By Managing Editor Arturo R. García and Guest Contributor Kendra James
Issa Rae: Well, this is how web television supporters say it’s supposed to work. Now, can Rae and Shonda Rhimes deliver?
Earlier this week, Rhimes, the showrunner behind Scandal and Grey’s Academy, sold a sitcom to ABC reportedly titled I Hate LA Dudes. On the surface, it doesn’t sound that different in tone from Rae’s acclaimed (if occasionally problematic) Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.
But in going from the wilds of YouTube to Pharrell Wiliams’ i am OTHER channel and now to serving as co-executive producer and writer on a broadcast television show, Rae becomes the first notable web creator to complete the circuit. This brings pressure on multiple fronts: not only does she become, for better or worse, a test run for creators and executives looking to see how her style and fanbase translate to a “mainstream” stage, but you have to figure no small percentage of ABG fans will seek reassurance that the comedy that drew them to that show survives the migration.
On the other hand, with Rae making the airwaves not long after Mindy Kaling’s own ascension, we also have to ask ourselves: how much does progress need to be progressive? —AG
Parenthood: STOP THE PRESSES! This week on Parenthood, a white writer not only wrote a black character but also wrote about a Black issue. You know, one of those things white television writers are always claiming they can’t write due to lack of experience. Well, maybe Sarah Watson needs to be giving lessons because her tackling of the n-word on Parenthood this week was impressive.
When Crosby and Jasmine (an interracial couple) realize that their son, Jabar, has been introduced to the word “nigga” earlier than they’d expected they have to come up with a game plan to explain the word to a seven year old. It’s Crosby’s fault that Jabar hears the word in the first place, but his explanation includes the phrase, “You shouldn’t say it, it’s like Voldemort.” Jasmine decides she should handle things, leaving Crosby feeling irrelevant…which he is, as a white male in a discussion on who should and shouldn’t say n*gger.
And wonderfully, Parenthood gets that. Jasmine patiently explains the word and a brief history behind it in a manner appropriate for a child Jabar’s age. When she asks Crosby if there’s anything he’d like to add he simply says, “No, that was perfect,” and later acknowledges that there are some things that Jabar and Jasmine share that he won’t be able to relate to. Sometimes his White Opinions just aren’t going to cut it.
Crosby asks her later, “Has that ever happened to you. You know, when you were made to feel…less than?” Jasmine answers sadly, “Yeah, a few times,” but doesn’t explain further. The topic is obviously deeply personal and through the silence, Crosby remains on the outside.
Every parent it going to have a different take on the matter, but this was a well-written scene about one of those PoC things everyone claims they can’t write or doesn’t play well on television. Whether she meant to or not, Watson has dispelled the myth that so many writers are quick to use in their defense. I’m expecting better from everyone now (especially since they aren’t hiring us), and it’s all Sarah Watson’s fault. —KJ
Dunham said she took seriously criticism of “Girls” and its lack of minority characters. She said she felt “heartbreak at the idea that the show would make anyone feel isolated.” The show’s second season next year will feature a “multitude of new characters in the show. There are some of color. Some are not. Some are Caucasian,” she said.
This comes as a surprise, as my friends and I assumed they would just edit us out after we had to cross through a Girls set multiple times in Crown Heights one night trying to get to a corner bodega. —KJ
Seth MacFarlane: Bit of a stretch here, but undisputably the lowlight of the week. So now a nebbishy white guy with exactly one hit film to his credit–in which he didn’t even appear on camera–gets to host the Academy Awards? We came up with better candidates last year, without having to troll the ranks of Saturday Night Live hosts.
So it wasn’t like MacFarlane had a track record or a major movie presence to build on. No, what we think swayed the Oscars people is…well, you know how people like to dress up to “recreate” the Civil War? MacFarlane apparently likes to do something like that, just for Mob-era Vegas. You know, when (cisgender) men wore porkpie hats un-ironically, segregation was hep, and the Oscars were relevant without being America’s favorite hate-tweet session. If they were so hell-bent on getting a lounge act, why not just get the genuine article?—AG