April 9th, 2022
As disclaimers go, this is a weird one: representation matters. I believe that to my core. I want to make that clear before I start.
So what kind of something am I starting?
I guess we’ll see.
When we’re kids, we are generally taught the difference between real and fake.
The news is real. The movie is fake.
I want to address the “controversy” over the film CODA, and use that as a bridge to talk about storytelling as a whole.
I am a Child of a Deaf Adult, the titular CODA of the film. I have absolutely no problem with a person who is not a CODA in real life portraying one in a movie, which is fake.
I have also been an actor. For example, I once played a World War II soldier, despite having never been to war myself.
That is acting. It is pretending. It is representation through empathy. It is an example of understanding.
I’ll repeat it: representation matters. But I also believe that people need to remember the difference between what is real and what is fake.
Is there a line for who an actor can represent? Sure. I think that’s decided on a case-by-case basis.
But to demand that a person actually has to be the kind of person they are representing through the art of acting suggests that acting is not a skill at all, and that authenticity is decided at birth.
I don’t buy that.
I see writers who say they’re uncomfortable writing from a point of view that is not their own. Because it’s not “authentic.”
Whereas I feel like I have the authority to write as any human being, because I’m a human being, as well.
Hell, I write from animals’ points of view because I’m that, too.
You don’t want to read a book with a cast of all straight white dudes. I don’t want to write that book. That book more likely than not has nothing new to say about the human experience. That book smells like cheap, toxic body spray and has the shortest temper you’ve ever seen.
I guess I’m put off that some of us decided that fake was real and that art is not a skill.
Third time’s a charm: representation matters. I think that anyone who want to use their voice or face or hands to give to this world should be embraced for their gifts.
But as much as they’re gifts, they are skills.
And I think any attempt we take to understand somebody who isn’t like us, and to go as far as to literally try to walk in their shoes, is as authentically human as we can possibly be.