Dear Nellie Andreeva and Deadline, About Your Piece on Too Much “Ethnic Casting” on TV
Yesterday, Deadline’s TV editor Nellie Andreeva posted a piece titled “Pilots 2015: The Year Of Ethnic Castings – About Time Or Too Much Of Good Thing?” This headline wasn’t click-bait because it captured exactly what the writer was trying to say: that TV is getting too Black and maybe it should chill on that. It was bullshit pasta mixed with wack sauce and I was offended by it. This is why I’m writing this sternly-worded letter.
Dear Nellie and Deadline,
First of all, I gotta point out that the word “ethnic”, or any form of it, was used 21 times in the article. Yes, I counted. Appearing this often in something written by a white person, the word is clearly coded language. It is used when people are afraid to say “Black” too much, because let’s face it, you are mostly talking about BLACK people. If you want to say something, say it with your chest! What I respect even less than being obtuse and ignorant is cowardice that comes with pussyfooting your way around something, using passive aggressive language that needs to be picked apart to get to the point.
But we got the point that you were making. It is loud and clear. To quote one of the beginning paragraphs of the piece:
“As is the case with any sea change, the pendulum may have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction. Instead of opening the field for actors of any race to compete for any role in a color-blind manner, there has been a significant number of parts designated as ethnic this year, making them off-limits for Caucasian actors, some agents signal.”
Wait. Wayment. Wait a gahtdamb minute. You’re pointing out that because people of color are getting roles, white actors are starting to suffer. Jehovah, hold my mule and be a fence because what I am NOT able to do is deal with is this. This rash idea that because we got ONE MEASLY SEASON where TV isn’t whiter than fresh snow, then white actors are somehow being unfairly excluded from roles. WHAT ABOUT BLACK ACTORS WHO HAVE BEEN FIGHTING FOR PARTS SINCE FOREVER? AND LATIN@S WHO ONLY GET “SPICY” ROLES? AND ASIANS WHO CAN ONLY PLAY THE NERD? AND EVERYBODY WHO ISN’T WHITE?? Are you serious? You cannot be. You cannot think that it’s even a wonder that should be wondered.
Nellie, I want you to absorb these wise words of Bunk Moreland from The Wire: “There you go giving a fuck when it ain’t your turn to give a fuck.”
The unmitigated gall and nerve to fix your words to question this when historically, factually and obviously, white people have dominated and overrepresented themselves in entertainment. This is the type of boldness that comes with the privilege of being white, entitled and greedy. When you see yourself as the default, you think you are the only one with a right to a seat at the table. That is what allows you to complain anytime we take 5% of something that is really half of ours. And then whatever portion we do get must be attributed to a quota.
You go on to give an example of how this Blackarization of TV is losing white people jobs because of a quota.
“In one instance, after a number of actors of different ethnicities tested for two roles in a pilot this year, two Caucasian actors ended up being the top choices for the two remaining regular parts. However, because of a mandate from the studio and network, one of the roles had to diverse, so the pilot could only cast one of the top choices and pass on the other to fulfill the ethnic quota.”
YOOOOOOOOO!!! I read this part and wanted to facepalm forever and flip my laptop over because you’re doing Story Time about the ONE time someone of color won a role for a show over some white person.
Besides the incredible lack of life awareness it shows, it also offends my spirit. You’re suggesting that the reason we’re chipping away at the supremacy of white people on television is that there’s some mandated number of US that has been put in place. Do you understand how dismissive and disrespectful that is? We’re basically now Affirmative Action TV, as opposed to being people who belong on TV because we are members of society too.
Although Black people are perpetually unrepresented in TV, we’re overrepresented in viewership. According to Nielsen, we watch more TV than other groups, therefore we are huge drivers of success of shows. Why should we NOT see ourselves on TV? Even besides the plain fact that we exist and should be able to see reflections of ourselves on the small screen. EVEN BESIDES THAT. Numbers show that your favorite show’s favorite show is a success because it has big numbers of Black people watching it. If green talks, and we provide you the viewership that gets you the ad dollars, then you should give us shows that can mirror our experiences. But again, we’re only on TV so much because of a trend and the quota right?
Why give credit where it’s due when you can dismiss progress as a result of a rule as opposed to something that is OVERDUE? If TODAY, studios required that there be a movie with a Black lead at least once per quarter, or if TV networks actually DID insist on people of color in at least one show per pilot season. IF IF IF. Even IF, it still wouldn’t be too much and it STILL wouldn’t rectify decades of erasure of people of color in roles outside of subversive ones. Again IF. So this fall and winter’s burst of “ethnic roles” on the TV screen being questioned is not just premature as hell but further proof of white entitlement and greed.
You called out like 6 shows having people of color in major roles out of hmmmm… let’s say 50 on major networks and you already think it might be getting out of hand? Using examples of Empire, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, Black-Ish you even tell us not to try too hard to replicate what they’ve done.
“Trying to duplicate those series’ success by mirroring the ethnicity of their leads is a dubious proposition — if that was the key, Undercovers, a slick drama with two appealing black leads, Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, should’ve been a hit.”
So you’re saying just because we have shows that prospered with Black leads doesn’t mean we need more because one failed. In that token, a show with 2 white leads that failed should also be attributed to the fact that it existed, not because it was thought to be brilliant, but to maintain TV’s whiteness. And their failure should also be attributed to their whiteness? Correct? Of course not. Because only movies and TV shows that are led by minorities are also defined by their otherness of those in it and the failure is the result of color but the success is an exception to the rule. I. CALL. BULLSHIT.
Racism is really great for exposing the inferiority complex that some white people feel, because the structures that have been put in place to exclude people of color tighten up any time there seems to be progress in any shape or form for us. This is also why people are quick to label the forward movement of Black people as a trend. The implication that every instance of upward mobility amongst Black people is a temporary phenomenon suggests that they’re waiting for it to end very soon so we can remain in our place. And THAT shit makes my blood pressure rise like hell.
Sometimes, white people are like the kid in kindergarten who always wanted to play with your toys but they’d never let you play with theirs. You try to tell them your toy is only for you and they’ll report you to the teacher saying you didn’t share. It’s like how white folks whined about not being in SELMA (even though the movie did show the contributions of some white characters but logic has no place in the stupidity of racism). That’s like us being all “WHY WERE WE NOT IN SCHINDLER’S LIST?!?” Because it ain’t about us! When Tom Hanks spent 3 hours talking to a white volleyball on a desert island, did we ask why the ball wasn’t brown??? NO WE DID NOT.
Don’t tell me to include your whiteness in my shit when you’ve locked Blackness out of every gahtdamb thing you do. Sit down. Folks always want Black people to be inclusive and bigger people when they’re petty and exclusionary their damb selves. They want us to be Saint Negros the Ever Forgiving. Only reason Black folks ain’t wrecked shop is because of this high road we take. Even though we laid the foundation for the shop and built the whole gahtdamb thing. But I’m sleep.
You REALLY tried it and as a major publication that is respected and considered a leading outlet for all things Hollywood, your site carries weight. It matters that major media is questioning whether there’s “too much of a good thing” because “ethnic” people are getting roles. People of color are underrepresented in EVERYTHING, and in media, which forms public opinion, we got you, a whole editor, suggesting too much of us on TV. It is beyond problematic and it waters a seed that isn’t always far from the decision makers’ minds.
Did the overwhelming and unapologetic Blackness on shows like Empire make you uncomfortable so you have to pull us back a little? Our Blackness is too overwhelming for you to deal with? Is that it?
“They were grossly underserved, but now…they have scripted choices, so the growth in that fraction of the TV audience may have reached its peak…”
Why must I fight the air?!? Give me a fugging break. So basically we should STFU because we’ve got enough shows now, right? We’ve peaked? Nah, bruh.
You ain’t seen nothing yet.
And this is what I mean by the pure passive aggressiveness of all of this. You’re throwing these wack conjectures at the wall in the form of question for some fake ass “let me just ask this” attempt when it’s clear that you’re hiding behind question marks. Use your exclamation points and say what you need to say.
I think I expect more from white women because they should know what its like to be othered but they do an amazing job of placing themselves apart from other disenfranchised minorities (see: Patricia Arquette). In the game of Oppression Olympics, they win gold every time.
All I know is that all this whining about how much color there is on TV needs to be swallowed because thou dost protest too much. You SURELY do not have the right because white folks have turned society into a never-ending Lord of the Flies. Someone else gets close to the conch and they’re ready to throw them over the cliff. Who’s going to dismantle the WHINYARCHY? WHO, I ASK? The WHAMBULANCE be so busy allatahm because of white privilege.
COMME DES FACKONS. Cry me a river full of assorted white tears and kayak through it.
Yours in verbal chin check,
P.S. Are Fortune 500s getting too many women CEOs? IS IT A QUOTA? IS IT TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?? WHAT ABOUT ALL THE MEN LOSING OUT?!?