You Win or You Die was very nice, but “maniac” is an ableist slur.



Which Minako would use. I’m not saying she SHOULD, but it’s in her character voice. Minako is a lot of things, but super socially conscious and policing the words she chooses are not among them.

I’m not sure how much to dig my heels in here. It feels like I’m arguing for the right to use ableist slurs, which isn’t my intent, and I’m not sure how equipped I am today to have an extended conversation on the topic. What I’ll do is point to something I saw cross my dash the other day, which I feel is relevant here.

This is something I’ve been running into more and more.  I am making a genuine effort, as a human being who wants to not be an asshole, to remove certain words from my vocabulary.  And I have some characters who are aware enough to do the same.  But that’s some.

Realistic dialog means realistic flaws.  (And sometimes means characters going “whoa what did you just say step it back.”)  Toby is not going to stop saying “bitch” just because I learned that gendered slurs are unnecessary.  Maybe she’ll depend on it a little less than she did when I was less self-aware, as I naturally move toward other word choices, but she grew up in the 1980s, she’s sort of set in her ways.

I reblogged a piece of Barry Ween Boy Genius fanfic a few months ago, and felt the need to apologize for the language in it, even though it was written years ago.  But at the end of the day, if I wrote it tomorrow, I would make most of the same language choices, because they would be true to the characters.

TL;DR: We need to be careful what words we use.  We need to consider why they are being used.  We need to say “that is a slur, that is a bad word.”  But we also need to remember that characters are not authors; unless every character is a sack of the same problematic weasels, sometimes it’s just what that fictional person would say.

Personally, I’m never really comfortable with them, but I’m more okay if the narrative clearly disagrees with them. The problem with slurs in fiction is twofold, right? First, people who already face them regularly in real life will be confronted with them in fiction too. As with the ongoing current discussion of real life -isms in games and media, e.g., BioWare and Game of Thrones, there’s a balance to find find in the value of realistic dialogue and events. On this point, it’s up to the individual media creator to decide what they’re willing to include and at what cost. Many authors will never use slurs accepted as the worst (by most of us now), some will only include them to specifically address social justice issues.

The other issue is that people, often kids, exposed to that media absorb the slur or have their previous knowledge of it reinforced. That absorption’s more likely to happen when it comes from a good character and extra important then, I think, to clarify that that’s not Good behavior. So many people right now still don’t know what is and for a lot of us, if it weren’t for the SJ 101 we go through when we join Tumblr (and don’t, you know, only hang out with Neo-Nazi MRAs), we’d still have no idea, and many creators don’t. If it’s not called out in some manner, then the audience can assume that’s what the creator thinks, and whether that’s because they didn’t know better or disagree on it being harmful won’t really make much of a difference.

Characters can be flawed, occupy grey areas, etc., and it isn’t possible or interesting to have every character be 2014 socially aware, but creators can choose to include amd highlight literally whatever they want, so if there’s something they know is bound to hurt people or teach them, then I’d expect they treat the situation carefully. For example, Ichabod in Sleepy Hollow no doubt knows and even used a lot of insulting ass terms, but the writers have made the choic to just…not have situations in which they’d ever come up. And in the meantime, he can learn better. After all, can’t characters grow with us?

I don’t necessarily need another character to give them a lecture or for the narrator to Lemony Snicket a disclaimer, but there’s just so much media that is deliberately or carelessly awful about this, I like it when authors make sure they handle it somehow when they understand what they’re doing.