Misused: Black Best Friend

Deadlock Clock: 16th Dec 2012 11:59:00 PM
Total posts: [29]
1 2
The description makes it obvious it's supposed to be about one of two kinds of tokenism, which I listed on the Discussion page and will reproduce here:

1) [Out of universe.] Cases where the character is exclusively there to show the protagonist is totally non-racist and give added inclusivity, and is very shallow with no life outside of their friendship with the protagonist - they also act either like a stereotype of a black person or a parody of one of those stereotypes. Basically, they are black and someone else's best friend and defined entirely by this.

2) [In-universe, subversion.] Cases where white characters intentionally befriend black people in universe in order to look non-racist and hip. In this case, the black character can have a little or a lot more depth to them, since the show will probably point out how wrong this attitude is.

However, most of the examples are prominent supporting characters who are black, and Laconic lists this trope as "Black character is best friends with non-black main character." There are even real life examples. Someone once listed Proof's friendship with Eminem as an example, which is completely appauling - listing a real person and someone's real grief over their death as an example of a shallow racist trope - and I'm glad it got deleted.

The description is written in a sarcastic tone which implicitly mocks the racism of this trope, so I'm assuming that a few people eager to shoehorn in examples of their fandoms who don't understand sarcasm made this trope derail over time. As of now, it's become something even worse than Chairs - Unintentionally Racist Chairs. Fun!!

Currently, I think it needs a better description. I feel this is a trope distinct from Token Minority in that it is a character type a Token Minority is likely to be. A Token Minority can have any personality, but a Black Best Friend is always a sassy, hip, two-dimensional racial stereotype, or someone wondering why this creepy white guy is expecting them to be a sassy, hip, two-dimensional racial stereotype. Token Minority characters can be innocent stabs at diversity, but Black Best Friend characters are about appropriating diversity to look cool without understanding why we need diversity in the first place.

At the VERY LEAST, can we PLEASE not have real life examples for this? I'm sure there are Real Life Examples of subtrope 2), but I would rather forego those in favour of not having anyone list RLEs of subtrope 1).
I agree that there should be no real life examples.

I disagree that a Token Minority can have any personality. A token minority is the character who is in the story to represent the minority group that he's a part of, so he has to fit one of the stereotypes from that group. Also I wouldn't say that a Black Best Friend is always a sassy, hip, two-dimensional racial stereotype. I would personally change the Laconic from "Black character is best friends with non-black main character," (which says nothing about personality) to "Black character is best friends with non-black more important character,"
3 nrjxll4th Oct 2012 06:59:08 PM , Relationship Status: Not war
To be honest, I think the parts of the description relating to personality are overly restrictive. The trope is essentially about "fake diversity", not racial stereotypes.
i agree with both above me ^ & ^^ 'black character is best friends with a more important non black character' sounds about right to me.

its essentially a Token Duo like a Five-Token Band or Token Trio but with two people. The creators give a non-black character a Black Best Friend to show 'diversity.' for good or ill, or ill when good was intended.

edited 4th Oct '12 11:35:28 PM by acrobox

If we make Black Best Friend 'Satellite Character who is also a Token Minority', then that can be lumped happily with Satellite Character. I see no reason why that would need to be split.

The description and trope picture make it clear it's supposed to be about a shallow and stereotypical character there to be hip: "Your black best friend is sassy. She's never too busy to lend an ear, or come along on your wacky schemes. She is flawless to the point of being unreal. (Unless there's the occasional situation of either having a problem with her race or her relationship with you.) Is it because she has no love life, no apartment, and no family?"

If we decide it's just a subtrope of Satellite Character than I suggest nuking the page and maybe adding a note in the description of Satellite Character that those roles sometimes get filled with Token Minority characters to add diversity, which runs into Unfortunate Implications of presenting non-white characters as shallow accessory characters with no agency or depth.
6 AnotherDuck5th Oct 2012 07:05:43 AM from Stockholm , Relationship Status: In season
No, the other one.
I think it's a character whose main purpose is showing how accepting the more-important-to-the-story friend is. The black character can have other purposes, as long as they don't overshadow the main one. As such, the black character needs in one way or another act like a black person, according to one of several available stereotypes. As long as the audience thinks it's a black role, and not just a white role with a black actor, it's good enough.
Check out my fanfiction!
The Black Best Friend also doesn't have any real problems of their own. They're the only black person in this all white area, but everything's just fine until the Very Special Episode. She(or he) exists to pat the white character on the back and to add a spot of color
I'm not in favor of nuking the page of the Black Best Friend. It's too big of a sub-trope.
yeah what the heck, why are we trying to nuke all the racial stereotype tropes.
[up][up]Did anyone suggest nuking it? The problem is that the examples have turned into everyone who is black and friends with someone who isn't, which isn't a trope. People were talking about cleaning up the examples.
Last paragraph of #5, "I suggest nuking the page." He is the OP of this discussion. I was disagreeing but while we're here we should clean up any bad examples.
Are there any real problems with this?

13 Cider24th Oct 2012 08:00:40 PM from Not New York , Relationship Status: They can't hide forever. We've got satellites.
The Final ECW Champion
I am not sure this is even Trope Worthy. Poorly written character of a specific minority group who is friends with someone who is not? No, that is not a trope at all. Token Minority maybe, Magical Negro sure, but this? Nope.
Modified Ura-nage, Torture Rack
Welcome, traveller, welcome to Omsk
[up]I'm inclined to agree.
It does not matter who I am. What matters is, who will you become? - motto of Omsk Bird
It's a trope.

The page is just poorly defined.

edited 25th Oct '12 3:07:16 AM by KingZeal

16 nrjxll25th Oct 2012 03:10:46 AM , Relationship Status: Not war
Just because other sites consider it a trope doesn't necessarily mean it is one. After all, they also tend to lump pattern and criticism together when talking about them.

This is certainly a trope. But not because other people talk about it.
Yes it does. There are pages upon pages of Google results for it. All a "trope" is is a pattern in fiction, production, or art. This many sources making note of a pattern, categorizing it, and explaining it, makes it a trope. We don't have a section called "You Know That Thing Where" for nothing.

edited 25th Oct '12 3:32:42 AM by KingZeal

18 AnotherDuck25th Oct 2012 04:23:21 AM from Stockholm , Relationship Status: In season
No, the other one.
Well, for purposes of this site, a pattern with a reason or meaning, as there's certainly a pattern of People Sitting On Chairs in films.

edited 25th Oct '12 4:23:48 AM by AnotherDuck

Check out my fanfiction!
As I said, with this many different thought-out sources explaining both the intentional and unintended ramifications of the trope, we'd look rather foolish and/or biased if we claimed it wasn't a trope.

edited 25th Oct '12 4:32:51 AM by KingZeal

20 Cider25th Oct 2012 12:12:19 PM from Not New York , Relationship Status: They can't hide forever. We've got satellites.
The Final ECW Champion
I am more inclined to think I made it clear there are too many unnecessary articles here before. Apparently I have not, nor has the sentiment spread to anyone else yet but I will keep trying.

I have read through the google search you provided and read what other people had to say. It seems like Satellite Character but BLACK more than a subtrope to Token Minority but, at the same time, there are also links who say people should not be using this label, as few of the roles actually require a black person to be in them.

If you are an aspiring actor or viewer who feels patronized then blacks disproportionally being satellites is understandably annoying but is it a tool in of itself or just social commentary for California? Is this really a tool story tellers are using or is it a side effect of production stages? Are we going to be bending over backwards to prove the trend even existed five to ten years later? Is it even trope worthy?

Well if you are so intent on keeping this page, I think you should be looking at it as a type of Satellite Character rather than part of the "token" trope family. It is still going to be a Race Trope obviously.

edited 25th Oct '12 1:13:53 PM by Cider

Modified Ura-nage, Torture Rack
Cider, I'm sorry, but you tend to be a little verbose when trying to make a point.

What I think you're saying is: "This is just Satellite Character but Black, and it's not our job to play Racism Police."

Am I right?

edited 25th Oct '12 2:04:37 PM by KingZeal

22 SeptimusHeap25th Oct 2012 01:40:49 PM from Laniakea , Relationship Status: Mu
Well, I can see that Black Best Friend seems to be some kind of token stock character. I don't think the in- or out-of-universe distinction here is very important - it's still within the story.

The "Satellite Character BUT BLACK" argument would hold far more water if these things were independent. For my taste, a token secondary character doesn't sound like a coincidence.

Also, we aren't removing tropes because they are outdated or because they are effects of production stages.
23 Cider25th Oct 2012 01:54:53 PM from Not New York , Relationship Status: They can't hide forever. We've got satellites.
The Final ECW Champion
You are, close enough anyway. But also, the fact that people debate whether this distinction should even be singled out the way it is, is a problem. No one argues about what qualifies as a hammer or nail. If a trend can be as easily a coincidence as a deliberate tool I do not find it trope worthy. White castors in California casting for stories that call for white leads written by white people. Black Americans need work too so what are they going to be doing if they do not get the lead role?

This does not actually seem like a trope of the story, at least not the blackness inofitself, just a casting issue. Sassy Black Woman, well it is based on the personalities of real people but it is also something writers will clearly invoke or insert into their tales because of that familiarity. Mammy, a much more offensive topic, was also deliberately used(and still is if you look hard enough). Creator Provincialism and Write What You Know, those are tropes that could cause an unfortunately trends, as we all know Tropes Are Not Good. That does not make this page tropeworthy on its own.
Modified Ura-nage, Torture Rack
24 SeptimusHeap25th Oct 2012 02:01:45 PM from Laniakea , Relationship Status: Mu
Nobody has made a case of this being a coincidence so far. A token best friend is likely more effective than another token character (except for main character). Also, I recall reading somewhere that in the 60es US storytellers had to compromise between a more progressive and a "segregationist" approach to races in stories and that this trope is partially a product of such a compromise - a black token character, but only as a satellite.

And it seems you are saying that casting isn't part of storytelling and thus not a trope, which is most definitively false.
25 AnotherDuck25th Oct 2012 02:20:10 PM from Stockholm , Relationship Status: In season
No, the other one.
It's not a casting issue. People who cast roles don't care if there are black people who don't get roles. However, it is an attempt at showing some kind of equality, which is what a token character is usually meant for.

It's important that this character is a friend of the main character, since that means the main white character has a black friend, which shows how non-racist and cool the white character is. Essentially, a status indicator that talks.
Check out my fanfiction!

Total posts: 29
1 2