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Dec. 14th, 2009

I just put my finger on why certain depictions of multiracial groups freak me out. It's because the only shows and movies that consistently feature multiracial casts are in stories that need "grit." Utopias and sweet, romantic worlds are mostly white. Nice ordinary dramas and comedies about nice ordinary people are mostly white. Dystopias, crime shows, war movies, and anything with lots of explosions are multiracial.

It's bad enough that when I see a multiracial cast, I flinch. It's not the characters themselves, and it's rarely the story; more often, it's this unspoken signal that this is a world on the edge, in breakdown, and as proof of that: Lookit! Brown people!

...Arrgh.

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( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
ladyofshallnot
Dec. 14th, 2009 06:55 pm (UTC)
One could hope that the people writing the more dramatic stories are the ones who give deeper thought to their worlds and characters, rather than just presenting white washed stereotypes for yet another romantic comedy coming from and going to the same places.

Optimism?
issendai
Dec. 15th, 2009 08:32 pm (UTC)
Too much optimism, I think. Compare the casts of crime shows, disaster movies, or action movies to each other--the multiracial cast is de rigueur. If there were some that were mostly white, like the rest of American media, and some that were multiracial, it would be evidence that some of the creators were thinking. As it is, the only mostly white [gritty] shows I can think of are set in, say, Dark Ages England, when nonwhites were legitimately thin on the ground. I think it's ingrained in American media that if a show is gritty, it has a multicultural cast.
lordavon
Dec. 15th, 2009 05:00 am (UTC)
Hunh.

I've never noticed that before, but now that you point it out...yes.

Although I now harken back as well to my class in college on African-American Women's theater and the day we talked about the Cosby show, and how angry many of the women were, because according to them, so few blacks live that life, they thought it was unrealistic.

(Their commentary on the show, not mine. I mostly sat and absorbed in that class.)
issendai
Dec. 15th, 2009 08:21 pm (UTC)
That's a classic conundrum for any story that focuses on groups outside the mainstream. Every story is assumed to depict How These People Really Are, because audiences have difficulty understanding that groups who are marked as Other are just as diverse as white middle-class Americans. So if you depict a black family with a level of wealth that's out of the reach of most Americans, period, you're being unrealistic; if you depict a poor urban black family, you're playing into stereotypes; and either way, the network is going to assume until proven otherwise that only black people will watch it. It's beyond messed up.

The solution is more shows with mixed-race casts that aren't gritty crime shows, so that every depiction of a black character isn't a depiction of Black People. (Insert minority of choice.) Problem is, see, white people will watch only white people, and males will watch only males, and since he Holy Grail of advertising is the white male aged 18-40...

Actually, I don't know whether that's true. But the media conglomerates act like it's true, and that makes it truthy.
lordavon
Dec. 15th, 2009 10:57 pm (UTC)

Little stranger than that: The buying power is the white woman, so, they put in men they think the woman will find attractive so that's why.
issendai
Dec. 17th, 2009 08:14 am (UTC)
Really? I thought shows kept getting canceled because they were attracting too many women and not enough men.
browngirl
Dec. 16th, 2009 04:28 pm (UTC)
Although I now harken back as well to my class in college on African-American Women's theater and the day we talked about the Cosby show, and how angry many of the women were, because according to them, so few blacks live that life, they thought it was unrealistic.

I've had some major arguments on that topic, because I loved the Cosby Show and considered it something to aspire to, something that showed that we are as capable as anyone else, so (especially when I was younger) I got frustrated at people who dismissed it as unrealistic.

(For another datapoint.)
browngirl
Dec. 16th, 2009 04:29 pm (UTC)
*uses icon in agreement with you*

You have a good eye; I've noticed the same thing.
issendai
Dec. 17th, 2009 08:31 am (UTC)
Thanks.

Ah, Zoe. Kickass character, kickass character trope, I just wish there weren't this network of associations for them both to get bogged down in.

What's your opinion of the new Who franchises?
browngirl
Dec. 20th, 2009 04:39 am (UTC)
I love Martha and Maria and Mickey and Tosh and... nothing's perfect, but they definetely did things with Martha and Mickey that US TV would not have allowed Black characters to do.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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