Hollywood/Madison Ave & Tokenism & Minority TV

Another thing on the whole Drama (diverse) vs. Comedy (not) thing: Entertainment Weekly had a piece on this issue a while ago and pointed while diverse shows are usually workplace oriented, all-white/all-black shows invariably take place in the home. This fits reality: our workplaces are generally more integrated than our neighborhoods. And while not an exact fit, more dramas are set at both work and home, while sitcoms are usually set completely at home. So the comedy/drama dichotomy makes some sense.

White people writing for blacks is tough…how do you make the voice real without being insulting. A fine line. I remember a sitcom on FOX called “The Show” (I think) that had two white writers going to work on a black, “In Living Color” - type show. I only saw the pilot, but found the premise fascinating. On the show, the two groups (b&w) are fighting over race and perspective for the whole show until they find a common reference point acting out a scene from Pulp Fiction. The sad thing is that it feels like black shows are getting “blacker.” Watching UPN is like a dropping into a parallel universe: I get all the cultural reference points, but find everything at most borderline funny. I guess blacks never got Seinfeld. I want to say “Vive la difference,” but it’s sad that there aren’t any high quality reference points between the races. Or maybe I’m pessimistic?

Check this out: http://us.imdb.com/StudioBrief/1999/19990928.html


Black stunt men and women charged Monday that film and television producers are hiring whites to perform stunts for black actors. Appearing at a news conference in Los Angeles, the stunt workers said that the industry has even come up with a term for the process: “paint downs.” “When you have paint downs, you’re taking jobs away from African-Americans,” Marvin Walters a retired black stunt man, said. “This is discrimination.”

<font size=“5”>Why? Why???</font>

Gateway Drug

Apparently harder now than in the 70s
Trumpy303 OT

But maybe a black man as a garbage could possibly be protested into oblivion. <font size="1>I wonder if “Roc” was successful. . .</font>

Anyway, my opinion to Trumpy303’s actual question, is there a market.
. . .which all I can say is
<font color="#0000ff" size=“5”>Welcome to TV-Land Balkanization</font>
There is no water-cooler show anymore. This week’s number one show “Friends” only attracted 17.8% of the people to watch.
I can divide prime-time programing on the major networks into these groups.

1.)Middle-aged women in crisis. (Providence, Once and Again)
2.)Middle-Upper 20 somehings drinking coffee and talking about sex (Just pick any comedy on NBC or ABC)
3.)High-School/College people (read:women) (Most Dramas on WB, Fox).
4.) People younger than those in group #3 (TGIF on ABC, also predominately women)
5.)Old People (CBS)
6.)Men (WWF Smackdown)
7.)Black People (WB and UPN comedies)

Who are the advertisers after most. I’d guess nos. 2, 3, 1, and 4 in that order. Apparently marketing believes that the group most effectively to sell stuff to are young people who are spendthrift with money. Old people have already been brand affiliated (mindwashed). Men don’t have power of the pocketbook. But remember young people must be cool no matter at what cost (and who tells them better what’s in and what’s five-minutes ago than television). And blacks watch more TV on average so, they already have the ads implanted in the brain. We don’t need to target them.

According to a Village Voice article a year or two back, the final Seinfeld episode was the #1 rated show that week among whites and like #50 among blacks. The #1 show that week among blacks was “Between Brothers”, a show that most whites haven’t even heard of.

There was a recent attempt at an integrated sitcom called “Buddies” IIRC. Dave Chapelle was in it. I love Dave Chapelle but my problem with the show was that it portrayed his friendship with a white guy as something that survived only with hard work. I don’t say to my black friends, “You’re black and I’m white but somehow we make it work.”

A good interracial sitcom IMHO would either have:

(1) All races ripping on each other equally (Which would not happen in the current social climate. Can you see a white guy mocking sterotypically black mannerisms on current primetime network TV?) or
(2) No mention of racial differences at all.

Are black/white friendships so rare that it’s hard to find people to write them into sitcoms? You have to address race, if only on the margins–if you ignore it it comes off fake. My office manager @ work is black and pretty dark and she busted up when I was amazed by her watch tan line. Her skin was much lighter beneath. Who knew? A little thing, but a racial thing. There are just certain lines you don’t cross, whether on TV or in life. And it’s easier for whites to cross the line than blacks. But again, why is it so hard to write these relationships into sitcoms convincingly?

A man, a plan, a canal: GatewayDrug

Oh aint that the truth! I always got a kick out of one of the telenovelas where one of the main characters was supposed to a an indian in Mexico (i think) but she had that light brown hair, fair skin, and light eyes. Her mother and father looked more Indian than she. I think the telenovelas reflect the views of many latinos, that if you are light skinned and fair haired you are upper class and thats what you should strive for (that was told to me by a friend who is of Mexican descent).

Same thing happens in Asian cultures. In the Philippines, 99% of actors and actresses will be very light skinned and look more European or Chinese than the dark skinned malayan Filipino does.

I was amused a few years ago when one of my professors showed a video demonstrating a team doing a Hazop. The video had been produced for a major petroleum company, and clearly had been cast to emphasize diversity. The cast had seven people (I think) two women, 5 men, 2-3 hispanics, and at least one black. And, perhaps to make it not look biased against women, one of the women was in charge of the meeting. (The other was hispanic and her desrciption emphasized her experiance with typing and the software used by her character). On the other hand, it amused my fellow students and I because of the degree the characters did live up to stereotypes. Neither woman had any plant engineering experience, the older man with lots of experience but less education was not white, the young guy fresh out of school was hispanic, etc. While we were (generally) pleased to see more than a token female or minority character, we thought that a mostly white cast might have avoided reinforcing stereotypes. Granted, this video was not meant for public consumption, but it was made so it wouldn’t leave any obvious groups out.
Eureka (formerly known as Archimedes)

What’s a Hazop?

I believe a ‘hazop’ means ‘hazardous operations’. Just like ‘hazmat’ refers to ‘hazardous materials’.

Doobieous is basically correct. A hazop is a procedure in which a group of people get together and discuss what possible problems or hazards could be associated with a piece of equipment/process. Then they discuss how to prevent such problems, and how to react if they occur. Thus, if some idiot ever does walk into the lab and bashes a large glass column full of boiling methanol and water with a wrench, the people in the lab will know that they should shut down various valves, turn off the equipment, cover the spilled fluids with a spill kit, and tell the other groups in the lab to evacuate (after first shutting down their equipment, based on their own hazops).

What about on “Star Trek: Voyager”.

B’Elanna Torres is always fighting the inner rage of her heritage. C’mon, Latinos aren’t all hot-tempered!

Oh, don’t start on Star Trek.

Ooops. Too late.

Roddenberry made the first forays into racial integration, with the first on-air interracial kiss. But he also combined the token woman with the token black and made her a telephone operator (Uhura! Hailing frequencies!).

Voyager has a hotheaded latina (Torres), a science-savant asian (Kim), a violent black (Security chief Tuvok), and a philosophical amerind (Chakotay). Not to mention Janeway as the mother figure, nurturing and caring, yet violently defending her brood.

Integration, yes. Stereotyping? You decide.


“Listen Children Eternal Father Eternally One!” Exceptions? None!
-Doc Bronner

Oh, come on. She’s hotheaded because she’s half-Klingon, not 'cus she’s a latina.

Violent? He’s a Vulcan – he controls his emotions. How is he violent?

In bringing up the “internal” racism with Hispanics, a op-ed piece was written by Richard Estrada in the Washington Post.

In any event, if there is copyright problems, The article is here at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/1999-10/05/012l-100599-idx.html

(the article will probably stay up for a month before it’s taken down and moved to its pay-for-access archives.)

Dear SterlingNorth:
I can’t speak for television shows as I don’t own a TV. However, here a few minority characters in the comic strips you missed:
Robbie Robertson in Spiderman.
Marcus in Foxtrot.
Wee Pals has a wide range of minority children. Unfortunately, the strip is not very funny, IMO.
Although all the recurring characters are white, Tank McNamara routinely shows blacks in a wide variety of situations – last Sunday’s strip was a good example.
I haven’t seen the strip in month, but I believe one of the coaches in Gil Thorp was black.
For a time, the Louisville Courier-Journal ran a locally-produced strip about a couple of black families. For some reason, the strip was discontinued.
I cannot think of the name, but the Indianapolis Star carries a comic strip about two families, one white and one black.
Crankshaft seems to have introduced a black character in a supporting role.
Lawrence in For Better and for Worse.

I thought they stopped writing “Wee Pals” a long time ago… Thanks Coyote. The Washington Post has NON of those strips, except “For Better…” And the paper carries about fifty.
Now that I think about it, the Telenovela example is not the best example out there. These shows are made by Hispanics for Hispanics. That is probably more explanitive of intra-racial racism by minorities. (In this case, it’s better to be a European-desended Hispanic than an Native-Amer. or African-desended Hispanic) However interesting it may be, its probably a separate issue.

I thought of a few more cartoon characters, SterlingNorth.
Lt. Flap and Cpl. Yo in Beetle Bailey.
Also, the character Andy in Crankshaft was black. He has not appeared in a couple of months, though. I attribute this to the fact that he was Crankshaft’s co-worker, and Crankshaft has retired.
Tumbleweeds, if it is still in print, had several Indians in recurring roles.
Nancy has Homer, although he appears quite infrequently, less frequently than Rollo the Rich Kid.

Sorry, David, I was speaking tongue-in-cheek with the Voyager thing. Sure, Torres is half Klingon, but she’s still Latina, and I actually have heard complaints about her being a stereotype. The Tuvok thing is more of a stretch, but he is chief of security, a role often traditionally associated with guns and violence (the Sheriff ridin’ in, lookin’ ta clean up this town).

I was trying to point out that racial/ethnic stereotyping can be found by the obsessive even in situations that are clearly attempts at unbiased racial integration.

Haven’t gotten the hang of that sarcasm thing yet.


“Listen Children Eternal Father Eternally One!” Exceptions? None!
-Doc Bronner

*Coyote, i think i was being a tad bit sarcastic with the comics angle. anyway, thanks. i always wondered the name of the black leut. was in Bailey.