Not Tropeworthy: Ambiguously Brown

Deadlock Clock: 10th Aug 2012 11:59:00 PM
Total posts: [210]
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51 MarqFJA23rd Jun 2012 07:42:12 AM from Saudi Arabia , Relationship Status: Shipping fictional characters
One Vision, One Purpose
You know, I noticed at least one of Ambiguously Brown's examples seem to go the way of handwaving the trope by having the character's ethnic background involve multiple dark-skinned ethnicities, with no obvious identification with at least one of them. So that got me into wondering where such diversely-multiracial characters — and real-life counterparts, like Mestizos and Mulattoes — stand with regards to this trope?

It seems like the clarified definition of Ambiguously Brown doesn't actually involve ambiguity.
It does involve ambiguity... on the ethnic/racial background of the character, that is. Skin color isn't just spontaneously generated, you know; you'd have to have a parent or some recent ancestor who had the gene(s) for the right skin color. Take Heiji Hattori for example, who makes it clear that he inherited his dark skin from his grandfather (gene expression skipped a generation, which does happen sometimes). How his grandfather got his own dark skin despite being Japanese, however, is a mystery AFAIK.

edited 23rd Jun '12 7:49:40 AM by MarqFJA

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If they say "I'm half white and half black" (btw, we don't use the word mulatto anymore we say 'mixed race') that's not ambiguous, but if they can use their ambiguity to appear several races, then you can add.
53 RJSavoy23rd Jun 2012 03:01:50 PM from Edinburgh , Relationship Status: I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me
Should we restrict this trope as applying to Mukokuseki and other art styles that simplify facial traits too much to distinguish phenotypes, and only skin (or hair) colour can mark someone as foreign?
54 ccoa7th Aug 2012 09:16:19 AM from the Sleeping Giant
Ravenous Sophovore
Clocking due to lack of activity.
Waiting on a TRS slot? Finishing off one of these cleaning efforts will usually open one up.
Are we doing the thing I suggested on Page 1? If so, we need a crowner hooked.
Defitions proposed:

An ambiguous ethnicity

A person who is brown for cosmetic reasons in drawn media.
This is in response to a post by Jordan way back on Page 1: I don't feel that the character's ethnicity needs to be a point of curiosity or confusion among the other characters within the show, but rather among fans, to be considered this trope. Other characters need not discuss their curiosity about a certain character's race because who knows, the charcter in question may have explained that to the other characters beforehand. However, if you're a fan, and you find yourself wondering the race of a character because they're ambiguously brown, then it's this trope. Take Brock from Pokemon, for example. The other characters never address his race, but he's what I would consider a perfect example of this trope.

I agree that if the character in question lives in a fictional world where the races have no relevance to real life races, then it's not this trope. Also, with regards to live-action TV, I agree that if the character, in canon, appers to be mixed with many different races to the point where they look ambiguous, but the races that make up their ethnic background are explained in canon, then that character is not ambiguous, and the reverse is true if the ethnicity is explained in canon. However, the actor is ambiguous if they can play many characters of different races.

Sorry for jumping in so late. tongue

edited 14th Aug '12 4:20:31 PM by TrueRuby

58 AnotherDuck14th Aug 2012 05:55:01 PM from Stockholm , Relationship Status: In season
No, the other one.
I think that, if the origin of the character is stated, it shouldn't count, even if lots of fans are confused. That's just Fan Dumb, unless it's not an In-Universe statement, or in some extra material, as those may require extra digging to find out. If it's about what fans think, it's an Audience Reaction. If it's about unstated origins of characters, it's an objective trope.

I could still give some leeway to "for a long time no one knew, but after five seasons it was revealed that..." if there's a significant time period where it is unknown.

Also, only Earth counts. No aliens, Final Fantasy, or tanned water benders.
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Something related that I've noticed is that while Black Face is almost always regarded as in bad taste or worse, assuming an Ambiguously Brown look isn't... Oh, Brown Face is actually a trope, didn't know that.

Thought about that after seeing Quantum of Solace. Olga Kurylenko became Ambiguously Brown in the lead female role... and, curiously, Gemma Arterton, a pale-skinned redhead in the secondary female role in that movie, became Ambiguously Brown in Prince of Persia not long after.

... which might not have anything to do with this trope, actually, as I read some of the discussion. Apologies for the digression if so.

edited 14th Aug '12 6:00:11 PM by suedenim

A person who is brown for cosmetic reasons is not a trope. A character having an ambiguous ethnicity is no trope either, unless this is addressed in universe.

We don't consider physical appearance like hair or eye color trope worthy, unless there is a connection to certain character traits. And I see no reason why skin color should be treated different.

[up]I think a person who's brown for cosmetic reasons is exactly what the trope refers to. "Cosmetic reasons" meaning that this character is brown for no other reason other than the fact that the creators wanted to throw in a character that doesn't look like all the others, but no race, ethnicity, or cultural background is given for the character, they are just, simply, brown-skinned to give the show the appearance of diversity.

That would be the most common reason for a character being ambiguously brown, but it need not be a requirement. I would say, for a character to be considered this trope, they must meet these requirements:

-Have brown skin

-Live in a universe based on the real world or at least a world where characters are members of real-world human races

-Have an unexplained ethinc background, leaving fans to wonder about the ethinc background of the character.

edited 14th Aug '12 7:53:51 PM by TrueRuby

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^That all means we have to kill with fire the Real Life section. This trope just can't have examples in Real Life, because real people always have some background, whether others can tell it by their look or not.
-Have brown skin

Again that is no trope just physical appearance.

-Live in a universe based on the real world or at least a world where characters are members of real-world human races

This is even more trope unworthy. There are people of ambiguous ethnic background in this world. If a work mirrors real life without any storytelling purpose then it is not a trope.

-Have an unexplained ethinc background, leaving fans to wonder about the ethinc background of the character.

Why is the ethnic background of the character important? If race is not a topic of the show in some way then explaining the ethnic background of every single character seems out of place.

Again simply giving a character brown skin is not a trope as giving a character white skin or back skin is no trope either.

edited 15th Aug '12 1:17:11 AM by Osmium

I agree with Ruby. IRL, folks aren't just 'brown'. They are of Mexican descent or African descent or something. It's not just like people just have skin colors at random. We do have Personal Appearance Tropes

edited 15th Aug '12 3:00:47 AM by animeg3282

65 DeviantBraeburn15th Aug 2012 04:24:55 AM from Dysfunctional California
Wandering Jew

If that's the case shouldn't there be "ambiguously white" and "ambiguously black" tropes?

I vote not tropeworthy. At the very least, we kill the Real Life section.

edited 15th Aug '12 4:25:47 AM by DeviantBraeburn

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[up]Agreed. I don't really understand why being brown requires justification, while being white, black or, say, Asian doesn't. There's lot's of different ethnicities among them too.

Though there is something to this trope. Maybe Ambiguous Ethnicity will work better?

edited 15th Aug '12 4:46:45 AM by kundoo

If this is to be about cosmetically brown characters, name it Cosmetically Brown. It's not about ambiguity then.
Osmium: I meant that list as a checklist that a character had to have each one to be considered this trope. Individually, yes, each of those things is not tropeworthy. But, if a character had all those things combined, they would fit the bill of this trope.

[up][up]Because, if a character is white, then they're not ambiguous. They're white. Same with black (=dark enough brown skin to be able to tell that they're black, or other identifying features) and Asian. Brown (without other identifying ethnic features) is the only skin color that leaves some guessing room. I think what you're describing is closer to tokenism, which is a different concept.

Even though technically a character can still be ambiguous even if we know their race, (i.e. we know the character is white, but we don't know if they're Irish-American or German-American, for example) I wouldn't consider that ambiguous. I think knowing the race of the character is enough. We need not know the nitty-gritty details of their ethnicity. That would be reading too much into it. However, for ambiguously brown characters, we don't even have an idea of what race they might be.

edited 15th Aug '12 8:59:13 AM by TrueRuby

69 AnotherDuck15th Aug 2012 09:12:42 AM from Stockholm , Relationship Status: In season
No, the other one.
So, there are three races of humans: White, black, and everyone else. (Okay, red and yellow too, so four.)

edited 15th Aug '12 9:31:55 AM by AnotherDuck

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Being Indian and being Mexican are pretty different, and would affect a character's life. Yet here, it's here's a brown person in the middle of people with defined ethnicity. IT LOOKS PRETTY.
71 AnotherDuck15th Aug 2012 09:36:09 AM from Stockholm , Relationship Status: In season
No, the other one.
Having Indian or Mexican ancestors wouldn't necessarily affect one's life, though. I mean, I know and knew lots of brown people I'd categorise as culturally Swedish.
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I'm not for limiting characters to Earth or a similar real-world location. That kills too many legitimate examples and makes several others ambiguous. (For example, a setting like Ultima or Bleach, where the setting is "Earth", but overlapping with a fantasy world.)

Also, the reason why "ambiguously" brown is a trope is for the same reason Action Girl is a trope. The default assumption is that Women Are Delicate or Humans Are White, so outliers have meaning, even if it wasn't intentional.
73 AnotherDuck15th Aug 2012 10:22:16 AM from Stockholm , Relationship Status: In season
No, the other one.
I'd accept a non-Earth world if the colour actually meant that the character's origin was ambiguous. If there's a place in that setting where people assume the character is from, it's not this trope. I wouldn't count it either if the only reason the origin is ambiguous is because the world isn't developed enough. In that case, being from "the unknown lands" is enough to define the origin.
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[up][up][up][up]Being Slavic or being Anglo-Saxon are also pretty different and can affect character's life. So?

edited 15th Aug '12 10:44:48 AM by kundoo

"So, there are three races of humans: White, black, and everyone else. (Okay, red and yellow too, so four.)"

Ha, good one. I only mentioned three examples, but no, those are not the only three races, of course.

"Having Indian or Mexican ancestors wouldn't necessarily affect one's life, though. I mean, I know and knew lots of brown people I'd categorise as culturally Swedish."

I agree with Animeg. We're only talking about ambiguous race/ethnicity, which is genetic, not culture, which is a social thing. People of any race can be assimilated into a culture. The character may be culturally Swedish, but if no clues as to what their racial/ethnic origin is are given other than their brown skin, they're ambiguously brown. Whether you feel it would affect their life or not really doesn't matter. (But since you brought it up, as a minority, I can tell you that not being of the majority race, even if you have been assimilated into their culture, definitely does have an impact. But that's beside the point.) The only thing that matters as far as this trope goes is the lack of clarity on the character's race/ethnicity.

edited 15th Aug '12 11:29:01 AM by TrueRuby

Page Action: Ambiguously Brown
4th Dec '12 10:22:55 PM
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