Hello! I’m sorry I’m posting this to submissions, but I really don’t feel like spamming your askbox with cut messages.
I’ve just found your blog thiscouldhavebeenfrozen, and it was a pretty interesting read. (Also, you like Russian stuff! Squee *u*) I happen to have my own version of twisted Snow Queen, which I might consider going back to one day, and your and selchieproductions posts about cultural appropriation really got me thinking. I’ve read your “re”-tagged posts on this blog, but people only asked about cultural appropriation in real life. What about fiction?
My Snow Queen is set in a fictional world, in “modern” times, so we’re free from any kind of “historical accuracy” here. On one hand, I could just come up with random clothes that white people in Hollywood movies usually wear and that are probably highly impractical (as Russian I have to wear a fuckton of clothes to normally function during the winter here, so I don’t look as dashing as those models), yeah sure no problem. But it’s lazy, and we’ve seen them a hundred times.
On the other hand, if I decided to make those designs more “creative” or “unusual” or “any-culture-inspired”, taking elements from, in my opinion, not-trustworthy googled images, I could fuck up like Disney and mock someone’s culture. Again, I’m not even talking here about “historical accuracy”, I’m not going to try to repeat someone’s traditional clothes from head to toe, I want to borrow maybe a couple of patterns, a collar shape, boots, hats, anything that would fit into a snow-filled world from the practical and aesthetical point and make it unique…but OH WAIT did I just say I want to use someone’s wonderful culture to give my stupid art “a flavor”? Wow.
So I’m curious, where do you personally think that line between a mere inspiration for fictional cultures and offensive caricatures on the real people is? Would Kristoff design be okay if they didn’t officially announce he was Saami? Or did his outfit resemble their national clothes too much to be innocent anyway? What could’ve been done to make him a respectful representation of Saami people\a neutral stylization of Nordic fashion, or is there no way to safely and respectfully borrow cultural elements? Or am I being offensive right now with my sheer stupidity, wanting to mash all Nordic countries together for the sake of my lil’ entertainment? Is taking a hat from the traditional costume and changing it a bit because “I like that more in my fictional world” offensive? What if I wanted to sell comics with such stuff? Should I just stick to the good ol’ everywhere seen clothes\come up with my own fantasy elements? I’m trying to imagine the same with Russian culture, but I think I’d fuck it up more than anyone else if I decided to take inspiration from our traditional dresses, and it wouldn’t bother anyone here.
If you don’t want to talk for Saami people, imagine I’m asking about your culture and feel free to slap me in my ignorant face, I’m still learning, I need it. Anyway, sorry if I worded something wrong (oh you alien English terms) and thanks in advance!
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First of all, stop insulting yourself so much. You clearly have a drive to learn more and do well by the cultures you’re interested in, so don’t put yourself down. You think you’re being humble, but such negative self-efficacy gives a bad impression of your work before you ever start and it makes people have less confidence in you. /general life advice
Second of all, I know your feel. I am Chinese and Korean and I am always, ALWAYS searching for a way to create a plausible fantasy world that is a delightful escape as possible without hurting people in the real world. My worlds are always East Asian-inspired, but having been raised in America by parents who were culturally indifferent and having mostly anime as my East Asian cultural connection, it’s a struggle learning about my own blood and realizing how easy it is to offend people despite having good intentions.
Research is your friend. Talking to people who come from the cultures you’re interested in is also a great help; Tumblr is particularly useful when it comes to hearing PoC talk about their experiences. This is how you will learn what is a casual thing versus a sacred thing (ex. stylized kimono vs. warbonnets; kimono have no religious meaning, whereas warbonnets do), and how to proceed accordingly. If you are lucky enough to find someone from the culture in question to beta for you, thank them extensively. The point of all this is to be able to explain your choices to someone who shoots from the cultural appropriation hip, and also to have better language to understand people in general.
That being said, you will never please everyone, so instead figure out how to hurt the least amount of people and when you do fuck up (because fucking up is human), remember the four-part apology:
1. I’m sorry because (most people never get to this part because it takes some soul-searching and personal responsibility)
2. In the future I promise not to do it again, to the best of my ability.
3. This is how I’m going to make that happen.
4. I accept that you do not have to forgive me (because when you force people to forgive you, you make the offense about your hurt feelings rather than the offense, and that is not proper).
Since you are Russian yourself, you have a bit more leeway in terms of what you can play around with, but do be careful. When I write my East-Asian-fantasy stuff, I have to ask if I’m playing into stereotypes and if I am, why am I doing that/is there another way the story could be better served without relying on offensive tropes. It is a twisty and occasionally headache-inducing way to think, but stretching the mental muscles creates a stronger story. So I think, anyway.
In any case, happy writing/drawing/comicking/creating! I know this piece comes across as somewhat sharp and unpleasant, but I believe that story creation is one of the most powerful forces in the world and should be handled accordingly. The right story can erode racism, destroy homophobia, expose the ridiculousness of sexism, and introduce people to looking at the world as it really is.