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Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

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Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Rulke on Thu Jan 31, 2013 6:01 am

Here's one that just occurred to me, I am pretty much liberal in my mindset, but I see writing as a way to indulge or explore darker side of our natures, roleplaying especially. Has anyone ever done characters who may be sexist or racist in some way and if so how far did you go? Was it subtle or extreme, explain your experience of trying this and what you found from it and do you still play them?

I admit this is quite controversial a question, but really rather curious and wonder how did you manage playing them as such? Was it soul-crushing or was it little too easier than you thought it would be.
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Re: Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Lifecharacter on Thu Jan 31, 2013 10:45 am

I don't believe I've ever played a character who was racist or sexist due solely to what race/sex you were, but one who was a religious extremist in a world where religion was pretty heavily tied to one's race. As such, while she was perfectly fine with the other minority members of her group that she knew were just as devoted to her god as she was, everyone else was under constant scrutiny by her, regardless of their status as "converts," but were pretty much left alone because there were plenty of others who were completely open about their heresy who occupied her time.

The extent of her (and her group's) extremism could probably be measured by the opening post, which has her and her commander chatting about prostitutes as they pile dead bodies after a massacre, followed by the saddness and disgust that one of the victims had hurt the paw of one of their wardogs. I don't completely remember if I went through with this part or not, but I believe the survivors were rounded up, interrogated, and were then brought along on the group's travels to be slaughtered whenever they ran out of food to feed their prisoners or their dogs.

Maybe it's different because she had an actual reason for her hate above superficial differences in appearance, but it wasn't any more difficult to play her than it was to play any other character of mine. Once you get into the mindset of your character and work out how they'd act and react, it's generally not that difficult to write from their perspective.

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Re: Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Bosch on Thu Jan 31, 2013 11:17 am

It often falls to GMs to play the bad guys in RPs so I've played some distasteful characters and created some distasteful groups. This is why I think scifi is so great racism can be explored while taking the heat out of it that would emerge in a contempory setting.

In real life I find racism abhorrent in fact most of what my characters do is pretty bad but that's writing you have to separate the role from who you are. At least that's how I view writing its just a form of acting.

Would I feel comfortable dropping the N word? Really depends on the character, who I'm RPing with and the tone of the piece.

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Re: Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Iye Khara on Thu Jan 31, 2013 12:57 pm

I have played a character who was legitimately racist (called people niggers, or crackers, or slanty-eyes), as well as other characters who, whilst not necessarily racist or homophobic, used slurs like faggot and so on very freely. I am, of course, not actually a racist and certainly not remotely a homophobe, though I also did not find it particularly difficult to play racist characters or characters who have absolutely no qualm with throwing about such offensive slurs. It was even fun, in a way, in the sense of writing for a character so different from me and so extreme.

I also played a character who was pretty sexist towards both genders, but I think that was less a matter of gender and more a matter of general misanthropy :v
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Re: Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby ViceVersus on Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:00 pm

That brings up a question:

Are we playing racist, bigoted, homophobic characters as a cathartic experience? As in, "I have these thoughts and feelings normally in my daily life, so I get them out in written form against fictional characters rather than towards actual people" or are we doing it for the sake of a story or narration, to thereby perhaps prove a greater point against such things?

I mention this distinction because of the separation Comrade mentioned. He was quick to separate himself from an actual racist or homophobe (I'm going to straight up write "homophone" one of these times, my fingers will betray me) but then did say it wasn't so hard to do so. So what if it is easy for someone to make the switch, and they prefer to do this instead of act out that way in real life? Is that acceptable?

The issue comes to light with a lot of slaveXmaster RPs. Those are sometimes just an expression of frustration or latent desire, whereas in some cases you can actually explore some interesting dynamics within the framework of a story where one character is forced to serve another.
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Re: Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Saarai on Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:08 pm

I play a bunch of characters who are racist, sexist or just mean people in general and say things just to get a rise out of people. Depending on who the character is changes just how much I tend to take it with them when I do, but I think it's good to not go overboard. Play a racist character, but don't have every single post that you write for that character be bigoted.

I'm sure the character has much more on their mind than what group they hate, unless it's a big part of the story, like their job and family.

As I like to say with many things in RP it comes down to the execution. Racism and sexism are things that need to be done right, realistically and done some justice. Not everyone is going to be able to do it in a way where people understand that it isn't someone venting their own frustrations or ideas.
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Re: Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Iye Khara on Thu Jan 31, 2013 6:14 pm

ViceVersus wrote:
I mention this distinction because of the separation Comrade mentioned. He was quick to separate himself from an actual racist or homophobe (I'm going to straight up write "homophone" one of these times, my fingers will betray me) but then did say it wasn't so hard to do so. So what if it is easy for someone to make the switch, and they prefer to do this instead of act out that way in real life? Is that acceptable?

Well, I'm fairly certain I'm not a latent racist or something who prefers to write out my inner prejudices instead of acting them out in reality. I found it easy perhaps specifically because I was so distanced from that kind of character, not because I have experience being a racist or a homophobe. Nor was I 'quick' to separate myself from the idea that I actually am a racist or a homophobe, which makes it sound like I was being hasty or disingenuous, like people who start a conversation with 'I'm not a racist, but...'. I did think people might legitimately suspect me of it if I just up and said 'it was way easy for me to RP as a racist', so I thought I'd make it clear, just in case, that I'm really not.

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Re: Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby ViceVersus on Fri Feb 01, 2013 2:30 pm

Comrade wrote:
ViceVersus wrote:
I mention this distinction because of the separation Comrade mentioned. He was quick to separate himself from an actual racist or homophobe (I'm going to straight up write "homophone" one of these times, my fingers will betray me) but then did say it wasn't so hard to do so. So what if it is easy for someone to make the switch, and they prefer to do this instead of act out that way in real life? Is that acceptable?


Well, I'm fairly certain I'm not a latent racist or something who prefers to write out my inner prejudices instead of acting them out in reality. I found it easy perhaps specifically because I was so distanced from that kind of character, not because I have experience being a racist or a homophobe. Nor was I 'quick' to separate myself from the idea that I actually am a racist or a homophobe, which makes it sound like I was being hasty or disingenuous, like people who start a conversation with 'I'm not a racist, but...'. I did think people might legitimately suspect me of it if I just up and said 'it was way easy for me to RP as a racist', so I thought I'd make it clear, just in case, that I'm really not.


Oh my God. I didn't mean to insinuate you were any of those things. Your post just got my mind going in another direction. A thousand pardons!

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Re: Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Bosch on Fri Feb 01, 2013 7:15 pm

Sometimes I do worry though that i'm slipping into character is a bit too easy and people will think the politics of my character aremmy own, which is what I think Vice was getting at. Like why do I understand a evil character's motivations and politics but find their actions terrible. I get why they arrived at the point they are at but I don't empathise with it.

Does that make sense? I understand why my bad guy is bad but that doesn't make him good. Tragic but not a hero.

Then again this is why antiheros (which means more than having stubble) are so interesting. By this I mean a character that carries negative character traits but generally acts in virtuous manner due to circumstance. Thoughts and actions conflicting to give a complex character.

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Re: Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby VitaminHeart on Sun Feb 03, 2013 9:40 am

I have one character who is homophobic, which sort of ties into the whole theme here, that I actually wrote as a character-writing exercise that I started with a friend. It was to make a character with a viewpoint the polar opposite to my own, and not make them a stereotype, a strawman, or just a villain.

So I created Lyda, a right wing christian who does not approve of same sex relationships. Ironically, one of the character's closest friends is gay, and it made for interesting interaction in the sense that Lyda had trouble coming to terms with the fact that her views would mean that her friend was destined for hell.

Other minor characters I've played in the same universe are also a bit racist, but that's generally due to the fact that the fantasy background means they're been around for centuries and have very outdated ideas in general.

I think it's easy to write prejudice as far as bad guys go, but it's harder to explore it and create rounded characters from it. You don't want to excuse those views, but just making a snarling stereotype over-simplifies an issue.
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Re: Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby ViceVersus on Tue Feb 05, 2013 8:36 am

VitaminHeart touches on another side of this. Writing these unpleasant characters for the sake of creating rich, compelling conflict in your story or roleplay is totally rewarding. As a reader, I'd be very interested in finding out how the relationship between Lyda, right-wing Christian homophobe and her homosexual best friend. The struggle is what draws people in. Character is compass, and the heart of a character is conflict against itself.

In the above case, and cases of the like, I think you're not going to be looked at so harshly. It's all about context with the content.

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Re: Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Screwface Romeo on Mon Sep 09, 2013 12:18 pm

A common fixture of my Mass Effect fics and RPs is a character who feels that Cerberus isn't going far enough. His mindset is beyond human dominance, or even human supremacy. Matter of fact, he doesn't even care about humanity. He just likes killing aliens, and wants them purged from the Galaxy (well, with the exception of the quarians, but that part of his character isn't relevant here). While this is fantastic racism, within the context of the universe it's still pretty terrible, and given the feelings people tend to develop for the races and characters in that series, it can be genuinely offensive to some.

But, while it does sometimes trouble me that I can so comfortable write a racist, xenocidal psychopath, I have never had trouble differentiating between my character's values and my own. I can write some pretty evil shit, but I still understand that it's evil. And, it's necessary to the story. His arch is about prejudice, misconceptions, the dangers of vengeance and holding grudges, and finally, redemption and humanization of your enemy. In order to truly show how bitterness and a desire for vengeance can twist and corrupt and consume a person, I have to create a character who is twisted and corrupted. In order to deconstruct prejudices and black-and-white thinking, I have to create a character who is prejudiced, and sees other people in a very black-and-white manner. And in order to make his quest for redemption, and the inner conflict he has in dealing with the terrible things he's done seem important and real, he has to have done terrible things that require redemption.

The long and short of it is, there's nothing wrong with writing bad people, as long as it's necessary, and you don't lose perspective of the fact that they are bad.
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Re: Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby The_13th_Doctor on Mon Sep 09, 2013 1:11 pm

My background is a mixed bag of racism... my family is centered in a southern state where racism is still rampant, if quiet. On the other hand, I was an army brat during the 80's, and found myself in a situation where if I had six friends, they were each of a different ethnicity. Thankfully, the army brat raising stuck instead of the 'breeding', if you will.

That said, since i have so many examples of racism in my life, it is very easy for me to portray a racist, and have many times. Not always in an effort to vilify racism either, but more in the sense that racism is a real thing, and even some relatively good people are racists. Racism today isn't what it was in the 60's and earlier... it's a thing that rednecks do when sitting around a campfire, and mostly because it's what their dads did. I am in no way saying that racial slurs are okay... but I will point out that the vast majority of racial slurs uttered by southern folk is much more training than true hatred. Plus, if I can make a reader uncomfortable by having compassion for a racist, I'm all the more satisfied.

I will openly admit that I am sexist, but I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Men are men and women are women, and they process things differently. That's just neurobiology, and it's okay to cop to evolutionary imperatives. That said, I am actually sexist in favor of women... I am a man (and happily so), but I see that women, when they apply themselves, are better at almost any task than men are, with the exception of sheer physical size. Despite my feminist leanings, I've played some incredibly sexist male characters before, simply because it made sense for the character.
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Re: Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Kestrel on Mon Sep 09, 2013 4:22 pm

Rulke wrote:Has anyone ever done characters who may be sexist or racist in some way and if so how far did you go?

Yes. Sexism especially. One time it came to a point my character used medieval violence against another character for stepping outside of her expected gender role. Not just that, I was the GM.

Rulke wrote:Was it subtle or extreme, explain your experience of trying this and what you found from it and do you still play them?

Variable. It's easy to resort to racism in fantasy or sci-fi where we can say all elves are stuck-up and dwarves are dirty overgrown drunkard goblins or come up with new vulcan slurs. It's... Not so easy when people have difficulty telling your personal views from your character's (something I run in from time to to time.) So extremism is something I rather avoid unless I'm writing solo, people know me or I'm forced to get to know everyone (like being GM or something.) I'm not currently playing any major sexist or racist characters, though one is sort of sexist, I guess, but it's not relevant to his situation. I guess that when you're surviving by the skin of your teeth every day, you'll know better than to care about "THAT'S A CHICK IN THAT ARMOUR!" when besides saving your ass she also happens to be the only capable medic of the party.

While you may simply be disgusted by X behaviour or Y mentality, there's a lot of base feelings you harbour that may be directed at a different subject but in essence are the same. You may hold, for example, great hate for paedophiles or rapists. Well, translate that hate you feel to your character's sexism or racism and you have a pretty decent base. I guess that's the experience. Dismantle your own emotions and feelings and apply them to your character's views instead of your own.

Rulke wrote:I admit this is quite controversial a question, but really rather curious and wonder how did you manage playing them as such? Was it soul-crushing or was it little too easier than you thought it would be.

I'm quite detached from my characters' actions beyond writing them, at which point I'm usually detached from my own. I don't feel responsible for them or any supposedly 'dark thoughts' that may linger in my mind. A sane person simply distinquishes between what crosses their mind or finds it way into fiction, versus the statements they make and the actions they perform in the outside world. I don't shy away from many subjects, I'll write comfortably about 'horrible things' like prostitution, religious extremism, psychosis, war, the law of the jungle, teenage crushes and so forth. I'll research it too. If it in some way interests me to explore it's all fair game.

ViceVersus wrote:That brings up a question:

Are we playing racist, bigoted, homophobic characters as a cathartic experience? As in, "I have these thoughts and feelings normally in my daily life, so I get them out in written form against fictional characters rather than towards actual people" or are we doing it for the sake of a story or narration, to thereby perhaps prove a greater point against such things?


Personally, no. I play it because I'm interested in the human mind which encompasses a whole lot more than sugar and rainbows. Also to be true to time periods, which I find to be a bit rare. In general though I don't know. A question you could ask is to what point these feelings are actually concious, or latent.

ViceVersus wrote:So what if it is easy for someone to make the switch, and they prefer to do this instead of act out that way in real life? Is that acceptable?

Writing it to get the feelings out instead of unleashing them on an actual person doesn't seem so bad to me. It's best to have some sort of outlet for negative feelings because bottling them up doesn't tend to go down well in the long term.

That's not to say I approve of sexist or racist ideas, but eh, I'm also very pro free speech and expressing feelings in fiction nobody but a select few people (and FBI agents, hi guys) will ever read is a pretty damn lite form of it.
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Re: Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby TCoS on Wed Dec 11, 2013 5:24 pm

You know, I played a space mercenary once who REALLY hated aliens. He eventually grew out of it, and never got violent because of it. Well, just once...

All in all, no hard feelings because, well, we don't know any extra-terrestrials yet :I
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Re: Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby glibglobb on Tue Jan 07, 2014 10:24 am

I've done this innumerable times for NPCs but never as a player. I guess I either like to play heroes or villains whose evil is equal opportunity. I am always very impressed by players who can create a character like this and play them convincingly.

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Re: Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Shanatos on Sun Jan 26, 2014 8:03 pm

I think it depends on the kind of roleplay you are doing too.

If it's a deep complex drama type, where things are geared towards characters that are not necessarily good at all, and the focus is more on writing then, I wouldn't have so much of a problem with it.

But if say you're doing a standard superhero RPG, I'd probably advise against bigoted characters, just because it'd be pretty jarring from the kind of story you're trying to tell.

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Re: Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Ylanne on Sat Mar 01, 2014 3:06 pm

Compelling characters should be realistic. Real people have prejudices and biases, whether conscious or subconscious, overt or subtle. Racism, like all forms of oppression, takes many forms -- it's not limited to lynchings, racial slurs, or genocide, though those are certainly very real and very violent expressions of racism. I don't find anything wrong whatsoever in writing for characters who happen to be slightly/moderately/very/extremely -ist, so long as the writer isn't doing so because they themself are -ist. The only caveat that I would add is that if any of the other roleplayers involved have specific triggers related to a particular -ism, to be aware of that and sensitive to their access needs throughout the roleplay.
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Re: Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby SlightlyIrregular on Sat Mar 01, 2014 3:37 pm

I've got a character that is all matters of bad. He's a racist, homophobic, sexist. He doesn't know what the word no means and he thinks women are only good in the bedroom. I in no way share these views for him, but I love playing him. He's brilliant. It's all because of his past and how he was brought up. Part of what I love about him is his character development and how he grows over time to see how bad he actually is. Almost in a Scrooge and the three ghosts kinda way.

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Re: Playing Racist or Sexist Characters

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Aniihya on Sat Mar 01, 2014 5:25 pm

To be honest, even though my characters are often evil, they aren't racist or sexist, because (quote from Full Metal Jacket) in my character eyes "you are all equally worthless". :D
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