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Television & film of today is much different than it used to be. There was a time when the only black people you saw on TV shows & in movies were either playing the criminals, or the servants in the background. The same thing goes for the representations of women, gays or any other minority group.

However, the diversity of TV shows & films, while better, is still an issue to this day. And sometimes the solutions can be as insulting as the problem they're attempting to address (i.e., tokenism). Moreover, this gets into some of the same arguments bandied about with affirmative action. When we're talking about positions within government, educational opportunities, and even the hiring performance of companies & corporations, diversity has become at the very least an important agreed upon "goal" in most people's eyes (even if they may disagree about how you go about getting there). But does a writer or producer have a duty to present diversity when telling a story? If we're dealing with fiction, something that by its very nature can be unrealistic, does that fiction have to at least represent race, gender, orientation, etc., in a realistic way?

This issue seems to have been rekindled a bit last week by HBO's new series "Girls." The series, created & starring Lena Dunham & produced by Judd Apatow, is about the lives of twenty-something women living in Brooklyn. Before it premiered, the discussion tended to be about its depiction of women, since the show has been likened to a younger, more realistic version of "Sex and the City." After it premiered, the discussion turned to race. "Girls" has come under criticism for its all-white cast, with the argument being that in the "Girls" universe there seems to be very few black people or people of color anywhere in New York City.

This is not a new criticism of television shows & films set in NYC. Both "Seinfeld" and "Friends" were criticized for a lack of diversity in the depiction of the social circle their respective characters inhabited. Woody Allen is a man who has dedicated a huge chunk of his life to making films about New York & is largely identified with the city, but I think I could probably count on both hands the amount of black characters who've been in his films over the decades.

And the issue of racial diversity in media is not just a white-black one. For example, I believe I remember reading an interview with John Cho and Kal Penn (of 'Harold & Kumar') who pointed out that almost never do Asian male characters have love interests in movies. And more often than not, if an Asian female character is the main love interest, she's being fought over by a white guy and an Asian guy, with the white guy ending up with the girl. Some years back, NPR had a fascinating article about the effect 'Sixteen Candles' had on Asian males who grew up during the '80s. One quote that stood out to me is where someone argues "Every single Asian dude who went to high school or junior high during the era of John Hughes movies was called 'Donger.'"

So in some ways, the debate about "Girls" is a continuation of an old argument. But part of the reason the issue has gotten traction in the media with "Girls" is that HBO has sold the show as being a "Woman's show," created by a young woman, that is supposed to have something funny/distinctive to say about the lives & relationships of young, aspiring women.

From Jezebel:

It's no secret that the show's stars are four white women. In the first episode, there was a minor character who was Asian (and good at Photoshop) and a cameo by a black man who appeared to be homeless. For those of us who are — or have been — young twentysomethings living in New York, this version of New York is a bit peculiar.

As Kendra James writes for Racialicious:

Not only do I work with a WOC who attended high school with [Lena Dunham], I have friends who went to high school with both her and her younger sister and, because my friends consist of Latin@s, Asians, Blacks, and whites, I know her life couldn't possibly have looked as white as the posters for Girls (which is semi-true to life; she calls her character Hannah "another version of herself") would have you believe.
I, too am a black woman who grew up in New York. I went to both public and prep schools. I, too, have been a struggling twentysomething writer. And yet. The world in which Hannah and her friends inhabit seems familiar, except for its complete lack of diversity.

Jenna Wortham, writing for The Hairpin, agrees:

These girls on Girls are like us, they are like me and they are like you, they are beautiful, they are ballsy, they are trying to figure it out. They have their entire lives ahead of them and I can't wait to see what happens next. I just wish I saw a little more of myself on screen, right alongside them.
After Wortham's post went up, the discussion about this got kicked up another DEFCON level when Lesley Arfin (a writer on "Girls") tweeted the following:

For her part, Lena Dunham has been open to discussing the criticism that the show is centered on "White People's Problems" (e.g., the major issue in the first episode is the fact Mommy & Daddy won't give the main character $1,100/month to live in NYC), and that if the show gets a second season she wants to "address" women of color. Also, some reviewers have argued that maybe the lack of diversity may be true to the depiction of the characters, which are all self-centered & insulated to each other.

From The Huffington Post:

Critics of "Girls" have blasted the series trying to speak for a generation of young women living in the city and for not including much diversity in the process. But despite the joke that Dunham makes in the pilot episode, "Girls" doesn't intend to represent everyone, said the show's co-executive producer Judd Apatow on Wednesday night at the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of his latest movie "The Five-Year Engagement." As for the show's backlash? Apatow says it was expected.

"We wanted it," he enthusiastically explained. "That's the point of it, really. It's supposed to be a comedy about women in New York who are really smart, but their lives are a mess. They know they should be doing great things, but they don't know what it is, and they have kind of a feeling of self-entitlement about it. That's the joke of the show."

There have been more than a few race related casting controversies in recent memory. There were several instances in which Hollywood decided to replace Asian (or Asian-ish) characters with White characters that led some to complain of a "whitewashing" of the source material. M. Night Shyamalan was heavily criticized for casting white actors in lead roles instead of Asian actors, for the movie adaption of the cartoon "Avatar: The Last Airbender." A live-action adaption of 'Akira' has been stuck in development hell, but fans of the original animated film have raged against some of the changes that have leaked out, which includes replacing the Asian characters of the original with white equivalents. Going back a bit further, back in the late '80s/early '90s the producers of the musical "Miss Saigon" got a lot of grief for casting Jonathan Pryce in the role of a Vietnamese pimp, with some likening the production to a minstrel show.

The counter to the "whitewashing" argument is these sorts of changes are no different than what Martin Scorsese did in adapting 'Infernal Affairs' into 'The Departed.'

Donald Glover (who's African-American) of NBC's "Community" publicly lobbied for an audition to portray Spider-Man in the reboot of the film series; 'The Amazing Spider-Man.' However, from all reports, Sony only considered white actors for the role of Peter Parker, with it eventually going to Andrew Garfield. In this instance, you get a reverse of the 'Akira' example above in fidelity to the source material. There is nothing innate to the Spider-Man story that says Peter Parker must be a white teenager. But some of the more rabid fanboys feel that because Stan Lee & Steve Ditko drew Peter Parker/Spider-Man as a white teenage boy, he must always be a white teenage boy.

Some shows & films have tried to deal with this issue by having race neutral casting. Instead of casting a character as being specifically a white male or black female, whoever is the best actor/actress that auditions for the part gets it. If I remember right, this is the way its done on Shonda Rhimes produced shows & it's the reason many of the guest stars that play the patients & families are interracial couples on "Grey's Anatomy." However, the process still doesn't guarantee diversity.

For example, there is nothing intrinsic to the four main characters of "Girls" that says they need to be four white women. But I'm sure that if I asked Lena Dunham & Judd Apatow if they cast the four best actresses for those roles, irrespective of race, they would say "Yes." So if you end up with an all-white cast, is that truly a lack of diversity or is it just happenstance?

From Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic:

I think storytellers--first and foremost--must pledge their loyalty to the narrative as it comes to them. I don't believe in creating characters out a of desire to please your audience or even to promote an ostensible social good. I think good writing is essentially a selfish act--story-tellers are charged with crafting the narrative the want to see. I'm not very interested in Lena Dunham reflecting the aspirations of people she may or may not know. I'm interested in her specific and individual vision; in that story she is aching to tell. If that vision is all-white, then so be it. I don't think a story-teller can be guilted into making great characters.

This selfishness tends to ultimately serve the writer and the audience. I think back to "Friends," which for years, was dogged by criticism of its all-white cast. When its creators finally relented they casted two great talents--Aisha Tyler and later Gabriel Union--but didn't even bother to write separate story-lines. They simply recycled the same plot, and plugged in a new black girl... It is not so wrong to craft an exclusively white world--certainly a significant portion of America lives in one. What is wrong is for power-brokers to pretend that no other worlds exists. Across the country there are black writers and black directors toiling to bring those worlds to the screen. If HBO does not see fit to have a relationship with those writers, then those of us concerned should assess our relationship with HBO.

Many television shows of the '70s & '80s went the Very Special Episode route to deal with some of these criticisms. Basically it's an episode where you have the collection of rich, white characters come to the realization that death, drug abuse, alcoholism, AIDS, suicide, gay people or black people & racism actually exist in the world. The problem with the "very special episode" is that it comes off as both incredibly naive while at the same time horribly condescending. The original "Beverly Hills 90210" didn't have any black main characters & came under criticism for it, so they went the "very special episode" route by having Brandon (Jason Priestley) go into South Central to bridge the cultural divide while at the same time trying to solve gang violence.

The other dunder-headed way of trying to deal with diversity is the "Token" character. A token character is defined by TV Tropes as:

A character designed to get more minority groups into the plot. This serves several purposes:
  • Allows the producers of the show to broaden the appeal of the show by giving more viewers protagonists they can identify with.
  • Is useful for bringing in discussions of racial issues, gender issues or homophobia into the plot.
  • Helps the producers feel a little better about using a Scary Minority Suspect in every other case.
  • Allows the producers to make jokes related to a minority group without any shame.
  • Allows the producers to avoid criticism from minority groups.
  • Fulfills the executives' desire for the show to be more ethnically respectful.
However, the problem with the token character is that the token character is defined by whatever his tokenism is, and that's usually a collection of stereotypes. If you look back at sitcoms & game shows between the '60s and the '80s, you had gay actors (Paul Lynde, Charles Nelson Reilly, etc.) on shows that went to ridiculous lengths to not acknowledge something that almost everyone knew, but also played around with the actors homosexuality by slyly alluding to it. On the Ted Knight sitcom "Too Close for Comfort," one of the supporting actors was Jim J. Bullock, who played "Monroe." The show never acknowledged the actor's sexuality with the character, but went to a strange "very special episode" route by having the character be raped by women.

These sort of plot developments are usually deployed by hack writers, but even good ones get caught by it. For example, an interesting case is Aaron Sorkin with "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." Simon (D.L. Hughley) is the one "black guy" on the sketch show, with every story involving him being about how he doesn't want to be "the black guy" on "Studio 60," which ironically makes every story involving him about that very thing. The most sensible & progressive thing to do if there's a character that's a "token" character, either by design or chance, is to write that character as being as normal as everyone else & never draw attention to their tokenism.

One thing that's ironic about "Girls" is that HBO expected to get recognition for it being a female dominated show from a female perspective, which while more prevalent is still somewhat rare. In fact, some have called some of the criticisms of "Girls" sexist. "The Smurfette Principle" (which is basically having a female token character in a male dominated cast) can still be seen in a lot of TV shows (for example, "The Daily Show" rarely has more than one female regular at a time).

The Bechdel Test was created by Alison Bechdel, and it's been used by some as a litmus test for the depiction of female characters in film. It states that in order to pass the test, a movie must:

  • Include at least two women.
  • The female characters have at least one conversation.
  • The conversation is about something other than a man or men.
However, the Bechdel Test has some issues itself. For one thing, a good many "girl-on-girl," lesbian porn films satisfy all of the criteria of the Bechdel Test.

Secondly, it can only be used in the aggregate to judge female roles in movies at a given time, since it's not a test that can be applied universally to every film. The Feminist Frequency video above uses 'Fight Club' as an example of a film that fails the test. The fact that 'Fight Club' fails the test is not surprising since it's not a movie about women. It's about men & male self-image in the modern world.

That also brings the conversation full circle in a way, since it's a question of narrative versus depiction.

Originally posted to 医生的宫殿 on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 09:57 PM PDT.

Also republished by Black Kos community, LatinoKos, RaceGender DiscrimiNATION, Barriers and Bridges, Discussing Race At Daily Kos, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Media Have Their Own Private Constitutional (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jan4insight, a2nite

    exemption from civilization, one specifically designed for business that not even humans (hardly ever) can exploit.

    Who would have thought they'd take advantage of that?

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 10:02:49 PM PDT

  •  "How To Make It In America"... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rimjob, palantir, wishingwell, terrypinder

    HBO's other show about recent college grads/aged kids trying to find themselves/make it in NYC has a pretty diverse main cast. It's probably the most realistic depiction of NYC demographics currently airing (though it's on hiatus right now), IMO.



  •  so sunday mornings are just a symptom (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rimjob, jan4insight, a2nite, dopper0189

    of the same problem?

  •  Also... Katniss isn't white! (4+ / 0-)

    sorry, was re-reading the book this weekend, and got caught up again in all the casting controversy thing

    •  I still need to read "The Hunger Games," ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ... but from what I gather and have read on the Amazon book preview, Katniss should either be of Asian decent or Mexican decent. The description I have read would lead me to believe either of those two.

      I read an article on Jezebel about the Hunger Games twitter-gate where people were upset that Rue was played by a black girl. There was much discussion about Katniss. Maybe she was Asian? Indian? Arab? So many discussions in the comments and Not. One. Single. Person. suggested she might be of Mexican heritage. Not. One.

      Latinas and Latinos generally get left out of the list of possibilities when commenting on ethnicity.

    •  I'd be careful, though: (0+ / 0-)

      Katniss is described as olive-skinned and dark-haired (which could be a lot of things)... but her sister and mother are both blond-haired, blue-eyed.   Collins keeps the racial indicators pretty broad for them... unlike Rue and Thresh who are clearly black.

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 09:03:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Shonda Rimes other 2 shows, Private Practice (0+ / 0-)

    and Scandal are more diverse.

    Scandal stars an African American woman in the lead role.  

    Private Practice has 2 major African American characters and a Latino character.

    Private Practice does have 2 major African American characters.

    So her shows are far more diverse than most on TV right now.

    Follow PA Keystone Liberals on Twitter: @KeystoneLibs

    by wishingwell on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 09:47:47 AM PDT

  •  I think its ridiculous (0+ / 0-)

    that this conversation is even happening. If it bothees peipme, they won't watch it and the show will fail. The mentality that we have to change things to fit a minority viewpoint is sad. Not everything has to conform to a liberal worldview.

    •  Friends didn't have a POC even as an extra for 7 (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ubertar, mali muso, pico, Xapulin

      seasons! Not just main characters, but not even as a guy delivering mail, or sitting in the coffee shop. Show me a place in NYC where that can happen? Remember they weren't super rich they were working class.

      Girls walk down street without a single person of color in NYC? O yeah they through in a homeless guy, how very nice of them. How is that realistic? I don't care when movies cast characters like Spiderman as white because he was a white character. But if you then have a character walk in NYC you can't believably have there be no people of color! Do they also work in all white offices, and they went to all white colleges?

      The Precious comment is stupid because there was a white character (a male teacher) in the movie (which was set in Harlem in the 1980's) that the protagonist of the film daydreamed about. So that of course shows you that Lesley Arfin didn't even watch the movie but "assumed" things about it.

      -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

      by dopper0189 on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 10:36:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Am I Missing Something? (0+ / 0-)

        Television is an entertainment medium in which each show must show a profit or it will be pulled off the air.  Most shows have a very limited appeal to audiences and try to get a specific "group" to watch it.  There are all kinds of "groups" that watch TV, children, teenagers, old people, sports nuts, etc.  Should every show on TV have a certain percent of POC, asians, and white people?  Wouldn't that create a real problem for pro basketball and pro football?  What about Univision?  Should they have a certain percent of white people?  BET?  I remember 20 years ago when you couldn't find a "G" rated movie in the theaters.  Lots of complaints.

        Complaints alone didn't increase the number of "G" rated movies.  People started buying tickets for "G" rated movies so producers made more so that they could make a profit.  Progressive talk radio is the same.  Not enough listeners to make a profit for the producers.

        If diversity is more important than other factors such as subject matter and quality, then you need to get more viewers for shows that have diversity.

    •  Oh, enlighten us to your conservo worldview, DO! (0+ / 0-)

      That said, I remember an article about blacks on TV, and a black actor or two said "It's no-win for the producers. If the black character is a crook, we'll say, 'There they go again.' If the black character is rich, they'll say 'Nobody I know is like that,'" OWTTE.

      And I do have to wonder whether there's enough diversity in shows on BET.

      There seem to be a lot more black (and Latino) characters on telly nowadays, no? In the "Star Trek"verse, admirals are either white women or black men (what, no Aldebaranians?) and most police sergeants seem to be black, especially in the 500 shows set in NYC.

      I was at a Halloween party years ago and Spider-Man turned out to be black. "He's not Peter Parker, he's Peter Parros," I said. I think the guy half knew what I meant.

      •  One Thing I Didn't Get Into In The Diary..... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        libnewsie, Xapulin

        ...Is how relationships are handled in TV series and the no-win situation a show can find itself in.

        Say for example you have a teen/twentysomething show where there's one or two minority characters that live in a predominantly white community. When it comes time to depict a relationship between the minority characters and a love interest, the show will either:

        • Introduce another minority character who we've never seen before (and in all likelihood we'll never see again after the episode). One criticism of this is that of all the white women/men we've seen, the producers & writers are still keeping races separated when it comes to sex.
        • On the other hand, there are some who criticize it as a message of "selling out" being sent with the depiction of interracial relationships, especially when it's a black male in an upper income situation who falls in love with a white woman.

        While "Star Trek" is one of the most progressive shows in the history of television when it comes to race, it's usually knocked for its (non)depiction of homosexuality.

        While there have been hints & outright depictions of bisexuality among the characters (Riker, Dax and Garak), there has never been an explicitly gay character in the history of the franchise.

        •  Riker, Dax, and Garak? I musta missed the bi (0+ / 0-)

          part. Can you refresh my memory?

          I have to admit that certain shows' whiteness has bothered me. Mind you, I don't think there should necessarily be anything wrong with shows whose characters are all white--nobody who watches Univision says "Too many Latinos," I'm betting. But look at "The Unit" or earlier seasons of "Flashpoint": both included black characters with next to nothing to do. "Unit" at least had the inimitable Dennis Haysbert as the sarnmajor, but there was a young troop whose moment in the sun came when he was plugged by a sniper. Unless the actor had other commitments, why didn't he get more of the stories?

          •  Dax is a symbiont who has in the past (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            libnewsie, Xapulin

            been partnered with males - however, when we meet Dax, the external partner is female (and so is her successor). Sisko referred to Dax as "old man" because he had known the previous partner (male). We also find out that Trill have a rule against resuming relationships from previous partnerships (in an episode in which Jadzia Dax revisited an old flame of Curzon Dax's). Much more could have been done with this intriguing idea.

            Riker at one point got involved with a member of a race of androgynes who were rigidly opposed to any expression of gender - the member began to present and behave as female. (S/he was forced to undergo therapy to repress this.)

            Garak's sexuality has never been explored onscreen, but the actor who played him toyed with the notion that he was "omnisexual".

            Sulu was assumed to be straight (he has a daughter) - but he's still closely associated with George Takei, who not so long ago "came out". Make of that whatever you please.

            If it's
            Not your body,
            Then it's
            Not your choice
            And it's
            None of your damn business!

            by TheOtherMaven on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 06:18:38 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  OK. I had the vague recollection of Curzon, (0+ / 0-)

              but since all the onscreen Daxes (Daces?) were women, I didn't think any more of it. Don't remember that ep with Riker.

              When I finally saw "Hellraiser" (which could have been so much better), imagine my surprise to find Andrew Robinson in the movie.

    •  your opinion is noted. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      metal prophet

      I'm struck by how the meanest, cruelest, nastiest people brag about how they live in a Christian nation. It's rather telling.

      by terrypinder on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 11:04:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  In reference to the show.... (0+ / 0-)'s pretty minor, but in reference to the larger cultural issue, it's pretty big. Outside of shows aimed to the black market, black characters are either the comic relief or barely even exist. This is a pretty big problem, wouldn't you concur? I mean, you have shows that not only don't reflect reality, but also render entire races invisible. That doesn't seem right and I think that's a result of racism. This isn't about "political correctness."

      •  ... (0+ / 0-)

        I don't see it as racism. I think that they are targeting the majority of tv audiences, which happen to be white.

        •  I doubt even that much thought went into it (0+ / 0-)

          Basically, this is Dunham's movie, Tiny Furniture, revamped into a tv show, and the film was inspired by circumstances in her own life at the time she wrote it. Lena Dunham's only 24 or 25. Has anyone considered that maybe she doesn't feel comfortable writing for POCs? I mean, if she inadvertently made a mistake, would everyone be saying, well, that came off as insensitive or unrealistic, but we all applaud you for trying? The characters are deliberately unlikeable and sheltered, after all.

          Warning: Erwin Schroedinger will kill you like a cat in a box. Maybe.

          by strandedlad on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 10:32:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  That's why I'm withholding judgment... (0+ / 0-)

            ....on the show, because there does seem to be an air of self-criticism, which is necessary, I think. But, the question of how racial minorities are depicted (or not depicted at all) in media is a huge issue, because that's how cultural judgments are made. We all consume media.

        •  Of course it's racism (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Take a white, southern business owner during the time of segregation, for example. They might not have had any personal prejudices, but to satisfy their white customers, they sure as shit weren't going to let black people at at the lunch counter. It was just a business decision, but it was still racist, even if they weren't personally racist. Stop taking such a narrow view of things.

  •  beautifully written. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    As an aside to "Diversity in Media" I saw today that CNN hosted Bryan J. Fischer as its Christian view today. Bryan Fischer is the mainstream Westboro Baptist Church. Most of those who ran for president on the GOP side went on his radio show. The same radio show where he advocates locking up all gay people and more or less advocates for a theocracy (while lying that he isn't.)

    Even though I'm of two minds on this (the media's constant use of right-wing Christians as the Christian voice has absolutely had a negative measureable effect on many denominations) I still wish media would accurately represent the diversity in religious thought here.

    I'm struck by how the meanest, cruelest, nastiest people brag about how they live in a Christian nation. It's rather telling.

    by terrypinder on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 11:03:51 AM PDT

  •  also (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rimjob, prgsvProgrammerChick, Xapulin

    Smurfette has to be blonde to be good. Dark-haired Smurfette was evil.

    I recently saw that episode and was amazed at how explicit they stated this. In an 80s childrens' cartoon!

    I'm struck by how the meanest, cruelest, nastiest people brag about how they live in a Christian nation. It's rather telling.

    by terrypinder on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 11:11:29 AM PDT

  •  A couple of things... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rimjob, Mistral Wind, libnewsie, raboof

    Bechdel needs to update her criteria and add one more, because when I first read about them I thought the same thing that many lesbian porn films would fit. I would personally like to see the added criteria that the scene does not lead to sex or imply a sexual attraction between the two women talking.

    What I've seen when trying to present "two intelligent females" is that they're really just trying to appeal to the baser male fantasy - if they're intelligent and hot, there's going to be some two on two chick action. To me it just seems more objectification of women.

    Something else I thought about as I read your great diary. I immediately thought of "La Bamba" - a story about a Latino born in America with Mexican parents played by ... a Filipino,  Lou Diamond Philips. This was occurring a lot in the 80s also. Latinos and Latinas were non-existent, or if they did exist, well, they were lazy and high on drugs (yeah, I'm looking at you, Cheech Marin, who didn't help with the stereotype. He's changed since then.)

    BTW, if you want hear how minorities were thought of "back in the day" are old time radio show broadcasts, find a few stories online and listen to them. Yes, this is hopping in the way back machine. I've been on an "old time radio show" kick as of late and listen to stories while I do housework. It's just ... awful. (Latinos were mostly corrupt, physical violence against women was ok, blacks were dumb and slow.) You would think that we had come a long way but when you listen, and then look around, we really haven't come that far. The stereotype is simply more subtle.

    •  The Philippines were Spanish long before the US (0+ / 0-)

      even existed, let alone got control of them. They were named for Philip II of Spain (the King who was married to Bloody Mary and later sent the Armada against Elizabeth I's England).

      Lots of Spanish men went there to live - and you know what that always leads to.

      So it's not as total a mismatch as "whitebread" casting would have been. But yeah, homegrown would have been better if they could find one with a big enough "name" and enough star quality. (Catch-22!)

      If it's
      Not your body,
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      And it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 06:32:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, I know the history... (0+ / 0-)

        .. but many of us DO consider that quite a mismatch.

        While Spain invaded both countries (Mexico and the Philippines), they both have different heritages before that that affect their heritage after the Spanish invasion.

      •  I was just going to let my last comment be it. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        But I got to thinking.

        Just because an island in the Pacific ocean was invaded by the same European country that Mexico was doesn't make them the same.

        To say that the mismatch wasn't " total a mismatch as 'whitebread' casting would have been..." well, quite frankly, is wrong.

        These are two completely different ethnic groups and shows the same ignorance that so many in "white America" assume about various minorities.

        BTW, Lou Diamond Philips was not a big name. It is the movie that MADE him a big name. There were others they could have used, why would it have to have been a big name? Many white actors got their start as leading roles without being a big name, why not for Latinos/Latinas? I'll answer that: because, at that time and even now, they did not have the draw, unfortunately. Even now, Latinos/Latinas have to be a big name, and that takes YEARS to accomplish.

        •  I DID say it was a "Catch-22".... n/t (0+ / 0-)

          If it's
          Not your body,
          Then it's
          Not your choice
          And it's
          None of your damn business!

          by TheOtherMaven on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 08:51:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Not sure I understand your comment, though: (0+ / 0-)

          Filipino actors aren't exactly well-represented or promoted - if anything they're more invisible than Latinos, if that's possible - so your complaint (while generally true) doesn't seem applicable to Phillips at all.  

          Also worth noting that the Valenzuela family had a very different attitude toward the casting.

          Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

          by pico on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 08:54:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I don't think that Bechdel (0+ / 0-)

      would have even thought of lesbian porn films as fulfilling her criteria; and, if one wants to pick that nit, one can add a third condition: "and the interaction is not for satisfying male sexual fantasies".

      (Yes, I know Bechdel is a lesbian and I suspect she wouldn't have a problem with lesbian porn films for lesbians.)

      The thing about quotes on the internet is you cannot confirm their validity. ~Abraham Lincoln

      by raboof on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 06:13:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What was most bothersome about Dunham's (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rimjob, Skaje

    response (although far superior to her co-writer's) is the attitude that color represents a sort of special category to be ticked off your list rather than as an everyday reality of living in New York:

    When I get a tweet from a girl who's like, "I'd love to watch the show, but I wish there were more women of color." You know what? I do, too, and if we have the opportunity to do a second season, I'll address that.
    Which... all things considered, props to her for not going on the defensive, but this road leads right to the tokenish trainwreck you discussed above.  

    I haven't seen the show so I can't speak to it except second-hand, but it does tie in well to the biggest complaint about network diversity: an all-white, all-straight cast is considered neutral, while anything that deviates is considered special and either needs to be addressed, accommodated, or ignored.   It's a privilege thing, and it takes thoughtful work to get beyond it.  Coates is right that the integrity of a narrative world needs to be supreme (no one wants the diversity checklist), but it sucks how willing so many shows are to set that default status and not give it much thought otherwise.

    But hey, without the diversity checklist, there would be no T-Dog, and an awesome internet meme would disappear.


    On the whitewashing issue, I think there's a straightforward explanation for the rage over Airbender and the relative lack of commentary over The Departed.  Scorsese took Infernal Affairs and rewrote it for the Irish mob in Boston, essentially transplanting everything to a new context.  Airbender (one of the only cartoons on television to feature a non-white cast) just put white actors in non-white clothing, and.. Indian actors in samurai clothing?  It's a clusterfuck all around - and this for a show whose particulars were based on very detailed research.  Likewise I don't think the main plot of Infernal Affairs was overly dependent on its Hong Kong setting, whereas Airbender was specifically about an Asian-inflected mythology, down to the decisions about language, religion, and even body movement.*

    Akira is a more troublesome case, because it's definitely closer to Infernal Affairs according to those criteria, but it's so highly regarded as a touchstone of Japanese pop culture that it raises an entirely different set of issues.  I don't think transplanting Akira does any damage to the narrative, even when factoring in the particular dystopian fears that give the story its context.   But it'd be nice to see roles developed around Japanese characters going to Japanese actors, no?

    * On a related note, I'm happy to say that Korra kicks all kinds of ass so far.  

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 05:05:56 PM PDT

  •  We need more openly Jewish performers... (0+ / 0-)

    We need more openly Jewish performers...
    Too many Jews are still in the closet… The age of the name change should have been over ages ago…

    Nudniks need not apply.

    by killermiller on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 05:11:10 PM PDT

  •  There's plenty of diversity at FoxNews! (0+ / 0-)

    They've got blonds, and bleach blonds, and dirty blonds, and filthy blonds, and of course....Doucey blonds.

  •  Only in recent years have Gay people (0+ / 0-)

    begun to be treated as multi-dimensional human beings w/ lives like everyone else. It's ironic given the strong Gay presence in Hollywood that such homophobia remains entrenched. At the end of the day these executives (including the Gay ones) often are homophobic to the expense of diversity. Neil Patrick Harris, Wanda Sykes, and Ellen Degeneres are definitely exceptions to the rule in the entertainment business. Hopefully that will change rapidly as our culture becomes less negative towards the LGBT community.

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