The Cold

A certain level of privilege naturally makes treating mental illness easier, in access to care, medication and the way one is treated generally. Privilege is the result of a combination of appearance and class, with appearance foremost in how these are intertwined when it comes to the reception one gets just walking around. For people doing this, people whose clothes are disheveled, who lack an awareness of exact social cues as they just try to run an errand or just aimlessly exist, most people have little to no warmth.

Ironically enough, with the right appearance, clothes and jerk-like demeanor, someone who’s barreling down the street may not exactly be welcomed; but he or she could be respected.

For the mentally ill or someone lacking in luck, however, just walking down the street with a lack of uniform appearance can be a supreme disadvantage. People can’t control nervous ticks for, instance, or other things that are not typical about the way they look. We tend to expect a very uniform demeanor in a human being – generally mildly pleasant or busily zombie-like, wrapped up in a region’s (or, non-religiously, a legion’s) proper or ideal fashions.

This, of course, is not a universal thesis. Depending on the perceived appearance of someone who is unfortunate, some strangers may have a bit more empathy for him or her; and there are certainly always a few people who, even in what are considered the hardest of places, have empathy for anyone who’s down on their luck. But generally, a lack of uniformity makes for someone who’s not quite equally human – even in something as quintessentially human as walking along with many others and being the one person who trips. In that particular group, unless the reception the person who trips usually gets is based upon their being quite good at their uniform mode, he or she becomes fuel for others in that prevailing mode who’d like someone else to feel superior to.

The privilege of appearance, I think, is perhaps most beneficial on the level of dealing with power structures, in that someone who’s white and doesn’t appear overtly disabled (mentally or physically) has a much better chance of their messiness not being dealt with via a possibly fatal, heavily militaristic response. It may strange to posit that not being squashed like a bug for acting a bit off-kilter can be the most beneficial aspect of privilege – simply not having one’s life callously taken – but it is, and yet, what’s a life within that spectrum?

However dystopian it may seem, it may be the one more people have than not.

Society respects privileged uniformity; and in that arena at its most feudal, who else prevails but the one who looks at the person who is disheveled and screams their “superiority”? Superior to the person who trips, superior to the person who’s supposed to be less than human – an example for those who walk on any street where those who appear to be less fortunate are shunned.

Even critical thinking about a broader empathy can be feudal. When done among the comfort of homes tailored to privilege, such discourse is propped up by a uniformity that is thoroughly cynical. It needs to be more than the unfortunate rather than be walking on the very same streets as someone who is sloppily, unfashionably dressed, or has that nervous tick, or is non-uniformly strong in a land of toughness.

The Dub That Surpasses Otherness

In any Jackie Chan movie that’s been dubbed over in English, Jackie’s accent is one that stands out. In a world of people voiced over by those who usually have (or can affect) what would generally be considered white American and/or British accents, Jackie, a man for whom English is possibly a third language, voices over his own characters. In most English-speaking countries, by jerk standards, Jackie’s accent might be considered a bit rube-ish; and it would make for someone who is considered a bit less than, or ‘other.’ But that’s what make the English dubs of his Chinese films so unique. He could be dubbed by any other accent that, in a Western sense, is not considered sophisticated, and it would be just as uniquely surreal to have this artfully klutzy, alternately semi-suave protagonist who scrambles to being on par with anyone in his world.

Whitewashing Unfortunately a Cornerstone of Most Anime

The country of Japan is like anywhere else – a place with some wonderful in the mix with some not so much. Historically, its largely homogeneous society has put itself at the top of an imaginary hierarchy in northern Asia. Aside from those considered ethnically Japanese, the cultures/people that it seems most enamored with are the titans crafted by America’s and Europe’s cultural output. Japan’s animation output developed hugely influenced not just by this output, but the pre- and post-World War II strides in animation in America and Europe. Since that time, it has managed to mix American and European biased cultural reflections into an avatar for characters that are supposed to be thoroughly Japanese.

In Japan’s old timey art, the depictions by most Japanese artists show people with eyes that typically have the single-eyelid look. It wasn’t universal, but it was certainly common enough to be a perfectly normal avatar for being a normal human being. The creative output of countries that rule the world on a pop cultural level, however, seemed to give Japan a bit of an inferiority complex. A few of the latest Final Fantasy videogame installments tend to not completely whitewash the eyes of characters; and even if they’re still a typical combo of Japanese characters filtered through a European sensibility, that’s a rarity.

Anime like the original Robotech typically put Japan at the center of a world in which there’s an international peacekeeping force comprised of American, European and Japanese characters – characters who are all relatively in sync and speak Japanese. Even though many series have continued in this template, it’s almost unheard of to have a black character on these teams (which is among the original Robotech’s virtues.)

When an anime is comprised of an entirely Japanese cast, the characters are either the general pale, dark-haired avatar of the average Japanese person, quite obviously an almost Aryan vision of whiteness (anime loves its blond protagonists), or pale with some dyed color of hair. Characters with hair colors that are impossible without dye seem to partially be a subconscious result of the need for characters to be, if not white in the most western sense, something more than the typical avatar of just an old fashioned, black-haired Japanese character. Japanese animation doesn’t ever feature these characters dyeing their hair; these colors are supposed to be natural features. And while some people in Japan are certainly pale, there are also Japanese people whose skin tones are much more tan. Maybe there’d be a lot more if there wasn’t such a premium on paleness.

“Non-white protagonists” are still most often seen as an oxymoron. But most anime is not remotely reflective of how ridiculous that is.

A Vampire of Color

Four out of five review for “Late Night Partners,” a novella-length short featuring people of color and the supernatural, at citygirlscapes.com:

“As Steuert often does, he’s built a tiny world with large characters and has given us a little look into a very creative and descriptive mind.”