January 17, 2007

Teens learn from TV

The 'Reality' of Race in AmericaWhere are teens learning about race and racism today? On reality TV, of course! Teenagers aren't listening to Ivory Tower (how funny that the tower is ivory) academics on CNN or TV-friendly talking heads like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. The new forum for the unfiltered discussion of race has become reality TV.

It started years ago with "The Real World," where racial tension seemed to be a prerequisite for casting. And in the past year we saw "Survivor" attempt to divide its teams according to race and Ice Cube attempt to have black and white families swap identities in "Black. White." There is the unnerving minstrel quality to "Flavor of Love," and we even see mixed race couples on "Wife Swap." In many ways it's the "unscripted" nature of a lot of reality TV and its casting of real diverse Americans from different socioeconomic backgrounds that gives us a sharper sense of race in America than scripted dramas with multicultural ensembles. I also happened to catch a pretty shocking discussion of interracial couples on The Tyra Banks show awhile back, which is very popular with teens.
Comment:  Since Indians don't appear on reality TV shows, teens learn from TV that Indians no longer exist.

But there's no need to limit this theory to reality TV. Teens learn from TV, period. That includes everything from old Westerns to "modern" mini-series such as Into the West.

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