Media

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  While SATC was groundbreaking 20 years ago, the show seems really outdated today.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Even the revamped Will and Grace is outdated.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!

Resistance and Communication 101

Last week I watched the first live stream in a series of discussions about how “The Resistance” can effectively organize against Trump.  Resistance School was started up at Harvard’s Kennedy School as a response to Trump’s election.  This discussion was about political advocacy through useful communication, which is very important for everyone.

I thought it was really interesting and educational.  The lecturer, Tim McCarthy, did an excellent job explaining the basic principles of effective communication for social change.  I discuss this topic ad nauseam in this blog, ranging from AIDS activism to civil rights.  So, it was good to hear Professor McCarthy’s perspective.

Why Is Bill O’Reilly Still On TV?

Why is Bill O’Reilly still on television?

The latest revelations about Faux News settling lawsuits with the many women who have accused the network’s “Head Bro In Charge” of sexual harassment brings up some basic ethical issues.  This is not the first time around for O’Reilly.  Last week he made a sexist and racist joke about Maxine Waters’ hair.  As a matter of fact, he was also accused of beating up his ex-wife in front of his children. That assault in itself should be a reason this guy should have been fired a long time ago.

But I guess in the new age of Trump, where the new president can go around saying grab them by the p*ssy, money talks, buys influence and puts a clamp on victims.  In this case, O’Reilly’s show has generated over $446 million for the network in just the last two years alone.  Luckily, advertisers are changing their minds.

Seriously, why is he still on TV.  He has some deep-seated anger management issues.

This is the reason other powerful misogynists get to climb the ladder of success and hurt other women that don’t agree to their sexual advances, whether we are talking about Roger Ailes or Bill Cosby.

Again, why is Bill O’Reilly still on television?

Support News and Information for Refugees

President Trump’s executive order banning immigrants and refugees from Muslim-majority countries has been disturbing to many, including myself.  I work with two videographers from Somalia who regularly travel back Mogadishu and Nairobi to see family, and this may now be up in jeopardy.  This also touched me personally because my whole family immigrated to the United States from Jamaica in the 1970s so I could have better opportunities.  Many of them also have green cards.  I worry about how Trump will expand the order in the new future.

I have been lucky to meet with many immigrants and refugees throughout the years through my work at Global Wire Associates, where we provide basic computer literacy and media development training to those who support making communication accessible to all.

Many immigrants and refugees depend on clear and concise news and information to stay abreast of issues directly affecting them.  Internews in South Sudan has developed an innovative recorded audio program to provide life-saving and life-enhancing information to people displaced at four of the UNMISS Protection of Civilians sites across South Sudan following the conflict in that broke out in that country in mid-December 2013. The service utilizes a quad bike that moves around the site playing the programs in dedicated public spaces, at “Listening Stops”, through speakers that are bolted to the bike. A USB flash drive with the twice weekly professionally produced program is plugged into speakers.

Internews is a leader in humanitarian communication.  If you can, please consider making a donation to the organization to help them to continue their good work!