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Is TV too white?

By Samantha Villanueva

Photo by: Autumn Kinner

TV is a way for people to express themselves and depict the many perspectives that exist throughout the globe. But when TV shows only display one perspective– particularly that of the straight, white population– what you see on screen is no longer an accurate depiction of real life.
Shows like “How I Met Your Mother” and “The Big Bang Theory” are big culprits of this trend. They have moderately big casts of characters with little to no diversity. This perpetuates the already “default” trope of the straight, white twentysomething, making it harder for people who don’t fit that criteria to feel “normal”. Many shows will try to combat this issue by introducing the token minority, as if the protagonist’s only black friend can speak for the entire black population, but that doesn’t fix the pressing issue that there is simply not enough representation.
Sometimes, TV shows try to make it appear that they are diverse, such as “Black-ish” from ABC. But they only encourage the stereotype of minorities, which is detrimental to the effort. “Fresh Off the Boat” is another show from the same network which reinforces stereotypes of Asians, especially given its title.
A member of the Leigh Film Club, Lindzi Blair, voiced her own take on the issue, saying, “I don’t think there’s enough diversity on television, especially people of mixed races. Someone being ethnically ambiguous could be useful in film but they’re never recognized as someone who is a mixed race, since people tend to dismiss one in favor of the other.”
Shonda Rhimes is a prime example of someone who has thoroughly and accurately depicted minorities. Each of her highly acclaimed shows, including “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How to Get Away With Murder,” has a diverse cast of people in every sense of the word. Rhimes writes complex racial minority and LGBTQ+ characters, instead of defining them by their stereotypes, which many TV writers are guilty of. Rhimes has even shown her distaste in the word “diversity”, saying that she is “normalizing” television rather than “diversifying” it.
In her own words, Rhimes says, “The goal is that everyone should get to turn on the TV and see someone who looks like them and loves like them. And just as important, everyone should turn on the TV and see someone who doesn’t look like them and love like them. Because, perhaps then, they will learn from them.”
It’s progressives like Rhimes who are actually helping people understand the lack of diversity in Hollywood, and normalizing people from all cultures and walks of life.
Other shows that have paved the way for equal representation on-screen include “Transparent,” “Orange is the New Black” and “Master of None”. They all focus on empowerment for the transgender population, women of color and other minorities. Caitlyn Jenner’s new “I Am Cait,” is yet another show that gives its audience a better understanding of transgender people.
With the rise of more TV writers and actors who advocate for better representation in the media, it’s easy to dismiss the diversity issues as if a few TV shows with diverse casts can end the racial discrimination and misrepresentation that has infiltrated the media in all aspects. We obviously still have a long way to go, but the massive appeal towards these revolutionary shows is a great first step.