.

Travis Erwin, you and me both.

 
At 4:36 PM, Blogger Cloudia said...

Yes! Writers don't trust their talents or the audience and so use stock characters. Sadly, some of the writers may not have more depth than that! After all, in Hollywood, 30 is ancient. That's when most of us are just maturing as artists.


Aloha from Waikiki :)

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At 5:11 PM, Blogger David J. West said...

I tend to think stereotypes exist in fiction because they do exist-but the superior writer whether for novels, Tv or movies is going to give some depth and go beyond the cookie-cutter character maker.

There are quite a few stereotype characters out there (like the ones you mentioned) that when I come across them-it turns me off and tells me there isn't enough talent behind the piece. And I do think blockbusters are especially guilty of this.

And thanks for the mention-I love Swords of Talera and am going to ask the wife for the sequels for Christmas. I'll begin BITTER STEEL very soon.

 
At 5:52 PM, Blogger Angie said...

I think a large part of the problem is the very attitude that stereotypes are useful sometimes, that they come in handy when you want to sketch a character quickly, that they communicate to the reader (or viewer) at a glance. Well, yeah, that's the problem. Each stereotype is a package of traits, and using the whole package might be convenient, but it's still a stereotype and there are always negatives.

You're noticing the white, southern, racist, gun-nut male because a couple of those words apply to you. An Asian female writer from New York who's never touched a gun might think that's a pretty convenient package to use, and after all he's supposed to be the bad guy, right?

It might take a little more thought, but we can pick and choose characteristics so the only negative traits in a character are the ones we need, and discard the rest of the package. Maybe they need a racist, male, southern sheriff, but could they have cut out the misogyny? Maybe he shows he's respectful to women by acknowledging the contribution of a female character, with no condescension, using the same dialogue as he'd use to a male. Maybe he's competent and professional with his service weapon, but doesn't worship it like a stereotypical penis substitute. Maybe he has a Master's in Admin Justice and comes across as someone who's defended a Master's thesis. We still have a racist (I'm assuming there's a plot point requiring that) but he's not a total douchebag and he's a stronger character all around because of the deviations from the package.

Even seemingly positive sterotypes can hurt, and those are the ones it's tougher to get people to quit using. The geeky Asian math nerd who pops up everywhere puts Asians into a box just as firmly as the Yakuza stereotype. The noble, brave black man who throws himself on the bomb and saves the white main character and his white girlfriend in the last fifteen minutes of the movie might seem like a hero, but he's still a cardboard character who lacks any goal or plotline of his own and exists only to help the white people -- the actual heroes -- save the day.

[Continued on Next Rock...]

 
At 5:53 PM, Blogger Angie said...

[...Continued from Previous Rock]

The sassy-but-loyal best friend (black, hispanic, gay, etc.) is one that's popped up recently. Again, it seems positive, but it's another character who exists to help the (usually white) main character achieve their goals; the best friend often has no goals of their own, nor any significant life so far as the viewer can tell, considering how often the best friend is available at the drop of a hat to dash over and help/comfort/bail out the white lead. Pure cardboard, even if it's pretty and useful.

Stereotypes are always sloppy writing; it doesn't take much thought to give a character some significant characteristic that varies from the package, or to deliberately drop whatever parts of the package aren't absolutely necessary and make the character a unique individual in other ways. Even just one other way, if the character is a walk-on with one line and no name. Maybe the Asian barista is wearing a Kenny Rogers T-shirt, or the black cab driver plays a classical station, or the Hispanic housekeeper was a doctor before she fled El Salvador as a refugee and can't afford the recertification to practice in the US -- but she comes in and leaves early every Tues. and Thurs. because she's taking night classes one at a time so she'll be prepared.

Something. It doesn't have to take more than a few words, or maybe a couple of lines for a supporting rather than background character.

Or if the character is really wallpaper, then leave them as wallpaper and don't try to flesh them out with stereotypes. Let the barista be a nondescript young woman and otherwise ignore her. The reader will too, cluing in from the lack of description that she's unimportant and can be forgotten once she's handed the protag her latte. Reaching for stereotypes is not preferable to just glossing over a truly unimportant character.

Angie

PS -- sorry about the split, no clue what happened. I got it down to less than 4K characters, but it keeps telling me it has to be under 4096 characters. :/ Anyway....

 
At 6:53 PM, Blogger G said...

Definitely some interesting comments about sterotypes as it applies to literature, film and television.

Is it really a sign of weak writing if your story contains a sterotype, or is it because your story might pay homage to a genre gone by, or even more anti-PC, is set in a time period in which that type of sterotype was considered part and parcel for writing, be it literature or newspapers?

To use you as an example (in a good way), your story "Slugger's Holiday" could be taken in a multiple of ways depending on how a person reads it.

Someone could read and become instantly offended, in spite of finding out the background to it.

Or, someone like myself, who does know a little something about how things were written/portrayed in that time period (but obviously not as well as you do) wouldn't find it offensive at all, since I wouldn't be trying to apply the skewered values of today to what was considered the norm back them.

Of course, I could be considered the ultimate sterotype:

1) I'm bald.
2) I lived in a trailer park.
3) I work for the guv'ment.

 
At 7:13 PM, Blogger SQT said...

Damn those were good posts by Angie. Really good.

 
At 7:34 PM, Blogger Scott said...

Charles,

I've been enjoying 'The Walking Dead' as well. The racist character was a bit overplayed...no slight to the actor, Micheal Rooker, who is a fine actor, but to the writers. How would such a person even end up with a mostly non-white group of people in the first place, if he hates them all so much? Doesn't make sense. I think the writers are going for the zombie apocalypse theme of 'we are our own worst enemy, why can't we just get along?'. This is a standard theme in such entertainment, set into play by George Romero, and seen in most films/anime/books of this type...'Zombie' is the only exception that immediately comes to mind. I do plan on watching more episodes of 'Walking Dead'.

 
At 8:10 PM, Blogger jodi said...

Charles, sometimes it serves as a discription, but I abhor stereotyping of any sort. I have survived millions of blonde jokes, even tho I'm not even blonde at the roots!

 
At 9:36 PM, Blogger laughingwolf said...

stereotypes are lazy ways of presenting characters, like you say

that's part of the reason why i'm now mostly a non-tv watcher... it's pretty much the same crap 30+ years running....

 
At 9:52 PM, Blogger Jodi MacArthur said...

After the show last night, the first thought I had is the whole of the human race are politically correct weenies! LOL. Ok, obviously not all of us. Love yuor thoughts here and totally agree about characters. Good stuff as always.

 
At 12:44 AM, Blogger ivan said...

Yeah, sterotypes:

Take Jar Jar Binks

"It turns out that not only did the fans hate the little kid in Phantom Menace, so did the little kid. Jake Lloyd, the boy who was given such classic lines as "yippeee" did his first interview in six years for MTV.com. Turns out he's been in seclusion all these years, trying to recover from the humiliation of that movie. And he's sixteen! Can you believe it's been that long? How time flies.

After reading that interview, we sought out and got an exclusive interview with the other most hated character in Star Wars, Jar Jar Binks.

Q: First of all, we'd like to thank you for taking the time and risking your life to talk to us.
A: Yousa most welcome, boyo. Meesa happy to get de chance to spek out.

Q: Let's start at the beginning. How did you get involved with Star Wars in the first place?
A: It not a long-o tale-o. Way back inna day, meesa just workin' at Cheesecake Factory as waiter. Meesa liken dat. Makin' muy-muy tips, so ever'ting bombad. Den dis Big Boss come in, hisen called George Lucas. Hisen say he be makin' big movie called Phantom Menace. He spek meesa be muy-muy popular in de movie. Jar Jar never done no actin' before, but me say okie-day.

Q: What do you say to charges of racism in your character?
A: Um, well, meesa not too comfy wit' dat. Big Boss Lucas, hisen tellin' me to shuffle meesa feets more, use-a lisp more. Makeup be putten on Jar Jar's face to make meesa lips bigger. Lucas, he even bringin' in tapes of Amos and Andy, tellin' Jar Jar to spek more like dat. Meesa tryin' to stop, but Lucas no listen.

Q: How have you coped with the criticism?
A: It bein' muy-muy hard on Jar Jar. So many people be hatin' Jar Jar. Meesa be seein' all dat, meesa wanna bury head in da sand. Jar Jar even get into the prescription pain medication. Dat be makin' Jar Jar all crazy up in head for long time, but Boss be doin' intervention last year. Meesa go into rehab, get cleaned up. Meesa also be goin' to therapy, makin' muy-muy progress on self-actualization. Jar Jar be knowin' it not Jar Jar people be hatin'. It be character on film. Meesa be knowin' his limits now, learn to love Jar Jar first.

Q: Did you ever take some of the criticism to heart, try to improve on your character in the second film?
A: Meesa be wantin' good scripts, good lines. Meesa hire writer to help out wit' Attack of the Clones. Meesa wanna make subplot where Jar Jar be gettin' smart, become Jedi like little Annie. But Lucas, hisen no listenin'. He be puttin' in more scenes of me trippin' on bantha poodoo, hittin' head, stuff like dat. So I be askin' George Lucas, "count me outta dis one." Better to be not in movie at all den doin' more o' dat. Only gettin' few scenes in Clones, spek only one line in third. Jar Jar outta dere.

Q: What drove you into hiding?
A: Oh, meesa be gettin' death threats from muy-muy fans. Terrrible tings. Meesa seein' cartoon where Jar Jar get chopped up. Meesa gettin' scared. Meesa no like it, so meesa sayin' bye-bye. Jar Jar bein' in college for few years, thinkin' on Art History major. Meesa also been doin' few independent films, plays off-Broadway, and commercials overseas.

Q: What will you be appearing in next?
A: Meesa gonna do Death of a Salesman at off-Broadway playhouse in September. Meesa also be inna studio, got a new album comin' out wit' best buddies Eve and 50 Cent. But meesa be really wantin' to direct.

NOTE: Thanks to Bryce Moore for his analysis of Jar Jar's language, helping to get the dialogue right."


--Stolen by Ivan from Geek Twins blog

 
At 12:45 AM, Blogger ivan said...

Yeah, sterotypes:

Take Jar Jar Binks

"It turns out that not only did the fans hate the little kid in Phantom Menace, so did the little kid. Jake Lloyd, the boy who was given such classic lines as "yippeee" did his first interview in six years for MTV.com. Turns out he's been in seclusion all these years, trying to recover from the humiliation of that movie. And he's sixteen! Can you believe it's been that long? How time flies.

After reading that interview, we sought out and got an exclusive interview with the other most hated character in Star Wars, Jar Jar Binks.

Q: First of all, we'd like to thank you for taking the time and risking your life to talk to us.
A: Yousa most welcome, boyo. Meesa happy to get de chance to spek out.

Q: Let's start at the beginning. How did you get involved with Star Wars in the first place?
A: It not a long-o tale-o. Way back inna day, meesa just workin' at Cheesecake Factory as waiter. Meesa liken dat. Makin' muy-muy tips, so ever'ting bombad. Den dis Big Boss come in, hisen called George Lucas. Hisen say he be makin' big movie called Phantom Menace. He spek meesa be muy-muy popular in de movie. Jar Jar never done no actin' before, but me say okie-day.

Q: What do you say to charges of racism in your character?
A: Um, well, meesa not too comfy wit' dat. Big Boss Lucas, hisen tellin' me to shuffle meesa feets more, use-a lisp more. Makeup be putten on Jar Jar's face to make meesa lips bigger. Lucas, he even bringin' in tapes of Amos and Andy, tellin' Jar Jar to spek more like dat. Meesa tryin' to stop, but Lucas no listen.

Q: How have you coped with the criticism?
A: It bein' muy-muy hard on Jar Jar. So many people be hatin' Jar Jar. Meesa be seein' all dat, meesa wanna bury head in da sand. Jar Jar even get into the prescription pain medication. Dat be makin' Jar Jar all crazy up in head for long time, but Boss be doin' intervention last year. Meesa go into rehab, get cleaned up. Meesa also be goin' to therapy, makin' muy-muy progress on self-actualization. Jar Jar be knowin' it not Jar Jar people be hatin'. It be character on film. Meesa be knowin' his limits now, learn to love Jar Jar first.

Q: Did you ever take some of the criticism to heart, try to improve on your character in the second film?
A: Meesa be wantin' good scripts, good lines. Meesa hire writer to help out wit' Attack of the Clones. Meesa wanna make subplot where Jar Jar be gettin' smart, become Jedi like little Annie. But Lucas, hisen no listenin'. He be puttin' in more scenes of me trippin' on bantha poodoo, hittin' head, stuff like dat. So I be askin' George Lucas, "count me outta dis one." Better to be not in movie at all den doin' more o' dat. Only gettin' few scenes in Clones, spek only one line in third. Jar Jar outta dere.

Q: What drove you into hiding?
A: Oh, meesa be gettin' death threats from muy-muy fans. Terrrible tings. Meesa seein' cartoon where Jar Jar get chopped up. Meesa gettin' scared. Meesa no like it, so meesa sayin' bye-bye. Jar Jar bein' in college for few years, thinkin' on Art History major. Meesa also been doin' few independent films, plays off-Broadway, and commercials overseas.

Q: What will you be appearing in next?
A: Meesa gonna do Death of a Salesman at off-Broadway playhouse in September. Meesa also be inna studio, got a new album comin' out wit' best buddies Eve and 50 Cent. But meesa be really wantin' to direct.

NOTE: Thanks to Bryce Moore for his analysis of Jar Jar's language, helping to get the dialogue right."


--Stolen by Ivan from Geek Twins blog

 
At 12:45 AM, Blogger ivan said...

Yeah, sterotypes:

Take Jar Jar Binks

"It turns out that not only did the fans hate the little kid in Phantom Menace, so did the little kid. Jake Lloyd, the boy who was given such classic lines as "yippeee" did his first interview in six years for MTV.com. Turns out he's been in seclusion all these years, trying to recover from the humiliation of that movie. And he's sixteen! Can you believe it's been that long? How time flies.

After reading that interview, we sought out and got an exclusive interview with the other most hated character in Star Wars, Jar Jar Binks.

Q: First of all, we'd like to thank you for taking the time and risking your life to talk to us.
A: Yousa most welcome, boyo. Meesa happy to get de chance to spek out.

Q: Let's start at the beginning. How did you get involved with Star Wars in the first place?
A: It not a long-o tale-o. Way back inna day, meesa just workin' at Cheesecake Factory as waiter. Meesa liken dat. Makin' muy-muy tips, so ever'ting bombad. Den dis Big Boss come in, hisen called George Lucas. Hisen say he be makin' big movie called Phantom Menace. He spek meesa be muy-muy popular in de movie. Jar Jar never done no actin' before, but me say okie-day.

Q: What do you say to charges of racism in your character?
A: Um, well, meesa not too comfy wit' dat. Big Boss Lucas, hisen tellin' me to shuffle meesa feets more, use-a lisp more. Makeup be putten on Jar Jar's face to make meesa lips bigger. Lucas, he even bringin' in tapes of Amos and Andy, tellin' Jar Jar to spek more like dat. Meesa tryin' to stop, but Lucas no listen.

Q: How have you coped with the criticism?
A: It bein' muy-muy hard on Jar Jar. So many people be hatin' Jar Jar. Meesa be seein' all dat, meesa wanna bury head in da sand. Jar Jar even get into the prescription pain medication. Dat be makin' Jar Jar all crazy up in head for long time, but Boss be doin' intervention last year. Meesa go into rehab, get cleaned up. Meesa also be goin' to therapy, makin' muy-muy progress on self-actualization. Jar Jar be knowin' it not Jar Jar people be hatin'. It be character on film. Meesa be knowin' his limits now, learn to love Jar Jar first.

Q: Did you ever take some of the criticism to heart, try to improve on your character in the second film?
A: Meesa be wantin' good scripts, good lines. Meesa hire writer to help out wit' Attack of the Clones. Meesa wanna make subplot where Jar Jar be gettin' smart, become Jedi like little Annie. But Lucas, hisen no listenin'. He be puttin' in more scenes of me trippin' on bantha poodoo, hittin' head, stuff like dat. So I be askin' George Lucas, "count me outta dis one." Better to be not in movie at all den doin' more o' dat. Only gettin' few scenes in Clones, spek only one line in third. Jar Jar outta dere.

Q: What drove you into hiding?
A: Oh, meesa be gettin' death threats from muy-muy fans. Terrrible tings. Meesa seein' cartoon where Jar Jar get chopped up. Meesa gettin' scared. Meesa no like it, so meesa sayin' bye-bye. Jar Jar bein' in college for few years, thinkin' on Art History major. Meesa also been doin' few independent films, plays off-Broadway, and commercials overseas.

Q: What will you be appearing in next?
A: Meesa gonna do Death of a Salesman at off-Broadway playhouse in September. Meesa also be inna studio, got a new album comin' out wit' best buddies Eve and 50 Cent. But meesa be really wantin' to direct.

NOTE: Thanks to Bryce Moore for his analysis of Jar Jar's language, helping to get the dialogue right."


--Stolen by Ivan from Geek Twins blog

 
At 12:47 AM, Blogger ivan said...

Yeah, sterotypes:

Take Jar Jar Binks

"It turns out that not only did the fans hate the little kid in Phantom Menace, so did the little kid. Jake Lloyd, the boy who was given such classic lines as "yippeee" did his first interview in six years for MTV.com. Turns out he's been in seclusion all these years, trying to recover from the humiliation of that movie. And he's sixteen! Can you believe it's been that long? How time flies.

After reading that interview, we sought out and got an exclusive interview with the other most hated character in Star Wars, Jar Jar Binks.

Q: First of all, we'd like to thank you for taking the time and risking your life to talk to us.
A: Yousa most welcome, boyo. Meesa happy to get de chance to spek out.

Q: Let's start at the beginning. How did you get involved with Star Wars in the first place?
A: It not a long-o tale-o. Way back inna day, meesa just workin' at Cheesecake Factory as waiter. Meesa liken dat. Makin' muy-muy tips, so ever'ting bombad. Den dis Big Boss come in, hisen called George Lucas. Hisen say he be makin' big movie called Phantom Menace. He spek meesa be muy-muy popular in de movie. Jar Jar never done no actin' before, but me say okie-day.

Q: What do you say to charges of racism in your character?
A: Um, well, meesa not too comfy wit' dat. Big Boss Lucas, hisen tellin' me to shuffle meesa feets more, use-a lisp more. Makeup be putten on Jar Jar's face to make meesa lips bigger. Lucas, he even bringin' in tapes of Amos and Andy, tellin' Jar Jar to spek more like dat. Meesa tryin' to stop, but Lucas no listen.

Q: How have you coped with the criticism?
A: It bein' muy-muy hard on Jar Jar. So many people be hatin' Jar Jar. Meesa be seein' all dat, meesa wanna bury head in da sand. Jar Jar even get into the prescription pain medication. Dat be makin' Jar Jar all crazy up in head for long time, but Boss be doin' intervention last year. Meesa go into rehab, get cleaned up. Meesa also be goin' to therapy, makin' muy-muy progress on self-actualization. Jar Jar be knowin' it not Jar Jar people be hatin'. It be character on film. Meesa be knowin' his limits now, learn to love Jar Jar first.

Q: Did you ever take some of the criticism to heart, try to improve on your character in the second film?
A: Meesa be wantin' good scripts, good lines. Meesa hire writer to help out wit' Attack of the Clones. Meesa wanna make subplot where Jar Jar be gettin' smart, become Jedi like little Annie. But Lucas, hisen no listenin'. He be puttin' in more scenes of me trippin' on bantha poodoo, hittin' head, stuff like dat. So I be askin' George Lucas, "count me outta dis one." Better to be not in movie at all den doin' more o' dat. Only gettin' few scenes in Clones, spek only one line in third. Jar Jar outta dere.

Q: What drove you into hiding?
A: Oh, meesa be gettin' death threats from muy-muy fans. Terrrible tings. Meesa seein' cartoon where Jar Jar get chopped up. Meesa gettin' scared. Meesa no like it, so meesa sayin' bye-bye. Jar Jar bein' in college for few years, thinkin' on Art History major. Meesa also been doin' few independent films, plays off-Broadway, and commercials overseas.

Q: What will you be appearing in next?
A: Meesa gonna do Death of a Salesman at off-Broadway playhouse in September. Meesa also be inna studio, got a new album comin' out wit' best buddies Eve and 50 Cent. But meesa be really wantin' to direct.

NOTE: Thanks to Bryce Moore for his analysis of Jar Jar's language, helping to get the dialogue right."


--Stolen by Ivan from Geek Twins blog

 
At 12:52 AM, Blogger ivan said...

Sorry Charles.

Got impatient for comment to show up. Overkill, I guess.

...Or my punishment for stealing. :)

 
At 3:51 AM, Blogger the walking man said...

Flamboyant gay men are common stereotype for them who are anti-gay in thought and propaganda. The nut job who ran for Governor of NY and his comments were fairly typical stereotyping. who himself was a walking stereotype of a NY mob thug.

 
At 9:04 AM, Blogger Gaston Studio said...

Yep, IMHO you're absolutely right in that it's almost always the white southern racist male who is always the bad guy, especially if he's in the military to boot.

 
At 10:09 AM, Blogger Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, true, when you’re only influences are the movies from the last few years it’s hard to come up with something new and original.

David J. West, If you look at the elements that make up the stereotype, they exist across a spectrum, so it’s easy to extract a few of those elements and mash them together in characters. I guess this is what happens in many cases. So glad you enjoyed Swords.

Angie, Very very thoughtful commentary, and I agree with you on a number of things, that “apparently” positive stereotypes are also often harmful. And we can use elements such as making a person a racist for certain purposes, but then you’re right that we should select other characteristics that flesh out the character rather than fall back on the standard set of stereotyped characteristics. I think this is particularly important for main characters.

One problem, though, is that stereotypes can actually develop fairly quickly, as with the sudden emergence in urban fantasy of the kick-ass heroine as a stereotype. The first few people who use such a character are not creating stereotypes, but the ones who follow on the wave of that success may be taking the easy road.

Another problem that complicates the issue is that the very act of trying to completely eliminate stereotypes can actually produce a kind of stereotype. If you NEVER have a white male, southern racist, then that is a problem. If you won’t ever allow a black character to be a crack dealing gangbanger, or a woman to be a weak willed victim, then that is a problem. It narrows and impoverishes the writer’s choices. Yet, if a specific writer uses such a character they’ll be accused of stereotyping.

I’m not sure that I’d agree that stereotypes are ‘never’ useful. For one, stereotypes are often played off of in comedy. And people seem to accept them and laugh at them in that context. Too, I can imagine a story in which the creation of a stereotype is actually a kind of literary statement. It could be done on purpose with a certain end in mind. Not that I think “The Walking Dead” folks and the “Avatar” folks were doing this. Thanks for your great response.

G, I think you’re onto something there with “Slugger’s Holiday.” I definitely did intend to pay homage to Howard’s work in that piece, and there are stereotypes within it, especially of Sailor Steve Costigan himself. However, I tried to make sure not to use the typical “Oriental” villain, and I tried to mix up my “insults” toward groups of people by mixing up references to Britishers, gorillas, Eyetalians, and musslemen. Actually, I do know of someone who was offended by “Slugger’s Holiday,” though. Writing is such a minefield. “I’ve got a lot of stereotyped “Mullet” wearing characteristics myself.

SQT, indeed.

Scott, yeah, I like the actor, Rooker, a lot. He seems to be typecast as a villain mostly, though, eh? I think he has the chops to be bigger than he is. That theme of “getting along” certainly did seem a bit heavy handed in that episode especially.

jodi, I get tired of the “mullet” references myself too.

laughingwolf, I know. Everytime I start to watch a show I usually end up getting pretty disgusted with it pretty quickly.

Jodi MacArthur, yeah, that’s a good point that the aftermath of such a plague might indeed bring out the worst in us, but it doesn’t so much in this crowd.

ivan, that’s hilarious man. That should become a novella at the least. Not a problem. I may erase a couple of those.

the walking man, I was thinking about the flamboyant gay thing. I’ve wondered why more gay folks haven’t seemed to be upset about it, but in most cases these days such characters seemed to be played by gay actors. I wonder if that makes any difference?

Gaston Studio, it’s getting to where you find ‘em under every TV/movie rock you kick over.

 
At 12:19 PM, Blogger Randy Johnson said...

As a southern male, I've always been impatient with views of Southerners in movies and TV. They never get the accent right. Of course I don't notice a southern accent as we all sound pretty much the same. That's why in movies and TV they are so jarring. Is that what they think we sound like?

As for The Walking Dead, I have them DVRed, but haven't gotten to them yet. I've been engaged in watching eight Saint movies from the thirties and forties I've had in my queue for too long.

 
At 1:32 PM, Blogger Middle Ditch said...

Don't know the series but let me tell you that Twin Peaks is repeated here.

Oh BOY! What some joy! The soundtrack, the wonderful scene setting (nowadays not allowed), the slow credits. You can actually follow who plays what etc. My evenings are made AND no stereo types there!

Off to the next episode X

 
At 2:10 PM, Blogger Lana Gramlich said...

I'm not surprised at the overuse of stereotypes, particularly in modern Hollywood's "we have no original ideas"/DUH period.

 
At 2:18 PM, Blogger Angie said...

The first few people who use such a character are not creating stereotypes, but the ones who follow on the wave of that success may be taking the easy road.

I agree with you there -- it only becomes a problem later on. [nod] And with something like the kick-ass heroine, I don't know that I'd even consider it to be a stereotype; isn't that more of a cliche? It's not so much playing into harmful assumptions as it is taking what can be a perfectly legitimate character build and duct-taping it into far too many books in the genre. I haven't seen anyone going around the real world with the working assumption that every woman -- or even every woman wearing boots or leather pants or a tank top [cough] -- must of course be capable of kicking butt on three or four muggers at a time. There are plenty of people who'll cross the street in real life to avoid having to pass too close to a black man after dark, though.

If you NEVER have a white male, southern racist, then that is a problem. If you won’t ever allow a black character to be a crack dealing gangbanger, or a woman to be a weak willed victim, then that is a problem.

Sure, but for one thing, you can pull out different bits of the package and only use the ones you need, like I did above with the southern male racist who's not misogynist, not a gun nut, and has a Master's degree. And for another thing, the most offensive thing about stereotypes is when they're the go-to character build for that type and the writer never transcends that. If your protag has a friendly black neighbor who's a software engineer and a great father to his kids, and the insurance adjustor who made sure he got a check for his totalled car reasonably promptly was black, and his teenager's favorite teacher is black, then no one's going to complain that the crack dealer in a black neighborhood is also black. It's when that crack dealer is the only black character in the book that the writer has a problem, and deserves to be called out on it, especially if similar issues crop up in all their books.

Going back to TV, Stargate fans were looking at the casting calls for the latest show, Stargate: Universe. There was one and only one character where they were specifically looking for a black male -- a military guy who had anger issues. Because anger and violence totally aren't stereotyped characteristics of black men. [sigh] Or you can back up to Stargate: Atlantis where they had a great black character and ruined him. Lt. Ford was military, yes, but he was young and eager and friendly, a bit of a joker, everyone liked him. So of course they had to get rid of him early in the show's run -- drug problem. [facepalm] Because the black guy's tendency toward succumbing to drugs isn't a stereotype either, right?

And there were no other black (human) characters. If you look at the whole show across the three series, there's a black man playing an alien in the first series, the black guy from Earth who develops a drug problem in the second, and also a black woman playing another alien, and the third series has its black (human) military guy with anger issues. Three series, almost twenty years of TV, and they couldn't come up with a major, black character from Earth who didn't fall into the cliche pit. The creators get a lot of criticism for that, and IMO they deserve every bit of it.

For one, stereotypes are often played off of in comedy. And people seem to accept them and laugh at them in that context.

Sure they do. [nod] But do we want them to? Is it okay for every stand-up comic to have a bit in their act where they start out, "So I met this dude from the South..." which goes on to make jokes about what an ignorant, racist gun-nut he is? Who married his cousin? It'll get laughs (except from the southern men in the audience) but like Art said in the first comment, it's a cheap shot. It's also incredibly uncreative. :/

Angie

 
At 2:21 PM, Blogger SzélsőFa said...

your advice on stereotypes comes handy for me these days.
also i enjoyed your making different categories for stereotypes.
and i laughed at this part: I will admit that I’m probably sensitized to this one in particular because I’m a white southern male who owns guns.
bwah-hah.

my most hated stereotype in films is when in a team there has to be an Asian, a black and/or Hispanic. cause the filmmakers want to avoid being racists.

 
At 2:56 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

My boyfriend has serious issues with Avitar too.. meh. I Liked the effects.

I just need visual stimulation..

stereotypes kinda piss me off..

 
At 4:19 PM, Blogger G said...

Charles: in regards to the flamboyant gay characters being played by gays.

I think that there's a double standard being applied, in that so long as a gay person is doing a parody of himself/herself, then they get a pass, whereas if someone, say like Vince Vaughn, makes a "that's so gay" joke, they go off the deep end about it.

 
At 4:47 PM, Blogger Carole said...

Well, I was going to make a well thought out comment but then it appears that almost all comments are taken.

The truth is harder to write or tell than the sterotype.

A child-abuser who gives to the poor and saves trees and loves the ocean is easier to forgive than a child-abuser who kicks cats and litters and never cleans house. We can't forgive a child-abuser, therefore we make them into a stereotype or one dimensional.

That is why I most often hate stereotypes. Because people or so much more than just one thing. Good, bad, indifferent, slovenly, clean, caring, etc...but rarely just good guys and bad guys.

 
At 8:26 PM, Blogger Charles Gramlich said...

Randy Johnson, I remember being really irritated with Hollywood over this back in the 70s and early 80s, and then it seemed to get a bit better. They still fall back too often on the stereotyped southerner though.

Middle Ditch, that’s true as I remember it. Twin Peaks was surreal in every way just about. I enjoyed it, though it’s been years since I’ve seen it.

Lana Gramlich, that’s true. One word for that: “A Team Remake” Well, maybe that’s three words.


Angie, I’m not really in disagreement with you. And yes, you have to look at the long-term pattern. I never watched much of the StarGate stuff, mainly because I just never had time. But consistent patterns of stereotyping definitely suggest a problem to me. I actually wince at a lot of comedy that makes use of stereotypes. I don’t quite get it, but I know a lot of folks get a kick out of it, and at times I can find it funny too. One thing about comedy that mitigates it is that comics often make fun of “every” kind of group and that seems to help. I still find the “Jewish” jokes on Southpark to be upsetting at times, but I don’t think most people seem to.

SzélsőFa, yeah, I’m a walking stereotype in more than one ways. You know, that kind of bothers me too. It’s so predictable, and so common.


Sarah, I did enjoy the effects, although one friend described it as like a 70s blacklight poster and I could see it. Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

G, Double standards seem to be the rule rather than the exception, and it occurs in all kinds of ways. For a lighthearted one, Jeff Foxworthy can get away with the “you might be a redneck” because of his background, but it wouldn’t be so funny coming from a New York Jewish Lawyer maybe.


Carole, yes, shades of gray is the rule. I don’t mind boldly drawn black & white characters at times, in certain kinds of fiction, but in fiction that strives for realism it just doesn’t usually work. It’s like finding out that Hitler loved his dog. My mind has a hard time wrapping around that.

 
At 10:45 PM, Blogger JR's Thumbprints said...

I have plenty of students that live their lives as if they're in a rap video, and they dare anyone (mainly authority figures) to question their behavior. I'm probably too "desensitized" regarding racism and stereotypes because of where I work. If someone gave me a dollar for everytime I was excused of racism, I'd probably have my house paid off.


On a different note, I'm disappointed that I missed the second episode of "The Walking Dead."

 
At 7:52 AM, Blogger Charles Gramlich said...

JR., I've been accussed of racism a couple of times myself at my work. It really upset me at first but I realized it was part of certain people's agenda to attack me or to get something they wanted from me.

 
At 3:23 PM, Blogger jennifer said...

It makes the story predictable too. My guess is the racist will meet an untimely end, causing the audience guilty pleasure at his demise. He's the one folks are glad to see go because he has been set up as s social villain. I can't tell you how many times we've watched a movie and said, "Oh yeah, that guy is going to get it."

 
At 8:46 AM, Blogger Mary Witzl said...

That stereotype drives me crazy too. Almost all of my relatives are from the South and I've spent some time there myself. While there are definitely some good old boy types among them who like their beer and guns and trucks, some of those very guys are, like you, enlightened. And there are also plenty of Northerners -- and Californians -- who are racist, which a lot of people conveniently forget.

In town yesterday, I heard someone blast all American Christians as pig-headed and obnoxious. I couldn't get over that! I've had my agnostic moments, but that really pissed me off.

 
At 1:40 PM, Blogger X. Dell said...

To be honest, no I haven't seen an increase in the racist southern "c"-word, for I'm not particularly sensitive to it. I am sensitive to other stereotypes that I see in media.

You might want to check out Michael Parenti's essay "The Make Believe Media" in which he discusses examples of how the stereotpyification evident in many media products simply stem from the ignorance and prejudices of the professional class of people making movies and television shows.

BTW, I thought you were a rather large, muscular sort, but maybe that's an illusion caused by the beard, the bike and the coat:-) As for the guns, I don't recall you mentioning them. And seeing that you have a novel with an African-American protagonist, I wouldn't really peg you as a Klansman.

 
At 7:44 AM, Blogger JR's Thumbprints said...

Oh my, must be a subconcious wish on my part, to be "excused" of racism--that'll never happen! I'll have to reflect on stereotypes and racism and perhaps post something. I really enjoyed this post.

 
At 10:42 AM, Blogger Charles Gramlich said...

jennifer, yes, the predictability is particularly annoying because it always keeps happening in the same way.

Mary Witzl, there's another stereotype for sure, the idea that all religious believers are fanatics and ignorent. It bothers me because so many of my family members are Christians.

X. Dell, I have to believe that a lot of it is ignorence on the part of the folks making the movies and shows, with a big helping of laziness. I'm actually under six feet tall. I can on occassion "loom" as if I'm bigger. I haven't posted much about my guns except for my Uberti western style pistol. maybe I'll do that. I also teach at an HBCU, a historically Black university.

JR, I noticed your 'excused' but I always fight down my "psychological" urge to analyse Freudian slips. :)

 
At 10:43 AM, Blogger David Cranmer said...

The white male southern racist has been done to death. You're right also about AVATAR. I couldn't stand that piece of shit.

 
At 9:17 PM, Blogger Ali said...

Nope you're not the only one who was annoyed with such a cheap characterization. I'm a Black male from the North and I was extremely frustrated with the character of Merle Dixon [not very original name either].
Michael Rooker's a terrifically talented actor and to see him used in that manner really bothered me; to serve as a one-dimensional contrast to the Andrew Lincoln's hero Sheriff.
I don't believe that anyone could be so full of hatred that they would risk their own survival.

 
At 8:23 AM, Blogger Charles Gramlich said...

David, at the very least the white racist southern gunlover needs to be racist against Martians or something.

Ali, Yeah, "Merle Dixon" is about as stereotyped a name as you can get. And consider the contrast with "Lincoln" for the sheriff. I do like Michael Rooker a lot and hope they give him a bit more to work with in the next few episodes. I'm assuming after last night's episode that he'll be "backkkk."

 
At 10:20 AM, Blogger cs harris said...

The stereotypes that get me are the Islamic terrorists. I've known a few Islamic terrorists in my life, and Hollywood NEVER gets them right! I suspect you're more sensitive to this one, therefore you see it more.

 
At 1:12 PM, Blogger Charles Gramlich said...

Candy, I've heard you tell us about that at the wordies meetings. It's part of the search for the next great villain thing, I guess. At least in part.

 

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