Lack of Diversity on Networks’ Fall Schedule
Heartfelt thanks to reporter Greg Braxton for sounding the alarm, and thanks to The Times for seeing fit to run a whole series on the travesty of the upcoming TV season (“TV’s Diversity Dilemma,” July 20-25).
Lost amid the rhetoric and the weak shrugging by various execs is the truly troubling argument that white people will not watch shows with people of color in the forefront. If this is not true, then white viewers should be insulted that the networks simply assume that they desire a cultural apartheid. If it is indeed true that white viewers have become more separatist since the days of “Roots,” “Cosby” and other crossover hits, then we’re all in a lot more trouble than we think.
If our society is resegregating, as many sociologists believe, if neighborhoods are once again becoming homogenized, if workplaces and schools are losing their color, then TV is perhaps our last, best hope in uniting us as a nation.
At a recent meeting about the lack of diversity, one longtime veteran grumbled, “The only way to get the attention of these rich bastards is to bomb something.” We knew he was joking--still, we shuddered, both at the darkness of the sentiment and at its dark truth. Here’s hoping your series has the effect of that bomb.
Sadly, racism is alive and well in America. Thanks for your continued coverage on this issue.
Kudos to Greg Braxton for a pointed look at the diminishing employment opportunities for minority actors and writers (July 24). As an agent for a number of talented minority actors, I find it extremely difficult to explain to them why they are sitting on the sidelines while my young white clients are working constantly. It certainly isn’t for lack of ability or experience; as Braxton correctly illustrates, rather an alarming lack of representative roles.
Within the context of most projects, there are ample opportunities for people of color to lend diversity and perspective in addition to their talent. I know this because I see them every day. Film and television don’t merely serve to entertain us, they function as a reflection of how we see ourselves as a society. Personally, I think we could use some more color in that image.
BARRY J. GROSS
The Chasin Agency
How shameful, arrogant and foolish of the networks not to recognize Latino talent and the beauty of diversity.
MARIA A. ACOSTA
I am a screenwriter, and black, currently with a movie in pre-production, and scheduled to shoot next month. I am disheartened that the NAACP is boycotting the networks. Of all the issues in all the communities in this country, they had to walk into this one.
The only people who are visible in television, and in society for that matter, are people with money. The NAACP would do well to concentrate on writing a script for economic development in the disenfranchised communities and quit wasting their membership’s money when we have far too few colored kids in the library, in the boardroom and in the computer lab to be worried about the few that inhabit the boob tube.
DOUGLAS L. HALL
The bottom line is this: Until there are executives (Latino, Asian and black) in top development and programming positions greenlighting intelligent, nonstereotypical stories by Latinos, Asians and blacks, there will never be programs we can be proud of, or characters we can relate to. Everyone is talking about “the Latino thing,” but people need to be hired first, in front of and behind the camera!
Kudos to Nickelodeon! Children’s programming is by far the most progressive and aggressive in regard to development on the ethnic-targeted programming front.
ROXANNE RODRIGUEZ LETTMAN
Playa del Rey
In your July 23 piece, Paris Barclay is incensed by the networks’ unflagging penchant for “overlooking” the vast ocean of minority talent. What Barclay and others don’t seem to be asking is “why?”
For the last seven months, I have worked as a temp at one of the major broadcast networks. The issue of minorities being almost completely shut out of the prime-time landscape has been and continues to be discussed by myself and my colleagues since the networks announced their fall schedules. How could this happen? we wondered. But when looking around our offices, we all noticed perhaps the most obvious and logical reason. All of our programming executives, top to bottom, are Caucasian. Barclay might be interested to know that the untapped pool of minority executives is every bit as impressive as the pool of minority actors and actresses.
How can we expect to see network TV in a creative broad-band when its entire social frame of reference is so hopelessly narrow-band?
In addition to being grossly insensitive, outrageous and racist, the TV networks’ debut of 26 shows absent any minorities in leading roles is simply bad business. Minorities make up a large part of the viewing public and they are huge consumers.
Advertisers and network executives should realize that these gross omissions (whether deliberate or simply negligent) in casting is offensive and is noted. Advertisers should require diversity in exchange for advertising dollars. Broadcasters and advertisers should wake up to the realities of what makes good business, not to mention principles of fairness or civil rights, as we enter the new century.
MELANIE E. LOMAX
Despite the relative lack of roles for African Americans and Hispanics available this season, there have been many good roles and actors from these ethnic groups in the past. Asians, however, are almost nonexistent or when they are seen are usually in stereotyped roles. I’d like to see some playing just ordinary or perhaps not-so-ordinary human beings for a change.
Incidentally, I am one of those who dislike the idea of hyphenated Americans. However, it seems that the reality of situations like this is that you have to think of yourself as such. If so, that is a sad commentary.