On Writing: Classist Characters
This one is for mynamesdrstuff, who asked how to write a classist character.
- Classist characters don’t have to be mean. As in, they don’t have to be willfully malicious about their classism. Classism is a systemic form of prejudice in which both individuals and the society/system at large treat people differently based on their class or perceived class. A person does not have to be cackling and twirling a handlebar mustache while kicking orphans in order to achieve this. They can, in fact, be perfectly cordial with a world of sympathy in their eyes while telling the homeless man that they won’t hire him because he’s probably a drunk. They can even smile while offering pay for rehab. If they make the assumption that homeless = drunk without any proof beyond their own suppositions, they’re still classist. So the first step to writing a classist character is to accept that a whole range of actions from well-meaning to mean-spirited fall under the classist banner. Understand that you need to write your classist character as having motivations that span that range. (Or, at least, a human-sized portion of it.) Displaying classist characters too narrowly (especially if you’re narrowed in on the evil end) means that readers are going to get a warped vision of what classism is. We need to see classists as squishy and human, not in an attempt to forgive/absolve them, but because squishy human problems need squishy human solutions. Coming at things from a cartoon villain angle just compounds the issue.