American Television: Not Quite the Land of Opportunity | BP at the Daily

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For today’s Tufts Daily, I wrote the weekly Weekender feature, focusing on the continued lack of racial diversity on television. Although progress has been made over the past several decades, the roles available to people of color are still unrepresentative, qualitatively and quantitatively, of the population of color in the U.S.

I talked to TV critics and writers Mo Ryan (AOL), Dan Fienberg (HitFix), Josh Wolk (Vulture) and Myles McNutt (Cultural Learnings) to get their thoughts on the current TV landscape in terms of racial diversity. After the jump, I have the article intro, and you can read the full article at the Daily website here.

What do “Two and a Half Men,” “Glee,” “NCIS” and “House” all have in common? To start, they are four of the most popular shows on television. But they also share a trait that is endemic throughout television and the broader entertainment industry: They are all led by white actors, with few (if any) performers of color making up the supporting casts.

Although racial attitudes have changed dramatically over the past 50 years and the election of the first black president is a celebratory accomplishment, racial inequality continues to play a substantial role in a society that is dominated by white culture. The television landscape has followed a similar trajectory to that of the nation’s overall racial progress: Blatant acts of racism and bigotry are now taboo, but people of color are still marginalized and their opportunities limited.

The number and quality of the roles available to actors of color continue to be limited and reflect neither the numerical size nor the contributions of the population of color in the United States. For a country that will be less than 50 percent white by 2050, as the U.S. Census Bureau projects, it seems time for American TV screens to better reflect the audience watching them.

“When it comes to [the] position of … minorities in the television industry, I honestly think there’s been far too little progress — things aren’t much better than they were a decade or two ago. In some ways, they’re worse,” Maureen Ryan, TV critic for AOL, said in an email to the Daily. In essence, racial diversity in TV, in both quality and quantity, is still lacking, and “sadly nobody seems willing to do much about it,” she said.


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