Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci is one of DC’s Minx line geared toward a generally female audience. Recently the issue of the portrayal of minority characters in the comic has been the subject of some discussion.
In her interview with Girl-Wonder.Org’s Karen Healey, Cecil Castellucci talks a little bit about the minority portrayal in her comic.
KH: You’ve mentioned that it was important to you that the Janes have different body types. The dramatic Jane is distinctly solid, and sports lover Polly Jane is tall and thin, for example. However, though there are several characters of colour in the crowd scenes, the main characters all seem to read as white. Was this intentional?
CC: Well, Polly Jane is Latina and Theater Jane is Asian.
KH: Wow, I totally didn’t read that at all.
CC: Yep. That’s why PJ has the Frida Kahlo look. And Theater Jane, totally Asian.
In book two, Janes in Love there is a lot more diversity. (It is something that is equally important to me as body types)
Willow from Seeking Avalon challenges some of Ms. Castellucci’s statements:
And as for “And Theater Jane, totally Asian”
Just which Asian culture does this Jane call her own? Is she Japanese, Korean, Taiwainse, Chinese, Chinese – Mongolian, or from the Philippines? Do you even know?
Do you even know why it might matter that in a book where the town calls for a curfew on teenagers and start to restrict their freedoms why in the first book there should have been parents of one of those minority students feeling uneasy about that?
Do you even know why that might matter if Theater Jane was Japanese? Or Taiwanese or Chinese-Mongolian?
While, on Girl-Wonder.org’s comment thread, Karen Ellis considers the issues with portraying ethnic types in comics.
Portraying different ethnic types without going too stereotypical is something I’ve been struggling with in my own comics. With any stylised form you are working with visual shorthand, and you have to include cues that the reader will understand without having to think about it. When people generally assume that a character is white unless they are told otherwise, it can mean that racial aspects need to be played up, at least initially, to clue the reader in. Of course with comics this can be done through other things than just how they look, but it helps if there is some element present that will subconsciously remind the reader whenever they look at the character.
So what do you think?