Wednesday, June 14, 2006
I was reading a really great blog the other day and it raised some of the same kinds of questions and issues that I have had with Hollywood for a really long time, so I thought I'd give my two cents worth and a link to direct you to the original posting, by a woman who works in the industry, no less. You can get there by clicking on the title to this blog entry. Now, I'll continue my rant.
The reason I say that Hollywood is still a bastion of bigotry is pretty obvious. If I were from, say, China and I were watching American TV programs, I'd be under the impression that their population was primarily white and that blacks and Latinos were a very, very small portion of the population. I'd also think that Asian, Indian, Middle Easterners were almost non-existent in the population. Most of the TV and movie stars are of Caucasian descent. Now, it's true that th major stations try to add people of color and some shows, usually those in prime time, have a black person in them, but not most and not to the extent that it is equally proportionate to our demographics. Sure, it's better than it was in the fifties, but not by much. Hollywood could do so much better.
Take two really popular programs: 24 and Alias. Alias had two, count them, TWO black people on the show from the beginning. A man and a woman. That's pretty progressive compared to most of the programming out there. But, why weren't there more pople of color on the show? They didn't even add a Latin character until two years ago. And then they killed off the black guy. Does that mean that theres not enough room on a show for two people of color to be on it at the same time. Now, I also was proud of that show, because they did have an interracial couple on it, for a short period of time. It was pretty awesome to finally see a couple who didn't look exactly alike.
Now, let's look at 24. They had a black guy on that show. Oooo! And they one-upped Alias by putting him in charge of the whole country. Very cool. But, on a show with a huge cast, why weren't there more people of color on it?
We can look at a few other of my favorite programs. CSI--one black guy, but they do have everal Latinos in CSI Miami which actually makes sense with the demographics. But, are any of them in strong authoritive positions? No. The first year they showed Illana (sp?), H's sister in law, who was a cop and Latina. That was pretty good, but still, it's not like she was the DA or anything.
General Hospital. Now this one bugs me to no end. They have two black people on the show and they're a couple. But, they get almost NO air time and their romance is relegated to the back seat. If this was a bus it would say, coloreds in big bold letters right in the back of the bus and Whites only at the front. There are no chinese, no indians, no middle easterners.
They've finally added another black character to the show a few months ago. She's a BBW (large lady) and she's hysterical and a GREAT actress, but she most likely will never get a romance, because she's fat (and everyone knows that only scrawny white girls can catch a man's attention) and she's definitely just an extra character. (They needed a new nurse at the hospital, I guess) She won't ever have a strong storyline, though. Not a romantic one. However, she's such a great actress that any scene she's in becomes stronger and memorable simply due to her presence.
I've stopped watching this soap, altogether, because I'm tired of only seeing white people all the time on TV. And I'm half white! So, it's not like I don't like my own kind of people. But, hell's bells, I like, no I LOVE variety. It's 80% of why I like to live in the city.
I do give GH kudos for finally introducing a gay storyline, but if that sweet guy ever gets a real romance other than some hand holding and maybe a chaste kiss here and there, I'll die of shock. And he deserves a romance, might I add. He's totally adorable. But, see the thing is that GH is so cutting edge in so many ways, they're really good about dealing with social issues and I guess I just expect so much more from a serial like theirs, because they're capable of changing things if they really want to.
There are a few shows that we could hold up as role models, but unfortunately they're the exception rather than the rule: The 4400 has an interracial couple, but that's sadly where the variety ends in their menu; The Closer is great, they've got Latinos, Asian American, and a black in a prominent position. Kudos, gang! Lost has not one, but THREE black people, an interracial couple, an Asian couple, an Arab (who's actually an Indian in real life, but hey, they all look the same don't they? That's what I imagine the HW exec said to the others when they chose Naveen Andrews to play the part of an Afghani, lol, not that I'm complaining because I could sit and drool over him all day long, he's yummy, but still, that's not supposed to be the point, is it? I could as easily drool over a hottie Arab, too), and there were two Latinos, before one of them was murdered because she had to serve time or do community service for drunk driving (dopita!). So, our biggest kudo goes to the hottest show on TV which should say SOMETHING to those blockheads in HW who're making the casting decisions. I know if I owned a company and saw those stats, I'd definitely do whatever I had to do to repeat it. How does that saying go again? Oh, yeah, $ talks and Bullshit walks. Seems that's only applicable everywhere else but in Hollywood.
Now, I want to ask you, how many TV shows can you think of where the hero, the main character, is Black or of a race other than Caucasian? I can think of one. The Unit. Now HERE'S a truly modern, non-bigoted program and I credit that in great part to Eric Haney, who doesn't have a prejudiced bone in his body. This show is wonderful. We see a Black man in charge; a man of middle eastern descent, (well, probably not really, but as the saying goes, "they all look the same", right? -- what's up with that? Aren't there any good Arab actors out there?); a Latino and, omg! hold your shorts on, because there's another black man on the freaking show! I know, it's a shocker. And you know what? It's a popular program. People love it. Personally, I hoped they'd give the young, single black guy an Asian girlfriend, but they didn't get that creative. They gave him a black gf. Ha! That's ok. We're just happy to see more than one person of color on the show.
The other problem I have with Hollywood is the way they stereotype people. I mean, you might as well haul out the shoe polish and white mouth with some of these shows. Not all black people speak ebonics, carry guns, are funny, play basketball and rap music and eat collard greens (yum!). I've even met black people who like country music, couldn't dribble to save their lives and would rather be shot than speak ebonics which makes one sound uneducated. *gasp* (Of course, most of the black people I know are highly educated, so maybe I just run with the *wrong* crowd). Not all gay men are flamboyant. Omg! No, way! Yes way, really! I've known gay men who are such bad asses they're more alpha male than some straights. (Rock Hudson anyone?) They don't all know how to dress and they dont' all decorate. I know, it's a shock, but we'll get used to it and I think we'd even like it if we saw real people on TV more often. I think it adds to the problems when we dont' see "normal" acting gays on TV, because if they're acting insane, then it gives straight homophobes added motivation for hating them. It lets people justify their gaybashing and bigotry. And not all Lesbians look like short, beefcake men and wear flannel. I've met lesbians who're so beautiful they turn both men and women's heads. Can anyone say Josephine Baker? (Ok, I think she was bi, but you get my point, right?)
And then there are some shows that I've never seen a black or hispanic person on their show, like Gilmore Girls, which is a cute show with witty dialogue. They have an Asian American girl and her mother, but that's as "colorful" as it gets in their town. What's that about?
Apparently Blacks make up about 20% of the population, which is hard for me to believe, because having grown up in the Bay Area, and even lived in LA for a short while, I grew up thinking that there were as many blacks as there were whites and that the Mexicans and Chinese ran a really close second (as far as population was concerned). To me, minorities were the Hindis, Arabs, Cambodians, Tongans, etc. They seemed exotic and different back then. Nowadays, there's alot more Indians and Middle Easterners in The City, so I'd have to adjust my perspective if I still lived there. But, I know that not all of America is that diverse and port cities are always more diverse than inland cities, I guess. Even so, that statistic seems so low to me. But, let's just say it's correct, and that HW really did try to match their demographics to reality, we're still seeing way less of the ethnic populations in the product they create. C'mon Hollywood, let's get this show on the road and get it together. Show the world what America is really like, the America that I love, that wonderful melting pot where everyone has their differences, but we grow and learn how to cooperate and live together in spite of, or maybe even because of, them. I'd be happy if I could just see more variety, more colors, more individuals and less stereotyping in their programming. Until then, I'm not interested in watching popular TV & Movies. I want to be heard.
Now, I've said all of that to say this. Women are the primary buyers in our society and as such we have the greatest influence over...well, EVERYTHING!!!! We are the world's largest market segment, but we don't utilize our power intelligently to get what we want, see? Just like we don't usually negotiate for higher pay on the job. We just seem to accept whatever the HR person says they pay for the position, but the truth is that Men tend to negotiate their salaries more often and end up getting paid, on average, at least 10% more than the HR or Boss says they're willing to pay. And, guess what? That's just about the difference in pay between men and women these days. It's still better than when I first began working where women were paid over a dollar less than men. 10-30 cents less is a little more palatable, these days, but let's start negotiating, Girlfriends, and we'll close that gap, ok? Sorry. Back to my point and off the rabbit trail:
And you know who's the second largest purchasing segment? Our daughters, pre-teen girls! (That totally cracks me up. I have this fantasy in mind where all the women are taken out of commission for some reason, and our daughters end up taking over the world. Suddenly all the kitchen appliances are in hot pink and neon blue and aqua and purple with rhinestone accents and crystal handles.)
Last year, women bought more electronics than men did, but only 1% of us were happy with what we purchased. The other 99% said we didn't think the companies creating the products had us in mind at all when they were designing them. Huh, no kidding! And you know what? We're right, because those companies are still working off the old frame of reference when computers first came out during the 60's and 70's!!! and only men were using them, because they were the engineers back then. But in the last ten years women have caught up quickly with men as users and we are the ones, (75% of all technology purchasers in 2003 were women), who buy the product. It's my guess that if the products were designed with us in mind, then we'd actually pass up men as the primary users of technology, too. Not that we should have to pass them up in order to have our desires met.
Builders are starting to catch on. Women are the primary decision makers in that area, too, (we always have been, in theory,), but now single women are buying houses at an unprecedented rate. What is really cool is that in this instance we're the better negotiator. Surprise, surprise. We tend to get the same exact house for at least 10 grand less than men. Now, if only we can parlay that negotiating talent into higher paying jobs, hmmm....
We need to exert ourselves, Sistahs, and raise our voices or withhold our pocketbooks. I read an article recently that said something about how if women stopped purchasing in Tokyo, Japan's economy would collapse! We could do that so easily in America, too. If we started writing to the advertisers, telling them what we want to watch, the kind of programming we wanted to see, they'd have to listen. For the the fun of it, let's just take that new show, I think it's called, the Girls Next Door (about playboy bunnies and the old fart who can't be bothered to get dressed), but we stop purchasing the advertised products, in effect we boycott their advertisers, and we let them know why, how fast do you think GND would go off the air? Pretty damn fast, I'd bet.
We have the power to tell Hollywood off and to make sure that we get what we want. TV is all about advertising. We could send a message to advertisers too by purchasing products who advertise using models with healthy bodies, "real" people. I mean, as a former model, I understand the importance of having an attractive face on your product, but why did I have to look like a scarecrow to get someone to buy a shirt? It's not good for our daughters. Take the new add for that women's moisturizing soap from Dove. That company is saying we're beautiful in all our shapes, colors, sizes and ages. If only more companies would send a positive message like that. If we started sending messages by purchasing from companies like that, who don't advertise using models who look like they're high on heroine, then I'm willing to bet that advertising practices would change. I know that we'd like our daughters to feel good about themselves and to see positive role models in other girls who look like them on TV, not like some geezer's ideal of what a girl should look like.
I don't want her to think that just because she's not blonde and blue eyed, she won't be able to find love. If she were fat, I wouldn't want her to think she's unworthy because of that, as TV suggests, no, not suggests, pronounces emphatically to us on all the ads and shows. I mean, geez, we should be emphasizing Health, not size/weight. Are you healthy? Should be the question, not, Are you a size 2? (And I'm not knocking blonde/blue-eyed people, hope that's clear. If the shoes were on the opposite feet, I'd still feel the same way,ie if she were blonde/blue eyed and most of what she saw on TV was brunette/brown-eyed, etc., see what I mean?)
Another annoying statistic is that men outnumber women on TV 4:1. That includes children's shows. In cartoons the number is 10:1. And as far as movies and starring roles go, men still far outnumber women. It's still considered an exception to the rule for women to star in a movie. And, this is really stupid, TV shows are still made with the idea that white 18-25 year old men are the majority of who's watching. However, the truth of the matter is that women are still home more than men, not much more because 43% of us now work outside the home), and we're the ones who're watching TV, especially during the daytime. What's up with that? It doesn't make sense when you think that there are something like 20-30,000 more women than men living in the US.
The top companies in America have hired and created entire departments in thier marketing tiers devoted exclusively to coming up with products, ideas and the advertising needed to communicate them to & for women. But not Hollywood. They must think they know something the rest of us don't. Maybe all the women are going to be suddenly destroyed, leaving only men within the next couple years, so they dont' feel they need to "waste" their time coming up with stories and programmes that we'll enjoy. NOT! They're just a bunch of egotistical white men aged 18-40 who spend all their time in front of the tube. It seems like we can get whatever we want, except when it comes to Hollywood, but you know what I think? I think we just haven't tried hard enough, yet.
I find it hard to fathom that women in Hollywood, the producers, directors and so forth, the women with the power to change things, don't use it. Instead, they're too busy fitting in, trying to make it in a "man's world", trying to be accepted by the old boy's club. Fuck the old boys club, Girls. I'm not joking. My dh and I have decided that we're not watching shows and movies that do not have a wider variety of ethnicities amongst the cast. That old "joke" about how if there's a black guy in the cast, he'll be the one to either wear a dress or get killed first, isn't funny anymore, it never was, and it's not a joke, it really is what happens and I for one am not going to give my money over to people who're prejudiced and bigotted and so quaint that they can't get with the program. When are we going to start showing Hollywood that we expect them to portray our America, the one we actually live in and not this weird 1950's version of how they wanted it to be. I don't want my daughter to grow up with the idea that Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Arabs, Jews, Africans, Spanish, Mexican, etc., are unusual or diffferent. They're not. They're all part of the rich tapestry, the melting pot that makes up our society. It is what makes the United States so unique. You won't find this kind of mixture in any other country in the world. Why is it that Hollywood is in such denial over the very thing that makes this country so damned wonderful?
I want to see programs that reflect our view of the world. Our view of the world, what we teach our daughter is that we judge people according to their character, the choices they make, not according to their race, religion, gender, or who they fall in love with. Our view is that different is not abnormal. Different is wonderful and what makes life interesting. It's the spice. What is abnormal is seeing everyone on TV looking exactly like everyone else on TV: skinny, white, blonde, blue eyed and with teeth that could light up a runway. In my opinion, Hollywood represents the Nazi party more than those groups of skinheads do and certainly doesn't try nearly hard enough to represent the variety of characters that make up the USA.
So, what I'd like to know is does this bother you about Hollywood or do you think the status quo is fine? Do you have any ideas on how we could effect change in the entertainment industry in the future?