Ok firstly, this is a pity party. I have an exam on Saturday and I’m woefully underprepared and I feel like shit and I missed the SuperBloodMoon because a demon toad was parked outside my door and I could not rebuke it. I’m moping.
Make me feel better. *pouts*
But also, I was thinking about how many new shows this season are noticeably more diverse than previous seasons and it’s been making me think about that oft-discussed question of whether PoC are “obligated” to support shows (or movies) with PoC leads.
Technically, we’re obviously not, but stats show again and again that black people in particular (specifically black women) watch HELLA television, so our viewing choices do matter. Gene Demby of NPR’s Code Switch makes the case that black twitter is directly to be credited for Viola Davis’ Emmy win and the general trend in diversity over the last couple seasons. Because not only do we watch tv, we watch it live, and we talk about it on social media.
Among black female viewers between 35 and 49, Adalian wrote, “the show [Empire] is literally the equivalent of a Super Bowl,” with one episode “exceeding the rating of some NFL championship games this century.”
“As a viewer of both, I can tell you that watching and laughing along with millions of strangers is kind of central to the experience of these shows. Black folks show up and watch like it’s a responsibility.”
So my dilemma is this: since I’m so fucking fly that my television viewing habits are winning Emmys and shit, do I have a responsibility to support shows with diverse casts? And does that mean slogging through bad shows just because you want to “show up for the cause?”
Case in point: Shondaland. I personally genuinely enjoy all of Shonda’s show (even Grey’s!) so watching is not a burden for me, but I’m also not stupid. I am fully aware that Scandal went off the rails ages ago and HTGAWM never made a damn lick of sense, so I don’t begrudge people who don’t bother with it. Conversely, I didn’t watch American Crime because it seemed preachy and mean and I couldn’t get past the pilot. But Regina won her statue anyway.
My personal rule for this season is that I have to watch the pilot of each new diverse show. I’m allowed to drop whatever I don’t like, but I have to give everything at least one chance. (Pretty sure I’m gonna be ditching Rosewood even though Morris Chesnut’s fine ass is a halfway compelling reason to stay...) I struggle with the idea that really good diverse shows will flounder because of lack of viewership because you know them white people only give us one chance. (Cristela comes to mind. I miss her :/) But I also watch something like 45 shows a week depending on the season so... However, a show like Fresh Off the Boat (which I love) is one that I probably would not have bothered to check out if I hadn’t decided to specifically give it a chance because of its Asian-American cast.
I genuinely believe that Scandal can be credited with the number of diverse shows we have right now because suddenly everyone was trying to get a piece of the numbers Shonda was pulling. (You think it’s a coincidence that Empire and blackish are on at the same time?) Without Scandal’s impact we probably wouldn’t have Jane the Virgin, blackish, Fresh Off the Boat, Minority Report, Sleepy Hollow, American Crime, How to Get Away with Murder, Quantico, Devious Maids or Being Mary Jane. We showed up and showed them we wanted to see ourselves.
So what do you guys do? How do you find the balance between supporting diverse casts and not filling up on boring shows you hate just because the lead is black?