Is Franklin Too Much of a Stereotype?
So like the rest of planet earth I’ve been spending a lot of my recent time playing Grand Theft Auto Five. Now, to my everlasting shame, my dubious financial state left me without a copy during the first week it was released and so I’m about a week behind on my adventures in Los Santos – so forgive me if I haven’t mastered the perfect heist as of yet or if I’ve neglected to probe the watery depths of the pacific ocean in a submarine.
That being said, I have managed to spend a fair bit of quality time with two of our friendly protagonists: Michael and Franklin.
And while my thoughts on Michael can probably wait for another article entitled “Is Michael Going Through Too Much of a Midlife Crisis?” I feel safe in saying that the character of Franklin is ripe for exploration with my favourite framing device/magnifying glass: the question ‘Is This Racist?’.
For those of you haven’t played the game, I’ll do a little rundown without spoiling too much.
Franklin is a 20-something African-American male who spends most of his time boosting cars and running low level “gangsta” operations which range from drug deals to kidnapping to minor enforcement. Essentially he is Ice Cube’s character in everything Ice Cube has ever done.
In fact, he is so much of an epitome of African-American stereotypes that I feel like its list worthy:
- He lives with his aunt in a rundown one storey place in the ghetto.
- He dresses like a basketball player during the off-season, baggy shorts and T-shirts aplenty.
- His closest friend is another (I’m just gonna go for it) black guy who has a name shortened to just initials and is continually trying to persuade him either a. how gangster he is or b. to go do some more gangster shit
- There are numerous references to drugs in both his day to day life (which admittedly includes dealing drugs on occasion) and lying around his house, including a doobie just sitting on the living room table waiting for a toke
- His car is by far the most expensive thing he owns, so much so that you wonder how he can afford a car like that while living in what looks like government housing
Now, sure, he’s missing an afro and a catch phrase and an abundance of words ending in ‘eezy’ but apart from that I think we’ve managed to hit most of the tracks in the black stereotype playbook.
The question is one of precedence. Is this such a common stereotype because it’s just that common in real life? Or is this such a common stereotype because this is such a common stereotype that people expect this as the stereotype (if that is in any way possible to follow)?
Conundrums aside, I have to say that GTA V isn’t particularly hurt by Franklin’s…. expected ethnicness... if I can be so bold. I mean, this is a game which is primarily about stealing cars and getting into gunfights – which is such an established feature of the African-American stereotype that it basically goes without saying. Sure I may have had a moment or two where I went “oh so he does actually live in a rundown house with a shifty older relative” or “ok I guess we are drug dealers as well… that works” but at the end of the day Franklin’s life prior to the events in the game has to take the backseat to what’s important – the actual plot we are experiencing.
So is Franklin too much of a stereotype? I suppose it depends on why you ask.
Is he so much of a stereotype that it’s noticeable and potentially breaks immersion for a few seconds? Unfortunately yes.
Is he so much of a stereotype that it ultimately ruins the character and the part he has to portray in the events in the game? Definitely not.
Is it worth getting upset over? I’ll leave that to you - but realistically, if you answer yes, there are probably bigger things to be upset about.