Tuesday, June 20, 2006  

Color Correction

Thank You! John Singleton and LA Times columnist Patrick Goldstein. I cannot TELL you how many times I have lectured on race, representation and the US media, and asked students to think about who shows up on prime time and in ads and have them say, oh yeah...

It's appalling.

In so many TV markets it's still blonde #1-X on the news, there are no CSI heads of color (or a woman), the terrorists are still Middle Eastern (no casting calls for a Timothy McVeigh-type?), very few recognizably Asian or Native American characters who aren't shop owners or having major problems, so what gives in the 21st Century?

And for those of you who think it is just so much leftist boo-hoo, ask yourself, how would you feel about a Black or Latino prime time leading character in a non-comedy role or who isn't a doctor or a cop? Starting to squirm? Thought so.

And, so today in the LA Times:
IN Hollywood, to paraphrase the old James Brown song, it's a white, white, very white world. Sometimes when I sit in on a production meeting or visit a movie set or have lunch at the Grill I'm struck by the fact that in an industry with an ever-growing roster of African American and Latino actors and filmmakers, the odds of my seeing a black or Latino executive are about as good as seeing a studio chief pumping gas at a truck stop in Wyoming.

Having made movies about multiethnic subjects his entire career, both as a hit director ("Boyz N the Hood," "Four Brothers" and "2 Fast 2 Furious") as well as a producer ("Hustle & Flow"), John Singleton knows exactly what it's like to pitch an idea that revolves around people of color to a roomful of white executives. "Basically the American studio structure is the same as it's been since Louis B. Mayer and Jack Warner ran the business," he says. "This is not one of these businesses run by affirmative action. In Hollywood, affirmative action is all about — how much money can you make?"
read the rest here and then Laila Lalami's very funny "What Hollywood Owes Me Money" on her blog, Moorishgirl.com (see side bar for link)

I too find the US media very white and very mainstream in its approach. When put in the context of rapidly changing demographics and when considering the fact that within the next twenty years the white population will become the largest Minority group in the US; all these white-oriented shows appear as a growing anachronism; as well as totally unrepresentative of reality.

Unfortunately, the US is not the only one putting its head in the sand when it comes to changing demographics. Europe’s traditional population makeup is also changing under pressure from immigrants (legal and illegal). As I watched the French soccer team the other day, I marveled at the ethnic diversity of its players, a true representation of French society today. And yet, if you watch French TV, it’s all white. I then thought about the French flag and its colors: red, white and blue – hmmm, I thought, it would be more representative if it were Black, White and Beur.
Vive la difference
Salut! wa mabouk! I thought pretty much the same thing when I was living in France in the 80's. I thought Frederic Mitterand was a hoot to watch, and there was one Beur presenter (Sinoussi? I can't remember)- but where France is a bit more ahead of us is the fusion in art and the cross-over work that is going on. You don't see too much like K-Mal or les negresses vertes over here, but out in California, we're getting A LOT better. Check out Voz Alta (vozalta.org), one of the places I curate, for a look see.

And Fanon is really correct when he says that what you see is what you are ABLE to see and imagine. I am not sure what drives France's blanchissage of the presenters, but I suspect that in TV land (etc), there is a sense of keeping multi-cultural identity at bay by the last hoary hold-outs.

What they don't realize is that alternative production methods may by-pass them totally, soon.
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