A Pale and Stale Shadow of the Real Thing: Pop Culture's Tired Obsession with White People

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A Pale and Stale Shadow of the Real Thing: Pop Culture's Tired Obsession with White People

By Mike Roorda | Think Pieces | August 20, 2013 | Comments ()


I’m a member of the most privileged and overvalued demographic in our modern times. If it’s also true that what we have now is almost always better than what came before, the argument could be made that it’s the most overrated demographic in the history of ever. I am a white (DING) male (DING DING) living in the U.S. (DING DING DING) and am between the ages of 25 and 35. (BELL BREAKS) It isn’t an exaggeration to say that nearly everything that can be bought or sold, consumed, viewed or played is designed to separate me from my money.

When the whole world expends no small amount of energy explaining why they want what your genetic lottery jackpot has bestowed upon you, why your version of being alive is better than, you know, that of a woman in a small town someplace in the vast otherness of the Globe, or maybe even Mexico, it’s pretty easy to begin to drink your own Kool-Aid. It comes as no surprise then, that most of what is narcissistically marketed toward us are simply punched up and oft repeated stories of our own caucasian male lives and experiences. The vast majority of the entertainment being produced today is startlingly white washed and drained of any culture with skin tones darker than a long day at the beach. Good stories need good clean white morals and, if you want to sell tickets in the Bible Belt, actors of the same.

This should come as a surprise to nobody. Better men than I have spent more time than I care to explaining and discussing the why’s and how’s of this pointlessly privileged group. My part in this, as a member of that group to which I neither applied nor was accepted but simply am, comes in saying that I’m really so very tired of it all. It’s not interesting to me. There are other stories out there, stories of people and significant cultural moments and places that I have no frame of reference for. Dramas to be told that hold more than an empty reexamination of how intriguing office politics, suburban romances or solving crimes can be. Don’t get me wrong, some of those things can be very compelling when done well. I gleefully watched white folks solve white deaths on “Hannibal” this year, and will do so again when new episodes become available. I have to admit however, that part of my enjoyment of the show stemmed from the realization that it had reanimated the dead corpse of the overly pale skinned crime procedural formula, a genre which had become so safe and antiseptic that the “NCIS“‘s, “CSI”s and “Law and Order”s became incestial copies of one another.

Honestly, is nobody else bored stiff with pop culture’s current offerings? If I, the entitled white American male to whom all things must be sold, am sick of the things that they’re selling me, I have to assume the rest of the population that is forced to chose from the same options simply because they have access to the same amenities that I do are likely sick of it as well. How much worse must it be from the other side of the glass? I’ll never know. I can imagine it’s terribly confusing and frustrating to grow up in a community populated by what white america considers a minority and reconciling your experiences with the entirely detached cultural portrait painted for you in your entertainment options. To make matters worse, when stories do focus on the other than Anglo Saxon portions of society it tends to be of the “man aren’t things shitty for them” or “look how much good we can do by helping them out” variety.

I guess this makes my desire for diversity a selfish one. I want a greater variety of entertainment for me the key demographic, and as such it should happen. In entertainment however, there is also education. A good story entertains you but a great one can teach you something new about the world or yourself while it does so. I learned more about social inequality and the structure of class division in Baltimore by watching “The Wire” than I ever did by listening to someone standing behind a lectern. Slumdog Millionaire made me feel guilty about my petty concerns for money and material things. It’s pretty tough to whine about not getting the 60 inch plasma instead of the clearly inferior 50 incher when you consider other corners of the earth where getting enough food, and hopefully not being beaten to death by the opposing religious order or political faction are more common concerns. Oldboy was a joy, not just because of its new twist on the revenge flick, but also because of the completely foreign culture that the story was wrapped in.

I want to learn more with my entertainment. Not just about myself, and what trials the young professionals in a major US city can face, but about the world as a whole and the people who inhabit it. About the walks of life that I have no experience with, and the people whose stories don’t necessarily interconnect with mine.

Haiti was formed when an entire island of slaves revolted against their French owners and occupiers and seized sovereignty for themselves. It seems like that could be a fertile ground for some stories I’ve never heard before. The former farm hand who rose up to inspire a revolution. AMC could make an awesome show based on the characters fomenting dissatisfaction among the downtrodden and inciting them to violent victory.

In 1991 an entire nation state ceased to exist and broke into several smaller countries. The former USSR fell apart slowly in part due to rot and disintegration from within. The gradual and slowly forming cracks that led to its eventual demise must have first shown up while the USA and the USSR were both engaged in the most extended bout of sabre rattling the modern world has seen. To look strong out front while your entire system collapses behind you would make for a comedy treasure trove as yet unmined by western audiences. Think of it. You’d laugh and it wouldn’t be because a fat dude was married to a woman he doesn’t deserve, or because someone in their twenties hilariously failed at something inane like waiting tables or paying their rent on time. FXX could run the show into the ground after ten seasons and finally resorting to now trite jokes about how Boris almost blew up the world because he was late to work again due to his crappy Yugo not wanting to start in the winter.

There are innumerable cultures to pick from and an incalculable variety of stories to tell and we seem to think that not only do a small percentage of the population’s opinions matter, but that the rest of the world is best served by selling stories from that one segment back to them in different packaging. It’s not always flavorless, but it’s even less frequently unique. I’d like our pop culture to use some spices other than salt, some places other than here and some people different from myself to tell me their tales for once.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Innolanwetrust

    Was this article written by The Onion?

  • Jae

    Am I the only one here baffled by how easy 'white men' turned to 'white people' here?
    They are... really not the same, and the implication that they are is extremely fucked up.

    As for the penultimate paragraph, this is what i want to say as a Russian woman:

    FUCK. YOU.

    Is there some dark comedy to be found in one of the string of tragedies of my people (because, yes, Boris was funny but how do you think it was for the people? Socially catastrofically funny, that's how. We're still shell-shocked, for fuck's sake)? Yes, there is, plenty of it.
    But the comedy made specifically for the Cold War winners (yeah, yeah, 'there were no winners', but come on) to enjoy?
    Yeah, fuck you.

    I mean, aren't 'serious' depictions of Russians in American fiction comedy enough for you?

  • e jerry powell

    Point one of entertainment education:

    Haiti is not an island unto itself. Haiti is roughly 33% of the island of Hispaniola, the other two-thirds of which was retained by Spain, its original colonizers, currently DBA The Dominican Republic, after the Spanish gave the shit portions to France, who promptly over-forested it with all the African slaves they brought in. When the slaves ran the French the hell out, everybody got land. But since there were a lot of people crammed into one-third of the island, each allotment wasn't much. It went downhill from there. The Dominicans, on the other hand, managed things differently, even though they didn't achieve independence from Spain until about 19 years later.

    Historical drama, even for white people, doesn't seem to work well apart from premium cable or PBS. Everybody wants to be in the now, or they want to re-imagine history from the contemporary perspective. Then is not very interesting for now's short attention spans.

  • Ben

    No you know what, fuck that.
    You're basically complaining that America isn't making enough shows focusing on other countries? Good, have you seen how America treats other countries when they show up in shit?
    Fuck that, us other countries have our own media and are making our own TV shows and movies. If you're interested in movies from a Russian point of view, watch Russian movies? If I want to see a movie told from the point of view of my own country I will watch Australian movies, I'll watch The Castle or Bad Eggs or The Proposition or one of the other hundreds of brilliant local films.

    I can not imagine how awful seeing an american production with american actors and writers trying to tell an 'australian' story would be. It would be cringe inducingly bad. It would be.... well we all saw Pacific Rim? Those were some of the worst faux Australians I've ever seen. And we're pretty fucking close culturally to America, I can't even imagine how awful it would be being a Haitian and seeing what America thinks a Haiti is like.

    If you're not seeing enough media representing other countries that's on you. The other countries are out there putting out great shit and it isn't that hard to find. We're not some poor impoverished hard up little backwards countries waiting for the great Americans to come in and save us by finally telling our stories. We're already telling our own stories.

  • googergieger

    Ugh. Complaining about white people is still white people problems.

  • abell

    Things I'm not interested in: talking about the effect of white American men, etc, etc, etc.

    Things I am interested in: some sort of mid to late 80's Soviet black comedy. I don't know where we'd find the archetypes for that sort of a thing, but, christ, do I want it. Archer/Hogan's Heroes/ any other ideas?

  • prince_of_montagu

    I guess I can share this little nugget here:

    I was watching Downton Abbey and in season 3, there is a brief visit to a jazz club. In the jazz club, they showed a black man and i literally gasped from shock.

    and i'm black.

    It just caught me off guard to see a black guy because it was a jolt that reminded how white that show really is. How white most shows really are. Until that point which was three seasons of the show, that was the first black person that i could ever remember seeing. At least they are adding a new black member to the show in season 4, but it really was a blast of cold water to my face.

    I can give Downton a pass seeing that it is set in 1910-1920's England with focus on the aristocracy and their servants but not many other shows can use their setting to explain the complete lack of people and stories of color.

  • VohaulsRevenge

    The media both reflects and feeds the market; I see no separation between production and consumption. If more white people wanted to see dramas about foreign cultures and POC, we would see them on the air, full stop. They do not, and too few people are willing to put their asses on the line for the sake of artistic or ethnic integrity. Visual media in other countries is similarly myopic; for instance, Mexican novelas are virtual lily-white obsessions in a country that is overwhelmingly mestizo and Indian.

    There are other issues, IMO, such as the fact that the U.S. populace has been born and raised to believe that it butters the world's bread for so long that interest in foreign cultures has the hipness of a father asking his tweener for advice. I watched a program recently in which an author lamented the fact that the literature translation market in the U.S. is abysmal compared to Europe, which further reduces American exposure to foreign talent.

    A simile a HS friend told me that I never forgot was when he compared something to "picking through shit for the corn". For someone interested in broadening their media horizons, there's an awful lot of shit, but what can you do save roll up your sleeves and get down to it?

  • cgthegeek

    The privilege in this thread is deafening. "You're not looking for diversity hard enough!" The point is we shouldn't have to look hard in the first place.

    White people, White males especially, can turn on their TVs to almost any channel, pick up nearly any magazine, and/or randomly pick any movie at the theater and see people who look just like them. White people are the default, the norm. Everyone else is the "other". There's a severe Racial Empathy Gap in this country and it's evidenced by the types of stories that get told on the big screen. http://blogs.indiewire.com/sha...

    My point is, this is about more than "seeking out" other stories. We shouldn't have to go find media highlighting stories about people of color. It should be at the multiplex every weekend.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    (there's an extra parentheses at the end of your hyperlink preventing the page from loading straight from the link).

    I do agree that there should be more stories of people of color. Pragmatically, I also wonder if there is any country in the world where the majority of the stories aren't skewed towards the predominant culture (and the aspirational part of that culture, i.e. the rich, the young, the beautiful).

    And, not that it's a deterrent for creators really passionate about their subject matters, but its a double-edged sword which leads towards charges of exoticism or "who are you to tell MY story?"

  • cgthegeek

    Thanks I hope the link is fixed now.

    In many other countries largely populated by Black and Brown folks, especially those touched by colonialism, the majority of the stories still lean towards those from a White perspective. And even when they don't, White norms are lauded as the ideal: lighter skin, thinner noses, slimmer builds, anglicized accents, etc.

    To your second point, I think the call is not for White creators to tell more stories of color, but for people of color to be given the opportunity to tell their OWN stories.

  • cgthegeek

    sorry for the double post. thought i lost the first one

  • cgthegeek

    Thanks I hope the link is fixed now.

    In other parts of the world, specifically in countries touched by colonialism, the majority of the stories in mainstream media skew toward White culture, even where White people are the minority.

    And to your second point, I think the call is not for White writers to tell stories about people of color, but for creators of color to be allowed to tell their own stories.

  • Alberto Cox Délano

    If you are interested in the Haitian Revolution, read "The Kingdom of This World" by Alejo Carpentier.

  • VohaulsRevenge

    I'd also like to recommend Laurent Dubois's nonfiction "Haiti: The Aftershocks of History." Well-written, and tremendously informative, especially concerning the seeds of Haiti's current problems.

  • Muhnah_Muhnah

    Nollywood and Bollywood are churning out movies like their lives depend on it, but none of them are marketed in the US I guess. The problem isn't that the stories aren't there, they just aren't made in the US. I can understand that it might be hard to find them legally though.

    As for US made entertainment being more diverse, I suppose it's a supply and demand thing. From the success of shows like Orange Is The New Black and The Wire, hopefully more will come. So I guess, it's an "ask and you shall receive" kind of thing. Unfortunately, you might be in a minority as a white male who's tired of white male focused stories. But maybe you're not, time will tell. Nice article, don't know why a lot of commenters are up in arms about it.

  • cgthegeek

    I feel the "supply and demand" argument comes up a lot and I think it's a misguided. There's a market for diverse stories and a demand for them, but when the Neisen boxes are sent to mostly White homes and the "focus groups" are mostly White, well what do you expect the "demand" to be?

    For example, I often hear comic book retailer say the reason female driven books aren't made and why they don't carry them in the store is because "women don't come in here and ask for them." While I can respect a retailer's efforts to keep profits high, I have to wonder why a woman would walk into a comic book store and ask for a book she knows doesn't exist?

  • Muhnah_Muhnah

    I was referring to the demographic of the US...which is 70% white I think. And of course, you're right that the entertainment industry is insanely conservative and not really willing to to stray from what has "worked for them" the last century. But like I said, things will change simply because of the popularity of non-white focused entertainment. The old guard will stop fearing those stories as too risky, or fear being left behind.

    What you really need is more diverse directors, writers, producers, etc. I'm sure the next generation of film makers will be more diverse than the Spielberg generation. I agree it's a problem, but it's not a hopeless one and maybe I'm being overly optimistic but I think we're moving in the right direction.

  • AngelenoEwok

    Yeesh, why would I walk in there AT ALL? I've been creeped on in comic stores quite a bit; it's part of the reason I've just started buying everything digitally.

  • cgthegeek

    I know that feel. I'm fortunate to have a local store where I'm treated decently (and often like a unicorn), probably because I've been going there since I was 10, but whenever I go a field trip to another store it's usually an unpleasant experience.

  • go_nelly

    next time i go to the comic book store i'ma think about emanating a unicorn vibe. *ctfu*

  • rumcove

    I think it's time for the U.S. to breakup. The government is disfunctional and corrupt. The various parts (the South and low population states in the West) of the country and preventing the other parts from moving ahead. Let's do a red state blue state split and just call it even.

  • FireLizardQueen

    People in the comments seem to be telling you to go see foreign movies and such, and while I agree, I also agree with you that the whole system needs an overhaul.

    What bothers me most about the people on tv & movies, is not just the overall lack of diversity, but the tokenism. The US is 70% white, everyone else is everything else. Most shows nowadays try to stick one POC in the show, but rarely ever more than one. I live in the metro DC area (an average American city) and on a given day I encounter many, many people of color. Heck, I live in a neighborhood where 50% of the population is Asian. Forget about making a show about a country most Americans can't even point on the map, how about just taking baby steps and aiming for the average!

  • ,

    Also, intriguing though they may be, the story of the Balkans and the USSR falling apart and the Cold War would be pretty much entirely about white people.

  • Jae

    Nope, not really.
    The concept of 'whiteness' is very loosely related to actual skin colour. As in being white is not enough to be 'white'.

    And, of course, there are regional differences.
    Fun fact: in Russia 'Caucasians' are POCs.

  • Martin Holterman

    Ah, but he's decided that Americans are even more privileged than other white people. (Not entirely sure why, given the existence of Swiss, Norwegians, Swedes, Luxembourgers, etc., but there you go.)

  • ,

    You'd have loved the '70s.

    "The Jeffersons"

    "Sanford and Son"

    "Chico and the Man"

    You were just born too late.

  • ,

    "Star Trek"

    "Mod Squad"

    Probably lots more. Help me out here, oldsters.

  • April Pastorius Wise

    "Good Times". What a great show that was.

  • Repo

    I'm sorry, I know writing this made you feel good about yourself, but if you feel you're not being exposed to enough culture or stories, it's because you aren't putting in the work. With the internet and streaming content, never before has foreign and diverse content been more accessible to everyone with an interest. If you are waiting for CBS to deliver it to you in prime time, get over it. That's not a realistic viewpoint because like it or not, the consumer is king, and those viewing audiences want familiar and simple. If your REAL agenda was wanting to throw white america under the bus for being uncultured or to point fingers at "The Man" for whitewashing sitcoms and procedurals, then by all means, go for it. Don't sugarcoat it. No half measures.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Who's the asshole that's running willy-nilly through the comment section throwing downvotes like ripe cow patties?

  • alwaysanswerb

    While you have a good point about foreign and diverse content being increasingly available, I'm confused by the rest of your comment. For one thing, "it is what it is because it is" is a really lazy rebuttal, but then you follow that up by admonishing him for sugarcoating the article and suggesting that he needs to "go for it." Isn't that the point of publishing a piece like this, to add voices to the ether calling for a change? So what would you actually have him do? Sit silently because "viewing audiences want familiar and simple" and that's the way it is? Or vociferously go for the jugular of The Man?

  • Aaron

    I feel like this article is a little bit of a mess, the topics and ideas are interesting, but honestly it'd be more informative and interesting as a whole if you stuck to TV and explored that more in-depth. Both the movies you discuss are foreign movies (Slumdog Millionaire and Oldboy) and if you want to explore other cultures and see very different perspectives from the one you live, that is an excellent way to do it and there are a large number of excellent options along those lines (many of which are readily available). I have no idea if the same is true of TV, certainly there is a lot of accessible and excellent British TV, but what about other countries?

    How about a little discussion of the diversity that does exist on TV and why you feel it's inadequate. Yes the two main leads of Hannibal are white, but arguable the third most important cast member is Lawrence Fishburne. Or what about the British crime procedural Luther, with a Black lead? Some discussion of these characters/shows and how they fail to fulfill what you see as lacking would have been interesting. I'd just like to see a little bit more critical engagement with what does exist.

    Also, I know everyone likes to lump "white" stories together, but there are actually white narratives that are under-represented and differ radically from yours, like those of rural Kentucky seen on Justified or the Ozarks seen in the movie Winter's Bone.

    You also may want to check out shows like Treme, Orange is the New Black, or Top of the Lake.

  • Three_nineteen

    1. Read a book. It's relatively easier to get a book published than a TV show or movie produced, and you can actively seek out stories that are written by people who are culturally different from you, both fictional and non-fictional. Plus, the more popular a book is, the more chance it has of turning into a movie or TV show.

    2. Have you tried watching Univision or one of the other Spanish language TV channels? I would think that there are some programs there that might apply. Can you get closed-captioning in English for those channels?

    3. I know getting DVDs in the mail is so early 2000's, but there are a lot of foreign films on DVD that aren't on Netflix streaming. The Netflix DVD service is better about this than it used to be, but if you are on the West coast I would recommend checking out Greencine, and if you are in the Chicago area Facets is pretty good (and nonprofit).

  • Part of this mindset being so hugely systemic in the industry, though, is that it doesn't matter how popular a story is or how great the scale, a book/comic/cartoon can and probably will be whitewashed to hell when it gets made into a live action project. See: The Last Airbender, The Hunger Games.

  • FireLizardQueen

    I agree wholeheartedly with The Last Airbender, but The Hunger Games is wrong. They're doing a pretty good job of keeping the racially diverse aspect of the books...and adding more in some case (e.g., Lenny Kravitz).

  • Yeah, it's not actually wrong. The Hunger Games is doing a pretty good job of keeping the SUPPORTING cast SOMEWHAT racially diverse. I had no personal objection to a white girl being cast as Katniss, but I understand why others would be disappointed. Many of the characters aren't ever definitively stated to be one thing or another, but most of the characters in the film franchise so far are a) cut and b) caucasian. The only color related descriptions we get of Cinna are him having short brown hair and gold eyeliner, so I don't see how casting Lenny in the role was "adding" color. That would only be true if you assume characters are by default white. Finnick is described as having tan skin, bronze hair and green eyes. While his name screams 'IRISH!!!' to me, that description does not preclude a POC actor like, say, Jesse Williams from playing the role. Not to mention the fact that this is a post apocalyptic future film, so you'd think populations would be a little more blended. Most of the cast is white. It didn't need to be.

  • Berry

    But they could have easily chosen someone less white for Katnis as well. And Finnick. And probably few others too.

  • mairimba

    This! I'm at work and it took more time than I wanted to finish reading.

    Yes. Read a book if you want to learn more about other cultures. And there are plenty of foreign movies made each year (even more than what Hollywood makes) that you can rent or buy over the internet. But don't just watch the "cultural" ones. Many stories have been told that have nothing to do with how poor a country is.

    And don't watch Univision. That's just filled with a bunch of stereotypical bullshit.

  • rasputinreborn

    TV sucks, in general here (gasp) - and guess what, it tends to suck pretty hard in brown town (other cultures) too! Stop consuming the empty calories; cut the cord and enjoy only the entertainment that actually entertains or enlightens you.

    I must say though, a picture of a pale part of Breaking Bad's cast at the top? How does this apply other than as clickbait? For shame!

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Are you really part of an elite section of humanity in the entire history of the world if the ones you consider outside of that group aren't aware of your exclusivity? Because I had no idea it was so desirable to be a 25 - 35 year old white American male.

    Check out netflix foreign movies, they have a good selection.

  • kirbyjay

    "I’m a member of the most privileged and overvalued demographic in our modern times.""
    First line of the piece, which doesn't say anything about being the most desirable. The author merely stated that his demographic is the most catered too, which any Hollywood exec will admit to.
    Kinda useless to make an argument about something that isn't there.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    You're right, being privileged is in no way desirable. I shouldn't have put my own interpretation on the comment, I'm ashamed of myself now.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Oh, I have an idea. Watch PBS. Or international stations.

    I feel like we're getting more diversity in what we're seeing on American-produced tv. (feel is a terrible term. I should probably look that up and confirm with some statistics. But I'm not going to right now) And a lot of what you call overly-white doesn't even seem that way to me (L&O, really?)

    People tend towards entertainment that relates to them. The more specifically, the better. Stories being told by/about other cultures are more available than they ever have been before - you can find them. Just don't expect pieces about "less important" demographics to be marketed to you.

    I will add, though, that a week or so ago I looked up the numbers and was totally shocked that according to the last census, blacks only make up 12% of the population of the US. I thought it was closer to 40%. But there is a reason that most stuff is targeted to whites - they are far and away the dominant sector of the US population.

  • chanohack

    I only watch "L&O: SVU," but the cops, bad guys, victims, and witnesses are all VERY diverse.

    I'm not saying there's no problem with the diversity of stories told in entertainment. But the examples picked in this article are bad.

  • Joe Grunenwald

    COMING SOON FROM CBS: Mike is a 28-year-old white man from New Haven, CT, who happens to have gotten his dream job as a TV executive at CBS. But when he tries to update their Wednesday night lineup to include more people of color, he finds himself at odds with his bosses and coworkers. And the laughs never stop! From the creator of Two-And-A-Half Men and The Big Bang Theory comes...COLOR BARS!

  • JenVegas

    Putney Swope revisited?

  • Idle Primate

    Yes, why aren't other cultures and people who don't look like you doing enough to entertain you?

    While we're at it, why are white americans just like everyone else in the world, I.e predominantly drawn to and creating naratives they can relate to. Craaaazzzzeeeeeee.

    I'm not sure how you got to feeling so enlightened and noble about being willfully ignorant of how culture works and following up a statement of privilege with a demand for more and specifically for good old fashioned orientalism--exotic tales of the other. But then, you specified that american television dramas are kind of your academic level.

    You might want to stick to celebrity gossip.

  • brite

    Excellent piece Mr. Roorda. If you want something different, quit consuming what they feed you. Spend your Netflix $ on foreign movies, documentaries, tv shows from far away places. Suspend your cable tv subscriptions and spend the money elsewhere. If there are enough people who feel like you do and they make the effort to unchain themselves from the monoculture, the monoculture will respond.

  • aadip desai

    Love and agree with the sentiment (not enough people even take a second to think about this), but if a person of color (like me) wrote this it would be considering whining. How do we fix it? We need the powers that be to care and right now stories about brown people just ain't on their radar, neither are stories written by brown people, and even Spike Lee got pulled from The James Brown biopic.

  • cgthegeek

    I think we have to start with educating TPTB on what diversity is and what it is not. Whenever I attend these diversity panels at cons, the network heads insist they are looking for "diverse voices". But what they subconsciously mean (because I always ask for clarification) is they want diverse voices (people of color, women, lgtb, and where those intersect) to write on their shows about White people.

    Diversity imho is not one or two characters on a show who are played by people of color; it's having several shows on the air about their experiences. It's not one Black and Gay man in a sea of White people so the network can check the diversity! box. It's not filling a quota, but bucking the status quo.

    It's also about balance. My major problem with Tyler Perry is that his is the only voice being heard. Why do we always have to be funny? I didn't have a problem with the buffonery on Martin because we had The Cosby Show, A Different World, and Living Single. It's really very sad that Scandal is the only drama with a Black female lead in over 40 years. And it's only the second drama with a hefty amount of people of color since Roc (the first drama). The beauty of shows like The Jeffersons and Good TImes is that they showed the spectrum of Black life, not just one.

    Again this goes back to TPTB being willing to a) admit they are lacking in some way and b) seek to include creators of color. Or, if they were smart, supporting them and making sure they got a cut. But they won't do that even when the numbers prove diversity is wanted and inevitable. Because it's not about making money or creating art: it's about maintaining power.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Do you genuinely think it's about maintaining power? I'm fascinated by that point of view. My cynicism runs a different way - I feel like it's about what makes the most money for the least amount of effort. That's why George Lopez ends up with a sitcom (hey, what's an untapped market? Who's popular in that market right now?) (also why we have so many reality shows...that's another story)

  • cgthegeek

    It's probably a little bit of both. But I lean towards it being more about power because trends come and go but the thirst for power is the constant.

  • e jerry powell

    And it explains why a comedian that is, at best, a one-note hack keeps getting hour-long specials on HBO. I don't know who that's more about, Lopez or Katt Williams.

    Let's be real: while you're right, George Lopez got a sitcom because Damon Wayans got one, and Damon Wayans got one (his second or third, I don't remember) because Jim Belushi got one. Meet the whores of second-rate stand-up on ABC (except for D.L. Hugley, whose show I never watched, but he's nowhere near the downmarket hacky triteness level of those other three). The rest of them all ended up with deals at The WB or UPN and got run over by the glisten and gleam of Pretty White Kids With Problems.

    I'm not actually sure what's worse in that whole equation, now that I think about it.

  • Wednesday

    Your culture has to have a social structure with a leisure class before you hear authentic stories from within that culture, though. So it'd be great to learn, say, something about the perspective of a poor Bangladeshi garment factory worker, but first that garment worker has to find the time and means to write her story.

    Otherwise what you get is what so many of us complain about: The Help. The privileged outsider's view of another social perspective.

  • go_nelly

    so screenwriters need to be more conscious of this, enlist the voices of those who are entrenched in that culture and who've lived out such experiences in the writing process. (include them filming and editing as well! seeing how in film school they say--there's the story you write, the story that gets filmed, and the story that gets edited, and they're almost never the same--which i believe is true.) the industry could do a better job of empowering these groups to tell their stories, and hopefully avoid some of the pitfalls of producing the outsider's view.

  • Hear, fucking hear.

  • Ruthie O

    "I want to be clear about this. If you wrote from experience, you'd get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy." --Nikki Giovanni

  • Conor

    All aboard the American White-Guilt Express!

    Toot toot!

  • frozen01

    I missed the "guilt" part.
    It's just an opinion about how we could use a little variety in our entertainment. People obviously agree. When Capaldi was announced as the next Doctor (on Doctor Who, if I need to clarify) there was a collective groan because many are sick of the never-ending line of white men in the role (I should say that I'm personally looking forward to Capaldi in the role as he's a fine actor, but I'm still hoping that the next Doctor will be something a little different).
    Is that "guilt"... or just boredom?

  • Conor

    Oh, don't get me wrong, I am 100% behind more diversity in roles. I don't even watch Dr Who and I wanted Chiwetel Ejiofor for the role, just because I thought he'd be awesome for the role, ditto Michael B Jordan for Johnny Storm.

    I'm just a bit sick of the trend where we can't discuss race in entertainment without prefacing it with "white people are the worst" because of American history's track record on the subject. I feel like every Caucasian person gets painted with the same brush, regardless of where you're actually from.

    I dunno, I was just making a joke and now I'm gonna be torn to shreds over it.

  • cgthegeek

    I feel like every Caucasian person gets painted with the same brush, regardless of where you're actually from.

    It really sucks to be generalized like that, doesn't it?

  • go_nelly

    "It really sucks to be generalized like that, doesn't it?" annnd, i think cgthegeek just won the internet today.

  • Conor

    And still no example was given of me generalising anyone.

    Le sigh. Forgot it's impossible to have a discussion online without someone assuming you're a bigot instead of talking about this.

    Isn't this fun? WEEEEEEEEEEEE!

  • cgthegeek

    WHOOSH!!! ::passes a hand over her head::

    I didn't say YOU were generalizing anyone. I quoted you when you complained that White people are generalized. And then I tried to point out the irony of you complaining about White people being generalized, because people of color are ALWAYS generalized.

    tl;dr: Being lumped together with your racial group in a negative manner really sucks, doesn't it?

    And I can't believe I had to spell that out to you like you were four.

  • Conor

    Yeah, no I got all of that. It just seemed like you were having a go at me in particular, not the general point I was making.

    Particularly with your "Of course you do" comment. I completely agree with you on people of colour being generalised, you just assumed that I didn't. Genaralisation isn't limited to one group and I never alluded to that.

    Also, there's really no need to become personal and nasty, unless that's your default demeanour online.

  • Repo

    You're being way too polite. For what it's worth, you explained yourself quite well. She's just taking the piss out of you at this point. Let it go.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Judging by his spelling of "colour" and "generalise" there's a good chance he's Canadian or British, so politeness may be instinctive.

    (oops! there goes that generalizing!)

  • Uriah_Creep

    According to his linked Facebook page, Conor is actually Irish. That explains the spelling, at least.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    oh, then fuck all. I'm surprised he hasn't broken a bottle over her head.

    (still just a joke. since we're needing to be very specific about these things on this thread)

  • Conor

    Well I don't think I really generalised anyone in my post, if you're being sarcastic. If you're not, then yeah, it's crappy when anyone gets generalised and thrown into a demographic.

    99% sure you're taking a shot at me, and if so have at it, I stand by what I said.

  • cgthegeek

    Of course you do.

  • Conor

    Good talk.

  • cgthegeek

    Any time, bro.

  • alwaysanswerb

    I don't think "white people are the worst" was actually expressed here though, even implicitly. The only accusation levied was that the media disproportionately caters to the white demographic, and saying so isn't painting white people with any kind of brush at all.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I think your joke made an excellent point. Screw the downvoters, most of them are trolls anyway.

  • That cast photo for Breaking Bad is sort of funny, since in the early seasons there were many POC in the cast. The best villain they ever had was a POC, and my husband and I love Hank's partner/employee Gomez. As Heisenberg rises things keep getting whiter and whiter.

  • chanohack

    I know this isn't really the argument that needs to be made here and not the point, but YES. One of the reasons I LOVE "Breaking Bad" is that they don't have a totally white-washed cast. I was a little apprehensive about a show set in Albuquerque, thinking it was going to be just like the "Albuquerque" of High School Musical with beautiful vegetation and no Hispanic kids. Not only are there a LOT of Hispanic people (just like real life!), they're not all bad guys (just like real life!), AND race usually isn't even brought up at all (which is normal for this part of the country). The exception is Hank and his racist comments, which we are meant to dislike. (I grew up in Southern New Mexico, so I don't know if people put up with that kind of bullshit in Albuquerque, but we treated comments like that the way Hank is received in El Paso-- blank stares and zero laughter.)

    I love Steve Gomez, but I have no idea why he's so good to Hank.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Not to mention that their biggest big bad was a Latino/Black man but yeah, the show has gotten whiter since Walter IS KILLING EVERYONE. Guess that's a spoiler.

  • MauraFoley


  • zeke_the_pig

    Indeed. It's fantastic how great art - whether books or TV or movies, or anything - can take the things that you have learned from your own experiences, and can then refract them through the shared filter of Another in order to show you a side that is unfamiliar, and yet suddenly relatable.

    I understand concepts like social hierarchy and money perfectly well, but when The Wire uses those universal ideas to show me the life of inner city Baltimore, they become an avenue, a language, through which I can understand a world that in all likelihood I will never see.

    It makes endeavours like this far more valuable for two reasons:
    1: You learn so much about something that is so different.
    2: You learn how it's not really different at all.

    It's harder to watch if you're hungover, but goddammit is it worth it.

  • TCH

    I have always thought The Wire was less about hierarchy and more about plain institutional dysfunction...as well as a critique of the idea that the free market is the best thing ever.

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