6 Comments

  1. says:

    June 19, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Martha, have you read about this new study? http://www.sciencecodex.com/study_finds_tv_can_decrease_selfesteem_in_children_except_white_boys-92354

    Basically, it backs up the idea that what kids see matters – including how people of their gender/race are (or aren’t) portrayed. It’s what we suspected, but the confirmation just makes me all the more frustrated! I can’t wait to take Z. to see “Brave” but it is one more movie with NO black characters in key roles (or, from what I can see in the previews, in any roles at all!)

  2. Mark says:

    June 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Knowledge of this by turns makes me extremely sad and extremely angry. There have been studies that show Young Adult fiction — the hottest market in book publishing right now — features young white women in over 90% of its covers and visual marketing material.

    Try bringing up the lack of people of color — in particular women — on a science fiction and fantasy forum and watch the waves of hatred, venom, condescension and dismissal erupt. My favorite responses are: 1) It would take away my enjoyment as a white person to see more people of color because I can’t relate to them and 2) Go make your own! (Right, because Separate But Equal always works, guys.).

    However, on the flip side, I would caution against labeling the few black characters that do occasionally show up in Disney or in YA or any sort of fictional narrative as “tokens” — that’s part of the reason there are so few in the first place. Most — though by no means all — of the white creators, distributors and marketers seem to be stuck in this mindset that unless the black character “acts black”, which they can’t write authentically being white and all, there’s no point in them being there.

    And/or they feel like if they do put a black character in the work, they’ll get it from both sides: from the racists who say things like response #1 in my paragraph above and from “the PC police” who will attack them for not including a positive portrayal of black people. “We can’t please everybody, so why go through the hassle of including black people in our stuff? If black people vote with their wallets, it won’t affect us. If white people vote with their wallets, we’ll take a bath. So, no blacks it is then.”

    I personally have no problem with a character who looks and sounds like the others except for the fact that she has brown skin. One of the loveliest sensations I have experienced in this life is being treated like “just another person” when I’ve gone overseas a few times. In the USA, I’m pretty much always reminded that I am different, even if the attention bestowed on me is positive.

    Back to the main subject: A black friend of mine and I observed several years ago that when it comes to secondary characters in most narrative visual works (TV and movies), unless race is an important plot element, why on earth *wouldn’t* you cast black/asian/dark skinned hispanics in a more charitable proportion of those roles? How does it hurt things to do that? I’ve never seen a good response from Hollywood.

    In fact, David Simon, one of the producers of The Wire, said that one thing he was amazed to discover while working on that series was that there are a very large number of very talented black actors in Hollywood. They just don’t get work because casting directors and producers don’t want them, or feel like blacks should only be cast in the roles explicitly written for blacks.

    So, it bothers me that Freya will not see very many people who look like her, her paternal grandmother, aunts, and female cousins in the types of media we consume. And it saddens me that the response is almost always — with a few notable exceptions — contempt and disgust from non-black consumers and producers of said media. I wish I knew what could be done.

  3. says:

    June 19, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Great post!

    I especially liked this part: “There are people who will say that it doesn’t matter what’s on television, internet and magazines. That it only matters what’s inside. And I agree that it is important to have a solid sense of self. But what we see in our daily lives reflects back to us. Especially children, who are still building a solid sense of self.”

    Exactly! There is no sense of “self” without the culture surrounding us. We are as much product of our culture is our culture is a product of us. We cannot affix any labels to ourselves (woman, man, black, Hispanic, teacher, brother, mother, friend, etc.) unless we know what those labels mean in the context of our collective culture. And the place where we have the most exposure to that culture is through media. Think about all of the magazine ads, commercials, billboards, radio spots, songs, that most of us are exposed to on a DAILY basis. That’s usually way more exposure than we get from “real” interactions with actual people. To say that those things don’t matter is short-sighted at best.

  4. Bicultural Mama says:

    June 19, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    I can see how it matters, because I use to look for that reflection back at me in the media when I was a kid, and never found it. It made me want to change my features to “fit in.” As I matured I realized the beauty in what God gave to me, but it took some time to get to that self-acceptance. Great post, well written!

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