Monday, December 05, 2005

SB Day: Romance Covers and Spray On Ethnicity.

It’s Smart Bitches Day once again, and I’m a little late. Not my fault though, Blogger was giving me fits. This allowed me to hang with my own smart bitches, however, and make free with the sarcasm, wine, pizza and Kung Fu Hustle. Gotta love seeing how another culture synthesizes your own.

And how your culture synthesizes others.

Or perhaps not.

It’s been bitched about before, and by those better than I, but I figure since I’ve tackled the whole pregnancy thing, why not go after ethnicity. I have courage redoubled by alcohol!

Watch out world, here I come!

I mean, really, what’s up with the whole fetishizement (is that even a word? Who cares? You get the drift) of Native Americans, Spaniards, Greeks, Italians, Gypsies, and Sheikhs? And what’s up with always portraying them as tan white guys with dark hair? Half the time they look like someone has just plucked Johnny Farmboy from the field and slapped him in a photo shoot.

Dark hair? Check.

Dark skin, but not too dark because we wouldn’t want anyone getting the wrong idea? Double check.

Dark eyes? Who cares, he’ll have them closed in longing anyway.

Muscles upon muscles? Of course, the man was just branding a cow or something five minutes ago!

Perfect! Wax his chest and arms, give him a shower and plucked those brows and we are in action. Oh, and do something about those calluses on his hands. Where’s that manicurist?

Does this make any of these men look like the aforementioned Native Americans, Spaniards, Greeks, Italians, Gypsies, or Sheikhs? Hell no. But who cares, really, it’s not like some people might actually take a look at white boy and think to themselves, um, what’s up with the un-cola? Can I get the real thing, no ice, and a lemon? You know, how this would be served up in the actual country you are pretending to have this romance take place?

Because I’ve known and seen some beautiful people of Native American, Spanish, Italian, Greek and Arabic descent, and the features that make them striking are completely lacking from the bone structure of the tan Northern European descent men they keep sticking on my book covers. I’ve got nothing against Scotch-Irish, German, and Nordic boys, I share heritage with all of them. As a result of the great American melting pot, however, I’m very much a Heinz 57 Variety-Style baby, one that has an influx of Native American and possibly Turkish blood (which is of much debate because for a while I was convinced that we were part Iranian since an actress from a Middle Eastern film could have been my twin—mach sluttier, more endowed twin, but whatever she was playing a prostitute. The film, while being about an Iranian family, was filmed in Tel Aviv, so once again I’m clueless). One who would like to see her romance covers celebrate the features that make those cultures so intriguing instead of Anglicizing them for mass consumption.

I won't even go into the way most authors continue to play lip-service to the actual culture itself (beyond the cover), throwing in some words (that they may or may not be using correctly) in the native language, mentioning that they have big families or love the bambinos, and lets not even talk about leather that makes its way onto every Native American romance. I worry that people look and think, that's what it is like, that's what they're like. I worry about it far more than if some young girl reads it and expects fireworks and orgasms the first time she has sex. Way more than it she's going to get the wrong impression of love. Sooner or later she'll do both of those things. But will she realize the rest? Not unless she gets to know those cultures too.

And culture should be celebrated. It's traditions and family, colors and smells. It's how we celebrate our pasts and our triumphs.

Is that too much to add? Can the “culture” be represented by something more than a bad spray on tan?

Maybe I should start with something smaller, like a request to cut down on the waxing.

It’s gotta hurt.


Anonymous said...
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Mark Pettus said...

I recommend John Irving's newest book for some real homage to other cultures and language. Til I find you is his best since Cidar House Rules.

Like your blog.

Michele said...

What a GREAT post!!!

I laughed in so many parts...especially the ones where the words were the truest of the true.
It's like the old F-troop show.
All the indians weren't .
Just like Charlie Chan movies, they weren't..chinese all.
And look at Kung Fu..David Carradine..or was that he in ANYWAY Chinese???
Its hard to break tradition that has been followed since movies began...and it started in the books first.
Well, this is a new century, let's make new rules..shall we??
Where do you want to start?

Bookseller Chick said...

Thanks Mark, Irving is on my list to read when I get time to read again. So sometime in January. Glad you're enjoying it.

Michelle, you're right, there are way too many places where this practice has taken place. I say we take control, take charge and hit all the areas at once. Even if we make a little difference, it's still a difference.

Michele said...

Oooh, a take charge, go get'tem stance. Yeah!!!!!

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

Kung Fu was originally meant to star Bruce Lee, but the studio bosses thought the public wouldn't like it, so they put Carradine forward instead.

Just goes to show you.