Yup, like I said yesterday. Conflict is over. On to the fallout.
And, just like the first strip of my shift where Malcolm asked Logan out, today we’re given a reaction from Cayla that would seem normal, human, and understandable. If this one day existed in a vacuum. Which is in stark contrast to yesterday where, as Banana Jr 6000 pointed out, no one acted like a normal human being.
Today shows realistic empathy, concern, and compassion on Cayla’s part. And also a certain motherly wisdom with ice cream bribes. Offering food activates a primal, bond-building part of every human’s brain. Unfortunately, this is all in service of these three sitting down together so we can spend the rest of the week blandly talking about racism.
This entire arc is a slap in the face. Tim Negoda style. Just as Batiuk was about to shove these two kids he had hardly bothered to name down the memory hole, he realizes he can use them for their race. And then he drags Cayla into this. Cayla who, in the nearly fourteen years since her introduction, has yet to have a single arc to herself that wasn’t about Les Moore. She gets to be here now, because he made Cayla black. Something that, up to this moment, was only used for a single throwaway joke.
People have pointed out, numerous times, how Cayla’s ethic characteristics have been leached from her over the years, leading to the nickname CauCayla. Though, this really was only a visual bleaching.
I call this a visual bleaching, because Cayla herself really hasn’t changed in personality, goals, or interests. She’s black, but she’s never been portrayed as culturally different. Some of you noticed this.
Speaking of Derek, he was one of the guys, but he was cool and had his own style. Junebug, who came along later, had spunk and did things her way. These characters were black, and Batty had the balls to write them that way. They were unique and believable. That brings us to Logan Church and Thatsnought Hewmore. All the black characters in the class of 2022 act exactly like the white characters. Awkward, glasses-wearing, brainy, wimpy white nerds. *Yawn*be ware of eve hill
I’m going to start throwing around the words culture and race. Of course, the definition of these two words and their very reality as concepts is constantly being changed and bickered over by social scientists trying to earn their paychecks and gatekeep intelligent conversation by changing the rules faster than Calvinball. But for the purpose of this week I’m going to say race derives from the place of origin of your ancestors and culture is the way of life of a group of people.
For the purposes of this discussion. Race is immutable. You cannot change who your biological parents were. Culture is given to you as a child by the people around you. As you get older you can keep what you’re given, or change it by your behavior and who you choose to associate with.
Just like any racial group in America there are all kinds of black cultures, subcultures, and expressions. There are plenty of black people who are just like Cayla, Logan, Malcolm, and Principal Nate. That they exist, and act this way, isn’t a problem.
But there’s not a single non-white character currently in Funky Winkerbean who acts culturally different from the main cast. Even Adeela, a first generation immigrant, doesn’t act appreciably different.
In vintage FW Derek and Junebug were subtly different, both in the way they dressed AND the way they spoke. But nowadays portraying a character of a different culture can be a dangerous game. Where one person sees as an accurate representation, another person will puff up with outrage at a harmful stereotype. There’s the general consensus that some stereotypes are off limits to outsiders. A white person couldn’t, and probably shouldn’t, be writing something like The Boondocks.
But before you get to a Key and Peele sketch on Civil War Reenactors, there is a massive field of grey where a thousand people with ten thousand agendas are scribbling all over trying to make their line the line no one crosses. Apu gets cancelled. Ben gets taken off his box of rice. Everyone has a big old twitter meltdown over if a white woman should have written The Help. They yell if everyone is the same race. They yell if a culture is portrayed wrong. And what ‘wrong’ is is undefinable and ever changing.
And you know what is safe? You know what is easy? Visual diversity with cultural homogeneity. Race without culture.
It’s also boring, unchallenging, and it only tackles one type of prejudice, while potentially leaving the other standing tall.
If you look at this week’s premise it’s easy to come away saying, “Racism is bad because we are all the same inside.” Malcolm and Logan are ‘good kids’ just like any other kids in Westview. They dress the same, act the same, talk the same.
But what happens when people aren’t just the same? When they’re louder or quieter, colder or warmer? When they dress different, act different, talk different? When they value different things? Those are all learned behaviors, but they are also all choices. And so the previous way of thinking can make a person viciously prejudiced. Because these people can choose to believe something else and they don’t deserve respect until they do!
Real diversity isn’t a bunch of people who all look different and think the same. But Batiuk has only very rarely even attempted to tackle a cultural divide.