On Television, Cinema and Race

Grubber788 wrote:

I thought Max Payne 3 turned that convention on its head quite a bit actually. It wasn't like Avatar where the "savages" needed a white savior to save the day. Max himself comes to the realization that he is not a hero and is just a blunt instrument in the hands of local power players. I thought the slum mission starting at the bar was brilliant in that regard. His inability to communicate with locals, the number of times he complete f*cks up, the number of innocent people who die... I thought it was a fantastic look at the white messiah syndrome.

Edit: It struck a chord with me as an expat too I think.

Oh, I don't think it was the trope to a T, because clearly, Max is not the "savior" and it's made clear that he only manages to save one person, and that's well after he's messed up saving a bunch of others. But even, at least from what I remember, even his f*ck-ups aren't entirely his fault, they are his inability to recognize or act against the machinations of others. They are mistakes, but they aren't his mistakes, y'know? So while his f*ckups are bad, they're not him acting in a way to purposefully bring harm to the innocent. He doesn't get to "right the wrongs", but he still gets to exact revenge against the villains for their deeds. Everyone he shoots totally deserves it.

He certainly didn't come in to "save" everyone, he kind of got pushed into that, and his actions didn't make things all that much better. But he's still there, dishing out rogue cop justice. I don't think it's quite turning the convention on its head, as it is looking at it from an askew angle. Really turning it on his head, I think, would've been allowing more self-determination to the Brazilians themselves to solve the problem, but post ME3, lord knows if there's a developer out there willing to make a game where the ending doesn't make clear that all the decisions you took had a immediate and obvious impact on the finale.

Basically, i'd really like to see this trope completely inverted. Some dude from Botswana/Laos/Pakistan shows up in rural Kansas, finds out the town is a meth-infested hellhole ruled by a gang of murderers, rights all the wrongs. I'd LOVE to see someone ballsy enough to do that.

SpacePPoliceman wrote:

But, I have no idea if Saldana is good or not, and at the very least the criticism has enough heft to be worthy of considering. And whose brilliant idea was it to not make sure the estate was happy?

Well, it's a number of things. One, that the apparent movie, as it is currently constructed is about 75% of the way to being "Jackie Jormp-Jomp". They can't use the actual music because they pissed off the estate, they're apparently putting in a completely fabricated love storyline with her manager... it just looks bad.

And Zoe is a fine actress, she really is. But the issue here is that there are other women who could've played the role who have some name recognition. A big part of Nina Simone's story is the challenges she faced specifically because she was a very dark-skinned black woman, and how something as simple as that changed things in her career. And people wanted to see that reflected in the casting. The rolling dumpster fire this movie sounds like so far doesn't sound like it's going to even attempt to acknowledge or deal with intricacies of race that affected her.

tuffalobuffalo wrote:

He's the most awesome choice for a male doctor. I think a female doctor would be great, but I suppose it would make things more complicated. It'll happen eventually.

Bad Nerd Admission: I've never seen more than a few minutes of clips of Doctor Who, but I've never understood why there'd by any opposition to a female doctor, the same as James Bond only being white. I feel like that bridge will get crossed after the inevitable sh*tstorm when the Doctor regenerates into a non-white person though.

Thin_J wrote:
tuffalobuffalo wrote:

Oh my god, Idris Elba would make the best Bond ever.

That's what I said!

Supposedly he was considered for it but nothing really happened. Probably because of the exact things that caused the creation of this thread in the first place.

Ugh.

Elba's been seriously discussed for the role in the press over here, on a number of occasions.

I actually think Chiwetel Ejiofor would be a far better choice.

Elba as Bond would be brilliant, but remember that people were having conniptions over a blonde man playing Bond. We have a long, long way to go.

Prederick wrote:

And Zoe is a fine actress, she really is. But the issue here is that there are other women who could've played the role who have some name recognition. A big part of Nina Simone's story is the challenges she faced specifically because she was a very dark-skinned black woman, and how something as simple as that changed things in her career. And people wanted to see that reflected in the casting. The rolling dumpster fire this movie sounds like so far doesn't sound like it's going to even attempt to acknowledge or deal with intricacies of race that affected her.

I'm sure there will be a scene where a white record producer or club owner says something racist, because Academy voters love that stuff.

Idris Elba would make an awesome Bond, and an interesting Doctor, but if a Wire alum is to be the Doctor I think it should be Clarke Peters. It's just that he's....American. But he lives in London, so that counts, right?

I thought this was really interesting.
http://www.avclub.com/articles/a-dif...

Weren't the Fresh Prince, and Family Matters (the one with Urkel) big deals?

KingGorilla wrote:

Weren't the Fresh Prince, and Family Matters (the one with Urkel) big deals?

I think they are both brought up in the article.

NathanialG wrote:
KingGorilla wrote:

Weren't the Fresh Prince, and Family Matters (the one with Urkel) big deals?

I think they are both brought up in the article.

Not that I could find them. A quick search for "Fresh" found it only in the credits. I would also mention Bernie Mac as a black sitcom not mentioned.

KingGorilla wrote:

Weren't the Fresh Prince, and Family Matters (the one with Urkel) big deals?

He addresses it in the comments. Neither was a top 10 Nielsen show. Also, the all basically were contemporaries so the thesis still basically holds.

iaintgotnopants wrote:
KingGorilla wrote:

Weren't the Fresh Prince, and Family Matters (the one with Urkel) big deals?

He addresses it in the comments. Neither was a top 10 Nielsen show. Also, the all basically were contemporaries so the thesis still basically holds.

I wonder if it's becase of my age, but I thought Fresh Prince and Family Matters were both much bigger deals at the time.

SixteenBlue wrote:
iaintgotnopants wrote:
KingGorilla wrote:

Weren't the Fresh Prince, and Family Matters (the one with Urkel) big deals?

He addresses it in the comments. Neither was a top 10 Nielsen show. Also, the all basically were contemporaries so the thesis still basically holds.

I wonder if it's becase of my age, but I thought Fresh Prince and Family Matters were both much bigger deals at the time.

Firefly was certainly a "big deal" but the ratings never really held up.

edit: Having said that, it occurs to me that the article might hinge on something of a false premise - a show's reach, influence, and worth as a "thing" in popular culture really doesn't hang 100% on its ratings.

Bloo Driver wrote:
SixteenBlue wrote:
iaintgotnopants wrote:
KingGorilla wrote:

Weren't the Fresh Prince, and Family Matters (the one with Urkel) big deals?

He addresses it in the comments. Neither was a top 10 Nielsen show. Also, the all basically were contemporaries so the thesis still basically holds.

I wonder if it's becase of my age, but I thought Fresh Prince and Family Matters were both much bigger deals at the time.

Firefly was certainly a "big deal" but the ratings never really held up.

edit: Having said that, it occurs to me that the article might hinge on something of a false premise - a show's reach, influence, and worth as a "thing" in popular culture really doesn't hang 100% on its ratings.

Right but I was 10. I'm using a different definition of "big deal."

SixteenBlue wrote:
Bloo Driver wrote:
SixteenBlue wrote:
iaintgotnopants wrote:
KingGorilla wrote:

Weren't the Fresh Prince, and Family Matters (the one with Urkel) big deals?

He addresses it in the comments. Neither was a top 10 Nielsen show. Also, the all basically were contemporaries so the thesis still basically holds.

I wonder if it's becase of my age, but I thought Fresh Prince and Family Matters were both much bigger deals at the time.

Firefly was certainly a "big deal" but the ratings never really held up.

edit: Having said that, it occurs to me that the article might hinge on something of a false premise - a show's reach, influence, and worth as a "thing" in popular culture really doesn't hang 100% on its ratings.

Right but I was 10. I'm using a different definition of "big deal."

Whether or not a show is a hit hangs heavily on ratings, however.

I was about the same age, Sixteen, and may I posit Fresh Prince seemed like a bigger deal because it was a better show? In the column, it's noted that much of A Different World's success is attributable to time slot--it was right between Cosby and Cheers.

I do remember those flip shades, though. And is that Former Mayor of Baltimore Clarence Royce in that photo?

Yeah, I was wondering about this a few months ago, and posted something about it on Facebook.

I did a count, and excluding "ensemble cast" shows, I came up with six shows with minority leads across the big four networks (NBC, ABC, FOX, CBS) and even The CW. That's six shows, out of a combined 15 hours of programming per week for each station.

I understand there's an ebb and flow to these things, but six? And i'm stretching it with a few of those six (I think "Last Resort" could be slated under "ensemble cast" as well as NCIS: Los Angeles). I even let in "Elementary", even if Lucy Liu is playing the archetypal sidekick.

Basically, pickings sure as hell are slim for minority TV actors in Hollywood right now. This is how we end up stuck with the only people making sitcoms with minority leads being Kelsey Grammer and Tyler Perry.

Now counting "Deception" and "Scandal", we're up to eight.

It's weird. We've opened up space for characters like Troy on Community, and Damon Wayans, Jr's character on Happy Endings, but the only show I can think of on TV with a primary minority cast is "The Cleveland Show", which may be the functional definition of "two steps forward, two steps back."

SixteenBlue wrote:
iaintgotnopants wrote:
KingGorilla wrote:

Weren't the Fresh Prince, and Family Matters (the one with Urkel) big deals?

He addresses it in the comments. Neither was a top 10 Nielsen show. Also, the all basically were contemporaries so the thesis still basically holds.

I wonder if it's becase of my age, but I thought Fresh Prince and Family Matters were both much bigger deals at the time.

Here are the Nielsen ratings for the period 1990-1995.

Fresh Prince: 18th in 91-92, 14th in 92-93

Family Matters: 15th in 90-91

Hangin with Mr Cooper: 14th in 92-93

That's all I can find for the period 1990-2000.

Without commenting on the article - which I found very intriguing - I'm not convinced Nielsen ratings are a good way of judging stuff. Apparently the objectively terrible show Blue Bloods gets triple the viewership of the objectively awesome show Breaking Bad.

(Don't pick apart my analogy because you might disagree with my opinion of Sellecks garbage pile; the point is that a side effect of fin-syn laws was a migration of quality programming to cable; of you love Blue Bloods just pretend I said sons of Tucson or something

Seth wrote:

Without commenting on the article - which I found very intriguing - I'm not convinced Nielsen ratings are a good way of judging stuff. Apparently the objectively terrible show Blue Bloods gets triple the viewership of the objectively awesome show Breaking Bad.

(Don't pick apart my analogy because you might disagree with my opinion of Sellecks garbage pile; the point is that a side effect of fin-syn laws was a migration of quality programming to cable; of you love Blue Bloods just pretend I said sons of Tucson or something :)

That's another good point that sort've knocks this article on its side - cable has a lot of ongoing series now, where back in that time period they were just rotating movies. I'm not saying that an analysis of cable programming will reveal anything out of step with the conclusions this person brought in regards to the prevalence of such shows, just that the article has a very large hole in its logic and narrative.

FWIW, I watched the crap out of A Different World, but I think that was after it was in syndication, as I didn't watch Cosby or Cheers when they aired.

It is how TV executives hand out the money and the green lights. Their dubious truth aside, they do matter in the same way some 10 minute personality profile matters to some employers. I am not really arguing with the article that Television got more opaque and white washed out in efforts to charge to the lowest common denominator. I put a lot of blame squarely at the race based comedians and writers we saw coming out of the 90's. Of all the black comedians getting shows, Chapelle and Bernie Mac are diamonds in a sea of pandering "N-word, You ever notice White folks be all like..." crap. But in that same time, Will Smith, Denzel Washington, became the cream of the big budget Hollywood crop.

I only mean this partly with snark. Would we count all of the football that has suddenly taken over the ratings as predominantly black entertainment?

I recall reading an article in NYT few years back that identified an interesting phenomenon -- the blacks themselves appear to overwhelmingly prefer to watch "white", mainstream-aimed shows. The suggested short answer, however, was in the bigger budgets and higher production values of the tent-pole shows... That is, pitting the "Desperate Housewives" against its best possible "black" equivalent for the minorities attention in a primetime slot will result in the Housewives winning because of the perceived higher "quality". The long answer, therefore, is that simply "adding diversity" to the programming lineup doesn't help.

I think you guys may be misreading the intention of the article a bit. It's an article series about shows that made over 100 episodes. It's not a think piece about shows with predominantly black casts. The reason the article doesn't talk about Fresh Prince or Family Matters is because it's an article about A Different World. The point about it being the last show of it's kind to be in the Nielsen top 10 is in there because it's an interesting aspect about the show. Pointing out that there were other shows with black casts that were popular is like complaining that next weeks article about Ducktales isn't about Gummi Bears.

One thing I'm curious about in the greater discussion, were the past popular shows with predominantly black casts (The Jeffersons, Cosby, Family Matters, Fresh Prince etc.) popular because they were some sort of white washed depiction of black culture that appealed to a larger audience but current shows aren't (honestly, the various Tyler Perry shows are the only ones I can think of)?

Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:

I recall reading an article in NYT few years back that identified an interesting phenomenon -- the blacks themselves appear to overwhelmingly prefer to watch "white", mainstream-aimed shows. The suggested short answer, however, was in the bigger budgets and higher production values of the tent-pole shows... That is, pitting the "Desperate Housewives" against its best possible "black" equivalent for the minorities attention in a primetime slot will result in the Housewives winning because of the perceived higher "quality". The long answer, therefore, is that simply "adding diversity" to the programming lineup doesn't help.

Totally irrelevant but I found it funny that your short answer was longer than your long answer.

I think that's a reasonable conclusion though. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that all things being equal, people would prefer to watch shows with a similar cultural makeup to their own, but all things are definitely not equal.

iaintgotnopants wrote:

I think you guys may be misreading the intention of the article a bit. It's an article series about shows that made over 100 episodes. It's not a think piece about shows with predominantly black casts. The reason the article doesn't talk about Fresh Prince or Family Matters is because it's an article about A Different World. The point about it being the last show of it's kind to be in the Nielsen top 10 is in there because it's an interesting aspect about the show. Pointing out that there were other shows with black casts that were popular is like complaining that next weeks article about Ducktales isn't about Gummi Bears.

One thing I'm curious about in the greater discussion, were the past popular shows with predominantly black casts (The Jeffersons, Cosby, Family Matters, Fresh Prince etc.) popular because they were some sort of white washed depiction of black culture that appealed to a larger audience but current shows aren't (honestly, the various Tyler Perry shows are the only ones I can think of)?

I think that's a bit hard to say, especially because the earliest shows with predominantly black casts--Sanford and Son and The Jeffersons--were broadcast back in the day when there were only three channels.

Sanford and Son has definitely been critically hailed as the show that paved the way for virtually every other black comedy. The Jeffersons, especially in the early seasons, covered racism explicitly and even had a mixed race couple, something that was radical for the day. The Jeffersons, at the core, was a show about a successful black businessman who was able to leave Queens for Manhattan. Whether that is interpreted that as a white-wash of black culture or a celebration that a black man can build a successful business is likely up to the individual viewer.

IIRC, the original premise for The Cosby Show was that they would be a blue-collar family, but the network suits changed them into a well-to-do family with a doctor and lawyer as parents. Again, depending on your view that could be a cultural white-wash or a positive role model. Either way, The Cosby Show largely avoided any issue involving race or racism, which I think made it a "safe" show for the broader white audience.

I never really watched Family Matters or the Fresh Prince, but of the episodes that I might have inadvertently watched those comedies seems a bit more of the minstrel variety, which is kinda why I never watched them.

Prederick wrote:

It's weird. We've opened up space for characters like Troy on Community, and Damon Wayans, Jr's character on Happy Endings, but the only show I can think of on TV with a primary minority cast is "The Cleveland Show", which may be the functional definition of "two steps forward, two steps back."

And Cleveland is voiced by a white guy (AFAICT).

I was flipping around on the iPad during the Super Bowl and came across a controversy that not one but TWO super bowl ads being called racist. The first allegeldy racist ad stars a white Minessota guy who starts talking like a Jamaican after riding around in a Volkswagen. I can kind of see some of the controversy with this one, although I still think calling it outright racist is a bit overblown. Bad taste and a bit insensitive, sure.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/0...

The other controversy is one I completely don't get. It's about the Coca Cola race in the desert versus the Vegas go-go girls, the cowboys and the Mad Max bikers. There's also a 10-second shot where the three groups race past a group of Beduoins on camels, which according to protesters is extremely offensive by insuating that all Arabs are backwards camel riders. I mean, the entire commercial is so ridiculous that I can't see how anyone could takie it too seriously.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/0...

Wondering if anyone else feels this same way?

Yeh, calling the Coke ad racist seems just dumb. It doesn't surprise me though. Many of these groups that do the protesting (and it totally does not matter what's their agenda, whether it's conservative, liberal or anything inbetween), sooner or later fall into kinda institutional trap - they have to justify their existence time and again and they start seeing stuff relevant to their mission just about anywhere.

It's as racist as it is sexist, and possibly jobbist.

Question: How is #1 insensitive but not racist? What is it not sensitive about?

Agreed about the 2nd ad though, that sounds overblown.

Is it that time of year again already? It seems like just yesterday we were talking about misogynist X-mas ads. I sometimes think I am in the wrong field. I should start up a 501C3 to be a watchdog and become needlessly offended, like some girl on her period.

SixteenBlue wrote:

Question: How is #1 insensitive but not racist? What is it not sensitive about?

Agreed about the 2nd ad though, that sounds overblown.

Maybe insensitive is the wrong word - tone deaf? On one hand, I think the stereotype of carefree island living is meant to be nothing but complimentary. On the other, I can understand that a really pasty white guy walking around talking like a Jamaican is jarring and that positive traits like "Jamacians don't let life stress them out like those crazy Americans" could easily be turned to "Jamacians are lazy."