TV is diversifying, and it’s about time
The face of television is finally changing. Actors of color are now getting the opportunities they deserve, and the timing is perfect. Diversity is a topic that has been discussed a lot. But that doesn’t mean the effort stops here. It’s time to celebrate television’s improving inclusivity in the reel world, as the world takes a stand against injustice in the real world.
Last weekend at the 23rd Screen Actor’s Guild Awards, TV and film actors alike took a stand against Trump’s executive order to ban refugees and nationals of predominantly Muslim countries. Ashton Kutcher, Julia Louise-Dreyfus, Kerry Washington and many more spoke out, and for the first time in many years, we saw an industry united.
But some might question how this relates to diversity. The United States boasts a large, multi-national group of entertainers – one of the largest worldwide.
Viola Davis’ historic nomination in the Best Actress in a Supporting Role at the Oscars this year — becoming the most nominated black actress — brings to mind her Emmy win for Outstanding Lead Actress in 2016, which made her the first black woman of any nationality to ever win this award. So, what has changed in TV in about a year?
For one, a larger number of shows now have women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community holding as lead roles in a show. More importantly, they tell their story without any crass stereotypes or generalizations attached to them. As bad as 2016 was, it was a year of change, and Davis led the passionate charge for change in TV.
As a result of this, we now have shows like Davis’ own “How To Get Away With Murder.” With a its diverse cast — Alfred Enoch, Karla Souza, Charlie Weber and Aja Naomi King — the show is as riveting. After an explosive season 3 that left viewers baffled, I cannot wait to see what Shonda Rhimes spins for season 4. The brilliance of HTGAWM is not limited to a diverse cast or a great storyline. It’s the fact that both elements work hand-in-hand to create magic.
And this doesn’t end with HTGAWM. Netflix’s “Orange Is The New Black” is a classic example of a great dramedy. While Uzo Aduba and Laverne Cox are public favorites, Kimiko Glenn’s portrayal of Brook Soso struck a chord. After all, you don’t see a lot of Asian people on a mainstream show such OITNB without the risk of them being stereotyped. And although the show was in danger of venturing into that territory, it turned things around. OITNB is a raw, unblemished example of not letting stereotypes take over, and letting the characters develop for what they are, and not what squad they belong to.
And speaking of Asians breaking stereotypes, “Fresh Off the Boat” is a relief. Although it often tricks us into thinking it is going to be some ridiculous comedy containing over-written characters with heavy foreign accents, that is not the case. This show is as simple as it gets. The genius of the show lies in the fact that it is relatable, and not just to Asian-Americans. Constance Wu is perhaps the one actor who stands out in this show. Her portrayal of a typical Asian “Tiger Mom” is not a stereotype. It is a new approach to redefining Asian characteristics.
When it comes to diversifying a medium, it can surely be a hard task getting things right. And, while television is not completely there yet, it’s certainly on its way.
Malvika Randive is a freshman writing and rhetorics major. Her TV column appears weekly in Pulp. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Published on February 1, 2017 at 11:28 pm