TV May Be Making Major Strides In Diversity, But There's Still Work To Be Done
While the media still isn't quite where it needs to be, in terms of representation in Hollywood, take heart — it's (probably) going to be OK. A new study from USA Today suggests that television has become a much more diverse landscape than its big-screen counterpart, the movie industry. The publication reported that with the addition of 20 new shows for the fall season, "More than a third of the actors on major-network sitcoms and dramas are racially or ethnically diverse." But it's not just like these series are adding one ethnic character to their mainly Caucasian casts; many also reflect diverse life experiences. Think about examples like ABC's new-ish series Fresh Off the Boat and Black-ish — these shows are based on the experiences of the minority families they portray, Asian- and African-American respectively. The progress is certainly promising.
USA Today was quick to point out the monetary benefit to networks, quoting Courtney A. Kemp, the creator and executive producer of Power, a Starz series about an African-American New York City nightclub owner. Kemp stated,
"People have begun to recognize how much money they can make by targeting underserved audiences. The color that’s relevant here is green. It’s not about any kind of altruism, or a sea change in how people are feeling about diversity.”
While I'm inclined to agree (the song from Cabaret isn't "Money Makes the World Go 'Round" for nothing), there seems to be something more going on here. Maybe, just maybe, executives aren't thinking about how much money they'll make, but also that they're making their fans happy. Or maybe I need to get out of the magic fairyland I've been inhabiting and join the real world. Either way, it's nice to think that viewers' interests were in mind.
Meanwhile, Gary Newman, the co-chairman of Fox Television Group, pointed to the notion of giving the people what they want. You know, that old chestnut, "If you build it they will come." He stated, "When you have a country as diverse as ours, you just have to have programming that appeals to different groups." Basically, it's not that crazy of a notion that viewers would start seeing new faces in television, because it's high time the actual demographics of the country were put into play, in terms of broadcasting content that people actually want to see and see themselves in.
As the cliché goes, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth," so whatever reason this diversity is popping up, it's exciting that television is getting better at representing the American people — even if the movie industry is still lagging behind. (#OscarsSoWhite anyone?) USA Today gave the main networks "grades" on their level of diversity. ABC topped the list off with an A-, while CBS lagged behind with a C-. The above-mentioned Fresh Off the Boat and Black-ish definitely contributed to ABC's slightly above average grade. Then, CBS, as of 2016, is the network with the lowest number of minority leads among its competitors, while also being the only network to not have a series focused on a family of color, according to the LA Times.
Won't it be a wonderful world when every network gets an A? It's bound to happen sooner rather than later, as census data interpreted by NPR shows that minority populations will continue to grow, while the percentage of whites declines — which essentially means that minorities will be the majority as soon as 2020.
If shows with minority leads and showrunners — like The CW's Jane the Virgin, FX's Atlanta, and Netflix's Aziz Ansari hit, Master of None — are what fans get with more diversity in programming, sign me up. The '90s may be the golden age of children's shows, but the era right now might just end up being the golden age of television. I actually cannot handle the excitement.
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