Social Question

JLeslie's avatar

Do you think TV shows and made for TV movies that have diverse casts helps to combat racism?

Asked by JLeslie (61813points) November 30th, 2020

I really had a hard time wording this question.

I was noticing that a lot of the sickening sweet, sappy, TV series and Christmas movies on Hallmark channel and other family channels almost always have at least some diversity, some more than others.

In the past there were shows like Little House and Dr. Quinn that tried to promote understanding and acceptance of other races and cultures. They showed how everyone basically wants the same things, but also pointed out differences in cultures, and showed some ugliness from racist and bigoted characters.

Do you think these shows have a positive affect? Do we need more wholesome shows like these? Are shows with open discussion about race like All In The Family more effective? What about the show Blackish? Or, is it better to barely acknowledge race or ethnicity at all, and just have everyone interact as though the diversity is a complete nonissue? Are shows with predominantly minority casts effective, or is a diverse cast better to decrease racism?

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13 Answers

JeSuisRickSpringfield's avatar

Maybe. Ellen DeGeneres and Will & Grace are both credited with changing views about the LGBT community. But the main reason that is usually given for increasing diversity in films and television has to do with representation (which in turn has an effect on identity formation). There’s a review article about the psychological effects of representation here with several citations regarding each aspect of this area of research.

Zaku's avatar

I think when casting is made by ethnicity for PR and other superficial reasons, that’s not helping much, and can actually be a new kind of problem.

Ideally, there would be programming that as a whole includes authentic portrayals of people from various ethnicities in authentic ways. Of course, the general level of quality, intelligence and authenticity in modern TV drama (and film drama) is often very low. Such productions can be extra-bad when they have fake attempts at ethnic inclusion, but are pretty hopeless anyway. But there have also been more and more well-done shows that do good jobs, and/or show other ethnic perspectives. Many more than there used to be.

Archie Bunker was great because it was so well done in many ways, and its perspective wasn’t from inside Archie’s mindset – it showed it. And it was also aware of and interested in other perspectives.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I do. Many families don’t really discuss it, so I think media is more powerful than we realize.

Disney has had many examples for children so why not target adults, too. Even movies like Django started many conversations again, which is a good thing.

kritiper's avatar

No. The main purpose of TV shows is to get people to watch and thus watch the commercials.
If you want to talk about racism, make a documentary. It may not draw a lot of viewers, but you do the best you can.
Combating racism isn’t something that would really make for a good TV show. People who are racist don’t want to be preached to about their racism, and they would change channels.

zenvelo's avatar

A lot of the inclusion in productions don’t add much to the story, but they let the production company say,“look at how diverse we are”. It’s like the GOP setting special seats aside for black people to sit/stand behind the speaker.

It would be more meaningful if TV shows like Little House or Dr Quinn were more accurate about the struggles of People of Color during the context of the show. Usually, it’s a modern version of Stepin Fetchit, where the happy folk get along well with everyone except that one cold heart down by the river who gets his comeuppance or repents by the end of the episode,

canidmajor's avatar

Yes, I think they do. Even if the purpose of the peel duckers is only about the bottom line, there will be a more diverse audience watching the show and the advertising.
Representation always helps. And to be fair, @zenvelo, citing examples from 20 and 40 years ago doesn’t really hold today.

JLeslie's avatar

@JeSuisRickSpringfield I skimmed your link and it seemed to be talking about modeling for minorities, especially adolescent minorities. That is an interesting point I wasn’t really thinking about. I was thinking more about white people treating everyone equally and getting rid of stereotypes or prejudices. Your article is a different take, and I wonder if there is specific intent by some of these shows to model behavior for minorities.

@zenvelo I think Little House and Dr. Quinn did address the struggles in their settings, while these newer Christmas and Disney shows just present diversity without any “issues” the minority people exist on the show with the same status as the majority.

@KNOWITALL I hadn’t thought about sparking discussion, but I guess that’s maybe part of it. I was thinking more about children and adults becoming, for lack of a better word, desensitized to race. I grew up in very diverse cities so seeing people who look different is very normal in my world. People who grow up in very homogenous communities maybe don’t have that experience, but if they see it in media maybe it’s just as normal for them. As far as the more controversial shows like All in the Family, I can see how it might start a discussion, but I know in my family it never did.

Inspired_2write's avatar

I watch the tv show Blackish and enjoy it.

It is inspiring for younger viewers to the possibilities of aiming much higher in life as the

central character is a professional doctor and husband CEO and they live comfortable stable lives.

Also the main characters parents were a interactional couple, which shows acceptance of

each others race and its effects of the next generations.

In the 1960’s I had in High School a a black teacher who was very educated and intelligent

and accepted very well in our city as well as her husband who was a professional Football


No race problems at the time on our large city in the 1960s like we saw on TV occurring in the U.S.

In Europe very little race problems as it Europe for centuries have integrated all races .

In Canada of course some Towns had racism but not to the point of violence as in the U.S.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

NPR January 17, 2011 – Star Trek’s Uhura Reflects On MLK Encounter

NPR host Michel Martin: “One of the things that might not be so well known about Martin Luther King, Jr. is that he was a Trekkie, a fan of the television show “Star Trek” – that according to Nichelle Nichols, the actress who played the groundbreaking role of Lieutenant Uhura on the popular series…

Nichelle Nichols: ”...: I went in to tell Gene Roddenberry that I was leaving after the first season, and he was very upset about it. And he said, take the weekend and think about what I am trying to achieve here in this show. You’re an integral part and very important to it. And so I said, yes, I would. And that – on Saturday night, I went to an NAACP fundraiser, I believe it was, in Beverly Hills. And one of the promoters came over to me and said, Ms. Nichols, there’s someone who would like to meet you. He says he is your greatest fan.

“And I’m thinking a Trekker, you know. And I turn, and before I could get up, I looked across the way and there was the face of Dr. Martin Luther King smiling at me and walking toward me. And he started laughing. By the time he reached me, he said, yes, Ms. Nichols, I am your greatest fan. I am that Trekkie.

”...I think I said something like, Dr. King, I wish I could be out there marching with you. He said, no, no, no. No, you don’t understand. We don’t need you on the – to march. You are marching. You are reflecting what we are fighting for. So, I said to him, thank you so much. And I’m going to miss my co-stars.

“And his face got very, very serious. And he said, what are you talking about? And I said, well, I told Gene just yesterday that I’m going to leave the show after the first year because I’ve been offered – and he stopped me and said: You cannot do that. And I was stunned. He said, don’t you understand what this man has achieved? For the first time, we are being seen the world over as we should be seen. He says, do you understand that this is the only show that my wife Coretta and I will allow our little children to stay up and watch…”.

Martin: “Ms. Nichols, I have to tell you, the same was true in our house. I mean we would run and our parents would literally call and say look, look, you know, she’s on.”

Nichols: “Well, it’s interesting that you said, you know, you would run through the house and look. I met Whoopi Goldberg when Gene was doing The Next Generation and she had told me when Star Trek came on she was nine years old and she said she turned the TV on and saw me and ran through the house screaming: Come quick, come quick. Theres a black lady on TV and she ain’t no maid.”

JLeslie's avatar

@Call_Me_Jay I knew Nichols’ roll had been held up as important for Black people being represented on TV, but I never saw that whole interchange. Thanks!

The Jeffersons I think was a big deal. It had a Black couple who did well financially, and a biracial couple who were their close friends. I don’t think the show would ever make it today. Too much slang and derogatory phrases.

zenvelo's avatar

@canidmajor I only cited those shows because they were referenced in the original posting.

canidmajor's avatar

@zenvelo Ah, good point.

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