As I was drafting possible material for my fantasy framework and wondering whether readers might find it offensive, it occurred to me that those of you who visit here might be willing to give some opinions on my attempts at satirical sketches of various stereotypes. I don’t mean opinions on style, readability or that sort of thing, but on whether my perception of what’s stereotypical coincides with yours.
Here’s the background: Joe has created a highly successful virtual world in which avatars interact according to the whims of the people whom they represent. In fact, it’s yet another MMORPG – a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. He sends his avatar, Ross Magee, on a tour round it in a sequence that’s simply intended to set up a scenario for a more detailed look at UK national stereotypes. (By the way, the character Red Loth, who’s cited by name, is Joe’s other avatar and the name is, of course, an anagram of The Lord – well, he did create this particular virtual world, so he’s allowed some hubris.) The extract goes like this:
He translocated to Australasia and flew around Ayers Rock in a thick haze of barbecue smoke, listening to deep discussions about the relative merits of real and virtual lagers and the finer points of alligator wrestling. He travelled through Europe sampling stereotypical attitudes to food, morality, political corruption and foreigners. All the avatars in the Latin countries were dark, brooding creatures who burst into gesticulating life when talking of women, football and either pasta or corridas, but up in Scandinavia, they were nearly all blonde and still, staring out over the fjords and giving each other looks pregnant with acceptance. Every word they typed on the screen was heavy with strange accents and symbolism.
Joe found this herd mentality interesting and spent some time acclimatising in various places. His frequent trips to North America made him wonder whether it had been wise to give residents so much freedom to adapt the in-world environment to suit their own preferences. Each state he visited proclaimed its pride in being part of the USA and yet the differences between them were so extreme that he began to wonder what ‘United’ meant. The south thought the north was populated by effete homosexuals while the north hinted that the residents of the south might have descended not from homo sapiens but from the Neanderthals. The west claimed to be the true representatives of American history, the east celebrated a long European ancestry, but all the disparate religions asserted that Red Loth was American. And, except for a few individuals in Kentucky and Tennessee, every single resident had wonderful teeth.
To the north were the Canadians, who were thought by all to be Americans, but nicer.
Joe was more familiar with the European experience and nowhere did he find more compelling evidence of the comfort of stereotypes. Russian avatars cried a lot, drank a lot, and sang mournful songs. In France, those who bothered to build roads in the cities piled cobblestones across them to save time when the next revolution or strike came round. There was general bewilderment among them at the idea that anyone wanted to be anything other than French. The Germans would pause briefly to smile mirthlessly at this before getting on with doing whatever they were doing very efficiently, and the Dutch, bent over their tulips, a joint dangling from their lips, would look across at their bikes leaning against a windmill and, to the sound of wooden clogs on cobbles and the occasional splash as someone fell into a canal, would simply go on being liberal.
And that’s it so far. So what I wanted to know was – is anyone offended by any of this? Am I being unfair to people in Kentucky or Tennessee? After all, I have no idea what those places are like so I have no real right to characterise them in any way.
More importantly, has anyone any suggestions as to elements I might have missed? All contributions gratefully received (and stolen).