Hoeffner has an understanding of what it feels like to be underrepresented. As a female screenwriter, she spent 30 years in Hollywood navigating and fighting her way through the white, male dominated world.
Appropriation or Appreciation?
Stories of racial injustice are at the forefront of the national conversation shining a much-needed and long-overdue spotlight on the systemic racism that exists in our country. What was once considered socially acceptable cultural norms are changing and it entails much more than transforming the meaning of words.
For writers and creatives, the line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation is not always clear.
Hollywood writer Karol Hoeffner (Chair of Screenwriting at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles) made the conscious choice as a white writer to amplify race relations in her book Knee Deep, a fictional love story that explores the Hurricane Katrina tragedy and the culture of New Orleans, which is deeply rooted in the Black experience.
Now, on the cusp of the book’s release on 9/25/20, Hoeffner, is examining the way in which she addressed racial issues and culture, the challenges she faced, and the decisions she made through a different lens.
“As writers, we must engage in difficult conversations and re-examine our own work and the work of others, even when it’s uncomfortable. We must be willing to own the real estate of what we write and to take responsibility for it. And if we get it wrong, we must be prepared to apologize and to rethink our choices going forward…”
…says Hoeffner, who wrote her passion project, Knee Deep, with a great deal of care and research that took over ten years. She chose to use her platform to shine a light on those who were lost in Katrina and to amplify voices that are not always included. Writing about a culture that is not her own, she strived to put out a racially sensitive, and culturally accurate representation. She kept coming back to the manuscript and examining the nuances in a changing world. She conducted interviews, did research, and had beta readers from different demographics….but was her careful research enough?
Hoeffner has an understanding of what it feels like to be underrepresented. As a female screenwriter, she spent 30 years in Hollywood navigating and fighting her way through the white, male-dominated world. She consistently made less than her male counterparts, had to fight for certain assignments, and even reinvented herself as a male writer “K.A. Hoeffner” in order to get work. Hoeffner comes to the table with both awareness and experience that deepens her responsibility to do more and to re-imagine what future writers’ rooms could be.
“As media makers and creators, we have the power to dismantle harmful social hierarchies. In Hollywood, it boils down to the necessity of populating the writers’ room, which has for years been dominated by white heterosexual men, with more diverse voices…”
…says Hoeffner who is fighting to support and create opportunities for inclusion, equity, and diversity in Hollywood and in her teaching at LMU where she has recruited diverse voices for their graduate programs and fostered their talent. Although she would never presume to tell anyone what they should or should not write about, she does encourage young writers to find stories that they are uniquely qualified to tell and to bravely tell them.
“As writers, we must engage in difficult conversations and re-examine our own work and the work of others, even when it’s uncomfortable. We must be willing to own the real estate of what we write and to take responsibility for it. And if we get it wrong, we must be prepared to apologize and to rethink our choices going forward.“
– Karol Hoeffner
In An Interview/Article, Karol Hoeffner Can Share:
- How to Open Up the Conversation About Race & Inclusivity
- Racial Issues & Culture in Writing
- Hollywood Screenwriter Karol Hoeffner’s Personal Journey Writing About Race Relations as a White Writer
- Cultural Appropriation vs. Cultural Appreciation: Advice for Writers & Creatives
- Why It’s Crucial for White Writers to Acknowledge their Privilege
- Truth vs. Honesty: Coming to Terms with What you Believe to be True & What is the Factual truth – An Honest Assessment of Your Own Self & Your Place in the World
- Tackling the Lack of Diversity in Hollywood & Supporting Underrepresented Voices
- Racial Sensitivity in Writing & Media: Who Has the Authority to Tell What Stories? Do We & Should We Always See the Past Through the Lens of Today?
- How to Write Characters Who Are Navigating Black, White & Bi-racial Worlds
- How Environmental Disasters Affect Communities of Color Disproportionately
Karol Hoeffner is dissecting the issue of Cultural Appropriation vs Cultural Appreciation and searching for answers through conversations.