As much as possible, I try to keep up with what’s happening in popular culture. So there I am flipping through the Fall TV issue of Entertainment Weekly. My question: “Where did the diversity on network television go?” It seems that diversity is a thing of the past or a thing of the future.
I’m a big fan of Science Fiction. So I take pride in the fact that Science Fiction TV shows (like Lost, Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek) oftentimes have the most ethnically diverse casts. Clearly racial diversity and integration is the stuff of fantasy and the very distant future. Interesting bit of trivia: the very first inter-racial kiss on television was on Star Trek between Kirk and Uhura. (Granted the kiss was forced by alien mind control, but still, way ahead of its time).
So the latest issue of EW reviews the shows for the upcoming fall season. The complete lack of diversity on television is amazing, particularly the new shows. About a decade ago, there was an Asian-American radio personality that addressed the issue of the lack of diversity on network television. She stated that you could put the word “white” in front of nearly every network show and you would have a pretty apt description of the television shows: “White” Friends / Dawson’s “White” Creek / Third “White” Rock from the Sun / “White” Party of Five. If not for the courage of the UPN, the 90’s would be lost. The 90’s would be lost.
So let’s play the game with the new round of Fall shows: “White” Lone Star (which apparently is a show about the only place in Texas that only has white people and NO Latinos) / Raising “White” Hope (ditto – but probably in some non-descript Southern California neighborhood) / No Ordinary “White” Family (with the typical black sidekick, minor character) / and the Good “White” Guys.
A few exceptions: Grey’s Anatomy does a pretty decent job. But really, only one Asian on a medical show . . . in Seattle? Glee – with its multi-ethnic cast featured on a full two-page ad in the magazine. Actually features Asians — but they’re mostly in the background and barely say anything. (And did anyone notice that in the ad in EW, the Asian male is the only member of the cast that isn’t pictured). And the promos for Undercovers – but honestly, if the article had not harped on how they were black actors, I’m not sure I would have noticed. Just being honest here. And of course, Hawaii Five-O. But how ridiculous is it that a show based in Hawaii, the state with the highest concentration of Asians in the United States, has the two main leads be white males and with a supporting cast of Asians, one of whom has the very important acting challenge of appearing in a bikini in every episode – that would be Jin from LOST.
So what’s going on? Why so few black bodies, or brown bodies, or even yellow bodies on television?