'Deadline' Apologizes For 'Ethnic Casting' Article, But Mike Fleming's Statement Still Falls Short
Listen up: Deadline editor Mike Fleming, Jr. has issued a "mea culpa" (his words) for the article posted on the entertainment site on Tuesday, March 24 that was rife with racist undertones. The original article was titled "Pilots 2015: The Year Of Ethnic Castings — About Time Or Too Much Of Good Thing?," and was later changed to "Pilots 2015: The Year Of Ethnic Castings" which is only marginally better, but really undercut by the tone of the apology. In the statement Fleming issued on Sunday night, he said:
My co-editor-in-chief Nellie Andreeva’s goal was to convey that there was such an uptick of TV pilot casting of people of color that it pinched white actors who’ve historically gotten most of the jobs, and to question if this could last if it was being treated as a fad. All this was undermined by that headline (which we changed after the fact) and a repetition of the word “ethnic” that came off cold and insensitive.
The rest of the statement follows in kind, mostly defending Andreeva's intentions rather than address its deeper, more malignant implications of the original post, which posited that roles designed specifically for people of color (a term they don't use; rather, they opted for the more othering and condescending term "ethnic") puts Caucasian actors at a disadvantage. The ignorant article goes on and on in this manner, striking similarly to the age-old wack arguments along the lines of "affirmative action hurts white people" and "why isn't their a white history month?"
Fleming wrote his apology statement in a column that runs often on Deadline, Bart & Fleming, in which Fleming converses with his old colleague from Variety Peter Bart. It would have done better to be a stand-alone statement rather than a topic of conversation among many, in a talk that segued quickly into one about Frank Sinatra. Fleming makes Deadline seem like the victim, and again says that Adreeva's mission was objective observance (which is a laughable and watery defense):
[Adreeva] is trained in the sciences and used those sensibilities to analyze a data sample; the word “ethnic” is commonly used by casting agents. None of that works when talking about people, and race. Our writers, and editors, can be so focused on the trees they sometimes forget to look at the forest, or in this case, the readers who are much more than statistics. A perfect storm of events left us vulnerable, including me choosing the worst time to be zonked from a 22-hour return flight from New Zealand, and normally smart editors on duty failing to respond decisively even after a torrent of hostile comments rolled in.
Fleming's assumption that "scientific training" absolves someone of racist intentions is exhausting, and calling people's anger "hostile" is silencing and demeaning. Though he promises that Deadline will do better in the future, there is very little, if not any, discussion of the atmosphere of Hollywood that panics when more faces of color appear on TV screens, as if the small yet growing subset of diverse shows on television could ever "overthrow" white TV. Fleming does seem somewhat concerned that he alienated his readers, but posing the apology in conversation with Peter Bart rather than addressing directly his audience is almost insulting, and Bart only adds insult to that injury with his side of the conversation:
I have always nodded off at the word ‘diversity’ – it somehow sounds blandly corporate. The dictionary defines it as “composed of distinct forms and qualities” and I find hope in the notion of distinctive. People who are distinctive deserve the opportunities, irrespective of their color. Having said that, casting people tell me the good news that enormous opportunities have opened up for distinctive actors of color.
How nice it most be to think of 'diversity' in such theoretical, dictionary-defined terms rather than something to be considered deeply when viewing television racial dynamics through a critical lens. And it's almost astounding that Bart asserts that "casting people" have had to tell him it's a positive that more roles are opening for people of color. In other words, #NotAllActors.
A slight redemption for Fleming: he chose not to remove the original article from the site, as to be held accountable for Adreeva's misguided and grossly racist analysis. He does note that they changed the title of said article to more accurately reflect the opinions of Deadline: "As co-editors in chief, Nellie and I apologize deeply and sincerely to those who’ve been hurt by this. There is no excuse." That would have possibly been sufficient IF the rest of his apology had more thoroughly explored what exactly would motivate Adreeva to write such an ignorant piece in the first place.
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