Ramou Sarr wrote this article, which I found via justwriteray, which speaks about the importance for representations of black women on television. She bring up some really great points about the need for better representation in the media.
In such a social society, television is one of the things that really brings people together. Many of my friendships and conversations began after I realized someone liked a show that I did. It warms you up to another person because now you have something in common. It’s a strange feeling when you’re left out of a conversation because you’re the only person who doesn’t watch that show. This happens even on social media.
I didn’t even know what any of these people were reacting to, and yet I still needed to watch; I still wanted to be included somehow. That’s the power of television.
This communal aspect of television is layered, and perhaps the most significant facet of it is the idea that television often acts as an agent of socialization, offering us a glimpse into how we are both different and alike, and informs how we view and interact with one another. Television also has the power to impact how we view ourselves and, by seeing portrayals of people like us on television, tells us how society views us. Children’s shows often have lessons and exercises about diversity and inclusion because most of us want children to know about these things, and yet this portrayal of the world as a diverse and inclusive one is sorely lacking in the current state of television catered to adults.
And we also have to remember that children don’t just watch children’s shows, they watch adult tv shows too. Whether because their parents let them, or they sneak it, or it’s on simply while they’re in the room, kids watch grown up TV as well. Someone in a class about children’s books said that kids only read books about kids their age or older. After a while, kids want to watch adult TV shows and adult TV shows don’t have the same messages of inclusion and diversity, as Ramou mentions, that kids shows do. So kids stop learning the lesson. I’m in no ways saying regular network TV should have lessons or that they all need family values, but there are ways people learn from television. It’s in our homes every day; if there were more people of color on television, adults (and the kids who see these shows too) would have a better understanding of the wider world around them.
In terms of relatability, black women can, of course, establish connections with white television characters, and they do…
White people, and Asian people and Hispanic and every other nationality should find that they relate to black characters too. They shouldn’t (finally have to) create a black princess and then only see black children using that doll. If Rapunzel (who I love dearly) is a universal princess and is found everywhere, then Tiana, Mulan, and Pocahontas and Jasmine should be too. Same goes for television. Black shows shouldn’t be considered a risk for only drawing black audiences (which is a bigger market than given credit for); plenty of people who weren’t black grew up watching the Cosby Show and Fresh Prince and currently enjoy shows like Scandal. Black should be given the chance to be see as universal.
Representation of black women on television is important because black women are important.
This is so important. Black women often grow up not seeing themselves as important because they don’t see positive representations of themselves in the media. More representation means more people, of all colors, get to see more sides to the black experience: both the ways in which we are unique and the ways in which we are the same.
Check out Ramou’s full piece here: The Conversation | Honest Talk with Amanda de CadenetThe Conversation.
First: Click here and skim Why Is ‘Sleepy Hollow’ A Hit? – Forbes, though I basically summarize it below.
Here are some reasons the Forbes gives for the success of my favorite new show of the season, Sleepy Hollow and some counterarguments. 1. “Choosing a young person, Emily Murray, as ‘Social Media Producer.'” 2. “Using Facebook and Twitter” (duh? What else would you use?), or I guess the point is knowing where your fans are hanging out (which is an excellent point–Castle, Doctor Who, and Supernatural fans rule Tumblr, Scandal and Sleepy Hollow are Twitter hits, no one is really using Facebook for this kind of thing). 3. “Collaborating internally.” I guess this means having the social media team and creatives and marketing people all work together to have gifs and images ready for the twitter experience; all of that requires multiple departments to work with the social media guys. 4. Focusing on the product, not the company.” or I guess, creating a community around the show not the network, but this is what every show does. Every show has a twitter account and makes it about the show. This isn’t a special thing Sleepy Hollow is doing. 5. Getting the actors to tweet. Yes, this is a huge helping, which they learned from shows like Scandal. Get everyone on board and people will retweet behind the scenes info or Orlando Jones being a hilarious doofball mentioning fanfiction and gifs in his tweets. 6. The twitter account having a back and forth “fight” with the twitter account from rival network show Elementary. Yes, this was funny to see and contributed to word of mouth. But the article, which is definitely tech/social media focused, didn’t at all think about the show or the fans it draws. Other shows do these very same things. They have show specific twitter accounts. They try to get their actors to live tweet. They have the marketing department draw up designs and posters that work with their live tweeting efforts. These aren’t the only factors.
The audience is a major factor, and who is in Sleepy Hollow‘s audience? The same kinds of people who are in Scandal’s audience. Young black (females mostly, but some males who reluctantly admit they watch either or both shows) people (what these young people call Black Twitter). The media hasn’t yet caught on that young African-Americans LOVE Twitter. And if you give us a show with a black lead, we will watch that show (because we don’t have many options with that factor, so we watch the ones that do until there are more options). And we will tweet about it to our other African-American friends on Twitter. And shows like Sleepy Hollow and Scandal, both with a black female lead, will skyrocket to the top of the tv ratings and social media discussion charts. Oh, but we don’t talk about this being a factor, do we? Nor do we discuss the fact that the person doing the most tweeting and connecting with the fans is Orlando Jones, a person of color. These things are certainly important.
Other shows have tried to mimic the formula of Scandal. They’ve done the same social media things that Sleepy Hollow is doing. And yet they’re not ratings phenomena. All because the networks and media coverage are hesitant to acknowledge the real reason these shows are blowing up: because people want to see diversity on their TV screens. They are more likely to tune in. They are more likely to tell their black/asian/hispanic/white/etc friends about it. And then the show get super popular and gets renewed for the next season 4 episodes in, like Sleepy Hollow did.
Don’t let social media take all the credit for this show’s success. I know that’s what the article was about, but in a discussion about social media, you should discuss the people who use social media, and their various idiosyncrasies. That’s the real way of understanding how to use it and what platforms are best.
The Sleepy Hollow cast is just all I want from television right now. A diverse cast with (maybe not perfect) but interesting story lines, putting people of color in stories they are not often seen in. I also like nerdy history retellings, supernatural/fantasy stories, and Judeo-Christian lore.
But I mean look at this! Only 3/9 (10 if including Jill Marie Jones soon to recur as Orlando Jones’ character’s ex-wife, 2/9 if you don’t include the Sheriff who was only in the pilot, aside from flashbacks.)
This show and Brooklyn 99 are the best shows (especially new shows) in terms of diversity on network television. Grey’s Anatomy has always been good at it, but I think even these two shows beat out Grey’s.
Sleepy Hollow returns tonight! I’m excited to have it back!
I recently half-joked about how instrumental the additions of Angela Bassett and Gabourey Sidibe to the cast of this season of American Horror Story were, in helping its premiere episode become the most-watched telecast ever
But really! What this article (kind of surprisingly) forgot to mention was shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, whose diverse casts skyrocketed them both to being ABC’s #1 dramas. I think even Glee got it’s popularity boost when it came out because it had a diverse cast (though many have problems with the way that diversity is presented on the show, but that’s another issue). ER and Lost are also shows with that I’ve recently been reminded had diverse casts and hit #1 status in their day. They are the hot Thursday shows. And recent addition Sleepy Hollow has been doing extremely well (probably even better than the network or anyone thought) and I believe that is in large part to its diverse cast.
It’s kind of unbelievable that networks haven’t caught on to the fact that this is working. ABC is clearly trying to copy some form of the Scandal formula with it’s show Betrayal. Sexy secrets and affairs, a “scandalous” name– but these aren’t the things that make Scandal a hit, so ABC going with some blandly all white cast and a hot name and some racy storylines isn’t going to drive it to be the hit that Scandal is. Scandal is successful because of its black lead and showrunner, who see that diversity in storytelling is what makes a hit show even more popular.
via New UCLA Study Finds That TV Shows w/ Ethnically Diverse Casts & Crew Have Higher Ratings | Shadow and Act.
Not a lot to say about Mindy, so I combined them, but I enjoyed both episodes tonight. Mindy picked up steam for me this week. I’ll explain why I think so below. New Girl:
I was not ready for Evil Schmidt. I’m glad we dealt with that in one succinct episode; I was worried it would be a drawn out arc. But I love Winston teaching Schmidt how to live in the loft with Nick/Jess and kind of how to be single. I think there will be more of that in the episodes to come.
“And you don’t have time to learn all those dolphin sounds.”
“Did you talk to tightpants and eyebrows!?”
Nick loves Jess too much to let Schmidt break them up over their communication skills. I loved that scene where he begins to express his feelings and I really loved both Jess’ pleased face about it and Schmidt’s disgust.
SCHMIDT IS SO CHILDISH AND SELFISH. But I see that this is the climax of his actions. He peaked during the birth control pill scene and now he’s in a jerk-phase denouement. Interesting that he only went to CeCe’s house to leave the apology letter. We know he loves CeCe more, but he stayed with Elizabeth too, apparently because he liked them both, not because he just couldn’t break up with Elizabeth. He legit thought he loved them equally, so it’s interesting to wonder on whether it was 1. intentional of the writers to just pick CeCe (seems obvious but there’s also) 2. they couldn’t get Merritt Weaver for the episode or 3. Schmidt is subconsciously choosing CeCe. If that’s the case, I’m going to need Schmidt to discuss somewhere how he clearly loves CeCe more and how he didn’t keep dating them both because he loved them both, but because he was just too chicken to break up with Elizabeth. (Maybe I don’t need it; I suppose it’s all therein subtext. But still.)
I love Nick and Jess. Those final scenes with them were so great. Especially when Jess got annoyed at Nick for talking too much. I’m glad they’re not (currently) in danger of breaking up. Happy one month, guys! The Mindy Project:
I enjoyed this week’s Mindy Project. it seemed to go back to it’s romantic comedy roots, which really helped the tone and my enjoyment of the show. I hadn’t quite picked up on that being missing while she was dating Casey, but maybe it was? It wasn’t hitting Romantic Comedy tropes. It did in this episode, and I enjoyed it more than the other episodes from this season so far.
Also the scene with Morgan and Mindy had a lot of fun physical humor. Her wrapped in the pizza box was a great visual.
Now I just need them to figure out the new Bro!Doctor (and get rid of him? He’s gross) and maybe make use of their supporting cast? Or at least figure out what to do with them as well.
Key and Peele is brilliant comedy and exactly what I want more of on television.
What I mean when I say that is that Key and Peele are black comedians, but the things they joke about and goof on aren’t always things that are considered apart of black culture. Sure, they do sketches on smoking weed and ridiculous football player names (which, while might be “considered” common of black media, it could also be seen in a white comedians sketch show. things get tinted to be about one culture, but so many things are actually universal), but they also referenced Of Mice and Men, Les Mis and, in tonight’s episode, Ratatouille and mafia movies.
These are not things that one would normally think you’d see in a black comedians sketch show, but it’s a perfect sampling for the fact that black people are more than just the stereotype, sidekicks. We like the same things everyone else does, just with a sprinkling of our particular experience as black people. A movie or TV show that stars was written by a black person CAN appeal to the masses, because what we offer is the same thing that white writers/stars offer.
Key and Peele is brilliant and I’m glad it is being appreciated by audiences of all types.
MG Media: How much pride do you take in the fact that your casts are much more racially diverse than most other shows?
Shonda: I don’t take pride in it at all. I think it’s sad, and weird, and strange that it’s still a thing, nine years after we did “Grey’s,” that it’s still a thing. It’s creepy to me that it’s still an issue, that there aren’t enough people of color on television. Why is that still happening? It’s 2013. Somebody else needs to get their act together. And oh, by the way it works. Ratings-wise, it works. People like to see it. I don’t understand why people don’t understand that the world of TV should look like the world outside of TV.
via SNEAK PEEK at Shonda Rhimes – Black Bloggers Connect™ Official Blog.
No seriously. It’s 2013. Why is it a thing to have a racially diverse show and why is Shonda the only really doing it? Other shows that seem like they have diverse casts kind of still have the token minority who support the lead. They don’t really have leading qualities or episodes of their own. And Shonda is right, her shows are super hits for ABC, and yet no one else has thought that perhaps her casting has helped her get her shows where they are. It’s not everything, but it certainly helps widen your audience.
I just finished watching A Different World. Despite being such a huge fan of The Cosby Show, I’d never watched the spin-off. I finally have made my way through most of the episodes (thanks to YouTube, since only season 1 is on DVD right now). And I loved it. It was well-written, fun, funny, had great character development, and tackled the issues of the day without losing the above. All in all, it was just very real.
It wasn’t perfect; the season 1 to 2 cast/production staff shake-ups in cast were definitely a game changer, some other characters went in and out, Jaleesa married Col Taylor (which I was not a fan of), and then completely disappeared, and there are a few really weird/corny dream sequence, cast-talent show episodes that I kind of skipped through. Granted, I spent most of my marathon pining for Whitley/Dwayne scenes anyway, but even that was handled pretty well for a will-they/won’t-they arc. The lead up to their involvement wasn’t rushed or forced (unlike most of Ron’s cast love interests)–it helps that even when Dwayne was supposed to be hung up over Denise in season 1 and they were on a date, he still had globs of chemistry with date-crasher Whitley–and when they got to together, they actually stayed together for several episodes, across a season finale, before the inevitable split up. And when they got back together, they were together for good (one break up is fantastic numbers for a WT/WntT. A good amount of tugging at our hearts (though I’m sure over 6 real-time years it may not have felt good) without overdoing it like some shows (the Ross/Rachel effect I guess). A Different World had a diverse African-American cast (meaning diverse amongst the black community; there isn’t just the token, cool, black best friend), good writing, and actors with great chemistry with one another. And it raised issues of black history, racism (on both sides of the divide as well as within the black community), classism, war, politics, date rape, AIDS, and other issues that were (and unfortunately still are) plaguing the black community. There’s nothing else like it. Which leads me to wonder, where are the shows like this today?
We had a really good run of quality, family friendly, uplifting black television in the early 90s. The Cosby Show, A Different World, Family Matters,The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I could be missing some, but these 4 are the pinnacle. Of course there was also Living Single, Martin, The Wayans Brothers, The Jamie Foxx Show, and a few other shows towards the late 90s, but these shows were more silly, general sit-coms. They were escapist and pure fun. That’s not bad, it’s just not my point. [I’ll add ABC’s My Wife and Kids to this list, though it started in 2001, as somewhere between the classic sitcom nature of a show like Martin and the life-lessons of The Cosby Show. It did try to have life lessons but really did err on the side of silly a lot.] They also aired on UPN and The WB, which is again, not bad, but the other 4 aired on 2 of the 3 major networks of the time, in a day when FOX/UPN/WB were just starting out and there weren’t cable networks dedicated to black television
And this is part my problem, my concern, really. Those shows (which were a part of NBC’s juggernaut Must-See-TV line up and ABC’s super-popular TGIF block) were hits of their day and were reached by millions of audience of all colors. Now, we have several channels dedicated to black television (both old and new, reality and scripted) and I can’t say that any one has created a show like the 4 I’ve been mentioning. And there aren’t any black sitcoms on network (the big four) television at all right now (if I am missing one, please inform me)(and someone tell me what’s on my9 and CW, they’ve been focusing on white teenage supernatural shows, no?). We have all this television space (and, increasingly, YouTube and Netflix and Hulu space) and still no one has created shows like these. Well-written, focusing on educated black people who want to know their history and raise the lowest common denominator of entertainment? That’s seems absurd. I had a Facebook status with the question of why shows like ADW don’t exist today, and someone said because I hadn’t written it yet, and while I appreciate the challenge and hope to someday do so, where are all the other people like me who miss these shows and want people to watch more than Love and Hip Hop (which I am disappointed to see is not at all like the movie Brown Sugar)?
Elizabeth Meriwether’s (New Girl) tweeted this the other day and I think the answer is related to my question.
Some of the responses were that we started being honest with ourselves and that 9/11 happened. These things could be true. I also read somewhere (I can’t cite the source right now, sorry) that especially in this post-9/11 world, we went from utopian fiction and ideas of the future to dystopias and world collapse. Probably why zombies are at an all-time high of popularity right now. These things are probably related to why we don’t have uplifting black sitcoms on right now.
Maybe I’m just a family friendly (but not corny) kind of girl. But shows like Cosby, ADW, Fresh Prince, and Family Matters showed the world and young kids (both of other races and blacks ourselves) that we are more than just the stereotype. And while a lot of people say that the things those shows presented aren’t reality, if we don’t see them exist anywhere, how can we make them a reality? ADW made kids not only want to go to college, but Historically Black Colleges. Cosby showed kids that we could be families of doctors and lawyers or even get our PhD in Education while being an actor/comedian. We can grow up in Philadelphia and become the fresh prince and then the number one movie star in the world (as a black lead in several sci-fi films at that, something no other black actor or actress has pulled off (well, Sam Jackson and Zoe Saldana too. My interest in black sci-fi is another blog post). Black kids are nerds too (though Urkel style has been adapted by hipsters now) and we can accept that and be happy with it. Despite them not being reality, they can lead us to a new reality. This is why we need shows like these on today. The other stuff isn’t bad (a lot of the reality is bad, #scriptedtelevisionforlife) but it doesn’t challenge us or teach us anything. These shows did. And I want more like it.
But I suppose, as they say (paraphrasing): The [television show] you want to [watch] doesn’t exist? Create it.
Related post: Why Are Black Sitcoms Less Available to Us?