Race, Ethnicity, and ‘The Vampire Diaries’

In a fairly inoffensive, if silly, roundtable discussion post on AfterElton about The CW’s brilliant, The Vampire Diaries, this jumped out at me:

There’s yet to be much of a gay presence on the show. (Sorry folks, Caroline’s deceased Dad doesn’t cut it). Do you think a gay vamp making all sorts of snappy one-liners about the pretty boys in Mystic Falls would be a good thing?

Robyn Ross: I love that the show often blissfully ignores race, ethnicity, etc. because these kids have a lot more to worry about than those kinds of social issues. But sexual orientation (and sex in general) is such a huge part of the show that I think taking on a handsome gay vampire could add a lot to the mix. And let’s be honest, the banter between him and Damon would be priceless.

Because race and ethnicity are “social issues” one has to “worry about?” Wait…what?

Race and ethnicity should be central to creating character, particularly if you’re going to have a diverse cast, as The Vampire Diaries does. And so this is the one area of the show that drives me fucking crazy.


Bonnie, one of the all-powerful Bennett witches

I mean, this is a show that is set in Virginia, with frequent flashbacks to antebellum South and constant celebrations of antebellum Southern culture that conspicuously sidesteps the fact that that period was defined by American chattel slavery. This is a show that nearly always casts black actors to play witches but provides no mythological reason for this even though it’s clear that the producers are consciously deciding to always. every. single. time. cast a black actor as a witch.

Not even for the Bennett witches, who are central to the show’s mythology.

But here’s the thing? The vampire Katherine Pierce, who is also central to the show’s mythology played by lead actress Nina Dobrev, is Bulgarian because Dobrev is Bulgarian and speaks the language fluently.

The show’s producers are aware enough of Dobrev’s ethnicity to not only reference it in the show, but also make use of it (via Dobrev speaking the language in flashbacks), but there can be no indication in the show at all that the black actors are playing black characters with history, ethnicity and perspective.

In other words, race and ethnicity aren’t ignored, blissfully or otherwise. Just blackness.

I Am Done with BET’s “The Game”, Finally

I missed last week's episode and have just finished watching the rerun before tonight's new episode.

And I'm done. Between this episode's treatment of Tasha Mack and the news that the show's stars, Tia Mowry Hardrict and Pooch Hall, will not be returning next season, I just can't.

I had hoped that Tasha and Pookie getting together would provide the writers an opportunity to resurrect the Tasha Mack that was so compelling on the CW's version.

But no. Now she is a sex addict.  It wasn't that she had distrust and anger issues with Coach T. It wasn't whatever broke her and Rick Fox up that has never been explained. Nope, now she's a ho. Now we are supposed to believe that she's always been motivated to pick men solely because of sex.  

Except nothing that the show has really done to date suggests this is anywhere near the case.

This is a manipulative, insulting and downright abusive and sexist treatment of the character of Tasha Mack. There is no reason for this to occur other than to create artificial conflict in the new relationship. But it would just be nice if the show would root these conflicts in the characters we know, rather than just try to be over the top and soapy.

I get that The Game is a different show from Girlfriends – which I believe to be the best black television show of the last decade – and I even somewhat kinda understand the desire to soap it up thinking that it would appeal to a broader audience even though it was a flagrant misread of the show's core  audience, but the treatment of Tasha Mack (and, to a lesser extent, Malik and Melanie) in the BET version is appalling and offensive in the extreme.

I didn't even watch tonight's episode. I'm done.


I'm sure folks have thoughts.  Share them with me in the comments.

‘The Game’: Season 5 Episode 18 Review

Thoughts on Episode 18 after the jump. As always, reviews of previous episodes can be found here.


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‘The Game’: Season 5 Episode 17 Review

So…life happened and I couldn't keep up with reviews.  But I've had a chance to watch all the episodes I missed OnDemand, as well as tonight's episode.

Before we get into tonight's episode, here are my thoughts on what I missed:

  • Overall, this back set of episodes is more consistently funny and traditionally sitcom-like than the first 10 episodes and most of Season 4. I think this has a lot to do with the end of the Tasha/Melanie feud, which lasted too long and sapped all the joy out of the show (what little there was). I am pleased, if cautiously so.
  • I am not sure that I understand why Derwin and Melanie would want Tasha to carry their baby. As a human with a Y-chromosome, I want to tread lightly here but: isn't it harder to carry a baby to term after 35? Why would they want a 40-something surrogate?
  • I still think Coby Bell is the series MVP and any scene he's in is going to be better than any scene without him, but the "friend" party did sort of raise the glaring issue that the show has gotten so far away from these people being friends and being in each other's lives that it, in some ways, makes no sense for this show to be on the air. It'd be nice if they found a way to reintegrate Bell into the show and find ways to have the five leads share scenes together.
  • These episodes have been good for the development of Derwin as this brand new balla who is basically feelin himself a bit too much. Not blocking for Kwan is a major, in some ways unforgivable, mistake and I'm glad the show treated it as such. I am really hoping the writers use this as an opportunity to ground him (and Melanie too, for that matter) because not having them as the heart and moral compass of the show is a big part of the reason the BET version is so off-balance. Pooch Hall – always the show's weakest actor – stepped up nicely in the Kwan episode.
  • I love the Tasha/Pookie relationship story. I think there is tremendous potential here. And who doesn't love the gorgeous and supremely talented Rockmond Dunbar. More of him is a good thing. Tasha Mack deserves more and so does Wendy Raquel Robinson.
  • Lastly, Loretta Devine as Grandma Mack? Genius! And so emotionally rich. She and Robinson had a great scene at the end of Episode 13.

So that's it for the episodes I missed. Thoughts on Episode 17 after the jump. As always, reviews of previous episodes can be found here.

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‘The Game’: Season 5 Episode 10 Review

Check out a very short review after the jump.

As always, reviews of previous episodes can be found here.

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