This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

March 22, 2009

All Comes Out in the Wash

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — pprscribe @ 2:51 pm

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,

"I used to have Super Human Powers." Esparta,

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,

"Vampire Children." Shawn Allen,

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…


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