In her article “The Art of Inclusion: How artists represent cultural diversity without resorting to stereotypes” for the Fall 2018 issue of Keyframe Magazine, Whitney Friedlander explores how several animators depict characters of different races, sexualities, and body types without imposing stereotypes on a young and impressionable audience.
Despite the growing incorporation of diverse characters within animated shows and comics, many artists struggle to depict characters free of stereotypes. Artists undergo complete cultural immersions and personal research to better recognize existing stereotypes before beginning to create their characters. These efforts make it possible for viewers to be able to identify with the superheroes and various other personas they see on the screen.
Blokhedz, a graphic novel series created by twin brothers Mark and Mike Davis, is known for its positive representation of African-Americans. Also known as the “Madtwiinz,” Mark and Mike attribute their attention to detail and the proper representation of their characters to their childhood spent in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Having grown up in a diverse community, the twins channeled their authentic experiences into their creations. Mike is currently the Director of Creative Branding and Development at Harvard’s Hiphop Archive and Research Institute, and is the Senior Production Artist at Harvard’s Department of Digital Teaching and Learning. Mark works as a Story Artist at DreamWorks.
In addition to their work with Blokhedz, Madtwiinz directed “I Am a Slave,” an animated parody of the Schoolhouse Rock! song “I’m Just a Bill.” The song premiered on ABC’s Black-ish, and was both effective and informative in its use of vaudevillian imagery to both celebrate the emancipation of slaves on Juneteenth, and to inform the audience of its importance. An overview of the animated parody and its premiere on Black-ish can be found here.
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