By Joseph Lamour and Kendra James
The New Normal has no shame left, is what I was thinking during the whole episode. In this week’s episode, Shania (played by the ever-so-cute Bebe Wood) had to come up with an influential woman to cover for a presentation recital–do these actually happen? I’m actually curious–and perform the speech in front of the parents at school. And, boy, did she perform…because she chose Cher. Walking up to stage in a hot pink war bonnet–I don’t want to even start with that again right now because, when she starts to sing, it gets worse…
Shania then proceeds to sing a song called “Half Breed,” about Cher’s mixed-race heritage. Cher’s father was Armenian American and her mother was of Irish, English, German and Cherokee descent, so the title of the song isn’t entirely accurate. Thankfully, there were actual consequences of singing a song like that at a school function–she was suspended. The principal and her teacher even listed other songs she could sing (“Like, any of Cher’s actual music.” says everyone with sense) and held up the suspension after her mother (played by Scottish actress Georgia King) gave an impassioned speech as to why Shania shouldn’t have been suspended.–JL
CLARIFICATION: Half Breed was an actual song by Cher. I guess it says something about The New Normal that I assumed they wrote it. My apologies. Also, my sardonic aside should read “Like, any of Cher’s other music.” Sorry for the confusion!
To be honest, this brings another level to the episode plot. This question I’m posing is regardless of performing a song like this in school: If Shania is recreating a performance by Cher with the war bonnet, is it just as inappropriate as Karlie Kloss in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show? Or is it something else? What do you think?–JL
True Blood Casting: This show lost me by the end of season 5, but for those of you who plan on staying Stackhouse-stalwart through Season 6, here’s a fun casting tidbit for you:
Optimist that I am, I give her six episodes before she ends up as werewolf kibble.–KJ
True Blood Spoiler Alert: This is just a guess, but the above description of Nicole Jannsen sounds eerily similar to that of Amelia Broadway from the books, which excites me. If there’s any character that can turn True Blood around (if treated correctly) it’s her. Maybe the original Tara should audition.–JL
The Mentalist: What is it about hour-long, whodunit procedurals? I love them all indiscriminately: Law and Order SVU, Southland, Elementary (Ms. Watson 4EVA), CSI (both original and extra NY-y); I even watch the right-leaning Blue Bloods. The Mentalist is one of the better ones, with its over-arching “Red John” storyline peeking in each week. Yet, all of these shows share a common problem: when faced with the idea of having an all-black guest cast, they all resort to an inner-city gang storyline. The storyline is likely conceived first, of course.
The same stereotypes in this week’s episode appear–not as much as other procedurals, but they’re still there: a cherry-red vintage “ride”, misogynists, absent or deceased parents, ridiculous gang name (The 10th Street Ghouls). It’s always the one banger facedown on a golf course in the beginning of the episode that tried to turn his life around. An oft-taken stab at irony. Guest stars Kyla Pratt and Bryce Clyde Jenkins play the next of kin: the bereaved nurse just trying to keep it together (because that’s innovative and new) and a cute little boy who’s handmade cufflinks break the case.–JL
P.S.: My favorite part about researching for this blurb is that for “Black Cherry” (the name of the episode, I can’t even) the only listed gang member on IMDB is this guy.
Hunting Season (NSFW): I’m a little late to the party here…well, like a full season– sorry gay side! Buzzfeed’s 6 Stand Out Gay Series of 2012 made me note a few new web series I hadn’t been watching. (O hai, Shangela! I’ll review you next week.) One of them is the super NSFW but worth it Hunting Season. There’s been chatter about it being the gay Sex and the City, and you know we’ve heard that comparison all over the place since SATC hit the airwaves. (Girlfriends–it’s the black SATC! Skins–it’s the British teen SATC!) But, this has potential to warrant those comparisons. The mood, city, and frankness of sexual exploits is very much in the same vein as the original HBO show. The web series, starring Carrie-upgrade Ben Baur as Alex, is based on the also-NSFW blog called The Great Cock Hunt. By now, you’ve discerned that hooking up plays the fifth character. And, the gay male Charlotte is Asian! Which excited me until I snapped out of it and noticed there are, like,no other people of color anywhere in all eight episodes anywhere at all. Especially when they’re out…hunting.
Was there a minority bomb that killed all the extras of color? Save for a Girls-esque sprinkling–and two lines given to an admin at Gawker where our horny hero works–there’s neither hide nor hair of any gay man of color in all of New York. Call me next time, guys. I’m available and quite able to conform to the “everyone has a six pack” rule I think your extras might be subjected to. (I’m only half-joking about this. Guess which half?) Even gay male Miranda, Nick (played by Jack Ferver), has a body to die for, even though he’s super self-conscious about it to the point of basing an entire episode around it. You can grate cheese on your screen watching these four.
In episode 5, the gay male Samantha even lists “White and Latin Only” in his Manhunt profile–which, I mean, any gay man is used to seeing in online dating. It’s also clear around this episode Tommy (Marc Sinoway) has Kim Cattrall’s headshot tucked in his Trapper Keeper. The problem arises when, instead of having a frank conversation about the whole “White and Latin Only”, the lone gay of color, TJ (gay male Charlotte, played by Jake Manabat), makes one good point (“You’re not attracted to all white people…how do you stop them from messaging you?”) then runs crestfallen into the bathroom. By episode’s end, everyone has forgiven each other for absolutely no reason. It’s all very confusing and, by the next episode, I forgot all about it because everyone is gorgeous.
There’s a larger chat to be had here about why colorblind casting may be so much more terrible with gay-themed shows (“We’re diverse enough! See that blonde gay there? He’s holding a bag of Chipotle!”) The real travesty in this show is the assumption that, since the blog that it’s based on mostly featured white men, that the show must be true to form. With every character.–JL
Teen Wolf: I came for the hot guys, I stayed for the consistent Race Fail…and I wish I could quit.
Remember how I joked that all hope would be lost if the role of a character modeled after a Hindu goddess went to a white person? I was actually ready to eat humble pie on that one after the casting call went out specifying the need for an East Indian actress to audition for the part of Kali on Teen Wolf. “They’re trying!” I thought. “This is good!”
Then Felisha Terrell was cast in the role. She’s not East Indian. In fact, let’s send her to that True Blood casting call up top, ‘cause light skin and mixed-race heritage do not an Indian make.
Now, despite having strong feelings about how we women of color are not ethnically or racially interchangeable, I was going to let this go. Sometimes I worry that it’s not being understood that the anger is directed towards the producers and casting directors upholding inherently problematic Hollywood practices and not only the actor or actress caught up in the mess. In this case, however, Jeff Davis made it hard to direct the anger anywhere else when others’ criticism on the casting prompted this (semi-promptly deleted) series of tweets.
When some tweetizens tried to point out to him that it wasn’t name of the character that was bothering them but the idea that he thought it was all right to “pass” a Black woman as an Indian woman, Davis responded with:
— Ridhi S. (@RidzShey) November 29, 2012
@paulvrea Love the passion, but the reality of the business is lost on many who seem to think our resources know no limits.
— Jeff Davis (@JeffDavis75) November 29, 2012
It’s very possible that he received–shall we call it ‘non-constructive’–criticism on his casting decision via Twitter, but I think we can all agree that responding to fans of colors (and their white allies) who call you out on racial inequity by referring to them as “trolls” is the wrong response.
As for resources? Davis had the resources to have an open online casting call for the other twin characters being introduced with Kali (who are white, of course) which the show promoted via Tumblr, Facebook, a whole website, and the power of MTV. Hey, I get it: it was hard to find two white male needles in the Hollywood haystack. But maybe it’s not the limits of your resources, Jeff, so much as it is what you’re choosing to focus them on. At least be willing to own up to your priorities, if not your mistakes. Furthermore, those with privilege don’t get to absolve themselves of racism or problematic behavior simply because it wasn’t their intent. It’s crucial that we all remember that these seemingly small acts do unintentionally maintain a problematic film and television casting landscape for people of color.
But…I guess I’m glad you tried “really” hard, Jeff. You want a cookie? You’ve been “trying” for awhile now, so it’s a little burnt.–KJ