Yesterday, I talked a bit about what “point of view” is and why it’s important to understand when creating media. Today I came across this really great critique of The Vampire Diaries–both of the books and of the television show.
The section in particular focuses on one of the character’s in the series, Tituba. She is, of course, the famous black woman from the Salem Witch Trials who supposedly “planted” the idea of witchcraft into the innocent towns girls’ minds. In this section, Kismet delves into the *point of view* of Tituba and whether the decisions the author of The Vampire Diaries had the character Tituba make were consistent decisions:
But really, Tituba? You and your family members fled Salem trials….to Virginia? You, an enslaved woman of color, went SOUTH to escape persecution? Now why the hell would that happen? And how, with no freedom papers to travel with or protect you upon arrival from re-enslavement would you head SOUTH?
And no, I will NOT assume that Tituba and family couldn’t have known what Virginia was like in the 1690s (in case you are wondering, it was a swampy, penal, violent hell hole servants and slaves, black and white, spent a lot of time trying to run away from; no gauze or Brett or Scarlett here). That would presume Tituba wasn’t sharp enough for her own good–and to have Bennetts that survived slavery and segregation into the second millenia, Tituba would have to have been wicked sharp.
Assuming Tituba didn’t know what Virginia would be like, didn’t know that she was more likely to be enslaved and stay enslaved in Virginia than say, in New York, where a critical mass of free people of color left over from the Dutch regime lived and worked…well, that would be #rude.
Or assuming that, as a “good” domestic, Tituba didn’t know than she’d better eavesdrop like her life depended on it, follow gossip, watch out for runaways (and for how runaways were caught), pay attention to what whites said and how they said it, look for allies in servants or slaves, learn about the lay of the land…even more #rude. Slaves survived slavery by building community. Period. And community building is work. Period. The only way this storyline works is if, as Garcia noted, we don’t look too hard at the connection or we do our own work to fill in the blanks (i.e. Maybe Tituba and company headed to New York and she purchased her freedom and then ended up in Virginia…or something….)
This section revels several complicated ideas about point of view. Specifically, that race and gender are important things to consider when understanding point of view. Kismet argues that Tituba would’ve made much different decisions about her life if the author had considered slavery when considering Tituba’s point of view.
Why would some authors be reluctant to consider slavery? Or a character’s gender, race, economic status, etc?
This is not to say that choosing to not consider certain parts of a person or communities point of view is always necessarily bad. It can actually be subversive in many ways depending on how it’s done.
But let’s return to mainstream narratives about Detroit. When is race usually talked about when stories are told about Detroit? When is race usually ignored or hidden?
How can we begin to create media that does things differently?