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I WAN

T TO
BE IN
A LIF VISIB
E PAS
SIN
LE
G BY

BY KI
R A SH
UMS
KI
TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction 3-4
Background 5-6
Research 7
Theory 8

Visual Research 9-10


Development 11
Narrative 12

Visual Development 13-17

Production 18
Asset Creation 19-20

Animation 21
Rigging 22

Results 23-24
Conclusion 25-26
References 27
INTRODUCTION
INTRODUCTION
In some cases, privilege is static. Some forms of privilege cannot be put on or taken off. However, the
ability to take privilege on and off, to be visible or invisible, is a power and a weakness that the LGBT community
knows well. LGBT people in many cases have some amount of control over how they are seen in the eyes of society.
When, where, and how to come out is a constant question.
'Coming Out' is in many ways a process in which an individual sheds themselves of conformity in exchange
for the freedom to be open about themselves. However, in this freedom, one loses the safety and invisibility of
fitting into the societal norms of gender and sexuality. LGBT people have the ability to change their appearance,
actions, relationships, environment, etc. in ways that will make them either visible or invisible in the eyes of society.
This project intends to expose and critique the shifting levels of privilege that LGBT people are afforded,
based on these interrelate subjects of personal expression. Through a short animation, This visibility and invisibility
will be explored, giving insight into the current reality of the LGBT experience, as well as showing the universal
impact of performative gender expression on the population as a whole. The purpose of this project is to give
insight into the systems of oppression that everyone in society is subjected to, but with a specific focus on the
experiences of LGBT people.
BACKGROUND
BACKGROUND
As a member of the LGBT community, I was inspired by my experience of revealing and hiding my orientation
through the ways I express myself. This can also be likened to my experience as a mixed-race person who is usually
perceived as white. Both of these identities allow me to decide what to reveal about myself. This basic concept was
the precursor for the development of this project.
Within our society's strict social hierarchies, LGBT people exist in a grey area. They have some control over
their ability to blend in or stand out, something that is not often afforded to other minority groups. This position
creates varying levels of visibility and invisibility.
It is important to have conversations about how our visibility and conformity is influenced by our
environments, appearances, and choices in being open about ourselves. Hate motivated violence and discrimination
against LGBT people is an unfortunate reality. Those who are brave enough to be open about themselves are
placed in a spotlight which puts them at risk. Many feel that to be visible is dangerous, thus creating the necessity
of being closeted-of being invisible.
Recently, the kind of discrimination and violence that LGBT people face has been even more apparent in our
politics, news, and media. Because of the stigma and risk LGBT people face by being visible in society, it is important
to create work that can start conversation and change perspectives that would otherwise go unchallenged. This
piece is intended to respond to the current atmosphere, as well as start/add to the conversation on this topic.
RESEARCH
THEORY
One of my main sources on this topic is from Peggy McIntosh's , 'White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible
Backpack'. The idea of the invisible backpack relates to the idea I am portraying in my thesis. This is the idea that to
be within the norm is to have a form of invisibility in which one is not singled out or ostracized. McIntosh describes
being conditioned into oblivion about [white privilege's] existence. Those who fit the social norm of gender or
sexuality similarly experience conditioning in which privilege is not readily apparent to them. The blue overtone
of my piece is representative of this idea. For the characters which are unaware of this precreated system, being
“blue” is a “natural” state. Being “red” in this piece is indicative of existing outside of this privileged position. The
main character begins to understand their own identity and in doing so they begin to understand and experience
this position of ostracization.
Another text that is relevant to my thesis is Bell Hooks' 'Feminism is For Everyone', specifically her chapter
'Consciousness-Raising,' which discusses the common activity of having consciousness raising groups during the
second wave of the feminist movement, where women would come together to learn about feminist beliefs and
also espouse themselves of their internalized sexist beliefs. The project is inspired by this idea of consciousness
raising, as not only does the main character experience a shift in their own consciousness, but it is intended for the
viewer to gain a sense of raised consciousness on this issue.
Allison Bechdel’s strip from ‘Dykes to Watch Out For,’ which is what originally inspired the Bechdel Test, is
also a key point of research. In this strip, the character discuss the lack of representation in film of queer characters.
This relates to my concept in that it considers the idea of being gay as so outside of the norm that is not even
considered, creating a kind of damaging invisibility due to society’s aversion to the idea of putting LGBT people in
the spotlight. I wanted to reflect this in my piece in that there is an overall lack of representation presented to the
character. It is only due to a chance discovery of a piece of queer “knowledge” or “literature” which begins the
main character’s transformation.
Something else important in my research was reading into statistics of crime/hate against LGBT people.
It is often cited that transwomen tend to have a very high murder rate, something that can be attributed to not
being able to fit into the invisible norm deemed appropriate in our society. Physical violence towards LGBT people
is also much more common than things like property crimes. Sexual orientation is also the 3rd leading motivation
for hate crimes. From this research I can ascertain the need to create awareness towards this issue and use it to
better portray my topic.


VISUAL RESEARCH
David OReilly's 'The External World' is a large inspiration for the aesthetic of this piece. The combination of
cartoon-like visuals with a more serious story is something I am trying to explore with this piece. While this piece is
in 3d rather than the 2d look I am using, I am still able to take inspiration from it. The juxtapositon between “cute”
visuals and a serious or “adult” topic creates an interesting dynamic which I wanted to pursue in this piece. Having
appealing and “friendly” visuals can draw the viewer in.
Another piece which is a visual inspiration for this piece is Ross Plaskow’s “Suicide” which has 2d visuals
which are simple yet still distinctive and work well together. This piece is on the more humorous side, yet still has a
somewhat serious nature to it. I was inspired by these kinds of visuals because I found them to be something that
I could relate to in more effective ways than something that is played straight, like a filmed documentary or more
realistic style.

The External World, David OReilly

Suicide, Ross Plaskow


VISUAL RESEARCH

Tekkonkinkreet

Early on I was very inspired by works of japanese animation such as Tekkonkinkreet, Ghibli Studio films,
Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis, etc. These kind of works had an appealing nature to the way they were drawn,
espeically in the background designs. There is also the somewhat grungy nature of many of the environments in
these films which is something that inspired the setting for my animation. Tekkonkinkreet specifically is a large
inspiration to my work in general. While I took on a more simplified style, the kind of dark color palette and rough
line work were inspired by the kind of visuals from this film.
Additionally, Tekkonkinkreet’s character design was one of the precursors for my character designs. Going
into this project, I aimed to not have an idealized or “mainstream” appearance to my main character, as I felt this
would undermine my concept to some extent. Tekkonkinkreet’s character designs are successful in that in a way
they are almost “ugly” or have average or below average attractiveness in terms of mainstream standards of
beauty. However, despite this, they are beautiful as characters and as works of art. They still remain very visually
appealing despite their “ugliness.” From this idea I began forming my character designs, in which I wanted to
emulate this odd beauty I saw in Tekkonkinkreet.
DEVELOPMENT
NARRATIVE
This project is a short animation that follows a story regarding the ideas of passing, coming out, and the
ways in which people navigate gender performance.
This animation follows main character through a journey of introspective self discovery as well as critical
views on the world in which they live. Though the animation focuses on a single character, the events relate to a
larger group of people.
The main character, Cherry, goes through a series of experiences in which she struggles with maintaining a
sense of conformity. Starting as a muted blue, much like her surrounding environment, throughout the film Cherry
is able to shed this blue exterior as she learns more about the queerness underlying in her world, and as she learns
more about herself.
As a reference to the idea of ‘passing’ Cherry takes on the colors/attributes of her surrounding environment
and hides her cherry color. However, as she has new experiences, she develops to not always hide her cherry
nature. While this story primarily focuses on cherry, through her experiences we can also see the struggles of
the other character around her in conforming to the norm. After all, this story, while about the LGBT passing
experience, is one that is universal to some extent. Anyone in society is subject to some form of having to conform
to fit acceptable standards.
The narrative begins with Cherry entering a bookstore where she encounters a glowing red book which
is starkly different from her surrounding. This mainly represents the idea of queer knowledge/literature, being an
important factor in how Cherry begins to learn about herself beyond the confines of society. From this moment,
the blue exterior begins to chip off as Cherry begins reading. This is the first defining moment in her transformation.
However, directly following this, Cherry experiences a watchful gaze from the cashier, in which she feels somewhat
exposed and is unsure of herself, retreating into an alley to self-examine.
Following this experience, Cherry is approached by a pure red person, who hands back to her, her dropped
book. The scene is framed so that the red person is cast in the sunlight, giving an aetherial feeling. This character
represents someone who is open and visible as they are, signified by their red appearance and their placement in
the light. This character giving back the book to Cherry represents Queer mentorship, camaraderie, and passing of
knowledge. After taking back the book, Cherry blue exterior further cracks, and her hands turn red. Following this
encounter, Cherry encounters a red glowing light coming from an alleyway.
This scene is significant since Cherry now actively seeks to experience this red light, rather than it being brought
upon her. This is the turning point in which Cherry accepts herself. Opening the door at the end of the alley, she is
encased in red light, showing her full red transformation.
In the last escene, Cherry is seen completely red, this time taking a critical gaze on the world around her.
She has a change in her perspective, and is now able to see the underlying hints of red in her world which were
previously unviewable to her. She observes these changes, and also encounters someone in the alley she was in in
the first scene. The film ends with Cherry passing on the red book to this new character, hinting at a continuity of
the cycle as the film comes to a close.
VISUAL DEVELOPMENT
BACKGROUND DESIGN

The background design for this project has had a large change since my inital concept. Originally, I planned
on having very detailed, hand painted backgrounds, similar to that of the ones seen in Ghibli films and other
animated films similar to that. However, after taking into consideration the technical aspects of doing hand painted
backgrounds, I chose to experiment more with vector graphics to match the more simplistic aesthetic of the
character design. The hyper-detailed background style felt incongruent with the aesthetic I was going for.
VISUAL DEVELOPMENT
BACKGROUND DESIGN

From there I tried to develop a style which utilized the simplcity of vector graphics but also evoked some
level of handdrawn feeling. After making a mockup of a more simplified design, I still felt that it was somehow
not working. Looking back, my color scheme in this mockup, as well as the type of line did not suit my animation.
However, the kind of simplicity that I created with this approach I later would somewhat model my backgrounds
on.
VISUAL DEVELOPMENT
BACKGROUND DESIGN

My final background mockup, though a bit dark, also influenced the design of the rest of my backgrounds. While
this particular image is a bit hectic, the idea of a more rough line work reflecting that of my character design,
became necessary in developing my background designs. For my final designs, I tried to find the medium between
my simplified mockup and this dark and edgy approach.
VISUAL DEVELOPMENT
CHARACTER DESIGN
The initial character design for this project was very pared down and simple, consisting of white outlines of
people with little to no defining characteristics. The main reason for this was to show the adding and renewing
of liquid inside the body, which was a large component in my initial vison of this project. However, as I
developed the project to consist of a more definite main character, it became necssary to change the aesthetic
of my character designs.
VISUAL DEVELOPMENT
CHARACTER DESIGN
From here, I began to develop a main character who would fit with my concept. I chose to create a somewhat
androgynous character who would experience a color change, from a more toned down blue to a nore vibrant
red, to show the shift from going from “inviisible” to “visible.” I took inspiration from the character designs of
Tekkonkinkreet in terms of the actual style, as I was inspired by the character designs which were almost ugly,
yet still very appealing.
PRODUCTION
ASSET CREATION
BACKGROUNDS

One of the struggles in creating effected backgrounds for this piece was to create something that was easily
editable but also still appealing. The main way I was able to achieve this was in using a stroke style which imitated
a hand-drawn line. This can be seen in bookstore background featured on the right.
Something else which I struggled with was in finding the correct use of color that would fit with the char-
acter designs, while also not conflicting with them or causing them to fade into the background. Because of this
problem, it was important that I had everything seperated into layers in illustrator, so that I could easily change the
colors and have it be updated in my After Effects scenes.
Perhaps the most important thing in creating the backgrounds was making sure the angles and depth of
the backgrounds was congruent with what I had created in my storyboard. This was especially difficult in the home
street scene of the animation, where the angles had to fit well with the positioning of the characters. I had to go
through multiple iterations in order to make the angle look accurate and work with the rest of the scene. For some
of the scenes, I relied on the actual animation itself in the production of my backgrounds, rather than creating
them beforehand.
ASSET CREATION
CHARACTERS
This animation has one main character, with one supporting character, and a few other characters with
smaller roles. The most important designs were for the main character and also the character which was essential
in the main character’s “awakening,” the red person who the main character encounters halfway through the nar-
rative. In many ways these characters were somewhat opposite of eachother. One is more withdrawn while the
other is outgoing and eye catching.
The main character’s design is meant to be somewhat androgynous, reflecting the theme of the animation.
I wanted to create a strange yet endearing character, someone who is unique but also that the audience can relate
to, which I discussed in my research section. The design which my main character was developed out of actually ex-
isted prior to this project, from some previous drawings I had done, but was repurposed to be used in this project.
The character was originally a street urchin, so the design already fit well into this project, since the character had
a strange bowlcut and bright red skin. This was actually the starting point for my development of the color scheme
to be used in the piece. The red version of he character was the “true” version which was hidden by a blue facade.
The choice of red and blue was mainly due to the connotations of them. Red, as a vibrant color, which is
often used to signify danger or to draw attention to things, seemed fitting in my metaphor as a color that could
signify visibility. Blue is a more calm color, and also is associated with emotions such as a sadness, so I felt that it
worked well as the general color scheme to be used for most of the other elements in the project.
ANIMATION
The animation process of this animation was mainly done using rigged “puppets.” I chose to take this ap-
proach because it is what I have the most experience in, and also is the most efficient approach due to being able
to reuse the same assets in multiple scenes.
However, this approach also has it’s downsides, as the results can easily look stiff and unnatural. There is also the
problem of the amount of layers needed in this process, which can get confusing at times. However, in comparison
to other type of animation I often find it to be easier.
One technique I used to counteract the stiffness of the animation is to use the liquify effect, which allowed
me to transform the layers more organically. This was mainly used to easily edit the facial expressions of the char-
acters, rather than simple using the transformation controls, it allowed me to morph them more precisely and
helped keep the animation from looking too mechanical. I also used it in some cases to animate the hair, which is
a more free flowing entity compared to the movement of the body.

example of facial expression done using liquify effect


RIGGING
My main way of rigging models was using a parenting method, so that the necessary pieces would move together
rather than having to individually move each piece. This was used for the face and body. It was also used a lot in
animating the hands used in the animation, which have many moving parts which would be difficult to animate
otherwise.
For the limbs, I used the Rubberhose After Effects plugin. this plugin is useful as it essentially does most
of the work in creating an IK hose. I used this plugin in place of the DUIK plugin because of the ease of use. While
DUIK is useful in that it can give more specific control, it is also more labor intensive as you have to setup all of the
connections, while Rubberhose does this automatically. I also utilized Rubberhose due to the fact that it’s use of
shape layers makes it very easy to update the styling of each hose. I wanted to use something that I could easily
update while maintaining the actual animation, which is not easily possible with other rigging methods. The only
downside to using Rubberhose is also the benefit, whic his that it uses only shape layers. While this makes it easy
to edit, it also means I had to make the limbs directly in After Effects, so creating linework to match the lines of the
head and hand models wasn’t possible.
Overall, the rigging process was fairly easy, in comparison to the actual animation component. However,
if I were to redo it, I would probably opt for a slightly more complex rigging system, to give myself more freedom
while animating.

example of animation path of rigged character


RESULTS
RESULTS
This project culminated in a 2 and a half minute long animation. What started as a a simple idea of the pass-
ing and taking on and off of privilege, something that was originally conceptualized as a series of short, interrelated
clips, developed into a narrative that instead followed a specific character over the course of a few days.
My research into LGBT and gender theory, formed into this short film steeped in metaphor and symbolism.
Evaluating the effectiveness of this piece is difficult after spending time working closely with it, so although I have
reached an end to producing this project, taking a step back a evaluating it from afar is another task which I plan
to pursue in the coming weeks.
Through the production of this project I was able to gain a better understanding of m own skills and posi-
tion on this topic, creating something which, if successful, can give others insight into a topic they may not have
considered before.
CONCLUSION
CONCLUSION
Looking back at the production of this project, I had many triumphs and setbacks. One of the biggest bar-
riers I had was my time limitations, which forced me to work as quickly and effectively as was necessary. Despite
being a culmination to the skills I have developed over the past 4 years, I still found that I was forced to learn many
things in order to complete this project.
While this project is “completed” I see myself taking this concept and perhaps even this story and devel-
oping it further as I continue to improve my skills and expand my knowledge and research on LGBT studies. Rather
than seeing this as the end of my development of this story, I see it as the beginning of future storytelling which
can be brought forth from this “starting” project. As one piece comes to an end, many others emerge in response
to my successes and failures from this development process.
REFERENCES
Bechdel, Alison. “Dykes To Watch Out For.”

Bornstein, Kate. “Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us.”

Butler, Judith. “Gender Trouble.” March 1990.

Halperin, David. “Is There a History of Sexuality?” 1989.

Harrison, Jack, Jaime Grant, and Jody L. Herman. “A Gender Not Listed Here: Genderqueers, Gender Rebels, and
OtherWise in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.” LGBTQ Policy Journal at the Harvard Kennedy
School 2 (2012).

Hooks, Bell. “Feminism Is for Everybody.” 2000.

Howl’s Moving Castle. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki.

Katz, Jonathan Ned. “The Invention of Heterosexuality.” 1995.

McIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” 1989.

Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis. Directed by Rintaro.

Rich, Adrienne. “Compulsory Heterosexuality and the Lesbian Existence.” 1980.

Sullivan, Nikki. “The Social Construction of Same-Sex Desire.” 2003.

Tekkonkinkreet. Directed by Michael Arias. July 13, 2007.

The External World. Directed by David OReilly.

Velvet Goldmine. Directed by Todd Haynes. Velvet Goldmine.