Depicting a culture different to ours can be a tricky process. There are a ton of pitfalls involved, from showing a stereotypical (right down to racist) almost fetishized version of the actual culture to presenting it in a light directly connected to the author’s/creator’s culture (therefore either in a negative or positive light, but usually negative) and only offering interpretation (and judgment) through the creator’s culture.
But the fact that there are pitfalls doesn’t mean they can’t be avoided. Nor that the creator’s culture is some kind of obstacle. In fact, it can be the basis for the creator to be able to depict quite faithfully the feel and scope of any other culture, no matter how similar or different to his/her own.
There just needs to be a method to help avoid the pitfalls and understand well what needs understanding before we can write characters that act and react within that other culture.
My method of approaching a different culture is always like so:
1. See all the similarities and common points that culture has to mine
2. See all the differences (especially with regards to the same staples, such as upbringing of children, marriage, divorce, death and birth, inheritance, religion, fables) between that culture and mine
3. Read up on the history and philosophy/lore that yielded the above, and connect them to it to understand cause-and-effect: why they do things differently, and the lore and explanations behind customs
4. Keeping it in mind, always start with the similarities when depicting the culture, to make it relatable and ease immersion, then gradually move onto the differences while ensuring to provide the appropriate context and reasoning rather that allow a ‘judgmental’ approach.
So, it requires some research, but what doesn’t?
The method holds not only for different cultures to ours, but for our own cultures in previous stages, previous moments in time and history. (e.g. Victorian England was vastly different, but also quite similar, to modern England in terms of culture)
Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Feb. 10, 2018
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