Some stories have come under attack for being offensive to a group, culture, or sexual orientation. Stereotypes have become taboo. And God-forbid anyone discuss the differences between men and women.
Take a peek at Pinocchio. Not only is there a young boy puppet smoking in this famed Disney movie, but Native Americans act primitive and have skin the color of Merlot.
The Peanuts gang has come under fire for putting Franklin, the "token black kid" in a different chair than the rest of the gang, and he's seemingly segregated in the Thanksgiving episode.
And what about our beloved Smurfs? Smurfette, the only female in a group of males, has no real "calling" like the rest of them.
What about Rudolph in the claymation movie we grew up loving? Is the lesson more about "even Santa bullies the outcast" than accepting differences?
Stories like these have come under fire for being offensive, reinforcing stereotypes, and using characters to form a subtext of superiority.
Remember the beloved "underdog"? This character has to undergo some kind of transformation to make him into a "winner." But be careful he's not a privileged, straight white male who celebrates Christian holidays. Then again, he'd better not be anything else either, because he might not be portrayed in a positive light. Oh, and by the way, why is this character a "he" anyway? Can't women be a role model for children?
So here is my proposal. I will attempt to create a story with no biases, derogatory statements, stereotypes, and politically incorrect, offensive plots, conflicts, or characters. Shall we see how this goes?
The Two Equal People*
Once upon a time, neither in the future, past or present, but during a general time in a non-specific place, lived two people. The two people were good friends and although they were not alike, they weren't so dissimilar as to be a problem. In fact, one of them had very specific skills that the other did not possess not because that person was better than the other person. It just happened to be that way and the other person was content with that because it is good to accept oneself for whom he or she is. And everyone is special in their own unique way. And that is okay.
One day the person of indistinguishable characteristics said to the other person of different indistinguishable but not less suitable or desirable characteristics, "I am upset."
The second person, whose voice was nondescript, said, "I am sorry to hear that. I will listen."
Except the first person, who really isn't "first" except that this person was the first person to speak in the story, because no one should be considered the most important person in this tale, said, "Not everyone can hear, so I shall also type it in Braille."
To which the second person said, "But not everyone can see. And some people cannot read."
It was a quandary for sure. But the two people cared about each other very much and although they kept their respectful distance from one another, they knew they could solve this issue together.
The first person tried to think of why one should be upset with the other, since they were of very similar characteristics and had no reason to fight or argue. After all, everything was perfect and there was no reason to feel otherwise. So the first person said, "Thank you for listening."
"You are very welcome," said the second person. Of course, this conversation was spoken in a fitting dialect in a language that did not hint at a specific locale.
All was right in the world again.
*Imagination may be used, but only if it does not harm any people, cultures, personal/sexual preferences, or animals either intentionally or unintentionally.
What did we learn from this tale?
There is usually a moral to a story. I suppose the moral in this tale would be "listening to one another is a good thing." Which it is. But unfortunately, it was a yawn-inducer. Without differences, stereotypes, righteousness, greed, disagreements, different perceptions, and different psychology we would no longer have interesting stories. You can't PC the crap out of a good book. Now, that's not to say we should go around portraying a particular group or culture as something negative just so we can get out our biased viewpoints and chop other people's way of living down to make us feel better about ourselves. That's not only self-serving, it also reeks of useless dialog and ridiculous plot-lines.
Here's the thing: Times change, and what wasn't considered offensive years ago (because it was considered "acceptable" by the masses) might now anger or upset someone. But if the story needs to be told in that way because it's historically accurate or the viewpoint must be told from that character's belief system, then it needs to told in that way even if it creates a mob of dissent. What's better than giving people something to think and talk about? Isn't that what stories are for?
Curious to hear your thoughts on this matter. Is it possible to create a story that doesn't offend someone?