Jars of mayonnaise are not characters

One of the most frustrating things about being a person of color critically engaging with film and television is being constantly force fed whiteness as the standard for all humanity.

Aside from the fact that these movies and shows tend to have weak characterization, flimsy motives, shoddy worldbuilding, and cliche plots, there’s the fact that they force me to spend my precious time and brain cells on characters who have zilch going on to make them the least bit compelling and essentially sit there and be white while the story happens around them.

I won’t even bother with examples because this shit is so ubiquitous that I’d have a hard time keeping track. But even good movies and good TV shows are not immune. Even in the best of the best out there, you can probably find that one character that just takes up space and does nothing for the story other than exist, who is important not because of anything they bring to the story, but because you have to keep being told over and over again that they’re important.

In stories like this, you can get the distinct impression that the only reason why anyone should care about these characters at all is because they’re white and they exist. If the people making this shit are going to put so little effort into giving me characters who do more than exist and be white on screen, the least they can do is not insult actors and acting by forcing live human beings to play the equivalent of a jar of mayonnaise. Just cut out the middle man and put a jar of mayonnaise where the actor would normally be. They could save themselves money and the actors some time.

And you know what? This bullshit is really fucking noticeable when the character is a white woman. Because, apparently, “girl” or “woman” or “wife” or “mother” is all the characterization she needs. So it does this weird sort of white supremacist yet patriarchal thing where a woman is only a person insofar as she’s important to a man, but at the same time, her status as prize makes her inherently more valuable to a narrative than any women of color, especially Black women,  in the same story.

Consider Katrina Crane in Fox’s Sleepy Hollow. Look, I fucking love Sleepy Hollow! But if Katia Winter went to another show, and Fox replaced her with a jar of mayonnaise, I’d be hard-pressed to notice. What the hell does she do other than be Ichabod’s motivation, say all kinds of cryptic shit, and fail at being a witch? She only exists to be something that Ichabod strives for. Yet at the same time, when it comes to people arguing against the romantic potential between Ichabod and Abbie, or Abbie Mills being the character people most identify with, Katrina’s name consistently gets invoked.

Give me a motherfucking break.

Don’t show me a jar of mayonnaise and tell me it’s a character. Don’t show me a jar of mayonnaise with a girl’s name and tell me that’s feminist, let alone womanist.

And last but not least: STOP LEAVING ALL THESE FUCKING JARS OF MAYONNAISE ALL OVER THE GODDAMN PLACE!

8 thoughts on “Jars of mayonnaise are not characters

  1. “What the hell does she do other than be Ichabod’s motivation, say all kinds of cryptic shit, and fail at being a witch?”

    For me, this is what makes her a particularly frustrating example of this. How do you write a witch into your show and never have them do any magic? How hard would it be for them to write the episodes so that she offers some real help? Even Princess Peach manages to send Mario some power-up items during the game.

    Speaking of, I’ve even seen this happen a couple of recent video games. Not minimal plot platformers either, I’m talking interactive stories with cinematic cut-scenes. I remember yelling, “Why are you HERE?!” at one of them because the woman had no reason to exist in the story.

  2. Hell yeah! I am white and I am far, far more intrigued by the interactions between Abbie and her sister and Abbie and Ichabod than I am by Katrina. Abbie, Jenny and Ichabod are portrayed as real characters with good and bad character traits, etc, so that there is something there to like.

  3. THIS. THIS THIS THIS.

    And aaaahahahaha, I love that you use the example of Katrina in Sleepy Hollow, because I want to watch and support that show so much, but dear god every time Katrina is onscreen I just get annoyed, because seriously!

    scene: In the forest
    Ichabod: *runs*
    Katrina: There isn’t much time! Danger is coming Ichabod (NO SHIT. REALLY? YOU SAY THIS ALL THE TIME. How about you not say those two sentences ever again, and actually say WHAT is going to happen.)
    Ichabod: How about a hint?
    Katrina: Cryptic hint of cryptic. Goodbye
    Ichabod: Wait, that didn’t make any sense at all, I’m not even really any better off, because I knew something bad would happ– *wakes up*

    I saw this a few times and then my head hurt, so I had to stop watching the episodes, and I just want to pretend Katrina the suckiest of good witches isn’t happening, because it’s the weakest part of the show.

    But yes, I’m a white girl, and all those pointless white characters/jars of mayo are irritating as fuck.

    Yes.

    • LOL!

      Inorite?

      What I love about Abbie is that, as soon as [spoiler]‘s ghost appears, she’s like, “OK, if you’re gonna help, help me. None of this cryptic shit.”

      She must have had a premonition about Katrina.

  4. Now I need to make my husband read this post, because otherwise he’s going to be confused when I yell “FUCKING JARS OF MAYONNAISE” while we’re watching something. Because I will, because it’s a perfect phrase to sum up this problem.

  5. Sweet Lawd, what a brilliant post!!! I had to pause watching SH because I was BEYOND annoyed with Katrina’s useless, worthless ass. I thought being head of a coven meant something. What kind of witch…anyway, you already know.

    Kristin Stewart’s Bella is treated the same way in Twilight (so I’m told; I won’t read nor ruin my eyes with that dreck). She’s also cast the same in Snow White & the Huntsman. We’re told all this shit about Snow; Snow’s so special, Snow has power…but Snow doesn’t do dick except cast mayo eyes at the screen. Queen Ravana should have wiped up the floor with her Miracle Whip ass. I yelled “Shenanigans!” in the theater and wanted my money back.

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