Monday, July 08, 2013

Is Tiny Tina Racist?



Tiny Tina, as you may or may not know, is a character in Borderlands 2. She's an extremely amusing character, and she occasionally uses words like 'yo' and 'badonkadonk.'

Of course, some people amuse themselves by frantically trying to spin the innocuous up into felony racism or sexism. This is, of course, idiotic.

Tiny Tina isn't racist, Borderlands 2 isn't racist, and, in fact, such charges are total idiocy. Tina's white, but there's nothing wrong with white people using black slang. As it turns out, that's fairly common, unsurprising, and entirely permissible. In fact, the very notion of words being white are black is itself weird in the extreme. The whine in question is barely coherent, but it sometimes seems to have to do with Tina's use of "black" slang at all, and at other times it also includes premises about Tina's wacky nature. Her use of the slang in question is alleged to be racist because she's wacky so...if she occasionally uses black slang...then...uh...all black people are wacky?

That's such a flaming non sequitur that it's kind of hard to even type the end of the sentence...

Tina says a lot of nutty and amusing things. She uses a lot of colloquialisms. She's damn funny. And it's not like she's throwing "I have a dream" or "free at last, free at last" into the middle of her humorous comments. See, here's the thing, 'badonkadonk' is a funny word--and an intentionally funny word. The whole point of the word is being funny. It's a word that sounds funny and denotes a funny object. It's all about the funny.

Furthermore, words aren't colored, and subcultures are porous. To even make the charge in question, you've got to accept the myth that cultures--and sub-cultures too!--have sharp boundaries. 'Badonkadonk' is, I suppose, urban black slang on its narrowest construal...though for all I (or you) know, it's properly regional, too. But it's also part of urban culture, black culture generally, American culture generally, 21st-century pop culture generally, and human culture. An insignificant part, but a part. Were the charge in question cogent, a rural black person could be criticized for using words that only urban blacks should use. And blacks could be criticized for using "white" words...whatever those would be...

The charge in question really is ridiculous. My guess is that it's motivated by the current idiotic fad against "cultural appropriation." According to this fad, it's never permissible for anyone to adopt bits of any other culture. Er...except, of course, that non-Western cultures get to do whatever they want...because...oppression! As usual with the lefty-left, this is a sin that only the West can commit... Of course, until recently, failure to be sufficiently culturally eclectic was the crime. We all had some weird obligation to be more multicultural. Now the capricious hivemind of the left has decided that multiculturalism is, in fact, wrong in some incoherent way...

All of this is, really, just a way for moral fanatics to feel superior to those who are not as fanatical as they are. I mean, it's normally not good to switch from particulars of the issue to hypotheses about the motives of those who advocate the positions...but in some cases it's the only way to really understand what's going on, especially when the position is irrational. It's fashionable at the political extremes to obsess about the sins of others, and to display your purity by finding small ways in which others have deviated from alleged moral optimality. Fundamentalist religious types are well known for this, but it's an obsession of lefties and left-liberals as well. And sane liberals--and I'd classify myself as such--need to stand up to this nonsense.

The people slinging these charges around are wrong, and not just a little bit. The worse an offense, the worse false accusations of it are. Racism is a significantly bad thing, ergo irresponsible accusations of it are proportionally bad. Borderlands 2 is a very well-written game. Anthony Burch did a great job with it, IMO, and Ashly Burch does a great job of voice acting. There's nothing racist about Tiny Tina, and I certainly hope that Randy Pitchford and the crew at Gearbox won't back down. In fact, they should go on the offensive against such idiocy and fanaticism. BL and BL2 are actually unusually admirable with respect to race and sex. There's no doubt that the female PC was first among equals in BL in terms of power and centrality to the story line. Strong female characters abound, and the hero of the story arc is Roland, a character that happens to be black. (In fact, if we're going to play the stupid charges of racism game...Roland's speech is awfully...white, isn't it? If speech can be black or white...which is itself a weird notion...)) 

It's too bad that people can make such irrational and scurrilous charges and not pay a moral price for it. The mere accusation of racism, unfounded as it is, tarnishes Burch's reputation, but the person who makes the irrational charge pays no price. But if we genuinely care about racism, and about truth, then such false accusations should be treated very seriously, and people should be held morally responsible for them. They'd face condemnation, and they'd be expected to admit their error and apologize. Sadly, however, that doesn't seem to be the prevailing reaction to such transgressions.


Blogger Unknown said...

My largest issue with Tiny Tina being declared racist is that white people made the accusation. I'm a black man, I don't think she's racist at all. None of her speech made me feel inadequate or subjugated in any way. Hell, I loved how she talked. Another thing that pisses me off I'd that those who call her racist are generally racists. Bare with me here. Democrats are responsible for the "Black Code" laws that restricted the rights of blacks. Democrats seceded from the union, not because of abolition, but because Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, was elected president. Yet it's the people who descended, politically speaking, from those assholes that are making the complaints. Why do they get what seems to be the only way in the matter? One could argue it's because they know what they're talking about, but that falls short due to the proclaimers of racism not knowing what "Racism/Racist" means. Good times.

9:19 PM  

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