Thanks to WonderWaseda for the inspiration!
I also read this. And I agree. Barret is not racist. At least, he doesn’t mention race once.
But I like this thread. I also don’t think Barret, or any of the other black/dark-skinned characters, are actually racist caricatures/stereotypes. But for those who complain they are…
I’ll just concentrate on the “black” characters for now, since they’re the most visible of minorities in Final Fantasy. And really, I’m not sure of any other racial types in Final Fantasy besides “Eurasian”.
First, let’s look at American Hollywood media. For a “progressive” country, some people in the States sure know how to keep the status quo of racism alive.
The Japanese typically emulate American media. Sometimes, they’ll use stereotypes, harmlessly or in a racist manner. Thankfully, stereotypes from the U.S. don’t always reach other countries. Plus, I don’t think Japan is as obsessed with racial hen-pecking as the West.
Well, not in the same way. Still, it goes on.
True, Japan sometimes thinks of black people the way U.S. media portrays them. But other times they don’t.
Sometimes the black guys more often than not calm, cool and collected. Some of white guys can come off as the classic “otaku”. Not all, of course. There are always outliers, as the Japanese found the white otakus by chance. They notice a pattern of people who come to Japan (i.e. the white guy who comes over to Japan because of
“children’s program” “shounen anime”). Then again, maybe you’re as suave or dorky as you present yourself in their country. Perhaps the Japanese simply take notice?
Regardless, the Japanese typically thinks of all foreigners as lesser than Japanese in a nationalistic sense (most countries do). Sure, they’re polite to foreigners and they do occasionally portray a lot of white models for status. But many people in their country feel superior towards the Other. Plus, Japan is mostly homogeneous.
Also, they don’t always make a distinction between Western foreigners. You may have different skin, and maybe there’s a slight racial hierarchy in some scenarios, but that’s usually about it. Those “No Foreigners Allowed” signs are for all foreigners, even other “Asians” (i.e. Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Taiwanese) – no exceptions. This might explain why Final Fantasy “minorities” (dark-skinned characters) and racial issues don’t existent. Besides, it’s fantasy. Plus, once again, Japan is mostly homogeneous; dealing with “minority” issues isn’t their first priority.
Don’t forget, Final Fantasy breaks stereotypes. Remember Snow, the blue-eyed, blonde-haired buffoon who thought he was the main hero? Or Cloud, the blonde-hair, blue-eyed hero of Final Fantasy VII. He’s actually portrayed as weak-willed, sickly, unsure of himself, arrogant, cocky, depressed, etc. Contrast this with the personalities of Barret Wallace, Kiros Seagill, Buddy, Reddes, and Sazh Katzroy.
Fran doesn’t count, she’s technically not human.
Barret is characterized early in Final Fantasy VII as a brash, gruff man with a short temper and a tendency to curse, although his mouth is not as bad as Cid Highwind’s.
So all of us “race obsessed” people concentrate on Barrett’s foul-mouth when in actuality Cid’s mouth is much more foul. Why would anyone automatically assume that since Barrett curses, it must be because of his race? Do they automatically think black people curse more? Why isn’t cursing a detriment to Cid’s race? Complaining keeps the status quo of racism alive in the misguided attempt to subvert it. Positive characters change it.
We might also be forgetting that some black people actually do talk like Barrett. The self-righteous like to say Barret is racist because he sounds like Mr. T. Well, isn’t Mr. T a racial stereotype then? Why are some people OK with Mr. T but not Barrett? And some black and white people actually speak like Barrett. He speaks the way he does because he’s a working class man – not because his skin color dictates his speech. Pay attention to how they talk in Corel…
Barret’s rage is accompanied by a deeper, albeit rarely shown thoughtfulness.
Meaning he’s not a mindless rage machine, he has a reason for his anger. He’s also a father figure. Hollywood might reduce him to a one-dimensional brute with
- no inner life,
- no back story,
- no character development
- and general abandonment of children.
Back in 1997, this was somewhat progressive. Japan probably didn’t think so, because they had nothing to prove. Moving on…
Kiros was the voice of reason in Laguna’s group, always there to at least make an attempt in steering Laguna’s AWOL behavior, he is nonetheless loyal to his friends and is always looking out for their well being.
I’m sure Hollywood might have hesitated to make the black character, once again, thoughtful. Of course, the English localization team gave him “slang” in his speech. They dropped the “g” from inflected action verbs. I think the Japanese version probably gave him a Rōjingo (老人語?, lit. Sociolect of Elderly People) tone.
Thanks, English translators.
Buddy is a close friend of Brother, co-founder of the Gullwings and navigator of the airship Celsius in Final Fantasy X-2. Buddy acts as a more focused and level-headed counterpart to the erratic Brother.
Co-founder? Navigator? Focused? Level-headed? I think we can see where this is going…
Reddas is a man haunted by his past, one that he cannot easily let go. Despite attempts to continue on with his life, Reddas’s remorse over his past actions never truly leaves him, despite his change of identity. He proves to be both noble and brave, and ultimately selfless in his sacrifice to save Dalmasca.
He was also a man of power, a judicial magistrate. Way more dignity and an inner life than what Hollywood might have allowed for a black man. Of course, he sacrifices himself at the end, but oh well.
Sazh has a youthful, carefree, and lively personality. Sazh is a good-hearted man whose relationship with his son, Dajh, serves as his drive. His selflessness is shown when he considers sacrificing himself to keep Dajh from becoming a Cie’th, a monster a l’Cie who fails his Focus becomes. He is silly at times, mostly when he is in near-death situations, but Sazh has a strong will of justice and is always willing to help his teammates.
Sazh’s character is played by Reno Wilson (a black voice actor) who gave him his speech. And Reno Wilson generally talks in a similar manner in real life. It’s not racist if that’s how Wilson sounds. And once again…
Sazh is more level-headed and mature, often serving as the voice of reason and interjects his opinion when someone is on the verge of letting their emotions get the best of them.
In American media, these characters would have been either the tough guy or the comedic relief with no inner life. They would have had a generic hip-hop soundtrack as their theme. Of course, Hollywood is getting better about this; it has the potential to make dignified black characters. Japanese, by comparison, is lacking behind.
Japan comes across as racist with their own understanding of the world. Sometimes even they rely on Western stereotypes before knowing the origins. Still, “Progressive” Hollywood is actually racist. I think the “SJW”s are forgetting how harmful American media can be. The Japanese developers at least attempt to give their characters a sense of dignity regardless of race. Uh, sometimes…
Maybe Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl’s director was trying to make a deeper message? Japanese girls who think they are black simply because they tan their skin participate in and promote racial stereotypes. However, since the director focused more on the racial stereotyping than the commentary, the message came out super offensive.
Or, the director actually is racist and super offensive himself.
I don’t know the jury’s still out…