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The Race Card: Ethnicity on TV


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#17251

TWoP Howard

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Posted Apr 12, 2012 @ 9:15 PM

Iíve deleted almost two pages worth of boards on boards posts from this thread. The subject of the thread is Ethnicity on TV, and the proper way to use the thread is to post your opinions about what you see on TV. Those of you whose posts were deleted were sharing your condescending opinions of "viewers" or "women" or "fans," and how theyíre watching some show or another wrong, or in other words, not like you are! Funny how that works.

Itís especially depressing that so many of you flagrantly breaking that rule have been here long enough that you should know the rules backwards and forwards. Itís hard to argue that you did anything other than make a deliberate choice to break the rules here, and that goes more so for those of you who came here to whine about other viewers of Person of Interest. Itís no more appropriate here than it is there, and I have no idea why you thought the rules didnít apply to this thread, but they do.

Iím closing this thread until Monday to give you all a chance to reset and to reread the boards on boards section of the FAQ. When you return, analyze the show or the characters or the industry or the writers to your heartsí content, but keep your condescending, two-bit analyses of your fellow viewers to yourselves if you want to continue using the site.

#17252

EndoKE

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Posted Apr 19, 2012 @ 1:22 PM

An interesting article about "Girls" and diversity on TV in general. Girls that Television will never know.

Another article about Girls which makes a very interesting point.

Dear Lena Dunham: I exist.

Edited by EndoKE, Apr 19, 2012 @ 1:32 PM.

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#17253

tip and fall

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Posted Apr 19, 2012 @ 4:28 PM

I've been keeping up with the controversy over Girls. Apparently I'm expected to shut up and be happy because at least Girls is a show by women and for women. ~Baby steps, right? Yeah, no. I don't think WOC should be told to just take it because somehow feminism takes precedence over racism, because intersectionality isn't a thing.

Zooey Deschanel's site (hellogiggles) just came out with a defensive screed that basically chalked up most of the criticism to misogyny, implying that the majority of people speaking out were white women or men. Er, really? How the fuck would she know? Way to erase the many WOC who're talking about this show as well.
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#17254

OptimisticCynic

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Posted Apr 20, 2012 @ 1:44 PM

Here is the hellogiggles article.
http://hellogiggles....o-hate-on-women

There was one part that really irritated me. I haven't watched Girls, mostly because I don't have HBO and I didn't like "Tiny Furniture" for its pretentious and boring tone. However, I did read the article and I don't understand why a white woman/man cannot hold the opinion that they are upset at the lack of diversity? That's ridiculous! Somehow it's less valid? I would hope to see for a show that prides itself on unrelenting realism, that not only that they show the appropriately cheap and dingy apartments and women of all shapes, but also a diversity that reflects the city in which the characters live. I find myself a socially aware person, so I hope to see diversity on all television shows, and I happen to be white.

She also mentions that this is a sexist, mysognistic view because this opinion is apparently only aimed at Girls and it's female creators. But in reality, this criticsm has been made about shows like Vampire Diaries, True Blood, Walking Dead (and those actually have characters of other ethnicities, but the uproar was about the lack of representation given to those characters - and rightfully so I might add). Has she not read any criticism online or any message board?
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#17255

Ankai

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Posted Apr 20, 2012 @ 7:15 PM

But in reality, this criticsm has been made about shows like Vampire Diaries, True Blood, Walking Dead (and those actually have characters of other ethnicities, but the uproar was about the lack of representation given to those characters - and rightfully so I might add). Has she not read any criticism online or any message board?

I have not been following the Girls hype or backlash all that closely because I am apparently a misogynist who did not care about the show in the first place. I guess that the defensiveness is because the backlash came so early or something?

I will say this: I had heard of The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl webseries before, but had never really considered watching it due to my apparently being a misogynist. After reading about how her experiences in the world of entertainment contrasted with that of Lena Dunham, I am going to start watching it purely out of spite, because, apparently, I hate White people more than I don't care about Black women.

Edited to add: I watched the first four episode of the webseries. Some of it, I almost related to it on a personal level. And I enjoyed it regardless, and I will watch the rest at some point out of spite.

Edited by Ankai, Apr 20, 2012 @ 8:18 PM.

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#17256

ultimategirl

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Posted Apr 20, 2012 @ 8:55 PM

However, I did read the article and I don't understand why a white woman/man cannot hold the opinion that they are upset at the lack of diversity?


Well, I think her point is that certain people don't make this criticism of other shows focusing on (and written and directed by) male characters. And, you know, for some people, the criticism may well be driven by misogyny. But getting defensive about it allows the writer to avoid actually engaging with the completely valid argument, and allows her to brush aside and ignore the fact that other critics, including many women of color, have been making those arguments about tons of other series, as you point out. Racialicious talks about tons of other shows, as well the entertainment landscape as a whole on a daily basis (as do many other sites). But I bet that these issues just aren't on the author's radar most of the time, so as far as she's concerned they aren't being made.

Honestly, the thing that's irked me the most about the whole thing is that Lena Dunham made a comment about how she also wished there were more people of color on the show. Um, Lena. Didn't you write the show? And produce it? And star in it? I think you, personally, have control over it.
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#17257

Empress1

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Posted Apr 20, 2012 @ 10:54 PM

I've been keeping up with the controversy over Girls. Apparently I'm expected to shut up and be happy because at least Girls is a show by women and for women. ~Baby steps, right? Yeah, no. I don't think WOC should be told to just take it because somehow feminism takes precedence over racism, because intersectionality isn't a thing.

I've been following it too and posting a bit about it on the Girls thread, which I'll no longer do for a few reasons, not least because I'm not going to continue to watch the show. But I love what you're saying here. There's a great article on The Hairpin that gets into it well too.

Honestly, the thing that's irked me the most about the whole thing is that Lena Dunham made a comment about how she also wished there were more people of color on the show. Um, Lena. Didn't you write the show? And produce it? And star in it? I think you, personally, have control over it.

Real talk? I think what she's saying is code for "I didn't give people of color a thought until I got called out about it, and now that I have been, I'll address it in the second season." She said something like "I noticed it as I was editing," which means she went through casting, shooting, all that, without noticing it.

As I said in the Girls thread, what bugs me about shows set in major urban centers that don't show any people of color isn't only that the main cast is all white. Homogeneous groups of friends exist, and not just all-white ones either. But to not have any people of color ANYWHERE? Girls is set in Brooklyn, where white people only make up a third of the population. You can't walk outside in Brooklyn and only see white people, even if you only choose to befriend white people. And what also bugs me is this notion that I've read all over the web about this: "Well, you don't have to be of the same race to find characters relatable," which, no shit, but it works both ways. I hate that it's assumed that only people of color can relate to characters of color, but everyone can and should relate to white characters.

However, I did read the article and I don't understand why a white woman/man cannot hold the opinion that they are upset at the lack of diversity? That's ridiculous! Somehow it's less valid?

No! Sometimes I feel like that's the only way people will listen, like if people of color complain, those who don't want to hear it will be like "Well, Tyler Perry exists, and isn't that Think Like a Man* movie coming out?"

*Which I wouldn't see even if I were held at gunpoint, and I'm not a Tyler Perry fan either.
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#17258

ztastviz

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Posted Apr 21, 2012 @ 12:07 AM

*Which I wouldn't see even if I were held at gunpoint, and I'm not a Tyler Perry fan either.


Oh my God, you don't even know how much I agree with this statement.

Speaking of Girls, I knew I wasn't going to watch when nary a single brown face was shown during the many thousands of commercials I watched. And from everything I've read about the show the damn thing goes out of its way to be exclusive, which, IMO, is a pretty good indicator it was designed that way.

Edited by ztastviz, Apr 21, 2012 @ 12:08 AM.

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#17259

sintin

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Posted Apr 21, 2012 @ 9:58 AM

Honestly, the thing that's irked me the most about the whole thing is that Lena Dunham made a comment about how she also wished there were more people of color on the show. Um, Lena. Didn't you write the show? And produce it? And star in it? I think you, personally, have control over it.

That answer was so condescending. I imagine by "addressing it" in the second season, she means that she'll throw in a token minority.

But to not have any people of color ANYWHERE? Girls is set in Brooklyn, where white people only make up a third of the population. You can't walk outside in Brooklyn and only see white people, even if you only choose to befriend white people

Now, that's completely unfair. According to this casting sheet, there will be plenty of people of color playing background roles, complete with stereotypical characteristics and accents!

Jamaican nanny (“overweight, good sense of humor, MUST DO A JAMAICAN ACCENT”)
Nanny from El Salvador (“sexy, MUST DO A SOUTH AMERICAN/CENTRAL AMERICAN ACCENT”)
Latina coworker (“PLEASANTLY PLUMP, PLEASE RE-SUBMIT HEAVIER ACTRESSES”)
Tibetan nanny (“60 years old and grandmotherly, MUST DO A TIBETAN ACCENT”)

I love how the casting for the Jamaican character specifies "African-American."
God, Girls really is so progressive and visionary they're returning to the oldest school portrayal of minorities.

Edited by sintin, Apr 21, 2012 @ 12:20 PM.

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#17260

Empress1

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Posted Apr 21, 2012 @ 12:05 PM

According to this casting sheet, there will be plenty of people of color playing background roles, complete with stereotypical characteristics and accents!

I know, I saw that on Racialicious (the whole article is worth reading, IMO). SMH. Yes, the only people of color in Brooklyn are nannies. My (retired) middle manager, teacher, minister, and government worker relatives and lawyer, teacher, med student, and nonprofit professional friends are only figments of my imagination.

Again, even if the girls of Girls only choose to be friends with other people who are (racially) like them (because confused 20somethings of privilege come in all races, contrary to what TV would have one believe), to act like the only people of color in NYC are "the help" is really insulting. Even Sex and the City, which is not a show people generally point to when they think of diversity in television, did better than that.
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#17261

ribboninthesky1

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Posted Apr 21, 2012 @ 1:49 PM

Thankfully, I've been largely oblivious to the controversy surrounding Girls, as it wasn't a show I was ever interested in. I suppose it's the steely-eyed pragmatist in me, but I think it's just too much work for many of TPTB on TV to consider minorities as human beings in their stories. It really is much easier (for them) to remain "clueless," and only act when feet are held to the fire by the media and/or viewers. I know nothing about Lena Dunham, but I assume Occam's razor applies here: if she wanted minorities in her show, she would have written them in.

For my part, having TPTB insert minority characters for the sake of political correctness is worse than ignoring them. And I've long known that, while white men are primarily held accountable as perpetuating racism on TV, white women skate by under the radar because of gender, though often not any better. As tip and fall mentioned, intersectionality DOES exist, but usually only minority women call it out.
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#17262

Ankai

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Posted Apr 21, 2012 @ 2:03 PM

Honestly, the thing that's irked me the most about the whole thing is that Lena Dunham made a comment about how she also wished there were more people of color on the show. Um, Lena. Didn't you write the show? And produce it? And star in it? I think you, personally, have control over it.


Real talk? I think what she's saying is code for "I didn't give people of color a thought until I got called out about it, and now that I have been, I'll address it in the second season." She said something like "I noticed it as I was editing," which means she went through casting, shooting, all that, without noticing it.

Maybe I am misreading what she had said, but it seems to me that she has undermined the argument that critics are judging the racial aspect of the show too early to be fair about it.
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#17263

Bastet Esq

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Posted Apr 21, 2012 @ 3:06 PM

As I said in the Girls thread, what bugs me about shows set in major urban centers that don't show any people of color isn't only that the main cast is all white. Homogeneous groups of friends exist, and not just all-white ones either. But to not have any people of color ANYWHERE? Girls is set in Brooklyn, where white people only make up a third of the population. You can't walk outside in Brooklyn and only see white people, even if you only choose to befriend white people.


I doubt I would watch Girls even if I had HBO because, from the little I have read, it sounds like yet another story about women whose primary concerns revolve around men (which this feminist does not consider progress), so I can't speak to that show, but this was exactly my complaint about Friends and, to a lesser extent, Seinfeld. Self-selecting groups, particularly social groups, are fairly often racially homogenous, so my primary complaint about a show focusing on a group of white friends is that it isn't accompanied on the television landscape by a decent number of shows focusing on various groups of non-white friends.

It's the racial make-up of the secondary and background characters that really gets to me; when colleagues, clients, acquaintances and even random people on the street are almost exclusively white - especially on a series set in a city where ethnic minorities are a substantial, if not majority percentage of the population - there's a disconnect with reality I find quite disconcerting. I understand showrunners and writers go with what they know, which is why the dearth of women and people of color in the executive suites and writing rooms is a huge problem, but how is anyone in this day and age so myopic and insular as to present a show in which virtually everyone is white?!

Edited by Bastet Esq, Apr 21, 2012 @ 5:47 PM.

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#17264

selkie

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Posted Apr 22, 2012 @ 4:17 PM

The kind of colleges that the women of Girls graduated from seriously go after high-performing minority high school students in the name of creating a diverse student body. There would barely have been a blip if Marnie had been Hannah's friend since college roommate days Lakisha Smith or Doris Chen or Ana-Sophia Martinez instead in terms of logical world-building for the show.
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#17265

tip and fall

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Posted Apr 22, 2012 @ 9:05 PM

Re: the idea that self-selecting groups of friends tend to be racially homogeneous - While it might be true that it's not unrealistic for friends to be of the same race, it's also not unrealistic for friends to be different races, especially in a place like NYC. So IMO it's not much of an excuse for all of the four regulars being white.

Real talk? I think what she's saying is code for "I didn't give people of color a thought until I got called out about it, and now that I have been, I'll address it in the second season." She said something like "I noticed it as I was editing," which means she went through casting, shooting, all that, without noticing it.

You could be right. The woman seems to be positively dripping in her own white privilege (and I think the fact that all of her friends apparently happen to be white - when she grew up in a multicultural city - speaks to that), so I can buy her not noticing that until later.

Edited by tip and fall, Apr 22, 2012 @ 9:09 PM.

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#17266

Mia Nina

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Posted Apr 22, 2012 @ 10:52 PM

But to not have any people of color ANYWHERE? Girls is set in Brooklyn, where white people only make up a third of the population. You can't walk outside in Brooklyn and only see white people, even if you only choose to befriend white people.


Exactly! They either went out of their way to avoid minorities or everyone is incredibly sheltered. I have HBO and I'm not watching Girls. I wouldn't have a problem watching an all white group of friends (if I did, I'd watch only a handful of shows), what gets me is that, again, we're talking Brooklyn here; even if all the leads are white, I expect a somewhat believable representation of the place once they step outside their apartments. Also, the reviews calling the show visionary and ground breaking made me take a harder look at the show, the writers and the background; it doesn't add up.

I do hope the show inspires more people to write about confused 20something and 30somethings.
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#17267

Ankai

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Posted Apr 23, 2012 @ 9:35 PM

I am starting to think that there must be a different term for such casual or inactive racism, since it seems as if there are two primary strands, but they are thought of unequally.

The first is when people think constantly about race and racial purity; it determines their way of life and worldview. They see minorities everywhere, in influence if not in person. The influence that minorities have over the larger society vastly exceeds their numbers and their numbers are growing. The aliens don't assimilate and any outward signs of assimilation is false; it is the larger society that bends to accommodate the aliens. Such accommodation will slowly, but surely result in surrender and the annihilation of blood and culture. The aliens must, thus, be quarantined, expelled, or destroyed. Until then, they must be under some sort of control and tolerated to an extent. This view is hardly exclusive to White people. Asian countries can experience ethnic tensions both in countries that are heterogenous and in countries that are almost completely homogenous. Of the world's rich White countries, I would say that only Canada and the United States, and then maybe the Netherlands and maaaaaybe Russia, could be seen as having an issue with minorities. The rest of the rich White countries are at least 85% White, most are over 90% White. It is never enough, though, for virulent White Supremacists.

This is the image, or close to the image, that many would conjure up when the word "racist" is said. Many White people do not hold those types of thoughts at all. They do not think about minorities in such negative light. They do not think about minorities much anyways. This brings us to the second strand. Unlike those virulent racists, these people who don't think of themselves as racists don't see minorities everywhere; they barely see minorities anywhere, even if minorities are there. Sometimes they choose to see them on a whim, the same way that one impulsively decides to get tacos for lunch or even venture into that Ethiopian place. They didn't HAVE to go to the Ethiopian place. They could have just as easily gone to McDonalds. Or Subways. Or the local pizza place. Makes no difference. But how many times have they passed the Ethopian place and given it absolutely no notice?

There are times when they cannot help but notice, such as when they see a whole lot of minorities or when one is particularly loud. When a minority does something extraordinary, or extraordinarily terrible. When a minority does something strange or funny. When a minority acts in a way that is stereotypical to the extreme. When a minority has a really strong accent. When a minority has really unexpected accent. When a minority steps out of the prescribed traits for that race; this can be played for laughs if it is done awkwardly, or still played for laughs if done well, because who woulda thunk? Often, these people who are not at all racist might notice a minority when that minority is an obstacle, be it the secretary who tells them to wait or the shopkeeper who tells one to hurry up, the police officer who orders them around or the DMV employee who is completely uncooperative, the person who leers at them menacingly on the street instead of getting a job or the person whose willingness to perform undignified tasks for pathetic wages might cost them their jobs, the really mean competitor who tries to sabotage their honest work or the person who sacrifices all sense of fun and human emotion to be so much better at something than mere humans such as them. These are the people who gain notice from the people who do not believe themselves to be racist. So those people get in the story. These depictions cannot be racist, since they are based on real people whom they have noticed. As for people whom they do not notice? Well, they cannot really depict people whom they do not notice, right? I have lost count at how many times I have been called a ninja by people who were surprised to suddenly see me standing where I had been standing for the past twenty seconds, simply because I had not been trying to entertain or annoy them. Sometimes, minorities who are just there get noticed, but they are easy to forget when it comes time to telling a story. Sure, there were people around. Were any of them people of color? Who even thinks about such things other than racists?

This failure to notice minorities is a bit harder to accept in a place like the United States than many European countries, just because there are more minorities in the United States. Now, there are large areas of the United States that are almost 80% White, there are a few states that are over 90% White, and there are a few major cities that are over 70% White. There are sections in diverse cities that are almost exclusively White. I am no expert on Brooklyn, but it does not seem to fit in with anything in the previous sentence.

I know little about Lena Dunham or her experiences in Brooklyn. I know little about the writing staff. If they say that the repeated and almost systematic exclusion of POCs in the show was accidental, who am I to judge? It would not be the first time that a White person has claimed that multiple repeated acts of whatever were purely accidental. In any case, if it was accidental, then it could not be purposeful and, thus, not like the first strand of racists. The one that is easy to prove, to confront, to dismiss, and disprove. The second strand is just too wishy washy and does not hold the emotional power that the first one has. So even if one is accused of the second strand, it is the first strand that stays in one's mind. So how dare such an accusation be thrown around like that so callously? Especially when it is so untrue. These special interest groups are trying to micromanage artistic vision for the sake of political correctness gone mad. It is unsurprising when a creator lashes out. Others opt for damage control, maybe giving assurances that future works will undergo proper PC-fication to satisfy the crybabies.


As a side note, I have had nothing but positive experiences with Ethiopian food.
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#17268

tuco6

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Posted Apr 24, 2012 @ 12:20 AM

Are quiet, unobtrusive minorities ignored or forgotten because they are minorities, or because they are quiet and unobtrusive? From my own experience, I'd say that the girl in the nondescript jeans and t-shirt quietly reading by herself in the corner of the cafe is, in a multi-racial area, going to be overlooked no matter what her race.

When a show is blatantly homogenous in race, how much blame lies at the feet of the creator, and how much at the feet of the casting director. Yes, obviously the buck ultimately stops at the creator/showrunner for not noticing that her entire cast is White, but what about the casting director (assuming this is a different person from the creator, which I know isn't the case in all shows) who chooses not to cast any minority actors even as extras, and doesn't think that X character could be any race without needing to tweak the script.
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#17269

Empress1

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Posted Apr 24, 2012 @ 8:10 AM

I am no expert on Brooklyn, but it does not seem to fit in with anything in the previous sentence.

Brooklyn is only about 35% non-Hispanic white. Whites are a minority in Brooklyn.

This is the image, or close to the image, that many would conjure up when the word "racist" is said.

I sort of disagree, maybe because as a youngish black person, I have experienced far, far more casual, institutionalized racism than "N*****s are ruining this country and should go back to Africa" (although I have been called the N-word, more than once). And certainly on TV, the kind of racism that permeates isn't thinking that people of color are lesser, but that there are none, and don't need to be any. Or if they ARE there, they're there in "safe" ways like nanny, sassy black friend, quiet studious Asian, etc. (With exceptions for period shows - it's appropriate for Mad Men to have only one black secretary and black housekeepers since it's set in the 60s.)

I feel like TV has gotten worse with this - in the 80s and 90s, there were plenty of shows with black casts as opposed to tokens. (Talking just about black people now, not all people of color - we have a loooooooooooong way to go before people of all colors are equally represented in media.) Living Single (which IMO is FAR superior to Friends), Family Matters, Fresh Prince, Roc, of course The Cosby Show (and the latter often featured lots of different kinds of people as friends of the family, clients of Claire's, patients of Cliff's, etc.: Asians, Hispanics, etc. THAT is what Brooklyn looks like). The Cosby Show was groundbreaking because it was the first show that kind of said, "Look, black people and white people really are not different." It's really unfortunate.

If they say that the repeated and almost systematic exclusion of POCs in the show was accidental, who am I to judge?

That's the thing though - that kind of "accident" is rooted in white privilege. They CAN "accidentally" not include any people of color, because they can go about their lives not seeing (in the "invisible man" sense) people of color. People of color can't do that with white people. And having white privilege doesn't necessarily make you racist (there are lots of different kinds of privilege - I'm a black woman, but I have tremendous educational and class privilege), but it's not NOT racist to have white privilege and not acknowledge it. It would have been far bolder for Dunham to say "you know what: I'm white, most of my friends are white, my staff is white, and it didn't occur to me to do things differently. My bad."

Edited by Empress1, Apr 24, 2012 @ 8:13 AM.

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#17270

tip and fall

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Posted Apr 24, 2012 @ 8:39 AM

I sort of disagree, maybe because as a youngish black person, I have experienced far, far more casual, institutionalized racism than "N*****s are ruining this country and should go back to Africa" (although I have been called the N-word, more than once).

I think, though, that a lot of white people think that "racism" is indeed what Ankai is saying, which makes them more resistant to examining their own actions and words. Racism is the hallmark of truly awful people and they're not truly awful people. Therefore, they can't possibly be racist or engage in any racist behavior. Flawless logic, right? People like Lena Dunham probably don't want to acknowledge that this sort of oblivious white privilege is indeed another form of racism.

Like you, I have experienced a lot more "casual" racism than anything else. I actually can't remember if I've ever been told to "go back to China" or been called a "chink" to my face. I have had people compliment me on my English, ask where I'm really from (or where my parents are from), told me that I should be more outgoing and not submissive because I'm in America now (I'm quiet because I'm an introvert, not because I'm Asian, fyi), been called "oriental", etc.

Are quiet, unobtrusive minorities ignored or forgotten because they are minorities, or because they are quiet and unobtrusive?

Why do the minorities have to be quiet and unobtrusive? We can be just as loud as white people.

but what about the casting director (assuming this is a different person from the creator, which I know isn't the case in all shows)

I'm assuming that Lena Dunham had at least a heavy hand in casting the regular roles - isn't the main cast pretty much her clique of RL friends? That said, the person in charge of hiring extras/cameos is probably a different person, so they should definitely get some blame as well.

Edited by tip and fall, Apr 24, 2012 @ 8:43 AM.

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#17271

ribboninthesky1

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Posted Apr 24, 2012 @ 9:11 AM

Regarding casting directors, several years ago I read (wish I could remember where) that most of them are white women.
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#17272

OptimisticCynic

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Posted Apr 24, 2012 @ 10:28 AM

To me, if Pawnee, Indiana is depicted as more diverse than Brooklyn, there's a problem. Especially when this "Brooklyn" is supposed to be much more realistically accurate.
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#17273

Ankai

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Posted Apr 24, 2012 @ 12:34 PM

This is the image, or close to the image, that many would conjure up when the word "racist" is said.

I sort of disagree, maybe because as a youngish black person, I have experienced far, far more casual, institutionalized racism than "N*****s are ruining this country and should go back to Africa" (although I have been called the N-word, more than once).

You may be like many people. I may be like many people. But MANY people are not like us. 64% of Americans are not like us.

Racism is the hallmark of truly awful people and they're not truly awful people. Therefore, they can't possibly be racist or engage in any racist behavior.

Pretty much. And, in terms of how they regard the influence and corrosive cultural impact of POC, they are in total opposition to the "racists". Minorities are not bad, they are just whatever; that is, until they start complaining about something, such as the depiction of Brooklyn in Girls.

Why do the minorities have to be quiet and unobtrusive? We can be just as loud as white people.

tuco6 was actually quoting me, when I said that the POC just minding their own business and not calling attention to themselves might not get noticed.

True, people being unobtrusive may not get noticed regardless of their race, but whether they appear in a story depends on the medium of the story. If one is just relaying a story to friends, people in the background who have no real impact on the story may be dropped altogether, regardless of race. If one is writing a story, one has the choice on how detailed to describe the scene and the people in it; one has to notice the people if one is to make a detailed description, but the racial makeup of people can be lost otherwise. Even if a book does specifically describe an active member of the story as being non-white, readers might not pick up on it unless it is repeated. For example, my kids book club read the book Found, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, where one important secondary character was explicitly pointed out as being Black. All of the kids missed that bit and continued to assume that she was White, even though her not being White was minor plot point when she was introduced to the main characters. I will admit that I took more than a little pleasure in ever so gently giving the kids shit for that.

When it comes to visual storytelling, what one notices and what one does not notice becomes more immediately apparent to the consumer. The amount of control and the avenues of control over the imagery is different from vocal storytelling or the written word. What someone shows and does not show is more of a conscious effort and a drawn-out process than what someone does or does not write down. So, say that there are people in the background of some...whatever place in Brooklyn. In a real-life situation, a person might not notice them because they really don't warrant notice. They were just there, but they might as well not have been as far as memory is concerned. Yet, there was not no one there; that would not work when recreating the scene for a movie or a television show. So someone has to be there. Maybe there were a few people. Were they Black? White? Hispanic? Asian? It can be hard to remember, and it might not even occur to the person in charge of populating the scene to give it a second thought. Is it really worth trying jog one's memory, to do a little bit of preliminary information gathering, and to calculate the probabilities? I would say that is worth it, but I am neither a casting director nor a showrunner.
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#17274

Bastet Esq

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Posted Apr 24, 2012 @ 1:38 PM

Working hand in hand with the fact casting directors, the majority of whom are white, still often fail to look at people of color unless the role is specifically written as such is the fact agents, the majority of whom are white, still often fail to send their clients of color out for roles that are not specifically written for their ethnicity. A racially-neutral character description still gets read as White by far too many people involved in getting that role cast.
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#17275

Luckylyn

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Posted Apr 24, 2012 @ 2:45 PM

When a specific race is not requested when casting, the casting director seems to go to the default position of hiring a white actor/actress. It's like that can't think of selecting a minority unless someone makes it an issue. It's not necessarily a conscious choice which is why it can be so insidious. They just don't think of race and if they do they use the justification that white is mainstream. The idea is that minorities will watch white characters but that white people won't watch minorities. Basically, they seem to be assuming that white audiences are a least subconsciously racist. I think the success of shows like The Cosby Show, A Different World, Living Single, and Fresh Prince show that black characters can be just as mainstream as white characters. If the show's good, people of all races will watch.
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#17276

tuco6

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Posted Apr 24, 2012 @ 5:32 PM

But then, when a TV show is unrealistically racially homogenous, including the secondary, tertiary, and extra characters, who should really get the blame? The showrunner, who probably still doesn't pay that much attention to the extras in a scene as long as they are not doing something drastically distracting? Or the casting director, who did have to really look at those extras and who made a clear, if unconscious, choice to cast all White? Personally, I blame the casting director.
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#17277

Ankai

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Posted Apr 24, 2012 @ 6:20 PM

According to IMDB, Jennifer Euston is the casting director, Emer O'Callaghan is the casting assistant, Ali Merhi is the casting associate, and Lucy Pho is Extras Casting.
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#17278

janie jones

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Posted Apr 24, 2012 @ 9:10 PM

What someone shows and does not show is more of a conscious effort and a drawn-out process than what someone does or does not write down. So, say that there are people in the background of some...whatever place in Brooklyn. In a real-life situation, a person might not notice them because they really don't warrant notice. They were just there, but they might as well not have been as far as memory is concerned. Yet, there was not no one there; that would not work when recreating the scene for a movie or a television show. So someone has to be there. Maybe there were a few people. Were they Black? White? Hispanic? Asian? It can be hard to remember, and it might not even occur to the person in charge of populating the scene to give it a second thought. Is it really worth trying jog one's memory, to do a little bit of preliminary information gathering, and to calculate the probabilities? I would say that is worth it, but I am neither a casting director nor a showrunner.

This brings to mind an article I read on Wes Anderson's new movie. He spent tons of time and care finding all the things that would go in the house of one of the main characters. He later realized the house was only in one short scene, but decided it was worth it to make the house just right. Now, Wes Anderson is kind of obsessed with the visuals in his movies, and differences between the making of movies and TV aside, if a person can take such care to get background objects that will make a house look realistic in a 2-minute scene, you'd think people could also take some care to make sure extras reflected a city realistically.
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#17279

possibilities

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Posted Apr 25, 2012 @ 2:04 AM

I've been noticing lately that commercials are more racially diverse than programming itself.
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#17280

taiko

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Posted Apr 25, 2012 @ 6:43 AM

Especially when they are competing to get a youthful and new image. I first noticed that ALL of the couples in Microsoft and Windows ads were interracial. No doubt to show that they are as new and hip as Apple.
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