You know, sometimes it’s been cute, sometimes it’s been offensive, and it’s had a hell of wild ride, but I think we can retire the Role Reversal to Prove Injustice story now.
We understand the theory, and in principle, it’s not a bad idea. People in the world are so consumed by irrational hate towards a people - perhaps those of other color, or other sexualities, and so on? - that they can’t see the harm they’re doing to themselves and others. So, let’s show them the harm they’re doing. Let’s make the whites black and the blacks white. Let’s set this in a universe where being gay is the norm and being heterosexual is just unnatural. There are more, but those are the most common, I believe.
Then the majority will be in the position of the minority as they experience the story, and finally they’ll see what’s wrong with hating that minority. They’ll understand the pain they’re causing, and stop.
It’s not a bad idea, based on that. But it’s got these problematic trip-ups, you know? And I’m really tired of things tripping up on them all the time.
Here’s the problem with your story based on a majority character in the world where the minority rules: why can’t you just tell this story in our world, with the minority character?
Black individuals have been reading about white folk doing white people things for ages; it shouldn’t be a hardship for a white person to pick up a book about black people. Is compassion so without reason that a heterosexual person has to pick up a heterosexual person’s book to understand and sympathize with a character’s struggles? Why make up new slurs when the ones out in the world already remain so damn hurtful?
You’re telling us that our stories, the stories of the oppressed, just aren’t good enough. They can’t be told as well. They’ll never be heard.
And, on top of that, you’re making us the enemy. To get your point across to the majority, you’re turning the minority into hateful beasts. Just because it’s a metaphor for how things are reversed in the real world, doesn’t mean the consequences of making black-and-gay people into violent and vitriolic aggressors just disappear - it’s still a white-and-het world experiencing the story, after all.
You mean well. Honestly, you do. You want to reveal our suffering to the world by creating a fantasy where it’s different. But we shouldn’t have to prove the fact that we are hurt every single day by telling it to the majority through their voice. Our voices should be believed and understood on their own.
If an oppressor only listens to the oppressed’s problems when those problems are presented by another oppressor, how much does the oppressor really, truly care about the oppressed’s problems? Maybe you just have to be “better” for your stories to be heard?
Retire the trope. It’s starting to rust.