Television has undoubtedly become a major source of media consumed by Americans. Based on the programs being aired, is television too white?
When we think of some of the more popular shows that are on air today, shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Game of Thrones” may come to mind. Both of which have a predominantly white cast.
On the other hand, they are current shows like “Empire” and “Black-ish,” which both are extremely popular and have predominantly black casts.
With the respective shows being on two different ends of the spectrum, the question again is posed, is television too white?
To answer that question, I believe that it still is white, but has certainly become more diverse.
Although television has diversified a lot more over the last couple of years, it seems like shows are still predominantly white casts that are led by white males. In my opinion, television shows have become more conscious of making sure to include people of different racial backgrounds.
Variety.com identified 46 lead and co-lead actor roles, and 42 showrunners and co-showrunners on the 39 new series ordered by the Big Five broadcasters for the 2017-2018 season. Of the lead actors, only 20% were Hispanic or non-white, and only 35% were female. Of the showrunners, 10% were non-white or Hispanic and 29% were female.
Based on these facts, females and minorities seems underrepresented, but it is not a bad representation.
I am not saying that minority actors need to completely take over television and be the lead or supporting roles in every show, but it is certainly possible to have a better representation. Despite this, there are many shows out today that represent non-whites.
Aside from “Empire” and “Black-ish,” there are also shows like “Master of None,” which depicts an Indian man, played by Aziz Ansari, going through real life, everyday problems while living in New York City.
What is unique about this show is that although it is centered around an Indian man, it is not solely about him going through traditional Indian customs. It simply involves him living life in the U.S. as the son of first generation immigrant parents.
A show like that is an example of one that could have been played by an actor of any race because the storyline is so relatable. Having a storyline that people can relate to regardless of race is another reason why it is important to keep having non-whites represented.
Because of this, the idea of television becoming more normalized seems to be sticking more than ever. Shonda Rhimes, an African American woman who is the creator of shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” has been noted for arguing that “normal” should be the new “diversity.”
This idea of making television shows more normal can not only put more non-whites in a position to play more lead and supporting roles, but will also garner a more diverse audience because if more shows become normal, it allows more viewers to relate to shows themselves.
Diverse viewership is something that is discussed in a Washington Post article. In the article, Mary Beltrán, an associate professor of media studies in the Department of Radio-Television-Film at the University of Texas offered her thoughts on diverse viewership.
Viewership is more diverse, so “it’s becoming more embarrassing when a network has mostly white shows and showrunners,” Beltrán said. “A lot of us are still affected by race and class, and it does a disservice to American viewers to present a world that pretends that that isn’t true.”
What Beltrán offers up about a lot of us being affected by race and class is something that holds true and is a vital reason as to why this discussion of television being too white is happening.
Back in 1999, the NAACP boycotted television networks, in particular the four major networks – CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX – for having a lack of diversity in their programming.
Nearly 20 years following the NAACP’s efforts, strides have been made and will continue to be made as television keeps diversifying.
An article from The New York Times puts it best: “This isn’t about less ‘white’ TV, but about putting on other kinds of people than there have previously been.”
Twenty years ago, the NAACP fought for the lack of diversity on television networks and in twenty years, I believe television will be so diverse that it will become totally accepted and no longer be seen as “too white.”