Someone Please Tell Deadline.com That White Folks Gonna Be Alright
Yesterday, Deadline.com published Nellie Andreeva’s “Pilots 2015: The Year Of Ethnic Castings – About Time Or Too Much Of Good Thing?” — a piece with so many layers of wrong that calling it a wrong lasagna (ht to Kara Brown) doesn’t quite do it justice. It was a wrong lasagna dipped in wrong Progresso Italian bread crumbs, deep fried in wrong six-week-old Crisco, wrapped with a wrong gluten-free soft taco shell, and chopped up and served with a wrong au jus sauce.
Since ingesting all that wrong this early in the morning might lead to dysentery — or, at least, a couple awkward elevator rides — I decided to cut it down to one point.
Hannibal is currently my wife’s favorite show (and mine too), but The Good Wife is second. It airs Sunday night (9pm) on CBS, and since CBS also televised NCAA tournament games last Sunday, I assumed they’d bump The Good Wife out of the rotation that day, and told her so.
When 9 came around, she checked CBS just to see if I might have been wrong. I was. The Sunday night shows were still airing. The tournament games just pushed the schedule back a few minutes. Madame Secretary was currently on, and The Good Wife would be on soon. Neither of us had ever watched Madame Secretary, so we checked it out for a couple minutes, watched Tea Leoni make Tea Leoni faces, got bored with it, and started channel surfing. While channel surfing, I came across some something that Dana Delany appears to be apart of. Which didn’t surprise me. Because Dana Delany has been on something like 1042 different TV shows. You could fill up an entire network’s programming with shows Dana Delany has been on. (Seriously, go look at her IMDb page. It’s like reading a Cheesecake Factory menu.)
A couple minutes later, I checked back on CBS, and The Good Wife was just starting. Cool.
That entire experience lasted less than five minutes. In that time, we saw a show starring Tea Leoni and Tim Daly, left that and saw something starring Dana Delany, and did this all while waiting for a show starring Julianna Margulies and Chris Noth. All very talented and very accomplished and very White actors who’ve each been on more TVs than an RCA cable.
And all the reason why the wrong lasagna diarrhea of “Holy shit. These Black actors aren’t leaving any room for White actors” can’t be said with a straight face.
If you think I’m misconstruing Andreeva’s premise and perhaps being a bit unfair, check out the second to last paragraph in the piece.
While they are among the most voracious and loyal TV viewers, African-Americans still represent only 13% of the U.S. population. They were grossly underserved, but now, with shows as Empire, Black-ish, Scandal and HTGAWM on broadcast, Tyler Perry’s fare on OWN and Mara Brock Akil’s series on BET, they have scripted choices, so the growth in that fraction of the TV audience might have reached its peak.
Scientific Translation: Televised Blackness may have reached a critical mass
Barbershop Translation: Y’all niggas have enough
I don’t mean to pick on Leoni, Daly, Delany, Margulies, and Noth specifically. Again, these are very talented and very accomplished actors who’ve presumably worked very hard to be in the positions they’re in today. But there are dozens more people I can name; White actors and actresses who get role after role after role after role after role. And not just guest appearances or three episode-long stints as a judge or someone’s ex-boyfriend. No, these are starring roles. Press junket roles. Awkward Access Hollywood interview roles. Shit that makes you say “Wait…weren’t they just on CSI: Megabus? How’d they get another job that quickly?”
Despite its oft-publicized recent increase in diversity, both on screen and behind-the-scenes, TV is still overwhelmingly — and, some would argue, intentionally — White. I can still randomly turn on my TV, start at channel 1, change channels in numerical order, and not see a Black or Brown face until I reach channel 24. How do I know this? Because I just took a break from writing this to do it.
While reading her piece, I couldn’t help but think of Fisher v. University of Texas — the case where Abigail Fisher was denied admittance into the University of Texas. And, instead of just enrolling in one the hundreds of other universities that would have happily taken her — or perhaps doing something about her remarkably “that’s cool, I guess” 1180 SAT score — decided to decide that her Whiteness was keeping her out of UT, and sued. Never mind the fact that UT already had roughly 20,000 White undergraduate students. It was her particular Whiteness, not her mundaneness.
And maybe this is it. Exceptional White people will continue to be exceptional, will continue to get work and will continue to succeed, regardless of the circumstance. But an underlying theme in both Andreeva’s piece and Fisher’s suit is that diversity is affecting the above-average White folks. Instead of continuing to receive the same perks as the exceptionals, the above-averages now might have to work a little harder and compete a little fiercer to maintain their positions, and are feeling the heat. And, to that I say “Oh fucking well.” It’s going to be a long and hot summer, so they better get some Gatorade.