Big fan of diversity in pretty much anything.
And these days, I’m all about TV.
Here’s a sample:
A first-generation Taiwanese-American boy struggles to get along in mid-‘90s Orlando.
Two young Jewish-American women exist only for each other in Manhattan, often to their own and everyone else’s detriment.
A group of friends, primarily young gay men, go about their lives trying to live out their dreams and find love in San Francisco.
An upper-middle-class black family in Los Angeles tackles living through race in the 21st century.
A Mexican-American law school graduate in Dallas juggles her career and wacky relatives.
An Indian-American female doctor obsessed with romantic comedies tries to make her life into one.
A black family fights among themselves to inherit a hip-hop music label.
A white lesbian woman’s missteps land her in prison, as the stories of fellow inmates stretch into ethnicity, gender, class and LGBT issues.
It’s still not quite as representative as they should be, but the amount of minorities on TV right now enjoying ratings success definitely speaks to something great.
Art is a great mirror to the world, and it’s always improved by reflecting more voices in that real world. You can take the same old sitcom concepts, the same drama plots, and they are renewed by using different perspectives.
So if I’m gonna watch a spy-action comedy drama, give me more Agent Carter. The gender dimensions to Peggy Carter’s surroundings add a different level to the show, another maze for her to navigate, and it adds further color to the kinds of people who could found S.H.I.E.L.D.
Want some self-centered goofballs in New York leaving trails of human wreckage behind them?
I am enjoying the hell out of Broad City.
We’re seeing a show placing the friendship between two women as paramount, while mixing in hilarious observations about life in the Five Boroughs.
For me, Broad City is Girls with more funny and less-scarring personal abuse. (And weed. Lots of weed.)
Or the numerous jokes meant to underscore Mitch and Cam’s ignorance on their daughter Lily’s Vietnamese heritage? Then there was the episode with the grinning Nigerian family. As many strides as the show makes, and it makes many, sometimes it all cracks of the kind of race jokes white people tell with the disclaimer that obviously they can make them because they don’t really believe it.
They call that “hipster racism.”
Think of the cartoon Steven Universe.
It’s the first Cartoon Network original program created by a woman, at a time when CN has come under fire frequently for its inattention to girls, and rightly so. The show was noted as still having a boy character at the center. But watch the program, and we see Steven as a little boy who doesn’t think things through, subordinate to three female super-beings, and wanting to be them.
The show began with Rick Grimes at the center, and cartoonish takes on race (T-Dog? Dog.) and troublesome adherence to the “rule of three” (more than three black characters = black show), killing off a black character whenever it introduced a new one. Plus the show’s handling of female characters left Lori and Andrea as empty foils audiences soon hated.
Over time, several black characters have entered the show and become compelling characters, and characters such as Carol and Sasha are among the show’s best. Rick is not the best character on the show.
Showtime’s The Knick stars Clive Owen as the head surgeon at a Manhattan hospital at the turn of the 20th century.
But the show deftly has used its setting to explore race and gender issues. Owen’s Dr. John Thackery is not the best character on the show, as well written as he is. Andre Holland’s Dr. Algernon Edwards – a black doctor who benefited from the largesse of the wealthy white family his parents work for – is the show’s best role, full of conflict, wit, fear and determination. Juliet Rylance’s Cornelia Robertson and Eve Hewson’s Nurse Lucy Elkins, as characters also torn between two worlds of crushing privilege, seductive abandon and perilous safety, are right there with him.
Even better when the show is all-around diverse. Look at Brooklyn Nine-Nine, featuring a police squad with: two black characters, one of whom is gay; three Latino characters, one of whom is Latino-Jewish; three white men and one white woman.
I do at times think about what it may mean for Barry as a white guy raised in a black home, if anything at all. I hink of how much a nonwhite point of view has affected me, or how white friends of mine who spend significant time with people of other ethnic backgrounds may stand out from folks of similar hue.
For Barry, shouldn’t it mean something?
How To Get Away With Murder featured probably the blackest moment on primetime network TV when Viola Davis removed her wig of straight hair before confronting her husband about an affair.
Wow. So, keep it coming, television.
CBS, riding a core audience of older, white viewers, is home to the super-conservative cop show Blue Bloods and an Asian-American character on Two Broke Girls derided as Long Duk Dong redux. The network announced last week that it has ordered a pilot for Doubt, starring black transgender actress Laverne Cox as a character that is a black trans female attorney, and hired Selma director Ana DuVernay as pilot director and executive producer on civil rights drama For Justice.
Not when that same film is savaged by hagiographers disappointed that President Johnson isn’t portrayed as Martin Luther King Jr.’s great white hero. Whereas Lincoln, for example, wasn’t sunk despite a movie about the president’s push for abolition didn’t feature adviser Frederick Douglass.
Miley Cyrus trots out black bodies in pursuit of coolness-by-association, Iggy Azalea takes song of the summer and no black female rapper not named Nicki Minaj can see the light of day. Folks are busy slamming Beyonce to elevate Beck for something Kanye West said, and folks spend a week spewing shopworn rhetoric of genre and collaboration steeped in gender- and race-based biases.
Keep watching. But be careful; it’ll rot your bigotry.