This 2015 video from Aisha Harris at online news, politics, and culture magazine Slate.com uses scenes from popular U.S. television shows to illustrate how people of color continue to be represented stereotypically and as peripheral minor characters in television shows because the roles and characters written for them are created by predominantly White writers. The video points out a range of stereotypical tropes such as the token minor or first to get killed off Black characters (such as T-Dog in The Walking Dead), or one-dimensional token Black, Latino, or Asian sidekicks (such as Winston in New Girl, or George from Law & Order: SVU), or servants (such as Rosario in Will & Grace, or Sum in Sex and the City) in contrast with complexly portrayed White characters in the same shows. There are also the exotic, sexy Latinas with a foreign accent (such as Gloria in Modern Family), or emasculated Asian male foreigners (such as Raj in The Big Bang Theory or Han in Two Broke Girls) who serve as the comedic relief because of their foreignness, which in turn makes the White characters look better and reinforces that they are what is “normal.” The video also connects these limited and damaging representations with how they affect viewers’ perceptions and behaviors in everyday life. At the end, the video creators argue that while some shows are now getting better at depicting people of color in leading roles (such as Grey’s Anatomy), it is because the writers and producers behind the show reflect diversity and include people who actually know what it’s like to live as a multi-dimensional person of color.
What are the main arguments of this video? Why is behind the camera diversity, such as directors, producers, and writers, just as important as more visible onscreen diversity? Why are behind the camera and onscreen diversity not the same thing?
What do we mean when we say “diversity?” Diversity of what? What makes a group “diverse?”
Who makes and shapes stories and characters on television shows? Why does their identity matter? Why is it important for a range of people with different identities and life experiences to be able to create and tell stories?
Can the same arguments made in this video about television shows be made about writers and producers of movies and other forms of entertainment? Why or why not?
What stereotypes, tropes, or familiar characters and storylines are talked about in this video? What shows and examples were mentioned? Can you think of other examples from other shows?
When you think about the people you see on mainstream television and film, what groups of people are not frequently represented, or only portrayed in limited ways? How does this impact viewers?