“Too Much of a Good Thing?”: A Mother’s Response to Diversity in Hollywood

March 27, 2015  |  

This week, Deadline writer Nellie Andreeva incurred the wrath of social media when she wondered if the increase in “ethnic” casting opportunities was “too much of a good thing.” With shows like “Empire,” “Black-ish,” and “Fresh Off the Boat” attracting millions of viewers and critical acclaim, many studios are looking to include more actors of color in their upcoming slate of shows. While Andreeva says the move is “long overdue” she also wonders if “the pendulum might have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction.”

She writes: “Instead of opening the field for actors of any race to compete for any role in a color-blind manner, there has been a significant number of parts designated as ethnic this year, making them off-limits for Caucasian actors, some agents signal. Many pilot characters this year were listed as open to all ethnicities, but when reps would call to inquire about an actor submission, they frequently have been told that only non-Caucasian actors would be considered.”

Since the article dropped, many have called Andreeva out for her assertion that increased representation for people of color might be “too much of a good thing,” a phrase included in the original headline.

Avid Twitter user and Scandal showrunner Shonda Rimes called the article “ignorant.”

Andreeva’s article touched a nerve because actors and writers of color have had a difficult time being hired in Hollywood, and the one year that shows featuring Black, Hispanic, and Asian casts appears on TV, it’s called “too much of a good thing.” As writer and cultural critic Luvvie Ajayi pointed out, “White people have dominated and overrepresented themselves in entertainment,” so Andreeva’s concern for “all actors” getting a shot at the same opportunities is disingenuous given the current state of TV.

As a parent and founder of BrownBoyGenius, I’m always looking for shows that include diverse casts, not only because I like to watch people who look like me, but also because representation matters.

Back in 2012, an Indiana University study found that most television shows negatively affects a child’s self-esteem, except when he’s a white male. The reason? White men are often depicted as educated, powerful, and well off. The message is clear: being a white guy is awesome. Unfortunately, the same message isn’t sent to young girls and people of color.

“The images that our kids see through media and the news and images they see in video games informs their sense of what’s normal,” Sierra Filucci, an editor at Common Sense Media, said. “I think it’s important that we have our kids be savvy media critics and consumers and that we insert our own comments about media as often as we possibly can.”

All TV isn’t bad, however. Parents can counteract negative messages their kids get from the small screen by allowing them to view programs that include people who look like them in positive roles. Cartoons like Doc Mctuffins and shows like Black-ish depict positive images of Black families and show girls and women in powerful roles.

The current inclusion of people of color on network TV is promising, but it’s not quite equal yet. While shows like Empire and Jane the Virgin have garnered strong ratings, they are still just two shows featuring casts of color in a sea of programs that don’t. Though Andreeva is concerned about the rise in “ethnic” castings, I see it as good news. When our media starts to look more like real life, then we will truly be on the road to progress.

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