Monday, 21 June 2010

We Are All Different.

Yesterday I took my goddaughter to the recreation ground near our houses. There are the usual swings, slides and football pitch. There is also a wide expanse of space between the two.

Except there was something new in the space. Travellers had pitched up close to the trees.

There were already some council members asking them to move on.

I accept everyone has a right to live the lifestyle they want. It would be a pretty boring world if we were all the same. What frustrated me was the reactions of people around me. The whispering, the staring, the shouting one guy did out of the window calling them names.

Why?

Because of the stereotype of travellers/gypsies. They are typically portrayed as as thieves, people who don't pay taxes or contribute to the community.

When writing we are told to avoid stereotypes if possible. Give your character identity, quirks, flaws. Make them more than what we expect. Show the person behind the image.

So I thought about the travellers. I thought about the individual. The man who fell in love with a girl from a neighbouring caravan. They got married, had children and live their lives together in the same way my parents have.

The only difference is the one we label them with.

Today they have moved on. But I'm left wondering, unless we look deeper, who knows what people are like behind the stereotypes?

Within both life and writing.

22 comments:

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I was thinking about gypsies yesterday as I walked through the wooded area in my neighborhood. We don't have them in Canada, but I remember them when I was living in England as a kid.

I have a kind of romantic view of them, based on a tv show back then (I don't remember the name of it) and a historic romance novel I once loved. Turns out the heroine was from a wealthy, well-established family, but had been taken to live with gypsies to protect her from the dangers surrounding her family. Yes, totally unrealistic. ;)

JustineDell said...

It's legal for people to do that over there? Here they would be tossed out faster than you could blink and pointed in the direction of the nearest homeless shelter. Sad, really.

Sometimes I like to learn about whats under the sterotypes, you're surprised at what you find. I've never actually written about one. That gives me an idea. Thanks!

~JD

Renae said...

I'm with Justine. I'm picturing individuals attempting that here and cringing at what would happen. It is sad.

What a great post. It really makes you stop and think.

Mayowa said...

Amen to seeing everyone as individuals. Stereotypes can do so much more damage than we think they can.

Thanks for making me think.

Janet Johnson said...

We stereotype all too often, and sometimes without realizing it. Loved the post. Definitely something to consider when writing.

Creepy Query Girl said...

We have a fair share of gypsies here in France, especially where I live in the Paris suburbs and I agree that It's easy to try and imagine what their lives must be like. Great post! (and maybe even great idea for your next book???:)

Christina Lee said...

Amen to that, you! Gypsies always sound romantic to me--probably b/c of Hollywood!

Lydia Kang said...

We stereotype constantly. It is much harder (and a good thing) to work past your own views of things and see the humans under our previously conceived notions.
Excellent post!

Matthew Rush said...

It is so interesting how the British can make everything sound so nice. Here in America we only have homeless and they tend to be pushy panhandlers or mentally ill and in serious need of assistance.

Don't get me wrong, I try not to judge and I do feel bad for them, but I do find it sort of charming how the British refer to people in a similar situation as Travelers. I suppose if ours had tents and actually moved from one town to the next we might have better names for them too.

I've always been curious about those types of people portrayed in films like the Pikers in Snatch of the Gypies in Chocolat or the Gyptians in The Golden Compass. I think people on this side of the pond are just lazy and feel more entitled in general.

Talli Roland said...

Chocolat was on the telly last night, coincidentally.

I have a hard time getting my head around the prejudice against the travellers here. I must admit I don't get it. I know there are incidents and such but still...

WritingNut said...

You are absolutely correct. We do tend to be too quick to judge. Who knows what we might find if we look a little deeper and give people a chance?

Vicki Rocho said...

That would bother me, too. The anger and even hatred for no real reason. I just don't understand why people are like that.

Jemi Fraser said...

As adults, we often look at the stereotype (clothing, shape, accessories, ..), kids however tend to see beyond that with relative ease to the actual person. We have to stop teaching them differently.

Sandy Shin said...

I agree with Jemi. I find myself falling into the thinking of stereotypes much more often as an adult. Just like each individual is unique, people don't conform to stereotypes. And, both as a person and a writer, one needs to look beneath the surface.

(I actually find it really strange that there are many movies and books with the teaching-others-to-look-beneath-the-stereotype trope, and yet, we still fall into them.)

Jen said...

Wonderful post! I would say that I fall against the stereotype regarding travelers and gypsies. I find them magical beings and I wonder what kind of life they live when they continue to travel around the world. I dream of what my life would be like. Exciting, living life moment by moment, not worried about the ways of the world.

Sounds more exciting than a data analyst doesn't it?

Palindrome said...

I'm pretty good about strayin away from stereotypes in my writing, I think. It's probably because I spend my time around so many unique people.

WritingNut said...

Lindsay - I have an award for you at my blog :)

Samantha Bennett said...

I so love this post. The hardest critique I got was when someone told me characters were "stock." Ouch. But that friend was right. Writing real, messy people is so hard, but so vital to fiction.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Good morning! It's Wed. and I have an award for you today! :-)

Jaydee Morgan said...

I agree...stereotypes are never a good thing, in real life or our writing. That's what I enjoy most about writing though, we can take a common stereotype and show the character underneath.

Bluestocking said...

I think can be harder to move past stereotypes that we've been exposed to since birth, through media and even our culture, than it is to create new worlds or come up with fantastic plots. Sometimes what is the most unknowable are the impulses, thoughts, experiences that comprise the people around us that we are so fond of putting in separate little boxes. It's too hard to take them out of those mental boxes and see what's really there. But that has become the writer's responsibility. Thoughtful post!

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