i feel like brecht would have a field day with this…

Suddenly Ethnicity and Deliberate Values Dissonance were particularly interesting (primarily because upon reading the former I laughed out loud), but I think considering them in connection can be beneficial, especially in the context of part of our conversation on Thursday, when we talked about what we perceived to be a blending of cultures in Genly’s home world. Most of the time when we read something, we perceive the default characterization to be set as white male. Genly’s name isn’t codified as white male however, so this does play with our perceptions of him as a character, but the added notation of his “dark skin” (which we perceive as “of African descent” black, not possibly “Desi” black) is another offhand detail that produces a sense of….disassociation, I suppose? In which we can see similarity between ourselves and Genly, but not enough to the point where we can slide comfortably into his skin. Granted, this is a bit problematic, because one of the reasons why the white male is the default is purportedly because it’s just easier to identify with white males (not that decades upon centuries of social conditioning has put that into place or anything), so….as a result of this, are we meant to not identify with Genly because he’s different? Or because he’s just similar enough for it not to matter?

2 thoughts on “i feel like brecht would have a field day with this…

  1. Personally, I definitely did identify with Genly? And I’m a white girl, just by way of comparison. I think it’s partly a function of the setting–everyone other than him is way more different. He’s the closest to human in the ways we conceive of ourselves, so yeah, like you said: he’s similar enough that his skin color is kind of made irrelevant? (But then again, that can pose its own set of problems, too. If the text allows skin color to be de-emphasized, readers can end up glossing over the fact of it. Katniss.)

    1. Yeah, I feel you. I also identified with Genly, but I think what I was trying to say was that it’s not supposed to be a complete identification because the detail of his skin color was supposed to be jarring (for Le Guin’s white audience, anyway). I think that’s mostly a result of the text itself being a bit dated; of course that wouldn’t bother us or really jar us as much, we’re living in a world where Olivia Pope and Lt. Abbie Mills are on popular television shows and they aren’t gross stereotypes. Granted, that’s no guarantee of ~non-disassociation~, but their mere existence makes a detail like that lose some of its impact.
      And you’re right about it being a function of setting, I think. We latch onto Genly because he’s the closest to us, but he’s still different in a way that makes us examine ourselves in comparison to him as we do in comparison to everyone else.

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