December 02, 2008

Obama on TV's whiteness

Where are TV's Obama-like characters?

Some prominent creative forces behind shows that featured black families see a tougher road ahead.Long before he set out for the White House, Barack Obama sought to adjust the colors on America's TV sets.

Four years ago, fresh off his star-making keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, Obama challenged the television industry to live up to its responsibility as the country's "most powerful media" and accurately reflect the nation's population. "TV ought to reflect the reality of America's diversity and should do so with pride and dignity, not with stereotypes," he told the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. But as Obama prepares to move into the White House in January, he and his family will be hard pressed to find blacks like themselves represented on any of the major networks--ABC, NBC, CBS or Fox.

In fact, not only will they have great difficulty locating any black family in a leading role on the networks, they also will see it's nearly impossible to find a scripted comedy or drama that features a young person of color in a central role.

Although the networks' prime-time slates are packed with more than a dozen comedies and dramas revolving around family life or involve characters who are related (from "Brothers & Sisters," to "Two and a Half Men," to "Dirty Sexy Money"), almost all of them have predominantly white casts. A black family has not anchored a network series since "The Bernie Mac Show" left Fox in 2006.
Comment:  This fact is slightly misleading since there have been black families on the WB, UPN, and the CW. But still.

At least there have been couple dozen black families on network television. There have been only a handful of Latino families, one or two Asian families, and no Indian families. Blacks aren't even the largest US minority anymore; Latino are.

Let's see...America is growing more nonwhite, networks continue to feature whites, and network audiences are shrinking. Hello...does any studio executive understand the basics of human nature? People want to see characters like themselves on TV, and 30% of them aren't white.

For more on the subject, see Diversity Lacking on Television.

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