This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

December 8, 2009

Rinse, Repeat: All (Still) Comes Out in the Wash

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — pprscribe @ 5:21 pm

I first posted this back in March. Since that time, I have all but given up on Heroes. A great graphic accompanied this Racialicious post to show just how much characters of colors have lost ground on the program. In fact, the Racialicious rountablers have traded in Heroes for Flash Forward—a series I have seen only one episode of and now feel as thought I may be too far behind to get on board with. I did have a post about Prince alumni Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman’s music for the show. Maybe I’ll get to that, but I’m not holding my breath.

I still have some Nip/Tuck episodes on DVR, but I’m not that enthusiastic about watching them. There’s a new prison storyline with Matt, an older woman-younger man story line with Julia’s mother, and a serial killer wife storyline. There was an especially disturbing episode involving Sean and Julia’s daughter’s  Trichophagia—put me off of my food for the rest of the evening. But no more characters of color and continuing clumsy treatment of LGBT issues.

I’m holding out hope for the new season of True Blood. There will be a storyline featuring a (gay) vampire king. Oh—and it was not Lafayette who was found dead in a car! In the meantime, during my recent trip to San Francisco, my college roommate hipped me to Epitafios. But I have been unable to find the subtitled versions of the first season for rent anywhere. Other than that, I haven’t found any new shows to get excited about, so my TV viewing has been severely curtailed. You’d think that’d mean I’d be getting a lot of work done.

You’d think.

There are only a handful of TV shows that I watch faithfully, week in and week out. For one, I like being in on the start of a television phenomenon, seeing a series unfold in real time. Thus, it is not likely that in mid-series I will start watching, say “Lost” or “The Wire,” even when friends whose opinions I respect assure me I would love them. But mostly, I am kind of commitment phobic when it comes to TV shows, thinking they are bound to let me down as other shows have in the past.

Three of my favorite recent shows have been prime examples of this tendency of TV shows to disappoint.

“Heroes” began with a bang, and I watched it religiously. The concept was great. The cast was a virtual rainbow coalition of heroes and villains. The story lines were engaging. But over time, more and more characters of color either (a) were killed off, or just (b) disappeared from the story lines. (Racialicious has been keeping up with these developments.) This White-washing is all the more troubling because of how often White killed-off characters—but not the POC—have seemed to have the ability to come back to life. Not to mention how the few remaining characters of color have been treated: one gets his memory wiped back to his 10-year-old state; one, after his beheading, appears only as a magical Negro spiritual guide to a White character; one–known only as “The Haitian” (even in Haiti, apparently) just…kind of…falls off the script, but not before being revealed to be less powerful than what he was previously portrayed as.

"I used to have Super Human Powers." Esparta, http://www.flickr.com/photos/esparta/482348262/

"I used to have Super Human Powers." Esparta, http://www.flickr.com/photos/esparta/482348262/

My only hope for Heroes is that the mysterious “Rebel” character is the biracial little boy who can talk to and control machines. It’d be nice, though, if we could see him, instead of just his text messages.

Besides Heroes, there is in my DVR cue the FX network series Nip/Tuck. In this case the offense is not so much “White-washing”—though my favorite character from the past (played by Sanaa Lathan) has never returned despite this show’s tendency to bring back characters from past seasons. Instead, in this case we get a “Straight-washing” of the characters: One of the main female characters who used to be married to one of the male leads finally finds love in a relationship with Ellen’s real-life spouse. But…she ends up back in the bed of the other male lead…then loses her memory…then her partner (played by Portia de Rossi) unceremoniously dies on the operating table. What? Past seasons have also not been kind to sexual minorities: they are frequently mixed-up, conniving, and even (literally) murderous. Can’t just one of these characters be well adjusted?

Well, actually there was one such person. The one character who was a strong, proud lesbian from the start gets sexually and romantically involved with one of the main male leads (the same one who led Portia’s girlfriend back to the straight side—guess his organ really does have magical powers). And, in the season finale—marries him! Perhaps this is meant to be a political statement on the unfairness of California’s Proposition 8. (The series is now set in California.) But if that is the case, they probably needed to be a little less subtle with their statement.

"Vampire Children." Shawn Allen, http://www.flickr.com/photos/shazbot/18449204/

"Vampire Children." Shawn Allen, http://www.flickr.com/photos/shazbot/18449204/

Finally, “True Blood.” I have been a sucker (hee-hee) for the vampire genre ever since I was a child and first saw Bella Lugosi’s intense, sexy stare. So, needless to say I had high hopes for a modern-day vampire tale, set in Louisiana, that appeared to be a parable of the Black and LGBT civil rights struggles. And early episodes of the series did not disappoint. In fact, I was hooked by just the opening credits. But. But. More recently we get a combination, double-whammy, twofer of White- and straight-washing. The sexy Creole guy turns out to be the Vampire-lover killer (and, actually, not Creole at all). Okay. Fair enough. But then the strong-willed ironically named Black character, Tara, seems to undergo a transformation that is not making me optimistic about her further development. Oh, and there is the very interesting shy, gay vampire character who gets killed off.

And the biggest outrage: the disappearance of the hands-down most interesting character: a smart, witty, enterprising gay male character, Lafayette. In the season finale an apparently Black character who we only see from the painted toenails ends up dead.

This. Better. Not. Be. Lafayette.

Really, the main story line–a “Twilight”-like romance between a virginal White heroine and a Civil-War era Southern gentleman vampire–is the least interesting. But it is not likely that the writers will drop it, since that is what the novel series on which it is based is all about.

So, will I continue to give my love to TV programs that don’t love me? When the new seasons of these shows start up again will my feelings be spared the disappointment of my failed TV relationships of the past? Will I decide to write a work of fan fiction in which all the deposed characters of color and LGBT characters from my (previously) favorite programs appear together in their own series where they are all the stars?

Stay tuned, boys and girls…

4 Comments »

  1. Interesting observations. I felt the plot lines on Heroes were getting stale. But I guess I never looked at it from that point of view. Generally I try to watch shows that have minority casting. I think shows that show diversity are showing the world as it really looks. Every now and again there is a show you like that doesn’t have any minority characters but it’s a good show. But it’s all food for thought.

    Comment by citizen ojo — December 8, 2009 @ 11:12 pm

  2. Citizen Ojo, I watch and have watched shows with little or no POC representation or other diversity. I do get annoyed when shows seem to start out so promising in these regards but then abandon or fail to fully develop these aspects.

    Heroes is beyond stale. And I think a big part of its staleness was turning it into more of a “Dallas”-type show that was more about family dynamics than about the people with abilities. And including so many POCs with abilities made it fresher than, say, an “X-men” type show that might have only had a token.

    Comment by pprscribe — December 9, 2009 @ 2:06 pm

  3. Hi there!

    I wanted to drop by and check out all of the work you’ve been doing here!!

    Comment by BlackWomenBlowTheTrumpet — December 10, 2009 @ 1:52 am

  4. Hi there, yourself, Lisa! Well as you can see I have been pretty quiet lately here on the blog. It is that time of the semester. The students’ grades won’t be posted until 12/24 so I will not even be able to fully relax until Christmas day.

    But it is all good. I have some ideas of things I’ve been wanting to write about and will probably get to it over the next couple of weeks.

    Comment by pprscribe — December 10, 2009 @ 8:23 am


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