Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Diversity?

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I rolled over at 4am because even after being home for two weeks, my body insists that I’m still in Nairobi. As any worthless millennial does, instead of forcing myself back to sleep, I grab my phone and hop on Twitter.

This was obviously a stupid idea.

My timeline was flooded with virtual side-eyes and a lot of ‘girl, you tried its’ to someone named @DeadlineNellie. Since I’m the biggest masochist on earth, I went to her timeline to see what was going on.

“Pilots 2015: The Year Of Ethnic Castings – About Time Or Too Much Of Good Thing?”

Dear God! What have I just done to myself? If I just put my phone down now, everything will be fine. I can wake up in the morning like my eyes never read that headline, right? Of course not. I decided to power through and by the article’s end, I’m fuming and furiously typing this stream of rambling.

“But, as is the case with any sea change, the pendulum might have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction. Instead of opening the field for actors of any race to compete for any role in a color-blind manner, there has been a significant number of parts designated as ethnic this year, making them off-limits for Caucasian actors, some agents signal.”

I just….
How….
But…..

I’m not sure if the liberals are trying to win the racist Olympics this year, but they are putting in some serious effort. Hollywood loves to position itself as open, diverse, accepting and all of those other things liberals do to separate themselves from the right. However, we have been overloaded with email leaks from big media execs, inappropriate acceptance speeches and this jumble of words being sold as an article. Tinsletown really needs to get over themselves and get real about creating a landscape on screen and in the writer’s room that reflects America in 2015. Listen Nellie, as the population of this country continues to swing towards a majority of  people of color, it only makes sense that tv will follow suit. Do not try to sell this moment of America not being a sin and a shame for once in its history as reverse racism. White actors have dominated film and television since….forever? So what’s one or two less gigs per season? Even with this uptick in working black (latino and asian) actors, they still do not make up a sizable slice of the American television pie. I’ve said it a thousand times that a win for people of color is not a loss for whites. When we win, America wins. Doesn’t she get it??

And let’s think about this guys. We are witnessing a powerful white woman furious that there are multiple all black casts and black-led shows on television. That is the long and short of this entire article. If she thinks that four measly non-cable shows are too much, how in the world did she survive the 90s? Thanks to the final page of Jet magazine, I went days without seeing a white person on my tv screen. For a solid decade, I shuffled between the following shows.

Martin
Living Single
New York Undercover
City Guys
Moesha
The Parkers
Thea
In the House
Roc
Family Matters
Sister,Sister
The Hughleys
One on One
For Your Love
My Wife and Kids
For Your Love
Cousin Skeeter
The Bernie Mac Show
C Bear and Jamal
Out All Night
My Brother and Me
South Central
On Our Own
Kenan and Kel
The Parenthood
Malcolm & Eddie
Jamie Foxx Show
The Wayans Brothers
Steve Harvey Show
Hangin’ With Mr Cooper

This list of 30 doesn’t even capture all of the black shows that were on at that time. Furthermore, even though they above were spread out over the years, there was a time when there were 16 black sitcoms running concurrently. Lest we forget, if it wasn’t for these black sitcoms, Fox, The WB, and UPN wouldn’t have been the success that they were in those years. Literally, someone give me Nelle’s number so I can help her write her compelling memoir on how she survived the obnoxiously black programming of the 90s. I need to know. It seems like quite the harrowing tale.

“Television has been successful with shows that had both all-white (Friends, Seinfeld) and all-black (The Cosby Show) casts on the strength of their premise, execution and talent performances and chemistry. It is for the same reason that Scandal, HTGAWM and Empire have done so well with Kerry Washington, Davis and Taraji P. Henson as the respective leads.

Trying to duplicate those series’ success by mirroring the ethnicity of their leads is a dubious proposition — if that was the key, 2010’s Undercovers, a slick drama with two appealing black leads, Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, should’ve been a hit.”

Once Hollywood nixed the non-stop parade of black shows around 2001, my viewership moved to shows like Friends and Will & Grace. Did I miss all of the coded black jokes on my tv screen everyday? Sure! Yet, I was able to power through and find commonalities between teenage black around the way filet Stephanye and super WASPy Manhattan livin’ Rachel. My evenings weren’t the same without reruns of Ross being endearingly lame or Miranda from SATC being a total robot. I was able to see past the color of these people and dive into how their lives looked like so much mine. Maybe I had an advantage because as a person of color in this country, you spend your whole life looking past race to find yourself in media. So maybe that’s it. I already had the tools to find humanness in these characters on my screen each week. I guess racism and erasure was good for at least one thing!

So yes, Nellie, that’s how shows like Empire can flourish, while Undercovers barely see the light of day. Humaness. Of course black people tune into shows with a black cast (because we are invested in supporting each other), but that’s not what keeps us there. It’s a connection to the characters and the compelling stories being told. Hollywood has been about the survival of the fittest since it’s inception. Are we supposed to change the rules now because the white lead is shortening? Nah baby girl, we’re letting the best (wo)man win.

 

This entry was posted in Art & Culture, News.