By Arturo R. García
By Guest Contributor Kendra James and Managing Editor Arturo R. García
Late Night With Jimmy Fallon: Say what you will about Fallon’s “Slow Jam The News” bit (to put it lightly, Fallon’s take on “soul” is no favorite of mine), but featuring President Barack Obama last week paid dividends for both men: Fallon taping the episode at the University of North Carolina provided Obama with a prime audience for his campaign pledge to reduce the financial aid burden and, according to The Washington Post, Obama might have attracted enough viewers to give Late Night its best ratings in two years.
The final numbers for the show won’t be released until Thursday but, of course, the skit has already drawn the ire of conservatives, who will no doubt keep this video handy when it comes time to bust out the “Celebrity President” smack-talk as election season rolls on. (And hey, if presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney wants equal time with Fallon, I say go for it. After all, even Pat Boone released a metal album, right?)
From there, the President returned to the airwaves in a slightly more bipartisan setting, as he turned in another good showing at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, despite being “a 5 on the Just For Men scale.”–AG
30 Rock: In which Tina Fey continues to think that blackface is funny.
Everytime I go and attempt to give this show a second chance I find myself cringing on my couch. I’d given up after the first season–it just wasn’t my kind of humor, and let’s be frank: watching Tracy Morgan just makes me extremely uncomfortable, even if the character is supposed to be a joke. The first time I decided to give it another chance I was (un)lucky enough to tune in to the Black Swan episode. This time–a year and a half or so later–I tuned in because I like live television. For my troubles I received the live television… and Jon Hamm in blackface.
I chose to include this here rather than writing an article, because I’ve already said most of what I feel on the topic of white entertainers using black face for a cheap laugh. That said, it still needed to be mentioned. Whether intended to be satirical or not, whether it’s ‘full’ blackface or not, I don’t find it amusing. I don’t enjoy Tina Fey grabbing a cheap laugh from a historically degrading medium. I don’t understand why Fey felt the need to stick Jon Hamm in blackface multiple times during the live show last Thursday night. I don’t enjoy knowing that somewhere, someone is laughing at the bit without knowledge of the history behind the use of blackface in entertainment.
You don’t say the n-word, and you don’t black up. I don’t get why this is so difficult for white Hollywood to understand.–KJ
Girls: Great news for minority female twenty-somethings: HBO decided to renew Girls for a second season! This means that Lena Dunham gets the opportunity to fix her ‘completely accidental’ all-white casting and add in a WOC. We, too, can bathe in the water our roommate shaves in while eating a cupcake–unless this Black character has filled that promised quota slot that is. - KJ
Scandal: Kendra advised us to keep an eye on this show last month, and based on social-media activity, it looks like she was right; any given Thursday night, my Twitter feed is bursting with people following along. So, courtesy of Tambay at Shadow and Act, here’s a PSA: the show’s first season will be released on DVD on June 12th, presumably along with a Blu-Ray edition.
Tambay also points out that as of Tuesday morning, ABC still hasn’t renewed the show for a second season, but the numbers do seem to favor a return:
It’s telling that ABC hasn’t renewed it for another season yet; the numbers, which aren’t mindblowing, but, from all I’ve read, are steady: roughly 7 million viewers, taking the number 2 spot during that Thursday 10pm hour, behind CBS’ The Mentalist, with about 11.9 million. Compare that to Shonda Rhimes’ other ABC series, Grey’s Anatomy, which comes on the hour before Scandal, with 9.7 million viewers.
With three weeks to go until the season finale, Racializens, how do you feel? Should Kerry Washington and her crew come back?–AG
By Guest Contributor Sayantani DasGupta
I’m still thrilled when I see Desi (South Asian, South Asian American) faces in the mainstream U.S. media.
I’m old enough to remember a time when a single Desi presence on television (Vijay Amritraj, anyone?) was enough to bring the entire immigrant community to a standstill. When I was growing up in the 1970’s, in the U.S. Midwest, other Indian immigrants regularly found my family by stumbling upon our last name in the phonebook. Passing a fellow South Asian on the street or in the grocery store would result in enthusiastic introductions, exchanges of phone numbers and recipes, invitations to tea or home cooked dinners.
Although our communities have grown to astonishing numbers over the decades, I still engage in “Desi-Spotting” – a clever term coined by Columbia University journalism professor Sree Sreenivasan. Perhaps it’s an old habit, but I’m not the only one. South Asian-Americans in the public eye are discussed and debated, beloved and hated by fellow South Asian Americans: from the politics of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to Bend it Like Beckham star Parminder Nagra’s appearing on ER, from Archie Panjabi’s groundbreaking role on The Good Wife, to Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s win for short-subject documentary at this year’s Oscars for her film about acid attacks in Pakistan, Saving Face. Despite my concerns about America’s fondness for films about victimized brown women, while I was watching the telecast I actually tweeted: “Hooray Desi filmmaker representing at the #Oscars! Nice Salwaar Suit my sistah!”
So, while I hadn’t been tuning in to NBC’s Broadway drama Smash, I actually started watching last week because I heard there was a Desi guy on the show. And as it happened, I was just in time, too. Because I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this week’s huge Bollywood number.
Full disclosure: I have a love-hate relationship with Bollywood movies. As a Bengali, and not Hindi, speaker, I grew up in a household where Bollywood movies weren’t regular fare. Over the years, I’ve actually seen the “Bollywood-ification” of our diasporic communities as a negative thing–a homogenization, commercialization, and dilution of a heterogeneous and complex region with not one but dozens of languages, varied cultural practices, and many rich, classical traditions of literature, film, dance, music and art. Yet the nuances of our regional languages, histories and customs seem at risk of being forgotten under the blinding lights of Bollywood’s pop-culture machine. And of course, the violence against women, the oppressive gender roles, the rabid nationalism, the homophobia, the heteronormativity in (some) Bollywood movies–yea, I’m not a big fan of all that, either.
It also annoys me that the world’s concept of India is filtered through the surreality of Bollywood. It would be like South Asians imagining the U.S. solely based on images of Las Vegas or something. It irritates me that when I travel abroad, European and other vendors often yell “Hey Bollywood!” or even “Amitabh Bachchan!” (the name of a legendary Bollywood actor) after me. It astonishes me that a white American woman familiar with Bollywood movies recently asked me, “Is India really like that?” When I asked her for clarification, she said, “You know, all that singing and dancing.”
By Guest Contributor Monique Jones, cross-posted from moniqueblog
Before I get to the huge review of “Charlie Curries a Favor from Todd”, I figure I should have a post where I analyze Outsourced as a whole, particularly becasue the show has been cancelled. Will NBC listen to what I have to say and use my suggestions as valid input on what to do or not do in their next culture shock office sitcom? No. In fact, I’d be shocked to pieces if someone from NBC even knows I, and Moniqueblog, exist. But at least my opinions will be here for the record.
I’ll tackle this in four parts, starting from the broadest to smallest of issues: 1) How the premise of the show was tackled, 2)How the characters were developed (with a subset on the sartorial choices the characters made, as the clothes also tell a bigger story-and perhaps one of the most egregious mistakes-of where the show veered the wrong way), 3) How relationships were handled, and 4) The character of Todd: how his characterization could’ve been saved mid-season. Let’s jump in, shall we?
By Guest Contributor Joi Foley
It took me awhile to get into The Office. Straight up, I thought it was a bunch of racist BS. Every time I caught a rerun, I always turned it off in disgust, and spent at least a half hour ranting about how I couldn’t understand why people loved such a horrible show.
Somewhere in the middle of its sixth season, the show appeared on Netflix. Tired of constantly being told “you don’t watch The Office? OMG, you’d love it!” at parties, I decided to sit down and watch it straight through. My plan was to arm myself with specific instances of the show’s immaturity and lack of true humour, so that the next time someone pulled that shocked face like I had just admitted to being the reason we don’t have universal healthcare in this country, I would be ready.
By Arturo R. García
Since we noted it in the links last month, the controversy surrounding a TV adaptation of Alisa Valdes-Rodríguez’s book The Dirty Girls Social Club book series went from escalation to cease-and-desist orders to, now, an apparent cease-fire.
The novel, the first of two books dealing with a sextet of Latinas (the “Dirty Girls” nickname stems from one of the girls being referred to as “Sucia” by her family; a third book will be released this fall) who become friends while attending Boston University and stay in touch as their lives take them in different directions. In a series of blog posts, Rodríguez accused the parties to whom she optioned the television rights – producer Ann Serrano López and screenwriter Luisa Lechin – of distorting her characters’ ethnicities and transforming them from sex-positive characters into sexually-irresponsible caricatures.
By Guest Contributor Patrice Peck, cross-posted from Zora & Alice
How can you notice that something is missing if you never even acknowledged that thing to begin with? The lack of racial diversity on the major television networks—ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and The CW—clearly illustrates how an omission can actually be rather glaring. Yet, whenever critics draw attention to the lopsided numbers of lead minorities in television, writers, producers, and casting directors are quick to cry color-blind in hopes of white washing the issue with a fresh coat of guiltless naivete. When addressing this issue, television executives always point to profitability and markets as the main reasoning behind their casting while uncomfortably skirting around their propensity for narrow thinking, country club-style hiring, and disregarding racial diversity.
Then, this September, NBC inadvertently shed light on television’s homogeneity by picking up J.J. Abrams’ newest project, Undercovers, a show surrounding a married couple who leave retirement to rejoin the CIA. Abrams (Lost, Alias) and co-creator Josh Reims (Felicity) made headlines with their unorthodox casting of Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, both black actors, making Undercovers the second NBC show to feature a black lead couple (The Cosby Show being the first.)
Nonetheless, at a panel for Undercovers, Reims still insisted that when it came to casting the leads, both he and Abrams considered novelty as opposed to color as if the two weren’t synonymous in Hollywood. “[We said] Let’s just see every possible incarnation of person [so we won’t end up with] the same people we’ve seen on TV a million times … Boris and Gugu came in, and we sort of knew immediately, these are them. We didn’t go out of our way to say we are hiring two black people to be the leads of our show, but we didn’t ignore it either.”
By Arturo R. García & The Racialicious Roundtable
Okay, this is just becoming ridiculous.
Yesterday, NBC announced it was going to let Undercovers play out the string. with the final episode airing Dec. 1. I’m not saying it’s surprising, given the ratings and the problems the Table noted week in and week out: not enough conflict; way too much hinting at a bigger plot without any actual plot movement; and a protagonist couple that, while loving, and that’s cool and all, didn’t have much behind it as far as individual characterization.
If you’re scoring at home, this continues the Table’s streak of seeing a show until its’ demise. Though Heroes, as we all know, just wore us out slowly over time, Undercovers joins Flash Forward as flashes in the pan. More worryingly, expect the former’s demise to give renewal to the argument that POC leads “can’t carry a show.” Well, at least one that isn’t a sitcom or an “urban drama.”
While we wait and see what shakes out, let’s get the team’s thoughts: