Tag Archives: tv

The Racialicious Links Roundup 12.12.13: Nelson Mandela, New York’s Poor, Black Republicans and more

You will make out that apartheid was just some sort of evil mystical space disease that suddenly fell from the heavens and settled on all of us, had us all, black or white, in its thrall, until Mandela appeared from the ether to redeem us. You will try to make Mandela a Magic Negro and you will fail. You will say that Mandela stood above all for forgiveness whilst scuttling swiftly over the details of the perversity that he had the grace to forgive.

You will try to make out that apartheid was some horrid spontaneous historical aberration, and not the logical culmination of centuries of imperial arrogance. Yes, you will try that too. You will imply or audaciously state that its evils ended the day Mandela stepped out of jail. You will fold your hands and say the blacks have no-one to blame now but themselves.

Well, try hard as you like, and you’ll fail. Because Mandela was about politics and he was about race and he was about freedom and he was even about force, and he did what he felt he had to do and given the current economic inequality in South Africa he might even have died thinking he didn’t do nearly enough of it.

I’ll be 34 this year and we’re only beginning to see a change in the scenery when it comes to diversity and the fantastic. A recent UCLA study found that even though racial and gender diversity in television remains appallingly low, more diverse shows bring higher audiences while less diverse ones struggle. Meanwhile, some major networks may finally be getting the message. At this year’s annual Fox Broadcasting confab, titled “Seizing Opportunities,” the underlying theme was more diversity equals more money. Speaking to an invitation-only crowd of executives, producers, agents and media coalitions, Fox COO Joe Earley said this about welcoming more diverse shows: “Not only are you going to have more chances of a show being made here, more chances of a show being a success on TV, more chances of making it into syndication, more chances of a show selling globally and making you millions of dollars, but you are going to bring more viewers to our air and keep us in business.”

Cultural critics have rightly decried whitewashing in the name of social justice. Networks are now beginning to see dollar signs where they once imagined dearth. But beyond money and morality, diverse programming is also a question of quality. “Racist writing is a craft issue,” the poet Kwame Dawes said at this year’s AWP conference. “A racist stereotype is a cliché. It’s been done. Quite a bit. It’s a craft failure.”

Without an understanding of culture, power and history, diversity is useless; it’s blackface. And television has often given us nothing but that: cheap stand-ins and tokens to up their numbers and check off boxes.

Continue reading

Mistakes, Huh?: Watching Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black, Netflix Promo.

Orange is the New Black, Netflix Promo.

Perusing my usual monthly reading, I found myself amazed at how many stories were about the Netflix original show Orange is the New Black – and the similarities in language used to describe the plot. I had seen a few reviews here and there, and knew the show was about a privileged white woman who spent a year in a woman’s prison.

But what stood out was how often the word “mistake” came up. I saw the term so many times, it seemed like Piper Kerman ended up in prison due to bad breaks. Mistaken identity? Wrong place at the wrong time? Get dumped via post it note and almost get arrested smoking outside of a bar? (Hey, it happened to Carrie Bradshaw.)

In a Fast Company review – where the word “mistake” appears in the opening line, and is used twice more in the next two paragraphs – I finally found out why Kerman was locked up:

Kerman fell in with people whose lifestyles seemed exciting–as much because one of them ran money and smuggled narcotics for a West African drug lord as in spite of that fact. And when she agreed to help the woman who’d brought her in to that circle usher a suitcase full of undeclared cash from Chicago to Brussels, she made what she describes now as her “biggest mistake.”

So she was banging a drug smuggler and agreed to run some money for them – yeah, could have happened to any of us really. Just minding your own business, taking a suitcase of cash on an international trip…

Anyway, despite my skepticism, I tuned into watch the show. While I’ve been intrigued and interested by the developments in episodes the first five episodes, there’s been this strange undercurrent dulling my enjoyment of the show. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, until I read an excerpt of an interview with the showrunner, Jenji Kohan:

You’re not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women, and Latina women, and old women and criminals. But if you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories. But it’s a hard sell to just go in and try to sell those stories initially. The girl next door, the cool blonde, is a very easy access point, and it’s relatable for a lot of audiences and a lot of networks looking for a certain demographic. It’s useful.”

Fascinating – particularly since the most compelling stories to me are about the side characters. I’m not watching for Piper, though it’s been interesting to see her (and her family) coping with her new reality. I am watching to hopefully see how Sophia works out her relationships and medical needs, and to figure out why Daya and her mother have such an acrimonious relationship. But I suppose I’m not in the network’s idea of ideal demographic, and I just have to hope Piper’s development leaves a little space to revisit some of the supporting characters.

I’ll keep watching before I do a longer analysis, but readers, what are your thoughts?

Announcement: On Joining The Stream

Me, with Derrick Ashong, post show, with Grover Norquist, the guest.

Former host Derrick Ashong and myself, with show guest Grover Norquist.

Now, we normally don’t publicize things about our personal lives or jobs on Racialicious.

However, this time is a bit different.  After appearing on Al Jazeera’s The Stream as a guest, then guest hosting, then subbing for the amazing Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, I finally decided to make it official. I am joining The Stream (American Edition) as Senior Digital Producer.

I am announcing it here is because I want the Racialicious community to come with me.

Over the years (we’re coming in on seven, almost eight for those counting; close to a decade for the MMW peeps) this community has brought some of the most challenging questions to our doorstep in the service of discussing race. How do we understand issues of race when this whole concept is fictional? As soon as you cross borders, racial labels fall apart, but the societal consequences remain. To what extent does colonialism play into our discussions of racism and solidarity? Where does religion and religious identity intersect with race? How do we even craft terms to describe ourselves without further playing into these systems that do not serve us?

I’ve often felt frustrated that we didn’t have the resources to go out and actively source stories. While some members of our community who are journalists have provided us with great pieces over the years, there are so many times when I wished we had a team to dispatch and cover events. And that’s to say nothing of all the media critique we’ve done over the years. Continue reading

Race and Gender in Doctor Who: Beyond Who Plays The Doctor

By Guest Contributor Joy Ellison

stevenmoffatt

Current executive producer Stephen Moffatt on the Doctor Who set. Image via WhatCulture!

Over the last few weeks, fans have called for a person of color and/or a woman to star in Doctor Who.  If you care about race and gender presentation in Doctor Who, then pay attention to who serves as the show’s next executive producer.

When it comes to who should replace Matt Smith as the next star of the TV show Doctor Who, many fans are hoping for one thing: anyone but another white guy.  

For nearly 50 years, the Doctor, the time-traveling main character of Doctor Who, has been portrayed by white men.  Fans concerned with social justice are right to clamor for a different sort of Doctor.  While the Doctor may be an alien, over the course of the show the character has come to represent the best of humanity.  That’s why it is especially important that the Doctor be portrayed by a person of color or a woman – or, dare we dream, a woman of color, a person with a disability, a queer person, or transgender person, or a combination of all the above.

But while we wait to meet the new incarnation of this beloved sci-fi character, fans should turn their attention to racial and gender representation in an area of Doctor Who that isn’t immediately visible on screen: the executive producer.

Continue reading

The Mindy Project‘s Rishi And The Call For More PoCs In Charge

By Guest Contributor Crystal Xia, Blogger at There’s Nothing Here

mindyproject

Mindy Kaling’s show, The Mindy Project, wrapped up its first season on Tuesday. In its first year, the show picked up critical attention and found an audience. More importantly, the show found confidence and its voice, and it developed characters and relationships true to Kaling’s signature comedic style. While the majority of the main cast is white, the show cast Utkarsh Ambudkar to play Rishi, Mindy’s little brother, for a couple of episodes in the first season.

Rishi is a hilarious, complex, and multifaceted character, a strong role for an Indian American male. He can be considered The Mindy Project’s take on the emerging stereotype of an Indian American “faux-gangster” male. Although he is studying science at Stanford University, Rishi is more interested in moving to New York City and becoming a rapper. Interestingly enough, Rishi isn’t just a “typical American kid trying to make it in a creative field”, a trap that many writers who want to normalize the minority experience fall into. He’s actually cool. Instead of being another corny wannabe, Rishi is a great rapper who can command a room, be it a break room full of Mindy’s coworkers or a “Battle of the Rappers”.

The Mindy Project does a great job of making Rishi more than his ethnicity without ignoring it. Jokes about Indian Americans have punch lines that make mainstream society and its misunderstanding of minorities the butt of the joke, not the minority Indian Americans. For example, Rishi manages to convince Mindy’s building manager to let him into Mindy’s apartment because “a well-spoken Indian can get into anywhere he wants”. This is a play on the idea that Asian Americans are stereotypical “model minorities”.

Continue reading

Queer Web Series Worth Watching

By  Joseph Lamour

Leslievillegiffinal

The Summer Doldrums, as I like to call the break network television gives us from June to September, are quickly approaching. Hot temperatures and a new season of The Bachelorette go hand-in-hand, and I take that as my television telling me, “Go Outside.” But, like all couch potatoes, I just turn from one tube to another. Join me as I say ta-ta to my TV, and hello to my Macbook Pro. Below the cut are two queer web series worth watching.

This post comes with a STRONG LANGUAGE warning… for some of you. See what I mean, after the jump.

Continue reading

Scandal Roundtable 2.19: “Seven Fifty-Two”

Hosted by Joseph Lamour

Image via ABC.com.

As I said in my recap last week, “Seven Fifty-Two” is all about Huck–as much as Fitz wanted to weasel his way into the story…and Olivia’s life. Of course, Olivia wasn’t having it, and neither was Mellie. Loss was the thread that wove the disparate stories last week.

After the jump. Jordan St. John, Loree Lamour, and T.F. Charlton join me to break down another engaging episode of Scandal. Continue reading

Scandal Recap 2.19: “Seven Fifty-Two”

by Joseph Lamour

Image via ABC.com.

Scandal is back! Again… again… again. This show sure has a lot of breaks. A thinly veiled attempt to leave us wanting more. It definitely works though, doesn’t it?  And there are only three more episodes left the season. Tragic. I may have to start going outside again.

If you recall our recap a few weeks ago, we last saw Olivia being swaddled by Fitz in her hospital room as her new beau Captain Jake Ballard waited outside. This week’s episode doesn’t really move the story forward, but it provided a much desired backstory for hacker-sassin Huck. This type of episode usually frustrates me as the only thing that happened, really, was that someone got up off the floor. But, like I said, a good backstory is a good backstory. And Huck provides a meaty one.

Spoilers for Scandal 2.19 “Seven Fifty-Two” appear under the cut.

Continue reading