Carlos and His Perfect Hair: Carlos the Scientist, Dylan Marron, and the Importance of Not-White Hair Representation in ‘Welcome to Night Vale’

By Trie There’s still a lot of controversy about what constitutes “normal” hair. Which, I’m just sayin’, WTAF? There is no such thing as “normal” hair. There’s just this...

By Trie

There’s still a lot of controversy about what constitutes “normal” hair.

Which, I’m just sayin’, WTAF?

There is no such thing as “normal” hair. There’s just this media imposition of what hair should look like and do and—in the most epically unfortunate and complete bland, banal way—the default is “white hair.”

I’m not even sure what constitutes “white hair” other than straight.

(Because no one else in the History of Ever has had straight hair but white people. /sarcasm IDEK, what these people are thinking.)

When Star Trek rebooted, there was all sorts of upheaval about Zoe Saldana’s, as Uhura, hair conforming to notions of “white hair”.

This is, again, why representation is important because having a “normalized” notion of hair—that the “normalization” defaults to a non-existent standard of “white hair”—that permeates (particularly American) society is a continuation of the power/privilege matrix that is at the heart of racism, colonialism, and oppression.

That “normal” hair, “white hair”, or “good” hair is another method of body policing.

That any type of hair that does not conform to these standards is somehow less-than, ugly, undesirable.

Enter Carlos the Scientist and his perfect and beautiful haircut.

With a little premature greying at his temples.

Carlos, with his perfect hair, whom Cecil loved at once.

Carlos who, judging only by his name, is a POC, is Latin@.

For the longest time, all we had as a designation of Carlos’ appearance was that Carlos “has a square jaw and teeth like a military cemetery. His hair is perfect and we all hate and despair and love that perfect hair in equal measure…he grinned and everything about him was perfect, and I fell in-love instantly” (Pilot) and that Carlos has “dark and delicate skin, black hair with a ‘dignified, if premature, touch of gray at his temples.’”

Whatever Carlos looked like, we all knew that, through Cecil’s eyes, Carlos was beautiful.

And, the fandom has depicted Carlos in a number of different ways.

Carlos has been depicted as a little on the round end—because the grey in his hair, even if it’s premature (and Carlos leading a scientific research team), caused some in the WtNV fandom to see Carlos as older, more middle-aged.

Carlos has been tall and short in turns, has been an Eldritch Horror.

Has been kind of a nerd replete with a pocket-protector and geek-glasses (the best glasses).

Carlos has been portrayed by cosplayers as Latin@ and Native and of mixed ethnicity in turns.

But, everyone has agreed (except the asshats that, for some unfathomable reason, think everyone in Night Vale is white, which just—ugh) that Carlos’ hair is perfect and sentient-in-a-it-does-what-it-wants way and that Carlos’ hair is not white hair.

Enter Dylan Marron, the new Voice of Carlos.

Who is perfect and beautiful.

(For awhile, Carlos was voiced by Jeffrey Cranor.)

And, unlike Cecil who is as changeable and individual as any headcanon can be, with the introduction of Dylan Marron as Carlos, the fandom began to adjust their fanart so that Carlos’ beautiful and perfect hair began to resemble Marron’s hair.

Marron’s thoroughly not-white hair.

In an interview, Marron was asked about his favorite fan-response to him becoming the Voice of Carlos, and he said that “I really love the new images of Carlos that look a little more like me, but also…I’ll tell you one thing that’s pretty personal: I always grew up totally hating my hair. I hated hated hated my hair, because it didn’t do what normal hair did. And of course when you hear that it makes you ask, ‘Well, what is normal hair?’”

Marron continued on to speak about hair politics and growing up surrounded by white people with their “normal” hair and how that assumption of normality and goodness led him to hate his hair, but that, in being Carlos with his beautiful, perfect hair—that the fandom looks to Marron and agrees that he is Carlos and his hair is perfect (and, y’all, his hair is really just amazing)—we, as a fandom, are assisting in a small way to changing the ideas of “normal”, “good” hair.

That there is no normal. There is only diversity.

That, together—through increased representation in our media, through de-skewing the portrayal and fetishization of POC bodies in media, in art, through demystifying what one goes through to obtain “white” hair—we’re taking another step forward toward dismantling the kyriarchy.

Good hair is not white hair. Good hair—whatever constitutes “good” in these cases—is whatever you want your hair to be.

In beginning to dismantle hair politics—one tiny step at a time—we take more power from systematic, institutionalized racism.

We’re reclaiming a world in which we can all be safe and be who we are.

And, this is why representation—even in a podcast, even in fanart—matters.

That’s why Carlos and his not-white hair—who is still perfect and beautiful even in his imperfections (“Condos”)—are important, why Carlos as voiced by Dylan Marron is vital.

Image courtesy Fink and Cranor

  Trie – Senior Contributing Editor

Hey, I’m ‘trie (sounds like “tree”). I’m a university-educated mixed media artist, wannabe writer, and the poster child for the nerd-geek-dork trifecta. I’m also a gender queer, pansexual, polyamorous feminist and Hellenic pagan with a social media habit like whoa.
Find me at: My Website, Twitter

 

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