I am someone who gets invested in stories. I get sucked into books, especially series, and I recently realized I prefer this new age of television (ability to watch full seasons via Netflix, Hulu, etc) to movies. This new age of television has also brought a much needed touch of diversity with more and more lead characters, writers, and show runners who are not only Caucasian, middle-aged, men. Even though I am drawn to these new shows, cable television has definitely missed a few steps along the way.
Going through the current major networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC), diversity is starting to take hold, but usually as an addition and very safe. The Mindy Project was lauded for featuring an female who is Indian as the lead, but most of the rest of the featured cast is a Caucasian boys club. Modern Family features a gay couple, but most of the cast, including the couple, are middle-class Caucasian. The Big Bang Theory shows off the stereotypical Caucasian (and Indian) “nerds” and the dumb-blonde Caucasian woman. It finally (sort-of, almost) got its act together when adding the smart, nerdy Caucasian women. I will give it props for showcasing a character who is (most likely) on the autism spectrum.
Some outliers include Fox’s Glee (in its last season) who tries to “champion the underdog” by showcasing characters who are transgender, bi-sexual, gay, disabled, etc. ABC’s Black-ish features a middle-class African-American family. We also have a saving grace in Shonda Rhimes, whose series include Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, and Grey’s Anatomy. They all have strong, female leads. They also feature ethnic and sexual orientation diversity. They definitely aren’t perfect, but I feel they are some of the only series where diversity is effortless.
Cable television isn’t perfect, nor does every show have to be a perfect depiction of diversity. But, I am now looking towards new television outlets to set the bar.The change from traditional cable networks to other content creators and providers has allowed for a more thoughtful and daring look at diversity. Maybe there is less red tape. Maybe they don’t have to rely on ad revenue. It is clear that they have more freedom to explore. Here are some quick examples of these shows:
– Transparent on Amazon: Transgender father, tackles gender identity. Female creator and producer who enacted a “transfirmative action program” that favors hiring transgender candidates over cisgender applicants. All the bathrooms on set are gender neutral.
– Girls on HBO: Created, produced, directed, written, and starred by Lena Dunham. All four leads are female, not just sex focused a la Sex and the City.
-Orange is the New Black on Netflix: Mostly female cast in a woman’s prison. Tackles ethnic diversity, gender identity, sexuality, and represents people of different socio-economic backgrounds.
– Looking on HBO: Unfiltered view of 3 men’s lives who are gay in San Francisco.
This has got me thinking: maybe I am staying away from movies because it hasn’t transitioned as quickly as television. I have no interest in the fifth Transformers movie especially after watching the opening scene with Megan Fox in the sequel. I am clearly bored of the Spider Man reboots, every Iron Man, X-Men, Avengers, Wolverine, Thor, Hulk… wait there are still more Marvel movie franchises I haven’t listed? They must be making so much money… anyways, I digress. Where is the diversity? Reese Witherspoon started her own production company because Hollywood was lacking in movies with “clear, female voices”. Interestingly enough, most of my to-see movie list for the last year wouldn’t exist that company: Gone Girl and Wild.
It is your call Hollywood, how quickly are you going to catch up? I guess I am just going to continue sitting here, binge watching Netflix until you do.