Burden of Representation or a Structural Problem in Hollywood?

Adam Thompson of the great Shadow and Act asks:

So here’s the $64,000 question: Isn’t performance, rather than race, the true representation? When a talented actor delivers a masterful performance and creates an indelible character, does it matter if the role was “negative” or saccharine sweet? Should Washington and other actors of color be forced to play some variation of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life throughout their careers? Do they not “represent” by showing that we can be good, bad and everything in between while neither confirming hard stereotypes or slipping into caricature (see The Wire)? Does bad always mean bad, and does it reflect on our race as much as some believe?

I’ve grown as weary as I think most black people have of the burden of representation. I’m not interested in holding actors to a standard of bettering the race or not embarrassing black people in front of white audiences. Continue reading

My 11 Favorite Television Characters of All Time

The folks over at AfterElton.com are doing a really fun rundown of their favorite television characters of all time (no Kanye).

So I figured, why not make my own list? So I did.

Check it out after the jump.

Continue reading

More Black TV, Please


This is all kinds of good. More black tv is a good thing. More choices for black television viewers is a good thing.  

Since MLK III and Andrew Young are behind Bounce, the programming is likely to be "positive," but I hope it's not bourgeous Talented Tenth uplift the race cartoonish positive or, worse, class mobility as deracination positive.  

While we need more "positive" images of black people, what we really need is more human portraits of black people. Most of the black folks on The Wire were awful human beings, but they were human beings.  

We can't be afraid to show full portraits of black people, warts and all. 

Aymar Jean Christian puts it better than I can:

To date, BET, TV One and Centric have yet to produce any of the kinds of buzzy shows other cable nets have been making: from the scripted fare of AMC and FX to the crazy reality shows of A&E and E!.

What I think we need is a black TV network willing to assert that black programming can be as provocative, smart and engaging as the many experimental shows out there.

How about adapting the UK show The Misfits with a mostly black cast? Or creating an historical narrative along the lines of Mad Men or Downtown Abbey — perhaps of the Harlem Renaissance? What about those aspects of the black community traditionally left hidden on TV: gay/SGL/trans people, single mothers, and the like? How about a reality show like Sundance’s Brick City, exploring in complex detail the racial and day-to-day politics of managing a city?

It’s rather startling how some of the best “black” programming over the past decade or so has not appeared on black networks — The Wire chief among them, but also The BoondocksOz — and the primary culprit is BET, which has the cash to push boundaries but has traditionally played it safe.

Will these new networks push black TV to beyond the status quo? So far the odds are against them, but the first one to surprise us (and critics) will reap huge rewards.

There have got to be visionary black writers and producers looking to redefine what it means to make a black television show. We already had Mara Brock Akil. She can't be the only one.