In Defense of Felicity via The Nerds of Color

I wrote a piece defending the writing of Arrow’s Felicity Smoak this season, because I think her storyline this season has been oversimplified by viewers who think that all of her actions have had to do with Oliver’s waffling over their relationship.

Badass Digest recently wrote a piece explaining how Arrow has “failed” Felicity Smoak in its third season. It brings up a lot of great points about the ways in which her character has changed, but I think it unfairly places the blame on the Oliver/Felicity relationship, when I think things are a bit more complicated than that. Sara’s death, pieces of Felicity’s (of the admittedly little) backstory that we know, and the overall darkness of the season all help push Felicity to a darker place this season. And I think that’s okay for the show overall.

Read more over on the Nerds of Color: In Defense of Felicity.

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Link: Stephanie Beatriz on Why Diverse Casts Are Needed on TV | Latina Roles on TV & Movies

Stephanie Beatriz on Why Diverse Casts Are Needed on TV | Latina Roles on TV & Movies

Stephanie Beatriz on Why Diverse Casts Are Needed on TV | Latina Roles on TV & Movies

Everyone PLEASE read this awesome blog post by actress Stephanie Beatriz on Latina.com. I love Brooklyn 99, not only because it’s funny and it’s so similar to Parks and Recreation (same showrunner, so duh on that part), but because it’s so diverse and tries to actually look like a New York police station. The fact that there are TWO black men and TWO Latina women on the show feels like a first on network TV (psh, cable even) and it shouldn’t. But it is and the fact that Stephanie didn’t think she had another shot on the show after Melissa Fumero was cast is absolutely ridiculous but completely indicative of how the business works for people of color.

I am so glad that there are two Latina women on the show and the one is the main love interest and neither are made to be stereotypes of their culture, they just are and they don’t compete for men or attention, they coexist like real human beings. Just the fact that they’re both on the show and have such different personalities is fantastic because it immediately disproves the idea that people of color can only fulfill one type at a time on any given show. Brooklyn 99 just makes me really happy and I am glad that in this dwindling age of network comedy, it’s a beacon of hope for both a brilliant, hilarious show, but also for the future of what television will look like. I quoted Stephanie below, but click through for more of her blog posts.

When I was waiting to hear about my screen test for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I started looking at Deadline.com constantly. It’s a website that often posts up to the minute casting news, and is pretty handy during pilot season if you want to drive yourself absolutely bananas. I checked it, at minimum, eight times an hour. I was a woman possessed, because this show was the thing I wanted more than anything in the world. And then I saw that Melissa Fumero had been cast as Amy Santiago on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and I felt my guts roll up into my throat and try to escape out of my mouth. Omgomgomgomg that’s it then. There’s no way in hell a major network is gonna cast two Latina actresses in such a tight ensemble show I AM SCREWED.

And then next day my agents called and told me I’d booked it.

I couldn’t believe it. I had been saying to my boyfriend the night before how there was JUST NO WAY. Normally, The Latina is a singular element of the ensemble she is working in. She’s there to provide contrast, or sexuality, or humor. Or she’s there to clean the floors and/or steal your man. There are some serious stereotypes very much alive in film and TV today, and The Latina is one of them.

Here’s the thing though. The world is changing. Slowly but surely, television is changing. The character stereotypes are changing, or being turned inside out by some fantastic writers and actors (I’m looking at you, Orange is the New BlackScandal, and The Mindy Project). People of color are on TV playing roles that are fleshed out, complex, human. And yes, some of those characters are maids. Some are sexy heartbreakers there to steal your man. Some own BBQ joints, while some are Chiefs of Staff. Some are prisoners, and some are cops. All are real people with hopes, dreams, ambitions, fears, and all the other vast human emotions and desires.

Right now, you can turn on your television or log onto your Netflix or Hulu account and SEE YOURSELF. Not always, and maybe not as much as you’d like, but you can. You can find characters who look like you. I couldn’t do that very often when I was a kid, and it subtly informed me that I might be kind of unimportant. Thank God for Luis and Maria (Sonia Manzano and Emilio Delgado) on Sesame Street, who were the first Latinos on TV I ever saw. I was fascinated by them both, and remember thinking how lucky I was that my mom looked just like Maria. I watched Sesame Street into junior high, simply because I loved seeing Maria and Luis on TV. In fact, in my memory, PBS was one of the only places I regularly saw people of all races on my television.

This is important. Because young women are watching TV, and they are getting messages about who they are in the world, who the world will allow them to be. And in big important steps, television is showing a reflection back to those young women that YOU CAN BE WHATEVER THE HELL YOU DAMN WELL PLEASE, and that two Latinas on one show is NORMAL. I think that’s a win for everybody. 

–Stephanie Beatriz

The Aspiring TV Writer & Screenwriter Blog: Three big myths in the aspiring writer world

The Aspiring TV Writer & Screenwriter Blog: Three big myths in the aspiring writer world.

From fellow blogger, Amanda. Basically these things hold us aspiring writers back: thinking you’re all that, whining instead of writing, and thinking our writing will be a reader’s saving grace after a long day of slush.

Keep working at your talent and be realistic about your skills and you just might beat the odds.

Women’s Round Table Discussion: The State of Black TV

Andrea Lewis put together this awesome roundtable on the state of Black TV with various black, female content creators who have turned to the web to circumvent the difficulties of breaking into mainstream media. These ladies, Andrea Lewis, Issa Rae, Lena Waithe, Ashley Blaine Featherson and Numa Perrier have all made some sort of name for themselves through indie means, mainly meaning using the Internet to widen their fanbase. It’s really inspiring to see and hear their opinions because they make so many great points. It’s not an end all, be all discussion, but of course it gets a conversation started in the minds of those who watch it. How can we further the success of black content makers both online and in mainstream media. Watch it below.

Below are some of my favorite bullet points and thoughts.

  • Numa says that she doesn’t often feel like she’s surrounded by stereotypes because she actively works to watch content at contrasts the mainstream stereotypes. Shows like Love and Hip-Hop definitely portray a stereotype and is seen as mainstream media. “I’m not consuming the content that feels anti to my sense of truth.” I don’t watch those shows either, and while sometimes I do hate on them (sorry), the ladies make the excellent point that, “some people watch that content, why should they be discredited for who they are.” While the kind of behavior presented on those shows isn’t what I enjoy, others do, and I shouldn’t always be so derisive about it. I just wish there was more variety to the representation of black women (and other underrepresented groups).
  • Issa says she does watch some of the L&HH type shows, but there’s not enough of the other stuff. “We’re relegated to one stereotype. We watch the shows and know that there’s more to black women than this, but the general public doesn’t know. and opportunities are limited.
  • They point out that it’s about balance. There are two extremes. The Love and Hip-Hop types and the Olivia Popes. Either pristine, suits, wealthy or L&H characters. Bougie vs ratchet. We’re missing the middle ground. It’s an excellent point made that our two extremes are unbalanced as well. There’s only 1 Scandal, but multiple L&H’s shows. I’m a bit surprised the ladies don’t discuss the problems people have with Scandal, but I suppose that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.
  • It’s up to BET to step their game up and show people that the “middle ground” type black woman exists. But they’re trying to reach their base. Unfortunately, the middle ground doesn’t fit into their demo, “but what about Netflix and IFC and Sundance?” Those looking for new and interesting. It seems indie is the best place for a black content creator to go.

“Our tastes are being partitioned.”

  • How do you reach people worldwide who want to see this content? The internet has certainly been the best place for this for these ladies.
  • “Some people are going to have to get old and die before things change.” It’s a shame that this seems to be the truth about a lot of things.
  • “We need to continue to find ways to reach the world-wide audience, reach black people in Korea, etc.” Everything is so global these days. and “international eyeballs matter too.” Even movie Box Office numbers are increasingly including and discussing the international box office revenue.
  • Is online working better for you than mainstream? People are certainly grateful for content that represents them (esp when its free), but it’s hard to find/create content without sponsorship or support, to translate that community to a larger space.

“Keep doing the work and the right people will come.”
“We have to value ourselves more.”
“People are inspired and impressed when they find out I’m doing it online rather than just a “guest star” on a show.”

  • Don’t wait for things to come to you. Be driven.
  • Your work has to be something people are talking about and connecting with.
  • How do you develop your fanbase online? You can’t do it with 2 followers. Make sure you talk back to the fans. When people realize you’re gonna hit them back up, you build  relationships. It helps when people can trust you and the content is something they like.
  • All these ladies all “share in being a black women, but have such different voices”. It is definitely important that we get that across in the mainstream–we are not a monolith of Olivia Popes or Real Housewives of Atlanta.
  • It’s all about trial and error. Be strategic about collaboration. Be unapologetic about what you are and who you want to write for.

“This is black women not fighting.”

    • It’s a funny way to end the piece, but a sad fact that most shows, especially the reality shows which are born and bred on conflict, must show black women fighting all the time. That might be some people’s truths, but it’s not everyone. And if we have representations of black women not fighting with each other, but rather, supporting each other, perhaps there can be less fighting in the actual black community?

Finally, check out a webseries my friend created and I’ve helped work on, called Blacktress (I promise it was conceived before we ever knew about Andrea Lewis’ Black Actress webseries). It’s still a work in progress and we’re looking to expand very soon. But watching this was certainly inspirational for us to keep going and expanding and just getting more content out in the universe.

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Response: Why the Presence of Black Women in Media is Important for Everyone via The Conversation

Ramou Sarr wrote this article, which I found via justwriteray, which speaks about the importance for representations of black women on television. She bring up some really great points about the need for better representation in the media.

In such a social society, television is one of the things that really brings people together. Many of my friendships and conversations began after I realized someone liked a show that I did. It warms you up to another person because now you have something in common. It’s a strange feeling when you’re left out of a conversation because you’re the only person who doesn’t watch that show. This happens even on social media.

I didn’t even know what any of these people were reacting to, and yet I still needed to watch; I still wanted to be included somehow. That’s the power of television.

[…]

This communal aspect of television is layered, and perhaps the most significant facet of it is the idea that television often acts as an agent of socialization, offering us a glimpse into how we are both different and alike, and informs how we view and interact with one another. Television also has the power to impact how we view ourselves and, by seeing portrayals of people like us on television, tells us how society views us. Children’s shows often have lessons and exercises about diversity and inclusion because most of us want children to know about these things, and yet this portrayal of the world as a diverse and inclusive one is sorely lacking in the current state of television catered to adults.

And we also have to remember that children don’t just watch children’s shows, they watch adult tv shows too. Whether because their parents let them, or they sneak it, or it’s on simply while they’re in the room, kids watch grown up TV as well. Someone in a class about children’s books said that kids only read books about kids their age or older. After a while, kids want to watch adult TV shows and adult TV shows don’t have the same messages of inclusion and diversity, as Ramou mentions, that kids shows do. So kids stop learning the lesson. I’m in no ways saying regular network TV should have lessons or that they all need family values, but there are ways people learn from television. It’s in our homes every day; if there were more people of color on television, adults (and the kids who see these shows too) would have a better understanding of the wider world around them.

In terms of relatability, black women can, of course, establish connections with white television characters, and they do…

White people, and Asian people and Hispanic and every other nationality should find that they relate to black characters too. They shouldn’t (finally have to) create a black princess and then only see black children using that doll. If Rapunzel (who I love dearly) is a universal princess and is found everywhere, then Tiana, Mulan, and Pocahontas and Jasmine should be too. Same goes for television. Black shows shouldn’t be considered a risk for only drawing black audiences (which is a bigger market than given credit for); plenty of people who weren’t black grew up watching the Cosby Show and Fresh Prince and currently enjoy shows like Scandal. Black should be given the chance to be see as universal.

Representation of black women on television is important because black women are important.

This is so important. Black women often grow up not seeing themselves as important because they don’t see positive representations of themselves in the media. More representation means more people, of all colors, get to see more sides to the black experience: both the ways in which we are unique and the ways in which we are the same.

Black Girls TV Banner 1

Check out Ramou’s full piece here: The Conversation | Honest Talk with Amanda de CadenetThe Conversation.

 

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Response Post: “New Girl, Brooklyn 99, and Breaking the “One Black Friend” Pattern | TIME.com”

Can you find the token? (Love you Dule Hill)

It’s so very rare to find a show with more than one character of color. Some notable tokens off the top of my head include Angela from Boy Meets World, Lisa from Saved by the Bell,  Martha Jones from Doctor Who, Charlie on The West Wing and Gunn on Angel. 30 Rock subverts the trend by having Tracy Jordan in the main cast, but also Twofer, who is both black and nerdy. Some of the disappointment behind Agents of SHIELD came from the team claiming diversity and internationality (yup, I made that up), but only having one character of color, Melinda May.

For the most part, the characters listed above were main cast members, but even when I Googled “Token Black Character,” a lot of the examples were recurring characters, if that. When we begin to include 1-episode black characters as “token” characters, it doesn’t look good for the diversity of television.

Some shows this season, however, are trying to buck that trend. Mostly they’re on FOX, who started and seems to be maintaining a diversity initiative this season. Brooklyn 99 has one of the most diverse casts out there, up there with Grey’s Anatomy in terms of variety, which makes sense due to its New York Police Department setting. FOX also airs Sleepy Hollow, which has 2 black main cast members and up to 4 black supporting characters. Then there’s John Cho’s recurring character and the sometimes seen Abbie ex-boyfriend Det. Morales.

And when they brought Damon Wayans Jr back to New Girl, I was pleasantly surprised that Lamorne Morris wasn’t going anywhere. (Though, just through a quick google, there don’t seem to be any new cast photos with Damian– I have to wonder how the conversation went down when they told Lamorne Damon was coming back. Was there a “don’t worry, we’re not replacing you with him like we did him with you” conversation, or was it just we’re adding him to the cast everyone, no one is leaving. With this trend so prevalent, I would have been a little nervous my time was up.)

This article, from Time a few weeks ago, discusses FOX and other networks beginning to break the 1 black friend trend, which we could hopefully include other nationalities of color too. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the article.

But it’s also a welcome change because it makes New Girl a rarity in TV today: a major-network sitcom with more than one African American character in its regular ensemble–a comedy about friends in which “a black friend” isn’t “the black friend.”

[…]

The big networks have had a notoriously sketchy track record on casting diversity–better some seasons, terrible other seasons. The reaction has tended to be adding minority characters to shows with largely white casts. That affects the overall math, of course, but it has the side effect of replicating a universe in which black–or Asian, Latino, &c.–characters are scattered, uniformly and singly.

[…]

The exceptions are scarce: Troy and Shirley on Community; Glee, if you count that as a comedy; Parks and Recreation, depending on your definition. (That is, Rashida Jones is biracial, but having seen every episode I can’t recall Ann Perkins’ ethnicity.)

[…]

Brooklyn 9-9, the diversity is very conscious, not for p.c. reasons but simple realism. As its co-creators have said, it’s a New York City police show, and New York’s police department is about half minority. So you’ll see two Latina detectives who are very different personalities, because why not? You’ll see Andre Braugher and Terry Crews (who had a fantastic episode this week), sharing a subplot about Crews’ character’s annoying brother-in-law–not because they’re bonded as the precinct’s black characters, but simply because they work together, and it’s life–and, you know, in-laws, amirite?

[…]

But there’s another reason: sometimes, a show should just have two black women on it, because sometimes in life, there just are two black women in the same place. (Again: or men, or Indian, or Middle Eastern, or…) TV should be diverse because of fairness, but above all because it should reflect the world.

I hope this upcoming pilot seasons shows a continued growth to this trend. It shouldn’t just be FOX and Shonda Rhimes’ shows on ABC that have more than one token character of color. But that’s if the shows feature a character of color at all, like I said, sometimes the token is a recurring character and not even a supporting character. All television shows don’t necessarily have to be a tossed salad of racial diversity, but more shows need it.

Read more: New Girl, Brooklyn 9-9, and Breaking the “One Black Friend” Pattern | TIME.com http://entertainment.time.com/2013/11/07/new-girl-brooklyn-9-9-and-breaking-the-one-black-friend-pattern/#ixzz2q49hWhew

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Link: Shonda Rhimes doesn’t like that there needs to be a DGA Diversity Award | Inside TV | EW.com

Shonda Rhimes on her DGA Diversity Award: ‘We’re a tiny bit p-ssed off that there has to be an award’ | Inside TV | EW.com.

Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes (Photo credit: geekchic89)

“It’s not because of a lack of talent. It’s because of a lack of access. People hire who they know. If it’s been a white boys club for 70 years, that’s a lot of white boys hiring one another. And I don’t believe that that happens out of any specific racism or sexism or prejudice. People hire their friends. They hire who they know. It’s comfortable. You want to be successful, you don’t want to take any chances, you don’t want to rock the boat by hiring people of color because, well, look at us,” she said. “Both Betsy and I like the world that we work in to look like the world that we live in. Different voices make for different visions. Different visions make for something original. Original is what the public is starving for.”

[…] The DGA, by the way, is the only Guild giving out this type of award in an attempt to draw attention to the problem, which I think is kind of badass.”

Shonda’s right, there doesn’t need to be an award, but maybe if more guilds/associations in the media gave out these kinds of awards, more people would strive to be more diverse? That’s really hard to say, and you don’t want people doing it who aren’t really in it for simple diversity, but it might help.

If nothing changes in the next year, Shonda might be getting the award again. Thankfully FOX seems to be sticking with it’s diversity initiative and shows like Sleepy Hollow (for network) and maybe Orange is the New Black are two other shows with diverse casts that might be honored for such a feat. But there simply needs to be more diversity in the media, but especially an everyday sort of medium like television. Diversity needs to be in people’s homes so they accept it more in the world.

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Link: Writing and the Creative Life: Three types of creators | Go Into The Story

What type of creator may I feel the pull to become?

Perfecter. Synthesizer. Innovator.

Which type of creator are you?

Writing and the Creative Life: Three types of creators | Go Into The Story.

I think I am Synthesizer.

I like to look at different genres (usually speculative in nature) and find ways to combine them with things they haven’t been combined with before. I’ve thought a lot about fairy tales and updating them to different eras (an idea that I had and haven’t really been able to get right is the fairy tale Bluebeard set during the Harlem Renaissance with Cyborg wives– a lot, but there’s something I really like about those combination of things that one day I want to get right).

I like fairy tales and myths and legends and, as much discussed on this blog, diversity in the media is hard to come by. So why not take those tales and adapt them to Harlem or make the main character black? I think that’s a great way to synthesize things that weren’t connected before and discover new stories (or at least a new lens through which to look at an old story–which is all any writer is trying to do).

Related:

http://www.fastcompany.com/1812064/jonah-leher-three-types-creativity-and-how-brainstorming-doesnt-work

Article Response Essay: In the White Room With Black Writers: Hollywood’s “Diversity Hires”

In the White Room With Black Writers: Hollywood’s “Diversity Hires”.

via IndiesUnchained via WGA

This article, by Beejoli Shah dishes out some of the real workings of what is basically Affirmative Action in the TV writer’s world. She discusses what it is to be a “Diversity Staff Writer” (DSW) on a show and the pluses and minuses that come with obtaining that title. It is a bit of a long read, but definitely worth it. [Below became a long read as well.] There are many great insights in this article, I’ve quoted blocks of text below and appended further thoughts on the issues raised.

Most every writing room has one—an entry level, non-white staff writer, explicitly hired due to their race. (If you’re really lucky, being gay or a woman might just suffice, in lieu of not being white.) […] Perversely, Hollywood’s genuine attempt to remedy the overwhelming whiteness of the industry has instead led to a place where networks pat themselves on the back for hiring a token writer by institutionalizing those sotto voce complaints.

This is going to be a major issue (again) as of this week, since the hiring of Sasheer Zamata to be the first Black Female cast member to be on Saturday Night Live since Maya Rudolph left 6 years ago. It’s great that they’ve hired her, but it was only done so after major backlash after the current season was newly staffed and it is very clear that she is the token; the diversity hire. They didn’t look at her in the pool of everyone who auditioned, they’re looking at her in a pool of other black, female comediennes (an issue which Beejoli discusses further down). They’ve seen her in a pool of people like her and seen her as the best, but she shouldn’t be boxed in to a subset. More on this later.

It will then tack on some extra cash earmarked solely for a diversity hire, so that the studio budget can instead go towards everything that’s “integral” for the show to function.[…] Showrunners don’t have to worry about wasting their studio budget on a token hire that may not be so great in the room, a young colored writer gets a shot at the dream, networks proudly get to proclaim their commitment to diversity, everyone wins!

She kind of make it sound like an internship. The intern is the bottom of the office food-chain (in this case, the intern thankfully gets paid, but the same amount of respect). The show doesn’t really have to put any mental effort into hiring this person (they should, obviously, if they want a person who will creatively contribute, but it can be anyone and they lose no money for the choice).

Beejoli goes on to tell us that not a single new show brought in this season (2013-14), was created by a person of color. And I’m not even sure how many veteran shows are; Beejoli mentions Shonda Rhimes (because how can you not), but the fact that no one can ever name anyone else? That’s a problem. Essentially, Shonda is the showrunner diversity hire. No one has to hire a show runner of color because we already have one on TV.

Fox can guarantee a person of color a job to return to in future seasons, but also cleverly hold a person down at the level of diverse staff writer, even though they may be far too qualified to remain there.

It also seems to me that this could prevent new DSWs from getting work on a show because a show already has one that will remain on staff for that second season, while being paid with the diversity money rather than the regular staff writer’s allocation?

Beejoli says that some shows try to circumvent the issue by allowing “diversities” in traditionally white, male writers that aren’t usually considered diverse. A man reached deep into his family tree to discover he was a part Mexican, while another writer was given the position due to his heart murmur. I have a rare extra superior vena cava in my heart, can that count in my diversity points (besides being a nerdy, black, female obviously)?

there was a known stigma in the TV writing world that diversity hires are never quite as good, so much as they are just there.

This is my fear for Sasheer (I’ll probably post on this more later), but it’s also a problem in other Affirmative Action environments, like schools, etc. There is a lot of fear when being a black student at an expensive, possibly Ivy-league (/quality) school, that the other kids will look down on you because they see you as less intelligent. You got into the school because you are [black, Indian, Asian, etc], not because you “belong” there. And sometimes, when you feel overwhelmed in those environments, you have no one to talk to about it, because then it seems like you really don’t belong there (when in fact everyone feels the same way).

But in practice, the diversity hires are traditionally seen as slightly lower than plain old staff writers. The showrunner had to really want the staff writer there to be willing to part with $70,000 that could be spent on production or a different writer, whereas the diversity staff writer was a free gift from the network.

Like I said, kind of like an intern.

“Do you want to be writing partners? This white male writer not in a partnership thing isn’t working out.” “Listen, you’re both good writers, but he needs you more than you need him. He’s never read you before—he just wants an easier shot of getting staffed, because you’re diverse.”

I feel like this has come up in my life or the lives of my Friends of Color. Where someone attaches on to you because, “you’re black, they’ll let you in because they have to.” I don’t have a specific example, but it’s always strange to think of times when you have more possibility of doing something because you’re a person of color, since usually it’s (/you fear) the opposite. OR, as the article sort of talks around, people look down on you because you got in because you were diverse, but once you’re in, it’s a whole ‘nother set of issues.

“You know, you’re just like that girl from The Office. You could be the next Mindy Kaling!”

Whenever I mention my love of TV and desire to write for it, everyone says, “You could be the next Shonda Rhimes!” Which is cool, I admire Shonda for all that she’s done, but why can’t I be the next… Joss Whedon (another show runner I admire—Agents of SHIELD notwithstanding…) or Aaron Sorkin (without the drug problem).  When it comes from other black people, I think it’s really just them wanting my name to be with hers (or something along those lines, my thought on this isn’t fully formed), but the fact that it comes from everyone who you mention it to… A friend of mine is a black actress who is producing a web series, so everyone says, “You could be the next Issa Rae!” As Beejoli mentions, it’s stuffing us in a “racial box.” She quotes Mindy Kaling herself, who said: “I feel like I can go head-to-head with the best white, male comedy writers that are out there. Why would I want to self-categorize myself into a smaller group than I’m able to compete in?”

 I was also starting to think of myself as only a diversity writer. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve called my agents to tell them that I heard there’s a diversity position open on a show.

This has been so relevant to my thought processes. When thinking about writing (because I need to sit down and actually do more of it…), I’ve gone from saying, “I should write for [insert show with predominantly white cast/writers]” to “I should watch more black produced shows so I can write specs for those.” And while this is certainly something I should do, because part of my desire to write is to create more content for black people to watch on television, I shouldn’t have to feel like I could only write for the next The Cosby Show or Fresh Prince. And it’s poisonous to think you should only write for diverse groups and then “move up” to, say, network television.

It’s poisonous to think that you should be the “diversity hire” and then “move up” to regular staff writer. It’s putting diverse writers and diverse television shows on a lower rung than the “rest” of television. “Shows with PoC are lesser than network shows without.” Back when UPN and the WB existed, they were looked down upon compared to the other networks, and part of that had to do with their commitment to airing shows with black casts (I say partly because even now the CW is “lesser” than the big 4 even though the CW has long abandoned the WBs diverse offerings). We must get out of this thinking. It’s one thing for the white dominated studios and networks to see the diversity hire as being of less worth, it’s another for it to spread to our own ways of thinking. Then we’ll never rise above the way the system works now. But as Beejoli says, the higher ups aren’t making the change just yet (outside of severe pressure from audiences *coughSNLcough*), so how can things really change?

I think Beejoli’s article is one way. It’s better to go in understanding how things may work, so that if given the opportunity, you can change it. People can band together to make things run differently. The “diversity hires” need to stick together and help everyone realize that there’s more to a person of color joining your writing staff than filling your token quota.

Related links: More Than A Diversity Hire: WGAW’S Female Asian Comedy Writer’s Panel Notes

Article Response: Paul Dini on Cartoon Network’s Programming Decisions and Why Boy Viewers Are Valued Over Girls – IGN

Click the link above and check out the article and transcript. I skimmed a lot of this, but basically a show got cancelled because more girls watched it than boys and the network didn’t want to adjust. Which is ridiculous. 

Below are some quotes that jumped out at me:

and that the executives don’t value female viewers, because they don’t buy as many of the same toys that are aimed at boys connected to these series.[…]

DINI: “They’re all for boys ‘we do not want the girls’, I mean, I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not [where I am] but at other places, saying like, ‘We do not want girls watching this show.”

SMITH: “WHY? That’s 51% of the population.”

DINI: “They. Do. Not. Buy. Toys. The girls buy different toys. The girls may watch the show—”

[…]

Like, just because you can’t figure out your job, don’t kill chances of, like, something that’s gonna reach an audi—that’s just so self-defeating, when people go, like… these are the same f***ers who go, like, ‘Oh, girls don’t read comics, girls aren’t into comics.’ It’s all self-fulfilling prophecies. 

The part about it being a self-fulling prophecy is SO true! If you have girls watching the show, then those girls WILL want to buy toys. There are grown women who buy “boy” toys based on comics. If you don’t give girls a narrative they are invested in, then no, they won’t by the toys. But if they are, then they will! It is so frustrating that they say they wont when they won’t give it a chance. If this is based on past marketing strategies (from what, the 1950s?) then clearly they need to update their marketing team on modern-day girls and modern-day adult women who also may watch and buy the show and the toys discussed here.

[same goes for PoCs. If you think a young black kid (girl, even) wouldn’t buy your toys, so you don’t give them a character to relate to or you cancel the shows they ARE watching, then no, they won’t buy your toys. fulfilling prophecy.]

via Paul Dini on Cartoon Network’s Programming Decisions and Why Boy Viewers Are Valued Over Girls – IGN.

Article Response: Whitewashed TV isn’t just racist. It’s boring! – Salon.com

In James Cameron’s “Avatar,” a white man once again plays savior, this time to a planet of tall blue aliens unambiguously suggestive of Native Americans. What if they’d cast Michelle Rodriguez, who plays a stereotypical no-nonsense doomed Latina side character, in the lead role instead of Sam Worthington? The context of an interesting movie about race is already in place. Without a single word changed in the script, “Avatar” would have taken on layers of new meaning, opened conversations that mainstream, white cinema has not even approached. […] Instead, though, we’re left with a cliché: the same old really nice white dude, filling a void in himself by appropriating and then saving another culture. What we could’ve had was something new: a story of intersectionality and solidarity across interplanetary colonialism.

via Whitewashed TV isn’t just racist. It’s boring! – Salon.com.

YES THIS ALL OF THIS!

There is constant complaining about the same old stories being told, especially in Hollywood. A very, very simple solution to spice those same old stories up, is to cast PoCs as the main characters. Then it becomes something new that we haven’t seen before.

The article speaks heavily of Sleepy Hollow; if Abbie had been a white guy, it would have been sooo boring–kind of how Almost Human felt to me. Karl Urban being the primary lead was boring. What if they’d switched the roles and Michael Ealy was the human, Urban the robot? Then it might have been a different story. I haven’t seen past episode 3, so I don’t know if Michael Ealy’s character has to deal with race at all in the futuristic world of the show, but it would have been prudent to introduce it in the first three episodes, since him being cast as a black man is a big deal in the real world. But since it wasn’t really mentioned at all, I think I got bored (for forgot to set my DVR to record all…) and wasn’t interested in coming back. I don’t need race to be a discussion, but it shouldn’t be glossed over. (this isn’t even what I started to talk about after I mentioned Sleepy Hollow above…)

It is so simple to change the dynamics of the same old stories we’ve heard before by changing the racial and sometimes gender identities of the characters. I don’t watch Elementary, but it took guts to cast an Asian woman as Watson, and look how that turned out for them. The show is great. They knew they couldn’t follow in the wake of Sherlock, so they changed the story in a very simple way to make it more interesting to people who have seen Sherlock and the RDJ Sherlock Holmes movies and might be bored with the same old “two white guys solve crimes” story.

Brief Response to: What every TV show can learn from Sleepy Hollow – The Week

What every TV show can learn from Sleepy Hollow – The Week.

Thank you Laura (the author of this article) for pointing out all the reasons why I love Sleepy Hollow and for not ignoring all the things all those other articles have been ignoring about the show. It’s diversity in race AND in female characters are both the biggest reasons why it’s doing so well, it’s social media and the storyline are important, but if the leads were both white men, it wouldn’t be doing as well as it is.

Some points from the article that I loved:

First and foremost, the series boasts one of the most diverse casts anywhere on television. Two of its four series regulars are African-American (Nichole Beharie and Orlando Jones), while all three of its most frequently recurring characters — played by John Cho, Lyndie Greenwood, and Nicholas Gonzalez — are people of color.

Even Grey’s Anatomy, probably the other highly diverse show on television (I can’t even think of others besides the one I will point out next), doesn’t have the percentages of PoCs/whites as this show does. PoC’s have the higher percentage on this show, Grey’s (this is definitely not an official count, just a gut opinion) probably runs 50/50? I think the other show that can boast great diversity on Sleepy Hollow’s level is Brooklyn 99, which has 2 white guys and 1 white woman in it’s main cast of 7; the rest are PoCs.

The same study observed that shows with the highest percentage of racial diversity in their casts also performed better in the ratings than shows with less inclusive casts. As the study’s author, Darnell Hunt, pointed out: “It’s clear that people are watching shows that reflect and relate to their own experiences.”

Why does no one in Hollywood want to admit this is a true thing or do anything about it? Hopefully networks will follow FOX’s example (something I am loathe to normally say– I don’t agree with some of their other storytelling traditions)

It’s as if women can maintain relationships without being defined by who they’re dating — a novel concept!

Love this line. While most of the conversations between these women actually do revolve around Ichabod (which is of course going to be the case–not a fault but a necessity), it would totally pass the Bechdel test (if perhaps, the Headless Horseman were a woman). Their conversations aren’t necessarily about their relationships with the men, but about how to save them (or destroy them).

Jones has embraced fan fiction, fan art, gifs, and the art of “shipping” — for bothSleepy Hollow and similarly fan-friendly shows like Supernatural — endearing himself to the show’s growing audience and helping to bring fan activities that were once considered niche or somehow shameful into the mainstream, reducing the stigma that’s still generally attached to demonstrating your appreciation for a piece of pop culture.

I’ve definitely appreciated OJs commitment to the fandom. I’ve been a part of various fandoms in my life, but always in secret (well–some parts in secret. I am an obvious nerd about a lot of things, but I have read fanfiction, for example, but don’t really talk about it because of what the author says: the stigma of fan activities. I definitely downplay some of my fan ways, which may lead people who know me to go “it could get worse?!” ;-)). So, while I haven’t delved that deeply into the Sleepy Hollow fandom, I appreciate that others are allowed to voice their opinions, share their work, and interact with the stars of the show, because pop culture and fandom make people feel less alone in the world. It really brings people together, so it’s nice that the sources of these feelings encourage it.

This article has some other gems, including:

Despite it being their number one new show, the network wisely decided that a less-is-more approach was more prudent, commissioning a second season without insisting on a back-nine episode order — a risk that might have led to a reduction in quality as the writers attempted to stretch a 13-episode story into 22 installments. Far too many network series wear out fans with too many meandering episodes, but Fox has ensured that Sleepy Hollow will leave viewers wanting more instead of overstaying its welcome.

I agree with this sentiment, it is better to let them control 13 episodes of story than to force them to then expand it into 22, which definitely messes many shows up; many writer’s rooms aren’t adept at handling that transition. This will be better for Sleepy Hollow and the fans in the long-run.

I am glad there is finally an article that speaks of all the points that make Sleepy Hollow the show to watch this season.

Brief Response: ‘Frozen’ Rearview: Why Disney’s Marketing Campaign Doesn’t Do the Movie Justice | Variety

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this a movie that quietly declares, in scene after scene, that a powerful woman is not someone to be loathed, feared or hidden from view. Would it have killed Disney to make sure the marketing proved worthy of the message?

via ‘Frozen’ Rearview: Why Disney’s Marketing Campaign Doesn’t Do the Movie Justice | Variety.

I saw Frozen yesterday, but I hadn’t paid too much attention to the marketing of it. But we’ve seen this before: a gender neutral title, the wacki-centric ads, etc, all to “get boys to also want to see the film” which is kind of ridiculous because I don’t think they do the same for “boy targeted” films. (Or do they? I suppose the romantic storylines in superhero movies are often so girls will go see them. Or the token girl character is a thing. ) But I just thought the author ended on this excellent point: maybe marketers should actually watch the movies they’re promoting and match marketing the message.

(And let’s not talk about how it’s all apparently “the princess and the frog’s” title’s fault that the movie didn’t do as well as expected. A lot of people who were excited for a movie with a black princess were upset that she wasn’t human for most of the film. That’s chalked up to writing. It’s sad because I’m nervous they won’t try again. That’s all a side matter though, don’t pick one element in a film that did less than expected and then change ALL FUTURE MARKETING FOR FUTURE FILMS.

Article Response: Why I think “Why Is ‘Sleepy Hollow’ A Hit?” from Forbes is Missing a BIG Factor

First: Click here and skim Why Is ‘Sleepy Hollow’ A Hit? – Forbes, though I basically summarize it below.

Here are some reasons the Forbes gives for the success of my favorite new show of the season, Sleepy Hollow and some counterarguments.

1. “Choosing a young person, Emily Murray, as ‘Social Media Producer.'”

2. “Using Facebook and Twitter” (duh? What else would you use?), or I guess the point is knowing where your fans are hanging out (which is an excellent point–Castle, Doctor Who, and Supernatural fans rule Tumblr, Scandal and Sleepy Hollow are Twitter hits, no one is really using Facebook for this kind of thing).

3. “Collaborating internally.” I guess this means having the social media team and creatives and marketing people all work together to have gifs and images ready for the twitter experience; all of that requires multiple departments to work with the social media guys.

4. Focusing on the product, not the company.” or I guess, creating a community around the show not the network, but this is what every show does. Every show has a twitter account and makes it about the show. This isn’t a special thing Sleepy Hollow is doing.

5. Getting the actors to tweet. Yes, this is a huge helping, which they learned from shows like Scandal. Get everyone on board and people will retweet behind the scenes info or Orlando Jones being a hilarious doofball mentioning fanfiction and gifs in his tweets.

6. The twitter account having a back and forth “fight” with the twitter account from rival network show Elementary. Yes, this was funny to see and contributed to word of mouth.

But the article, which is definitely tech/social media focused, didn’t at all think about the show or the fans it draws. Other shows do these very same things. They have show specific twitter accounts. They try to get their actors to live tweet. They have the marketing department draw up designs and posters that work with their live tweeting efforts. These aren’t the only factors.

The audience is a major factor, and who is in Sleepy Hollow‘s audience? The same kinds of people who are in Scandal’s audience. Young black (females mostly, but some males who reluctantly admit they watch either or both shows) people (what these young people call Black Twitter). The media hasn’t yet caught on that young African-Americans LOVE Twitter. And if you give us a show with a black lead, we will watch that show (because we don’t have many options with that factor, so we watch the ones that do until there are more options). And we will tweet about it to our other African-American friends on Twitter. And shows like Sleepy Hollow and Scandal, both with a black female lead, will skyrocket to the top of the tv ratings and social media discussion charts. Oh, but we don’t talk about this being a factor, do we? Nor do we discuss the fact that the person doing the most tweeting and connecting with the fans is Orlando Jones, a person of color. These things are certainly important.

Other shows have tried to mimic the formula of Scandal. They’ve done the same social media things that Sleepy Hollow is doing. And yet they’re not ratings phenomena. All because the networks and media coverage are hesitant to acknowledge the real reason these shows are blowing up: because people want to see diversity on their TV screens. They are more likely to tune in. They are more likely to tell their black/asian/hispanic/white/etc friends about it. And then the show get super popular and gets renewed for the next season 4 episodes in, like Sleepy Hollow did.

Don’t let social media take all the credit for this show’s success. I know that’s what the article was about, but in a discussion about social media, you should discuss the people who use social media, and their various idiosyncrasies. That’s the real way of understanding how to use it and what platforms are best.