3 breakout shows and their commitment to diversity
There are plenty of things to get excited about in the colder months. As the weather cools down and the layers pile up, television fanatics get pumped about one thing this time of year: fall TV shows!
This season was stuffed full of new shows. Some were exceedingly popular, while others crashed and burned like the plane from “Lost.” But there were a few standouts and a common characteristic among them: diversity.
Racial/ethnic diversity is currently making a huge play in television. “How To Get Away With Murder,” ABC’s runaway success, boasts a large cast overflowing with diverse actors and is the top-rated new drama of the fall. “Jane the Virgin,” a story about a Hispanic woman who gets artificially inseminated by mistake, sneaks the CW into the season’s greats by being the best reviewed. “Black-ish,” ABC’s comedy following an affluent black family in America, was rated best comedy.
All of these shows promote diverse characters and issues. But why is this news? Haven’t there been plenty of shows displaying lack of discrimination? Popular shows like “New Girl,” “Scandal” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” all display ethnically diverse casts but have failed to receive such acclaim for their actions.
Perhaps the difference lies in being color blind versus color brave when it comes to race.
Researchers have coined this term, "color blindness" to describe a learned behavior where we pretend not to notice race. The pre-existing “color blind” shows don’t dive into diversity complexes, as “Black-ish” does by revealing some of the cultural struggles of being a minority in a predominantly white school. They don’t revolve entirely around the quirks of a Hispanic girl and her eccentric family as “Jane the Virgin” does. Instead they ignore the color of the actor’s skin and insert them into the predetermined character’s mold.
Sure, other shows might feature a light-skinned African-American woman as their main character and call themselves diverse, but this fall’s shows are challenging the norm. Instead of ignoring race through color blindness and homogenizing them into standard characters, TV networks are becoming color brave and embracing difference. A stand is being made to distinguish the uniqueness found in different ethnicities and highlight them in a new way.
Mellody Hobson, chairwoman for Dreamworks Animation and one of only two African-American women who holds such a position in a publicly traded company, gave a TED Talk in May titled “Color Blind or Color Brave?” She shared her experience being mistaken for kitchen help at a business lunch and gave startling statistics on the lack of diversity in businesses today.
According to Hobson, color blindness doesn’t signify fairness. On the contrary, it can be dangerous. It means ignoring the problem. She highlighted the fact that people today tiptoe around the topic of race to avoid discomfort. “If we can learn to confront and deal with our discomfort, we can have a better life,” she encouraged. “Invite people into your life who don’t look like you, don’t think like you, don’t act like you, and you might find that they challenge your assumptions and make you grow as a person.”
If society can get comfortable with the uncomfortable topic of race, we can learn to be color brave.
Katie is a junior studying business administration.