“I met another girl called Marta once.” Pause. “But she was Mexican.”
Or maybe they say Russian.
I’ve also had this conversation.
“Where are you from?”
“No. Where are you from?”
“I’m from Florida.”
Exasperation. “But your name is Marta and you talk different. Where are you from?”
“Wow, Marta. You’re English sure is good.”
Or people call me Martha. Marty. Maria. Marie. Marla. Marsha. And my name is never on a key chain or coffee mug, which bothered me when I was a kid. When I was a teenager I decided it meant my name was classy.
The other day my son and I were watching his favorite show–iCarly. For this one episode there is a character named, that’s right, Marta. She’s is horrible. She is crazy. She is the worst girlfriend in the iCarly universe and she’s got my name. The last time I heard my name on TV was one of the daughters in The Sound of Music. Her part was kind of dull.
Anyway, the Marta Episode is my least favorite episode of iCarly. It is weirdly difficult not to take it personally.
So earlier I read someone’s blog rant about Doctor Who. She was upset about the way a favorite female character was written out of the show. I agree that the end was cruel to the character. A fate worse than death. Yes. But in her view it showed Russell T Davies to be sexist.
Now Doctor Who has a man as its lead and this man always has a female companion. Some sexism may be inherent in such a part, but for me the women were amazing.
The thing is–when is treating a character of a particular gender, race, religion, the result of bias and when is it story. I’m going to assume that the writers of iCarly don’t hate women named Marta (though maybe the name of a writer’s ex?). Stereotypes abound on TV, in film, and in books. How do you tell the difference between hatred for Martas and a Marta who is crazy?
That sounds dumb, but is Russell T. Davies sexist because bad things happen to female characters? A former friend of mine used to complain that Harry Potter wasn’t a girl. She thought JK Rowling was sexist. Well, so what kind of world would it be if Harry had been Henrietta? How are we to stand over a writer at the moment of creation and say, “No. That’s not what we want.”
But stereotypes need to go. Stereotypes are lazy at best. Offensive at worst. Tell me a film/book/show filled with stereotypes that made you especially angry.
When you feel attacked by the image you see on screen or in print, are you being observant and smart or overly sensitive?
And in your own work, how sure are you that you’ve avoided stereotypes and prejudices? (It is a stereotype when it offends me but the truth when I offend someone else!)