So a few days ago a small lil controversy regarding Borderlands 2 exploded across the net
as the question was raised as to Tiny Tina was a racist character or not.
Now whenever controversies like these pop up whether it be the Hitman CGI trailer with the 'sexy' Nuns or Lara Croft being sexually assaulted I always feel compelled to write about it in a not rage filled way, I don't like seeing people being too actively rage filled about these controversies as I feel it's not always helpful and encourages less debate and discussion among people as it can get pretty tiring hearing people shouting all the time. That's the last thing I want though, I like that everyone is talking about sexist, racist and any other issues in games, I love seeing good healthy discussion being thrown around however I feel it's also important the topics that inspire these conversations be careful in their approach of things.
So I'm here to approach this small issue with my own thoughts, not just on whether I find Tiny Tina to be racist or not but also in some of the problems I find surrounding these controversies. I've always hesitated with these type of posts since I fear I won't adequately get my thoughts across and crash and burn but there's a first time for everything. Just to keep things light hearted though here's a picture of a bunny smiling, aww isn't it cute?
Remember when you were young and you'd come across something that you found cool or funny? Something like a TV show or Film which had you running around repeating the lines like you were the children's comedian of the year.
Heck I remember vaguely my first viewing of the South Park movie (well before I was 18) and finding it to be the best, funniest and coolest thing ever, then I'd go out and play with my friend constantly saying "UNCLE FUCKER" and "Shitface Cock Master". I found it funny at a very shallow level though and now that I'm older I can appreciate more of what's going on underneath it all, and also why some baby sitters don't appreciate you "You're such a pig fucker Phillip" around young kids.
You see swear words had this mischievous quality of fun about them as a kid, honestly they still fucking do to me now, shit me I love swearing like the bastard I am. But we didn't know why we liked saying them so much, sure it's because it has that taboo element and you have all these giant people telling you not to say them as they then step on one of your legos and scream those sweet, sweet forbidden words. We would say those words not knowing how they could affect those around us, we would be told not to use those words not knowing why they were so forbidden ultimately.
Does this long analogy have a point you ask? Well of course, because I feel Tiny Tina perfectly sums up what is to be a kid and a young teenager, which to me explains why some people can't stand her and others like her. Her character to me is making fun of that phase we all go through as kids, she's hyper active and spouting random words and phrases without fully knowing what they mean because she probably just heard someone else using them.
Ignoring any problems you may have with her using the word "Badonkadonks" you have to admit, forgetting any context that's related to the word, it's a pretty fun word to use. It just rolls off the tongue, you barely have to put any effort in to say it. How about the word "Crunk"? That's also really fun to use, it's like saying CLANK but a more relaxed version, and again just rolls off the tongue like smooth buttocks sliding down a butter covered road. They're easy and simple to say, a lot like swear words in fact. As a kid you're pretty dumb so your vocabulary is somewhat limited, and a lot of extreme descriptive non-swear words can be pretty long and complicated to a kids mind so swear words are like a holy grail of easy language.
So to me Tiny Tina using the words "Badonkadonks' and "Crunk" is just the exact same as a kid saying the word 'Bitch'. Many people consider the word 'Bitch' a gender based insult therefore a sexist term to use but obviously the kid doesn't see it that way, the kid won't even be aware of any of those potential issues. Same goes for Tiny Tina, she's not aware that to some people those words are associated with stereotypical 'black' lingo and therefore may been as offensive or even racist to be used to some. So the explicit use of these words suddenly to me is no longer a problem, the guy who started this said the problem was the character of Tiny Tina is "white girl uses craaaazy black lingo" whereas to me I feel it's pretty clear she's a character of "Kid's will repeat just about anything fucking thing they hear".
But now we must move on to a deeper issue, one where I'm going to in a bit of a conflicted mess about but bear with me and hopefully I'll get to heart of my problem of it all.
Dictionary.com defines the word 'Racism' as "hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.".
I outline this because I think the words "Racism" and "Racist" are being thrown around WAY too loosely. When it comes to these controversies it's important to me to consider the intent behind the creators work that inspired the controversy. Was there malicious intent or was it just an ill informed mistake? To me it's important to define between these intents because then we can get to the root of the problem.
So let's look at Tiny Tina considering she uses what many consider to be stereotypical black lingo. Does that honestly say to you her use of language and dialogue is layered with a undercurrent of hatred or intolerance for black people? Do you honestly think Anthony Burch constructed her dialogue in a way to portray his hate filled opinions of black people? Of course not and I doubt this is what Mike Sacco felt either BUT to me using the word "Racist" implies all that. It implies her language has been designed in a way that's fuelled with hatred for black people, that she's been designed in a way that expresses Burch's intolerance for black people.
Maybe to some people it isn't something as extreme as that but see it as her character making fun of how black people talk. For this to be true though she'd have to be expressing and using these words in a sarcastic, sneering way, which to me she doesn't at all. In this video where we first hear her use the word "Badonkadonks" (skip to 00:51) she's clearly using
it in a way that she considers an every day part of her vocabulary. What confuses me further is that Tiny Tina is white, if she was black then I could understand people mistaking it as Burch thinking "This is what all black people talk like and they always, ALWAYS say Badonkadonks".
So to me using the word "Racist" to describe this entire situation is just...wrong, it is unfit for the actual content of it all. However whilst listening to the latest Podtoid Holmes mentioned a guys point off Twitter that could potentially combat my problem with using the word 'Racist' in this controversy. Point being, "Unless we call it Racist, no one will pay attention at all" and here's where I get conflicted...
As I said before I'm all for healthy debate and discussion and hate it when I see people in comments saying "Oh god this all over again? Do we have to talk about this again? Eurgh enough of all this crying!".
I can somewhat understand their frustration as over the past year or so I've made an effort to expose myself more to these issues but sometimes I just need a time out as it can all get a bit over-whelming especially when there's so much screaming going on. But I had a choice there, in no way are people forcibly exposing me to these issues, I actively seek them out as I want to learn more about these issues and take part in these discussions as I am horribly doing so right now. These people who complain about it all also have that choice and ability to block it out so I don't get the problem.
So with this in mind I'm partly FOR people calling this whole controversy potentially racist as it promotes and encourages people to take part in these discussions and debates. It could be constantly catching peoples attention and getting people more involved each and everyday which in turn can help educate those with an open mind. Which is great, it means we're a more free minded community and can decreases the number of bigots and assholes within that community.
But then I consider that although they may be using the word "Racist" to help promote something that I find positive I DON'T find devaluing and misusing words as something positive. This could in its self have the potential to harm healthy discussion and debate as we may get people being overly sensitive to things in the wrong areas, which will lead to efforts and great minds being wasted and make the number of people growing tired of these discussion grow in numbers. Perhaps any discussion is good discussion, but the word "Racist" which is tied to such huge issues which are still prevalent today I find mishandling it to be irresponsible.
If we are to all talk about these serious issues at large in an effort to move things to a more positive future then surely we should do this in the most responsible of ways, which don't threaten the value of language. Is it a much harder and difficult path? Yes it is, but that doesn't make misusing the word ok just because the alternative is difficult, this only means everyone who cares about the issue must continue to persevere and never stop their efforts to deal with these issues. As someone who hopes to enter the world of writing language is invaluable to me.
It's clear this year will have plenty of controversies as every other year does and I often look forward to them, as I hope each and everyone helps us advance and if anything else at least provides food for thought, with that said I hope this post provided enough morsels for your hungry rumbling thought bellies.