On -isms: International Awareness

By | Thursday, December 08, 2016 Leave a Comment
One of the reasons I think diversity in comics (both diversity in creators as well as characters) is important is because it helps to enlighten readers into different ways of thinking. By coming at a problem from a significantly different perspective than the reader -- whether that's because of race, sexual orientation, nationality, whatever -- the reader can gain insight into other modes of thought. This can lead to both greater empathy with others, and more creativity in general.

But if you limit yourself to diverse voices from the United States, you're still not seeing as diverse a set of material as you could. I think the manga boom has been fantastic from this regard, helping to bring to the US not only a different style of comic storytelling but also some different cultural perspectives about people and the world. But it points to the difficulty in getting material from other cultures -- many use different written languages. In order to read those manga, most Americans would need them to be translated from Japanese into English.

The same holds true of any language. There's a slew of French and Belgian material that's never made into English. There's a good-sized comic scene in India these days, not to mention China and Korea. And though we hear very little about it here, there's comic publishers everywhere from Russia to Brazil. The image I've included with this post is of a comic character from Zimbabwe.

One of the problems highlighted by much of the bullshit populist nationalism that seems to have been engulfing the world the past year is, in part, rooted in a lack of understanding of "others." Whether "other" means someone born in the same country as you but wears a culturally different article of clothing, or they have a different amount of melanin than you, or they practice a different religion, or... The hatred of "others" has been played up by the likes of Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, and Marine Le Pen; specifically trying to capitalize on the cultural ignorance of their constituents to encourage them to fear and hate anyone not like them.

But by actively reaching out, and taking in comics (or any other media, for that matter) of those other cultures, we can gain a better understanding and appreciation of where those "others" are coming from. And by eliminating the unknown, we eliminate the fear. And by eliminating the fear, we eliminate the hate.

So maybe, when you're tracking down holiday presents for your friends and family, see if you can snag a comic or two from another country. While not everything is in English, many are. And that can help bridge the gap that some politicians are deliberately trying to turn into an uncrossing chasm.

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