About Talia Whyte

Posts by Talia Whyte:

How TV Diversity Has Evolved Recently

I loved watching the TV show Sex and the City back in the day.  I liked the first movie and I could have done without the second movie.  The third SATC movie was about to go into production but was halted suddenly because Kim Cattrall, who played Samantha, didn’t want to be in the movie.  Apparently, Cattrall has had a longstanding beef with Sarah Jessica Parker.  However, the biggest takeaway from Cattrall’s reasoning for not doing the movie, for me at least, is that the storyline lacks relevance towards today’s sensibilities around diverse media images.

“It’s a great part. I played it past the finish line and then some, and I loved it,” she said. “Another actress should play [Samantha] — maybe they could make it an African-American Samantha Jones or a Hispanic Samantha Jones.”

She makes an excellent point!  While SATC was groundbreaking 20 years ago, the show seems really outdated today.  When you get down to it, it is a show about four, privileged, heterosexual, white women who seem to only interact with other privileged white people in New York, the most racially diverse city on the planet.  Many TV commentators complained about the lack of diversity on the show at the time.  In later seasons, Blair Underwood joined the show as a brief love interest for Miranda and Samantha also had a short affair with a Latina lesbian, but, again, this was only after complaints from viewers.

Even the revamped Will and Grace is outdated.  This was another groundbreaking show in 1998, but, again, it is a show about four, privileged white people in New York City and their only main “diversity interaction” was with the maid Rosario.

Today, TV viewers expect programs to reflect the current trends and perspectives in America, which includes diverse depictions of characters and relationships.  There is a reason why shows like Insecure and Claws are so popular.  It is not only expected that programs have more characters of color on TV today but also positive depictions of interracial and same-sex relationships.  However, the one perspective that is lacking today on TV is a balanced view of class diversity.  Do you ever notice most sitcoms and dramas today seem to featured upper-middle-class characters?  Roseanne was a great show back in the day because it showed the working class Connors struggling to pay bills just like many other American families.

This also made me think about other shows that were groundbreaking when they first aired, but there would be a question if a show like that would be aired today due to changing sensibilities.  Here are a few that came to my mind.

Benson – RIP Robert Guillaume! This was a really cool show. I loved Benson, but I couldn’t see a show on TV today that would feature a black main character in a subservient role. However, Guillaume did play the role really well and you almost forgot that Benson was a butler!

Soap – Benson was also on this show and was the smartest person among all the crazy white people he was surrounded by. This show wouldn’t be on today mainly because of Billy Crystal’s character, whom by today’s standards, promoted negative stereotypes about gay men and trans women.

Life Goes On – There are not many shows on TV today that even featured characters with disabilities, let alone the main character. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Corky every Sunday night and learning about his challenges with Downs Syndrome. It would be difficult to have a show like this on TV today without some serious thought and sensitivity around how to present characters with disabilities in a balanced manner.

All in the Family – I don’t even think I need to explain why this show couldn’t be on TV today.

Good Times – No, a show about black folks living in the projects wouldn’t be greenlighted today.

Seinfeld – A show about four white people in New York mostly interacting with only other white people in New York.

Friends – A show about six white people in New York mostly interacting with only other white people in New York.  And how were Rachel and Monica able to afford to live in a Greenwich Village apartment on a cafe barista salary?

In Living Color – I was watching reruns the other day of this show on Aspire and realized immediately that almost all of the skits made fun of every possible demographic – homeless people (Anton Jackson), gay men (Men on Film) and even clowns (Homey the Clown).  This show wouldn’t pass muster today.

A Different World – It’s interesting that I include this show. This show would definitely be on TV today, but I think some sensibilities would change.  I was watching a rerun of an episode where Sinbad’s character was making fun of Cree Summer’s character’s natural hair. I remember her natural hair being a running gag on the show. Today, you can’t make fun of natural hair unless you want the whole natural community coming for you.

I am sure there are other shows I don’t remember right now, but you get my point. Maybe 20 years from now, we might be having the same conversation about today’s shows!

Remember When We Used To Have A Respectable President?

Trump hasn’t even been president for a year and it already feels like he has been there for 10 years.  Whether he is attacking Gold Star widows or speaking with the “president” of the Virgin Islands, I have had enough of this man’s ignorance, pettiness, and incompetence.

This time last year, we had a respectable, decent, and smart man named Barack Obama as our president.  When you listen to Obama and then Trump, you quickly realize which one is the grown up in the room.  Even war criminal George W. Bush looks like a more sympathetic person than Trump at this point.

From where to where have we gone?

Why Ex-Offenders Are Vital In Mass Incarceration Discussions

Last month I went to the Brooklyn Book Festival and attended a panel discussion on mass incarceration.  The panel included many important voices on the topic, including Central Park Five’s Yusef Salaam, attorney James Forman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Heather Thompson and Soros Justice Fellow Marlon Peterson.

Peterson spoke about his experience with incarceration in New York prisons and the lack of respect and rehabilitation incarcerated men and women receive by correctional officers and the larger criminal justice system.

“In prison, you don’t deserve dignity,” he said.  “They [correctional officers] do things to embarrass you.”

It is always important to include the voices of ex-offenders in this highly contested subject.  Much of the time, the discussion is dominated by lawyers, judges, academics, and correctional officials with very limited input from those who suffer the most from an unequal criminal justice system.

I want to bring your attention to Peterson’s awesome and insightful podcast called Decarcerated, where he gives real talk about the struggles of being an ex-offender in America.

Why Banned Books Matter in 2017

Because Trump is president and our civil liberties are under threat!

The American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) promotes awareness of challenges to library materials and celebrates freedom of speech during Banned Books Week, which took place this year September 24 – September 30.  Here are the top ten most challenged books as reported in the media and submitted to ALA by librarians and teachers across the country in 2016.

Top Ten for 2016

Out of 323 challenges recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom

  1. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
    Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, drug use, and profanity, and it was considered sexually explicit with mature themes
  2. Drama by Raina Telgemeier
    Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint
  3. George by Alex Gino
    Reasons: challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels”
  4. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings by Shelagh McNicholas
    Reasons: challenged because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints
  5. Two Boys Kissing  by David Levithan
    Reasons: challenged because its cover has an image of two boys kissing, and it was considered to include sexually explicit LGBT content
  6. Looking for Alaska  by John Green
    Reasons: challenged for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to “sexual experimentation”
  7. Big Hard Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky
    Reason: challenged because it was considered sexually explicit
  8. Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread by Chuck Palahniuk
    Reasons: challenged for profanity, sexual explicitness, and being “disgusting and all around offensive”
  9. Little Bill (series) written by Bill Cosby by Varnette P. Honeywood
    Reason: challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author
  10. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
    Reason: challenged for offensive language