This is a question a member of our Linkedin group "Characters" recently asked the many character creators in the group. She wanted to know what their personal bounderies are when it comes to considering what might, and what might not be offensive to ethnic groups.
An illustrator and 2D artist thought that ignoring obvious differences was just as bad as over-emphasizing certain stereotypical aspects. According to her, such obvious differences were things like predominant skin or hair color, for example. She added though, that making physical differences comical, could offend people.
The author and illustrator who asked the original question picked up on this point and stressed that race should only be portrayed 'as race', if a character's culture was the issue.
An American character designer and animator then said that there should generally be more characters of color in cartoons. He advised character designers to give it another try, if they drew something that made them feel uncomfortable.
This was followed by a statement from an illustrator who specializes in the children's sector. He said that what is needed are characters that look like the kids our kids go to school with... all of the kids they go to school with. He stated that we need to replace stereotypes with inclusive, respectful content, and called for heroes that all our kids could see themselves in.
In the light of comments like these, a European character designer said, "I just wanted to add that as professionals, whose products have the ability to influence public opinion, I believe that we have a particular duty to get this one right".
This lively discussion looks set to carry on, so why not share your thoughts on the issue... here.