I just finished Sherrilyn Kenyon’s first Chronicles of Nick novel, Infinity. This story is set in New Orleans, which is in the South, and as such is ripe for stereotypes. Everything from clothes to accent are on the target. Now, I get some of it–the accent in particular. I’m “country.” When I talk, I have an accent–to my own ears, I don’t–but when I hear myself on a recording or anything like that, it’s there. No denying. And I’ve heard many accents that are more pronounced than mine. There’s also a difference between my regular accent, and what comes out of my mouth when I’m angry. Big difference. There’s also the automatic assumption that “Southern” equates “redneck” equates dumb-as-dirt. Thankfully, Infinity left out that part. The characters she described as “redneck” were near-genius level, even if they didn’t talk that way. Some people think that the term “redneck” is synonymous with “idiot.” Am I Southern? Yes, I’m a girl from Mississippi. Can I shoot a gun? Yes, I even own one, and target practice is about as fun as it gets. How “smart” am I? Well, I’ve got two college degrees, so what do you think?
So, my question to you is this: How do you combat stereotypes, like the one I talked about, in your writing? Any and all of them? The majority of Southerners are played dumb hicks. London (Brenda Song) from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody is anti-stereotype (one of the few I’ve seen played that way), as was the character Maddie (Ashley Tisdale). Chloe Sullivan from Smallville was in the same group as Maddie, a smart blonde girl.
Personally, I try to keep everything even in my writing. Sure, there are some super-smart characters, just like there are some that aren’t. The color and ethnicity of the character doesn’t really mater to me, as long as that person fills that role, and I’ve been known to switch out characters so that just for that purpose. I try to keep everything as diverse as I can, so that I’m not highlighting something or someone as worse or better than anything else.
What do you do?