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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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.

My Inbox on Scandal Night

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I’m working on the blog post for tonight’s episode of Scandal (and also trying to use the left over energy to twist my hair), but just to tide us over until I can get my thoughts together, here’s a look at my Gmail Social Media inbox on Scandal night… It gets pretty crazy. I never have this much social media interaction lol I love the discussion and humor that twitter brings to the Scandal party. It really makes watching fun (and sometimes hard), but gets people theorizing and sharing jokes. I love it.

I bet everyone’s mentions and social media interaction is going to skyrocket for the Winter Finale in 2 weeks. We’re not ready, I just know it.

If you recognize your twitter handle there, hi! I love tweeting with you on Shondaland Thursday!

Oh, looks like I just got another notification! lol

Quote/Link: Fox TV Says That Diversity Is Just Good Business Sense [Shadow and Act]

Of course it may seem like a no-brainer, but execs told those in attendance that their shows must reflect today’s current and increasingly multi-racial and multi-cultural world in order to attract those coveted younger viewers.

Of course the success that Fox has enjoyed with their runaway hit Sleepy Hollow, which has already been renewed for a second season, and other current shows, like Almost Human and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, are just some signs of the network’s commitment to its new programming strategy.

Fox TV Says That Diversity Is Just Good Business Sense [Shadow and Act]

At least FOX is getting with the program. I love BK99 and Sleepy Hollow (and a bunch of other people are watching and talking about it) and I am looking forward to watching Almost Human. When you have a diverse cast, you basically double your expected audience, because while I watch plenty of “mainstream” (read: majority white cast) TV shows (and enjoy them), I have more pre-interest in a show that has a diverse cast. I look forward to it more. If Michael Ealy wasn’t in Almost Human (if the character was a white person), I’d perhaps be interested because it’s JJ Abrams, but I would be less interested, less invested, and less likely to watch it. Other people feel the same way. The same goes for Sleepy Hollow. I didn’t know anything about it before it premiered. If I’d heard about it (merely the title), I didn’t really care. I checked it out because I learned there was a black female star. I probably wouldn’t have if Nichole Beharie (or any other black female) hadn’t been the star. Networks really need to pay attention, the success of Sleepy Hollow and Scandal is not isolated to social media, their premises, or even the good writing (because both shows are great, but they’re not perfect). Those things are a factor, but their diversity is what has helped them skyrocket to the hit shows that they are.

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.

On Pilot Season

From: Post-Water-Cooler TV: How to Make a TV Drama in the Twitter Age

“The thing that still is really completely out of whack is pilot season. I mean having gone through that and having six weeks from a green light to shooting the pilot, competing with 100 other shows for talent, it’s crazy. It just seems completely out of date in the current ecosphere of television.”

I definitely agree. And I think there needs to be more audience participation in pilot season. I get that some shows are dropped because of budget or actor reasons. But then come up with a bunch for each network that were greenlit, then get some more audience feedback. Put them on Hulu or Netflix or your network site. Give us more choices and start the buzz for each show even earlier. That way you’ll know before 2 episodes in in September that the show isn’t sitting with mass audiences. AND (reading the next but in the interview) you could advertise during all those pilots and people would watch them, sometimes more than once, to decide which ones they liked. Obviously that’s optimistic but they won’t know until they experiment with the model.

On Rewatching and Live Tweeting

From: Post-Water-Cooler TV: How to Make a TV Drama in the Twitter Age

“They all watch it more than once. They watch it, and they live-tweet, and then the fans will watch it again and be like: I noticed this other thing.”

Yes, this is definitely true. People will watch your show more than once if they really enjoy it and that’s always good. Some writers dumb down their stories for the audience but if you raise the LCD and put smart stuff in your shows (great lines, little moments between characters, background events and easter eggs) and people rewatch a show, they’ll pick up more, they’ll pay closer next time and they’ll watch more than once. They might even watch it again on television on Hulu, where you can get some ad money from it.

TV is like Jazz

From: Post-Water-Cooler TV: How to Make a TV Drama in the Twitter Age

“A show is much more like jazz than it is a symphony. It’s call and response, responding to what’s happening in front of you.”

“You can have a plan, but you have to be open and flexible to making that plan better if an idea evolves, or if you find yourself with an opportunity that if you don’t seize, you’re going to regret it.”

On Planning Ahead

From: Post-Water-Cooler TV: How to Make a TV Drama in the Twitter Age

“Q: But, as he says, the writers will often put characters in a jam with no idea of how to get out of it. How close to his reality is yours?”

I love how Carlton Cuse (Co-exec on Lost) didn’t weigh in [in this excerpt] on this question. Because EVERYONE knows that that was how Lost operated. A lot of times to disastrous, unsatisfying results.

“We’ll have things planned, it’s just inevitably those plans get yanked away.”

That’s true and something we as audience members must keep in mind. It’s also important when thinking of specs, because you can’t write a guest in to a script because the idea is to act like it’s gonna be produced and you don’t know whether that actor will be available.

Post-Water-Cooler TV: How to Make a TV Drama in the Twitter Age

Link: Post-Water-Cooler TV: How to Make a TV Drama in the Twitter Age

“The water cooler moment, what is that really? At its core, it’s people having a reason to have a conversation about a shared experience, but there’s a lot of ways to have a shared experience. That can be live-tweeting. That can be people that have binge-watched a season of something and told their friend, “You have to binge-watch it, so we can talk about it.” Then they have a conversation two weeks later that’s about an entire season. I just think the water cooler is expanding in concentric circles to allow for more experiences.”

Check out this NY Times article. I’ll be liveblogging/posting some quotes and my thoughts in the following posts.