Not Tropeworthy: Ambiguously Brown

Deadlock Clock: 10th Aug 2012 11:59:00 PM
Total posts: [210]
1 2 3 4 5 6 ... 9
Issue about this trope were brought up in this thread.

I'm not sure this an objective trope. As said in the description, this is more of a fandom issue than anything relevant to the character in question, and that seems to be the case for most of the examples. They read like speculation and Fan Wank about a specific charater's race or ethnicity.

edited 8th Jun '12 3:29:54 PM by captainpat

This is a real thing. It's closely related to But Not Too Black. It does sound like it's about drawn media, then has a bunch of live-action examples.
No, that's a trope. Usually, IRL, people aren't just 'brown'. They come from a culture, a family, etc. In fiction, a brown person with no specific culture just shows up and is part of the ensemble.
I'd take a look at the live-action examples. I remember that there was a limit to only animated examples, mainly due to the fact with real life actors you could just...ask.
The ethnicity of the actor is not necessarily the ethnicity of the character.

I don't think this trope is about culture. It's about ethnicity or race.
Which is what I meant by 'culture'. This trope is basically a brown person in for the color of the thing. They aren't say, South Asian, with their culture and background apparent. They are just brown, and no one knows what their real culture is.

edited 9th Jun '12 9:39:30 AM by animeg3282

[up] Is that In-Universe or the audience? My problem is whether or not a character specific race is relevant to the work or fan who need to know every bit of information about a character.
It's a gap in world building and characterization. Here the race is just cosmetic, even though in reality, it wouldn't be. It'd be interwined with culture, with caste systems , with background. Here, it's just for (literal) color.
I'm not sure about that. Just as in real life you can have people of difference races with but with culture.

edited 9th Jun '12 9:53:51 AM by captainpat

Argh. I'm trying to explain that irl, people aren't just 'exotic' garnishes without any sort of background or history. I mean, people may think of people that way, but it's not true.
12 MagBas9th Jun 2012 12:37:34 PM from In my house
[up] I guess captainpat is trying to say that persons of a same culture can have different races and persons of the same race can be native of different cultures.
And I'm trying to say this trope is about having a person be brown just as a comestic character design choice without any actual thought besides 'it looks good' or 'that looks exotic'
14 DoKnowButchie9th Jun 2012 01:52:53 PM from San Juan, Puerto Rico.
But doesn't "a character's ethnic heritages remains undisclosed during the course of the work" apply equally as often to white characters? Lots of works don't tell us if their characters are from Polish descent, or Italian, or Dutch or German—they're just white.
I'm from the Southern US. There's a huge difference between say, a South Asian or a Latino but not so much between white folks from different descents. In anime, it's even more glaring, as these characters are just 'foreigners' but there's a huge difference between being say...Brazilan and Indonesian
Azor Ahai
I think that this could remain as in-universe only- like when a character's race is speculated about in-universe/is a topic of ambiguity in-universe. For instance, see the examples of Rashida Jones characters in The Office and Parks and Recreation, or regarding one of the cops in Super Troopers. I think because of Humans Are White, this does almost exclusively come across for characters/actors who are "brown".

Although, it's worth noting that one episode Parks and Recreation also had speculation about what white ancestry the character Ben belonged to, so I could see this trope expanded to something like Ambiguous Ethnicity instead.
name-change is unnecessary, but cutting examples that are just "this person's ethnicity was never mentioned" might be a good idea. Even if they do count as examples, they seems pointless.
One problem I see with many examples is that I don't see how fictional cultures can apply. I mean, take the Avatar: The Last Airbender example with the Water Tribe. They're Water Tribe, nothing ambiguous about that. They don't have to correlate to a specific Real Life culture. The same goes for Final Fantasy examples (especially Fran, who's a Bunny Girl), or any other fantasy examples.

Bottom line: They have their cultures; they're not ambiguous.

I also don't really buy the arguments there[up][up][up]. Just because they have a different colour doesn't mean they necessarily have a different culture than the one they're living in. I mean, where I live (Sweden) there are a lot of people of Africans, Asians, and South American decent, so they look like that. Most of them differ less from the general Swedish culture than the Swedish culture does from north to south. Sure, the more recent immigrants have more of the culture they come from, and there's a lot of difference between them, but there's also a lot of different between various white people.

Overall, I think it reeks of, "coloured people must have a defined culture, while white people are just generic and can do without."

edited 11th Jun '12 1:05:26 PM by Feather7603

The Internet misuses, abuses, and overuses everything.
Well, yeah. The default assumption currently is that Humans Are White, after all.

In general, though, it seems all of these problems can be split into two different tropes.

  1. Ambiguous Ethnicity: Where a character's race is intentionally non-white, non-Western, but kept vague, either because the writer does not want to get the culture wrong, because the writer wants to avoid Real Life issues, or because it serves the narrative better to keep it ambiguous.

  2. Ambiguously Brown: When a character (probably drawn) is given dark skin simply as a visual identifier. They may or may not be part of a different culture, but the point is that darker skin simply makes the character distinct. This is a visual trope.

edited 18th Jun '12 5:37:18 AM by KingZeal

[up] That's seems better than what we have now.
[up][up] The first one can also be to add a bit of 'color' without actually having to go into real world issues.
I edited that in.
23 MarqFJA22nd Jun 2012 05:33:13 AM from Saudi Arabia , Relationship Status: Shipping fictional characters
One Vision, One Purpose
Do we need a crowner for this? And what's the difference between this apparently new redefinition of Ambiguously Brown and the trope's current definition?

edited 22nd Jun '12 5:34:39 AM by MarqFJA

Where there is Distress, therein lies a Story. Where there is a Story, therein lies a Will. Where there is a Will, therein lies a Soul.
We'd be splitting the trope.

So, my theory is that if we split the tropes, we wind up with two distinct definitions. One is a character who is "exotic-looking/sounding" but never any defined ethnicity.

The other is a character which is visually brown but otherwise not different from the rest of the cast. This is different from Token Minority because it's not meant to represent a race. This is just making a character brown for no other reason than to make them visually distinct. This trope would be reserved for drawn media only.

edited 22nd Jun '12 6:31:57 AM by KingZeal

[up] The restriction to drawn media only is a good one. With real people, folks are able to guess more easily.

Page Action: Ambiguously Brown
4th Dec '12 10:22:55 PM
What would be the best way to fix the page?
At issue:

Total posts: 210
1 2 3 4 5 6 ... 9