In the Mix

October 5, 2016

Ethnic TV

More articles for »
Written for: Communicado Magazine
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’ve been writing about television a lot lately. It’s a symptom of the fact that my babysitters as a child were a 19 inch Magnavox floor model with retractable doors and a black and white Zenith with rabbit ears.

Latest TV milestone: Ethnic TV. I bet they call it that at ABC as well… Maybe URBAN TV… Black-ish, Cristela, Fresh off the Boat, The Goldbergs. Black, Asian, Latino, Jewish.

Program note: The white people even have a few dysfunctional shows to keep them grounded as well – Mom, American Housewife and The Middle. Mom is a show about a recovering drug abusing mother and daughter duo – American Housewife is about a middle class family living in an upper class town in Connecticut with all the judgement that accompanies that, and The Middle is just about “being poor” as the Heck family calls themselves.

But I’m concerned. Don’t get me wrong – I like them all and watch them all. But, I believe in celebrating diversity. I was curious to hear what people from the underrepresented groups had to say about their show… so I asked…

I want to start with my Asian friend – she’s been using the term FOBBY since the moment I met her, so, there was no way I was passing up the opportunity to ask what she thinks. Her answer? “I think its too generic.”

The problem? Taiwanese people are slightly different than the Chinese who are different than Koreans who are different from Japanese people. Because there are so many different versions of Asian people, you either have to be fairly generic or find only the traditions that are common to every Asian culture.

The mother on Fresh Off The Boat said she’d like to see the show be more specific too. “If you change the food to a 1,000-year-old black egg with tofu and scallions, it will be a little more specific, and specificity is just better for character, and it’s more interesting than, say, tofu and rice.” – Constance Wu

This is the same problem the Latino community faces. Cristela tells the story of a Mexican family. But there are differences between them and Puerto Ricans or Cubans or Portuguese. My favorite Latina hates when people ask her what she’s doing for Cinco de Mayo… She’s Puerto Rican… it’s a Mexican holiday that other Latinos don’t celebrate. Tacos and Burritos are Mexican food… Brazilians speak Portuguese which is slightly different than Spanish. I could go on…

BUT, the one thing both Asian people and Latino’s say is – We’re just glad to be represented in some way… Even if it does have to be generic… We can fix that at a later date…
Unfortunately for Cristela, the Latino community will have to start from scratch again as her show has already been cancelled. The word is that she didn’t feel the network was allowing her to be authentic… Killer…

Now Black and Jewish people… I can speak to both of those myself as I grew up in those environments…

The good news is… Black people speak English in this country and Jewish people can only choose between English and Yiddish. We can even throw in Hebrew for my friends who had to go to Hebrew school when we were kids. But, I’m drawing the line there…
That could be why Black-ish is the most popular and successful of the ethnic shows. The variations between Black folks comes down more to socioeconomic factors instead of cultural differences. Language, food, traditions… all the same.

And while Black-ish started out slow, it has truly come into its own. Many of the episodes hit the nail on the head. And they have the Emmy nominations and wins to show for it. My hope is that The Goldberg’s gets out of the fakakta generic zone and gets more – as Jon Stewart says – Jewie.

So stay tuned. With any luck, the networks will continue to create shows that allow for cultural learning and growth. We need that…






 
Sort