On the fascination of the outsider

by look i have opinions

“By virtue of [director Céline] Sciamma being white, the film [Girlhood] is born from her fascination and not from a black teenage girl’s lived experiences. Hers supersedes theirs. No matter her intention, that distinction is critical because fascination is a privilege that ultimately lays claim. It perpetuates the explorer’s exemption. It legitimizes appropriation, disguises power as curiosity, and so quickly mythologizes the socioeconomic realities of a character’s life. […]

“Sciamma’s fascination confirms that depth cannot be reached merely from observing. Depth and fullness of character is not an upshot of fascination.”

—Durga Chew-Bose, in this essay

One of the things I value most about writing is the freedom to make things up, to ignore one’s inner editor and fact-checker, to be true to one’s own vision even at the expense of other forms of truth. But it’s important to be reminded that fiction, once published, is not free. It is not politically neutral. It is not a private island of beauty and obsession. It belongs to the world we live in.

I suppose it’s also good to be reminded that observation from the outside isn’t necessarily an effective way to understand someone. Disheartening, though.

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