When I say slanket what do most of you think of? If the image of a person wrapped in a body length blanket with sleeves sprawled out casually like some kinky sort of couch wizard comes to mind; you’re wrong.
No, of course slankets are the same terrible monument to mankind’s eternal laziness as a snuggie, but you’re wrong because I know that all of you when you hear the word slanket, like myself, can’t help but think it sounds like some terrible racial epithet you don’t know quite who to ascribe to. Admit it. You’re like me. And you’ve been calling random people you don’t like slankets since the word first hit your grey matter.
And like me, you make sure to call all types of different people that you dislike slankets so as not to actually make it a racial slur. Because being racist is not cool. Anyone who’s been treated thusly or been called by a slur can attest to that. But admittedly, the language of racism and hate can be quite imaginative and interesting.
When a new insulting term or word is brought to light we can’t help but be a little interested in its meaning and its origins. Part of it is that for some reason, racial slurs always have that phonetic bit of perfection about the sound of them. They sound as mean and ugly as their meanings. Which is why slanket always sounds like a hate term. It just ends with such a hard, biting sound. Slan-ket.
Which adds to why it’s fun to use to insult people. All the best insults, not just the racist ones, have that certain cutting sound to them. But adding considerably to slanket’s appeal is that it’s made up. We know it’s pretend and we know it’s not really meant to hurt anyone. So it’s safe. Which is why we love fictional racial slurs.
They’re not really going to hurt anyone, not anyone who actually exists anyway, but they still sound harsh as shit. They’re also a fun bit of world building that can inject a sense of realism into a story. Because sadly the real world is ripe with hatred, bigotry and ignorance. So sometimes injecting a bit of that into our imaginary worlds helps convince us they’re all the more real.
Oh, Willow, the off-brand Hobbit that sated all our little person quest fantasy needs until Peter Jackson got his shit together and made Fellowship Of The Ring. Also “Quest Fantasy” sounds like it could be the name of Questlove’s pornstar sister. Oh, sorry, ? uestfantasy. Anywhoo, Willow is up there with An American Tail as being a childhood favorite that’s way more racist than you remember. (Every mouse in that flick is some sort of ethnic stereotype.)
In the world of Willow the titular character belongs to a race of people called Nelwyns. Nelwyns are a simple, mostly goodhearted people, who live off the land and do not get mixed up with the affairs of the outside world. They are also not Hobbits because of copyright infringement. Well, our good man Willow is constantly, and against his wishes, called a “peck” throughout the film.
Peck is the slur hurled at little people in this world by Daikinis. Daikinis are average sized folks. There is one scene where Val Kilmer, a daikini, calls Willow peck repeatedly like ten times to his face. Imagine being hate crimed and totally disrespected by Val Kilmer, Val Kilmer who’s some sort of scruffy, hobo swordsman you just freed from a cage. It’s like being Paris Hilton circa 2002.
Some offensive terms are so good and simple that they have to be shared by different science fiction properties. In the much lauded, (rightfully so) TV show Battlestar Galactica the cybernetic baddies have evolved into a humanoid form which is nearly indistinguishable from humanity.
The humans have taken to calling these people skinjobs. Likewise in the super excellent Blade Runner Harrison Ford’s character Deckard seeks out biorobotic artificial humanoids called replicants. The replicants are often referred to as skinjobs.
I will say that Battlestar upped the ante on fictional racial epithets for bot people by introducing the term “toaster’ to dehumanize cyborgs. Toaster is perfect because the metal dudes do look like giant, metal, gleaming and homicidal toasters. So why not laugh at them derisively?
The term muggle, used in Harry Potter to denote non-magical people and their world is not necessarily derogatory. But like many other names it can become pejorative when used in certain context. Like if you were holding your wand in an ineffective manner and someone said, “Stop being such a muggle.” Or if you screwed up your invisibility potion or your virginity eraseo spell or whatever and someone told you that you “muggled it up”.
The term Mudblood, unlike muggle, is always offensive. Mudblood is an insulting name for someone who possesses magical abilities themselves but were born of two muggle parents. I was never a big Harry Potter fan but I do like the idea that kids reading Harry Potter got exposed to the concept of prejudice and its consequences early on.
Futurama‘s Bender the alcoholic Mexican robot who’s 40 % funny likes to refer to his humanoid counterparts as meatbags whenever he gets the chance. He doesn’t care if you’re an earthling, a mutant, or a carapace covered Lobster doctor with an inexplicable Yiddish accent; if you’re not a machine like he is, you’re a meat bag.
Bender has also shown some narrow mindedness toward robosexuals, that being the coupling between robots and humans. But after bonking both the still living head of Lucy Liu and then the full body of Amy Wong he has recanted his original stance much to the chagrin of all the fine robot sisters.
And now we arrive at the mother of all allegories for social and racial minorities, the mutants of the X-Men. The X-Men were designed to function as metaphors for all struggling, disenfranchised people who were different than the norm; and also they were invented because Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were running out of ludicrous origins for superheroes at the time.
There can only be so many botched science experiments at a lab after all, so why not have people born with their powers. Various creators have used the X-Men to tell stories about a myriad of different people who are considered outsiders and suffer from discrimination.
Mutants are often called slurs like “Mutie” or “Gene Joke”. Mutie sounds funny when you take it out of context but when you’re reading an issue of X-Men and you’re wholly invested in the characters and their plight hearing some ignorant bigot call one of your heroes a “mutie” will make you positively seethe with outrage.
Which is really what all of this is about. Escapism is all well and good but having it tempered with subtle, and sometimes not so, social commentary usually makes for a better story. And who doesn’t want a cool, imaginative story that at once takes your mind off the world we live in while also making you reflect on its disparities too? Seriously, you don’t want that? What are you, some kind of slanket?