Why are black women just the best friends and mammies on Prime Time Television?

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The new television season has seen a surge of TV shows that are female centered programs. The Bionic woman on NBC lead by Michelle Ryan and on ABC Kate Walsh the former star of Grey’s Anatomy has her own show “Private Practice.” Ryan and Walsh are both young, attractive, white women. Asian American actress Lucy Liu will appear on the ABC show “Cashmere Mafia” and Liu is the lead. However, besides Liu why are the three other female leads on that program white females? Where are the other females of colour in leading roles on network television?

The ABC program “Ugly Betty” has been praised by critics since the show is about a young hispanic woman played by Latina actress America Ferrera. The ABC show “Ugly Betty” is based on a hispanic woman and caters to the concerns of the hispanic community. The question remains why are black women never TV stars and always in the shadows?

The golden age for black television was from the mid 1970s to the late 1990s. Marla Gibbs got her own spin off after “The Jeffersons” was canceled in the early 1980s. Gibbs had her own hit show 227 on NBC in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Another popular black sitcom that was female driven was “A Different World” on NBC. Jasmine Guy was amazing in the lead role Whitley Gilbert. In the mid 1990s Living Single had two black female stars Queen Latifah and Kim Fields on the FOX network. Queen Latifah and Kim Fields proved black women can be successful on a major television network and draw in audiences.

In the past black female characters on TV were complex, had love lives, dealt with tragedy, pain, happiness, yet now are basically forgotten. The ideology of Hollywood and society is that white females must be the center of true womanhood. By contrast, black women are still considered not only inferior but also non existent as well due to racism and sexism.

On the mainstream network television the programming for people of colour in the year 2007 is basically non existent there has been a total complete whiteout. Chris Rock’s TV show has received more acclaim then Girlfriends but then again his program is about the nuclear black heterosexual family. Once again, black women are marginalized due to race and gender in Hollywood. Although black heterosexual men complain about racism black women encounter more oppression due to racism and sexism.

Girlfriends the black female sitcom is back for the eighth season yet the show is segregated on the smaller CW network on the fringes. “Girlfriends” also isn’t winning any SAG, Emmys, or even People’s Choice awards.Do you even have to question the reasons why? The mainstream media act as though “Girlfriends” doesn’t exist. “Girlfriends” wouldn’t be on television if people didn’t tune in to watch the program the show clearly has an audience.

“Sex and the City” was on cable and “Girlfriends” is on the CW network. The CW network is a mainstream television channel in the United States. So why the obvious snub against Girlfriends? You can figure it out it is not exactly hard to decipher. “Sex And The City” was hyped to the maximum because the cast is white women and Girlfriends was scorned because the cast is black women. Girlfriends is marginalized due to a mixture of racism and sexism. Girlfriends is branded “urban programming” despite the fact the show dealt with polemical issues such as sexism, homophobia, lesbianism, internal and external racism, financial issues, bad friends, love, romance, in a witty funny way.

People will go on and on about how groundbreaking “Sex and The City” was but “Sex And The City” always avoided the issue of race and reality. “Sex And The City” is pure fantasy to be able to party all night, buying designer clothes, and living in upscale apartments in New York City is not realistic. “Sex And The City” is basically a whiteout.

However, I think the original “Sex and the City” was the Golden Girls on NBC in the 1980s. The Golden Girls was a superior television program because the show dealt with a wide range of social issues mixed with humor. “Sex and the City” is a decent show it is funny but that program always ignored people of colour. Whenever people of colour were on Sex And The City they were always in marginalized racist roles as either servants or sexual stereotypes. For instance, Blair Underwood was on the program for a hot minute and the Samantha character had an interracial sex scene with a black guy big deal. It is obvious interracial romance was taboo for the program.

Let’s be honest here “Girlfriends” is just as good as “Sex And The City” but “Girlfriends” had an all black cast. I just find it interesting that Girlfriends is treated like it is an inferior program. At least on Girlfriends the women had financial issues they certainly were middle class and not rich. I believe “Girlfriends” hasn’t gotten the respect it deserves. The writing on “Girlfriends” has gotten stronger and stronger over the years.

At least on Girlfriends black women were the stars of the show. On mainstream television the two roles designated for black women they are either the asexual mammy or the black female best friend. On the ABC program Private Practice the talented and very attractive black actress Merrin Dungey was fired after the pilot and replaced with another black woman the theatre star Audra McDonald.

McDonald’s character of course is the stereotypical role for a black woman on mainstream TV she’s the white girl Kate Walsh’s “best friend.” Kimberly Elise has been removed from the CBS program “Close to home” she was the “best friend” of the white actress Jennifer Finnigan. Tangi Miller a few years back on the WB network show “Felicity” was also the “best friend” to the white star Keri Russell. Lisa Nicole Carson was also the “best friend” to white actress Calista Flockhart on “Ally McBeal.”

Yes folks, the best thing a black actress can hope for on mainstream network television is to be the “best friend” of the white actress. Although being the “best friend” to the white woman is a lot better then being the resident “black mammy”. The black female best friend is allowed to be sexy, attractive, intelligent, but she must never ever upstage the white female star. Because after all black women on network TV have to know their place they have to be “behind” the white woman and in the background.

The prime time television shows rarely focus on the love lives of the black female best friend. The purpose of the black female best friend is to fulfill the race quota of the network and be the servant to the white woman. The black female best friend character is a stereotype because she is just a plot device a catalyst to help and serve the white woman. Whenever the white actress can’t find a man, breaks up with a man, or is emotional about a man, the black female best friend is always there to comfort her. Yes, that’s all black women on television are for to serve white women.

The ideology of TV executives, scriptwriters, advertisers, and the viewing public is that in order to appease black TV viewers we should just accept this racist and sexist treatment. We should just be grateful that black women are on TV and go with the flow. Television script writers always place black women as just the black mammies or the best friends to the white women.

It is also shocking that Dungey was “replaced” from the ABC show “Private Practice” by an actress that is far less experienced, attractive, and less sexy then her Audra McDonald. Could it be that ABC fired the gorgeous and talented Dungey because the best friend of the white girl has to be less attractive? Let’s be honest and real here, Audra McDonald is a nice looking woman she looks like the girl next door she’s “safe”. I just don’t think McDonald has the fire and the sex appeal that Merrin Dungey has. McDonald does have a very “conservative look” she is pleasant to look and non threatening.

Merrin Dungey is a more talented television actress there is just something special about her you just cannot take your eyes off of her. Merrin is so beautiful. And lets face it the real reason Shonda Rhimes removed Merrin is because she’s too “pretty” perhaps Rhimes is self conscious? I mean have you seen Shonda Rhimes she’s not exactly attractive like Merrin Dungey either. Perhaps Rhimes is jealous and envious?

The status quo from ABC is that there wasn’t enough “chemistry” between Merrin and Kate Walsh. I’m not buying it. Kate Walsh is an attractive woman but Merrin is also very beautiful as well. The bottom line is Walsh is supposed to be the object of desire for television fans not the black woman. The black female is not supposed to challenge the white female as being the most beautiful woman on television. Of course hypocritical Shonda Rhimes and ABC would never admit the truth for firing Dungey now would they?

McDonald definitely fits that role of the less attractive female friend. McDonald is okay looking she’s alright but she’s not hot like Merrin Dungey that’s for sure. McDonald also is not as experienced on the small screen as Dungey. Dungey is a very talented actress best known for her character Allison Doren on the former ABC hit show “Alias” a few years back. She also proved she was a versatile actress and she moved to comedy on the “King Of Queens Show” and she also was on the drama the WB network program “Summerland.”

A few years back on the ABC hit program “Desperate Housewives” there was an uproar when ABC hired African American actress Alfre Woodard. Woodard’s although a very talented actress was much older then the five main leads on the program. Woodard’s character Betty Applewhite was once again another black asexual mammy. Woodard’s character had no plot and clearly no reason to be on the program other then to fulfill the race quota of ABC.

Many people on various internet boards questioned why couldn’t ABC hire a sexy and talented black actress such as Robin Givens, or Vivica A Fox or Gabrielle Union? Why hire Alfre Woodard? Woodard was too old to be on Desperate Housewives to be a main character. The truth is if ABC hired Givens, Fox, or Union, on Desperate Housewives they would have to explore black female sexuality and that’s something network television refuses to do. Black female sexuality is off limits on mainstream TV.

Being the “best friend” to the white actress is indeed a higher level then being the new black mammies. The new black mammies aren’t maids, they aren’t making breakfast, cleaning floors, washing dishes, and pouring maple syrup on pancakes like Aunt Jemima. The new black mammies give “advice” though and are a shoulder to “cry” on for the white male and female costars on the hit TV programs. The TV formula has been set the collective thinking is why fix something that works?

The black female best friend character is a tough role to decipher she is a mixture of both the mammy and the magic negro syndrome. Unfortunately scriptwriters believe the black female best friend fulfills their “black quota”. Are black women and white women friends anyway in real life?

The most famous and rich mammy on television is Oprah. Oprah is the most successful mammy of all time because although she is rich she is subservient to whites. Mammy Oprah’s formula is never to rock the boat. Notice on Oprah you will never see an episode about the racial divide between white women and women of colour. Yes mammy Oprah’s television show is a gimmick that women are all “sisters”.

However, black feminist Audre Lorde wrote about this pernicious lie in her groundbreaking book “Sister Outsider”. Mammy Oprah avoids the issue of dealing with racism because she wants white women money. Mammy Oprah is still subservient to whites because she knows if she discusses the racial tension in feminism she will lose money.

After all, mammy Oprah has product placements and books to sell. Mammy Oprah also is “nurturing” she is a shoulder to cry on and give advice to the distressed upper class desperate housewives in the audience. Mammy Oprah may be wealthy but she is a stereotype of black female sexuality because she ignores the issue of the racial issues between women of colour and white women.

The underlining issues of resentment, racism, reality, and anger are left unexplored. Should we just accept this facade? However, on television just about all the female friends to the white actress are women of colour. Sandra Oh’s character Christina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy she’s the “best friend” of the white female star and Oh is an Asian Canadian woman.

Hollywood refuses to allow black women to headline television shows on the major networks. The question has to be asked again, why are white women always the stars and black women always in the background?The racism is less obvious to the discerning eye but it is indeed there. The black mammies however still are reserved for black women on network TV. The black mammies don’t have complex storylines they aren’t central to the plot of the shows, and they don’t have love lives.

Where are the complex black female characters on TV? Why do black actresses on TV always have to be in the background as the white girl’s best friend? Or even better yet invisible like Dr. Bailey? The most disconcerting part is that another argument to consider is that blacks need to be in the power broking decisions to get shows “green lighted.” Shonda Rhimes is the executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy. Rhimes has the “power” to make Dr. Bailey a complex young woman. Yet Rhimes a young black woman reduces the Dr. Bailey character to be a pernicious and racist stereotype of black womanhood. Rhimes is following the status quo and that is there is an intense fear of exploring black female sexuality.

Is Shonda Rhimes and ABC saying Dr. Bailey is too black or too fat for love? Would the audience be disgusted by seeing a real black woman kiss her black husband on TV? Is this too much for white America or ABC to handle? You got to wonder? Grey’s Anatomy the hit ABC program has been serenaded by critics as a show where “race” isn’t the story but the interconnection of human relationships.

Grey’s Anatomy boasts a consistent 20 million plus viewers every week. Grey’s Anatomy is basically ABC’s version of a hospital show that less serious then ER on NBC but mixed with some comedy. However, the main attraction the public has to Grey’s Anatomy is the white heterosexual relationships between the various doctors and interns on the program. Since Isaiah Washington was fired from Grey’s Anatomy the most complex, interesting, and exciting romance storyline between Washington and Sandra Oh has been eliminated. Grey’s Anatomy is basically a white out. Although, the latina actress Sara Ramirez had an interracial storyline with the white actor TR Knight that romance was simply not believable. Ramirez is a striking woman very attractive yet TR Knight is simply unattractive, effeminate, and not masculine enough to pull off a convincing performance and be Ramirez love interest.

One character that stands out and the only black female on Grey’s Anatomy Dr. Miranda Bailey also known as “The Nazi” is asexual and is the resident big fat black mammy.

The interesting aspect of Grey’s Anatomy is that the executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy is a young black woman Shonda Rhimes. According to Rhimes the character of Dr. Bailey was originally supposed to be for a white actress. The status quo is that Chandra Wilson gave the best audition so the part went to her. However, Rhimes is not being honest. Rhimes created Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice to reach a white female demographic. Would white women watch either programs if white women weren’t in the lead?

Another point to consider is why would a black woman in a position of authority and power such as Shonda Rhimes not advance the race? Why would Rhimes just follow the status quo? Could it be Shonda Rhimes is shallow and just cares about getting rich? Sure seems like it. Why didn’t she allow a black actress to be the star of either Grey’s Anatomy or Private Practice? It is a fair question. Black women are never the female leads on TV shows. Although Rhimes has been praised she’s just following the status quo. Its disconcerting that money is more important to Rhimes then helping out other black women.

The bottom line is the Dr. Bailey character is indeed a modern reincarnation of the “black mammy” of Grey’s Anatomy. Dr. Bailey is seen barking orders at her interns, she also is the “nurturing” mammy that “listens” to the romantic problems of her white, hispanic, Asian, and black characters on Grey’s Anatomy. Yet why does Dr. Bailey not have a love life of her own? Is Shonda Rhimes and ABC trying to say Dr. Bailey doesn’t deserve romance because she’s a black woman? Why is Dr. Bailey so perfect anyway?

However, it is not surprising though that the Dr. Bailey character although married and does have a child is never shown as a sexual human being as her white, Asian, or black co workers on Grey’s Anatomy. In the second and third seasons of Grey’s Anatomy the writers have attempted to humanize Dr. Bailey by making her more vulnerable, questioning herself. Yet Dr. Bailey is still the asexual black mammy. People say Dr. Bailey has a loving husband. So why don’t we see Dr. Bailey in love with her so called loving husband more often? Why doesn’t Shonda Rhimes and ABC just be honest? The real reason Dr. Bailey doesn’t have a love life on Grey’s Anatomy is the fear ABC executives have with exploring black female sexuality.

Meanwhile, on the CBS show “Without A Trace” Marianne Jean Baptiste a very talented black British actress is also the resident black mammy on that program. “Without A Trace” also has a very large following consistently is in the top 20 of the TV ratings. Baptiste’s character Vivian Johnson never had a love life unlike her white co stars on the program. Vivian is the wise older black woman that is a mixture of the magic negro, black mammy, and the best friend. Of course, just like Dr. Bailey you will notice Vivian Johnson is happily married with a husband and child you hardly ever see. The happily married scenario is a convenient yet deleterious plot device to erase black female sexuality. I guess if television audiences saw Vivian Johnson kissing her husband the mainstream audience would cringe. The fear of black love is very powerful and the networks have a record of bigotry against blacks.

The biggest drama for the character Vivian was her “heart condition” that required surgery. Last season there was complaints on various internet message boards because the producers behind the CBS show “Without A Trace” hired the young Latina Roslyn Sanchez to add “sex appeal” to the program. Sanchez character of course had a previous relationship with one of the main male characters on the program. Why couldn’t an attractive black woman be hired? And will black women and other women of colour ever be able to be real TV stars? Or is the best thing a black or Asian actress can hope for on network TV is to be a step behind the white actress as her “best friend”? Or be the “nurturing” black mammy, the best friend or magic negro to console her?

About orvillelloyddouglas

I am a gay black Canadian male.

23 responses to “Why are black women just the best friends and mammies on Prime Time Television?”

  1. arunna says :

    you’re dungey/mcdonald argument might be much more compelling if audra mcdonald was not one of the most decorated and well-regarded performers of her generation. no african american woman has won more tony awards. in addition, she has recorded several albums, performed on broadway to critical raves, starred in film and on primetime television.

  2. orvillelloyddouglas says :

    McDonald is a talented theater actress and I know she’s won a lot of Tony awards for secondary roles not leading lady roles. However, I am talking about television and not the stage. The theatre world also has a more esoteric audience. Acting on stage is different then acting on television and film. I think my argument is still valid she doesn’t have the sex appeal of Merrin Dungey. Dungey has much more TV experience then Audra McDonald. ABC and Shonda Rhimes didn’t want Dungey to upstage Kate Walsh. I think McDonald is viewed as more acceptable to Shonda Rhimes and ABC because she’s the girl next door she is no threat to Walsh. McDonald doesn’t have the sex appeal that Dungey has and that’s a fact.

  3. Michelle says :

    Your article is on point. I searched the web right after watching an episode of “Cashmere Mafia,” and wondered why “Sex and the City 2″ pulled the same stunt again – although your article intelligently stated why. It appears to be a good show – but they just lost one. This is one of the few shows that I do like on the big networks, that continuously disappoint by not bringing a black man or woman of color. I do mean black, although a woman of color is on this specific show, I want to once a while see myself reflected back at me.

    There is no reason why one of those characters could have not been black. Not only black, but someone who is also living an active life like their white counterparts.

    Until that day comes, I’ll stick to “The Game” on CW.

    Once more, great article and on point.

  4. orvillelloyddouglas says :

    Hi Michelle, I understand your argument and you are correct you want to see more positive representations of black women on television. Why are there no black women on Cashmere Mafia? Why is the black female audience consistently ignored? Is ABC trying to say they can’t find any sexy, talented black actresses for the show? I think ABC has gone Asian because I know this won’t sound politically correct but in North America Asians are considered less threatening to whites. The racial divide between whites and blacks still exists. If Cashmere Mafia had a black actress on the show the screenwriters could not avoid discussing the issue of race. And you know ABC entertainment they don’t want to discuss race. I am not suggesting Asian Americans do not encounter racism because they do. However, I am suggesting that I think the reason “Cashmere Mafia” doesn’t have black women on the show is because drum roll please…. ABC doesn’t want to present black women in a positive light. I can’t be more blunt then that.

  5. Peter says :

    Black women are black people, who aren’t part of the story of white life.

    The films they make, whether TV series or cinema movies, are portayals of their lifestyle (real, or perceived, or desired) and we can’t realistically expect a more significant presence on-screen than our real-life experience would suggest.

    The people are entertaining themselves in a way that sells.

    We should make our own movies to showcase all that we are and can be!

    Respect,
    Peter

  6. ggsheh says :

    I’m so dissappointed by Shonda Rhimes choices. It’s ok to put black characters iin positions of authority, outside of the ensemble activity. Have them aloof, and in the judgement position. But why not add an black woman, no not the no nonsense type, not all of us are like that, but a suburban raised sistah.

  7. M says :

    Hi

    You have some interesting insights, gives these shows a whole new perspective for me. I know for a fact that my parents would be disgusted to see a black couple kissing and they are black african! They don’t like any affection shown because they are really religious. I have never seen them kiss or anything. Oh well, I would find it really strange now that I have not grown up with that image.
    Btw I understand the mammy stereotype but what is the magic negro please?

  8. orvillelloyddouglas says :

    Hello M when I utilize the term “magic negro” I mean that the black character is like a “magical servant” the black woman’s only purpose is to “serve” the white female character. Yet the black female character has NO LIFE OF HER OWN. We don’t know much about the black woman on these shows her own purpose is to be a shoulder to “cry on” for the white woman.

    The black female character has some “power” to listen, observe, and help “resolve” whatever conflict the white woman has in her life. Its a disgusting racist and pernicious stereotype but it still exists. Its like the black character has no life of her own no agency her own purpose in this universe is to the serve the white woman. What about the black female character’s love life and happiness?

  9. Trixierix says :

    Having friends of different ethnicities may have me looking at these shows differently. While I am a huge fan of Living Single, Girlfriends, and the like, I also appreciate other shows as well. It would be refreshing to see more diversity, however, I can completely relate to the characters on Private Practice & Sex and the City. Over the years (mainly since I’ve moved from the South to the East Coast) I have grown to separate myself more and more from what I feel represents me. Yes, I am black, but I am also young, a woman, a Christian, a conservative, a wife, a professional, etc. I can honestly say that I have begun to consider all these characteristics separate entities. I’m not big on Oprah, but that’s ok b/c she doesn’t represent me. But I can say that Charlotte on STC is just like me. Its so cliche, but “It doesn’t mater what color you are.” Not to me, anyway.

  10. Trixierix says :

    BTW, there isn’t a white person alive that create a character that would embarrass me more than the trash that is shown on BET 24/7.

  11. Umar says :

    What do you think about the trend in entertainment that Black Couples are barely allowed to exist in loving relationships – except in very rare instances. In entertainment Blacks are happy when with other outside their own, mostly white mates. It’s true of movies, books, comics, even radio shows. Take the career of Gina Torres (wife of Lawrence Fishburne in real life.) When she is with a Black mate she’s weak or a harpy or the relationship is in trouble. When she is with a white mate she portrayed as powerful, strong, warrior. She is a glaring example of what I speak. What do you think of this trend in portrayal of Blacks in entertainment?

  12. orvillelloyddouglas says :

    Umar I think this is typical of Hollywood to present the negative image of black love and presenting white love as “perfect”. We have to remember most of the screenwriters for television and film are whites and NOT blacks. I also think television and movies are powerful mediums because they present social rules and values although some may disagree. Of course, it is important to discern what the “messages” and “biases” the media present through critical media literacy.

  13. Pigpen says :

    Believing that a character on a sitcom or other television program reflects your life, or even just yourself, back to you is about as ridiculous as saying Daffy Duck reflects back to you. They are ALL fictitious characters, regardless of skin color.
    Perhaps, if you would stop drawing so much attention to your quotas, you could simply enjoy the sitcoms for what they are: entertainment. In no way does King of Queens represent “real life” for anyone I know, but you’re whining because the two black characters are supporting roles. Why aren’t you whining that there are no Hispanics on the show? Could it be that you are a black supremist and believe that you are somehow entitled to be in the spotlight?
    There are no United White College Funds, White Entertainment Television, or any other discriminatory organizations out there that specifically target “whites only” the way the black community has shamefully been allowed to do over the years.
    Be glad Merrin Dungey got the part in the first place. Stop seeing the negative in your life – oh wait, it’s not even YOUR life that you’re whining about! We just elected a black man to the highest position on the planet. The black community’s whining about unfair treatment and being held down is officially over. Any shortcomings that you face in your life are YOUR fault and no one else’s. Publishing your whining on a website only allows you and your readers a haven to continue your crying, but accomplishes nothing and does nothing to further the contributions of the black community. In fact, it only solidifies my perception that many of you members of the black community would rather sit on your butts and whine, looking for a hand-out or for someone else to fix your problems, than get up and do something constructive to set in motion a strain of positivity. That’s why no one takes you seriously. People are tired of the black community’s bitching about what they don’t get for free. Merrin Dungey went out and did something successful. You ought to try it, sir. If you’re unhappy that a black person is not in the starring role on that show, then go start your own show. Until that happens, however, you’ll live a long, slow, painful life with your simmering anger until you realize that you control your own destiny and no one else’s, no matter how loudly you draw negative attention to yourself.
    I only came here to check out a pretty picture of an actress and admire her. I didn’t realize that she’s being used by a member of her race as a poster girl for hand-outs. She would be ashamed of you.

  14. Pigpen says :

    P.S. Perhaps when black people stop referring to each other as “nigger” the rest of the world might stop doing it as well. Be the change you wish to see in the world. Stop acting as though it’s acceptable for you, a black human being, to call another human being by a despicable word simply because you are black. If it is acceptable to make Polish jokes because you’re Polish or acceptable to make Jewish jokes because you’re Jewish, then it must be acceptable to call each other “nigger” because you are one, is that right? Of course it’s not right! It’s WRONG! So why does the black community allow it to continue? If you PERMIT it then you PROMOTE it. If YOU don’t take yourselves seriously, then why should anyone else?

  15. usnavyvet2002 says :

    Perhaps you should move out of racist Canada to the U.S.A. where we elected a black president.

    If you are indeed talking about the States and our shows, we have tons of “black shows”, hell we have have all black programming channels like WB, UPN and BET. Bill Cosby a show about black people was the most popular American TV show ever.

    Our most famous and richest woman is black, the most famous sports heroes are black, and most music is black, not bad for only 12% of the population. Oh, did I mention we have a black president.

    As stated, blacks make up 12 % of the population in the U.S. The fact that there are fewer “black” shows is a matter of money not racism. Advertisers want to buy commercial airtime on stations where they can make the most money.

    p.s. we, the U.S.A. elected a black African American black man for president, who is black. Blickity black (CB4 – black movie – reference).

  16. tired says :

    O.k. Pigpen you are wrong. It is not easy to be a minority screen writer in the entertainment business. You cannt just create your own show. It needs financial backing, advertisers, producers, etc. Most producers or networks do not see any value in a show with a mostly minority cast. Automatically it gets labelled as a black show, or asian show or hispanic show then it is marketed to that niche instead of promoted to ALL audiences. Why is it that a show with an all white cast is not called a white show? Have you ever thought about that? and why should we create our own tv stations or shows.?The networks advertise and market shows to everyone not just a white audience. They want my dollars and ratings so yeah I want something different and diverse.

    This is the way the entertainment business is structured. No one wants handouts but the racial make up of writers, producers, advertiser etc are 85% white. I’m not saying that are racist, but most people are gonna hire actresses and actors they find attractive or write what they consider relevant. You need diversity in order to bring a new flavor to TV shows.

    Also, it is racist within itself to lump all black folks sort of generic term. We are diverse in everyway. No one thinks TV is reality, but at least it should reflect the diverse world we live in. It is unrealistic to have NY based shows, but not one minority in site. You think that is right?

  17. James Pierce says :

    Until the sexiest women in the world stop coming from Africa, that’s the way it’ll be

  18. OneBrownSnowPea says :

    I agree with your essay. Wonderful points. I see this was written over 2 years ago, but i still will leave my reaction. Black love and black female sexuality in film or TV is a touchy topic and it is rarely done right by black AND white producers, writers, directors.

    I’ve always noticed that Dr. Bailey had NO life outside of the hospital. However, this season they are bringing a love interest in for her since she got a divorce. I heard that the love interest will be a black male. So hopefully we will see a black couple; how good/positive it will be is yet to be seen. So we will see how that works out. I will be watching that very closely.

    Yes, ABC has issues with very attractive, sexy black women. Both McDonald and Dungy are very attractive women. However, Dungy had the character give off a very self-assured, I’m-every-woman vibe. McDonald has the character come off a bit more accommodating to Walsh’s character.

    On the ABC show ‘FlashForward’ there is a relationship between John Cho’s character and Gabrielle Union’s character. They had a really nice love scene and the relationship seems to be quite healthy. However, I wish they gave them more air-time. Her character seems to be on the fringes of the storyline. I wish they would incorporate her more thoroughly and intimately with the rest of the characters.

    So in other words, progress is very slow and doesn’t make up for much of the inadequacies on TV networks. I totally agree with you. At the end of the day money not advancing black media images is important to Rhimes, Tyler Perry, Bob Johnson, etc. I’m not bashing them, I actually admire their success, but I always wonder: when does their conscience kick in? Do they ever sit back and think ‘where is my integrity’? Or maybe they have convinced themselves they are doing something right. Just because they employ black people and give them jobs doesn’t solve the issue. If your not helping to advance the quality of art that black people are portrayed in you’re really not helping.

    • Kiara says :

      I think Gabrielle gets plenty of air time on flash forward. The only reason why it seems she doesn’t is because she isn’t an official main character yet.

  19. Kiara says :

    I agree with everything except when you said Dungey looks better than McDonald.

    I haven’t to think McDonald looks better.I hope this will end soon.(I’m black by the way.)

    but Gabrielle union is getting a lot of play on Flash forward. her purpose isn’t to be the white girls best friend. But that can change if Gabrielle starts up staging Sonya Walger

  20. steve says :

    “Black women are never the female leads on TV shows. Although Rhimes has been praised she’s just following the status quo.”
    YES IT IS THE ADVERTISERS THAT DO NOT WANT TO SEE THAT. Segmenting the population has been a goal for different companies for years. Advertisers do not want to have to put soft sheen ads on Grays Anatomy when they can run them on the WB. They pay less for airtime on those channels so they save money. Most of those companies are conservative by nature and putting lead black actresses in leading roles is NOT what THEY WANT

  21. mellymel1234 says :

    This article is on point! Shonda Rhimes sucks! Repost I found from another site that is right up the alley to your article.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    In this day and age of Michelle Obama and her beautiful daughters, who needs a Shonda Rhimes?

    Yes, that’s right. The Shonda Rhimes in charge of creating “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Private Practice”, “Off the Map”, and a soon-to-be-produced movie based on the book “B*tch is the New Black”.
    Producer Shonda Rhimes and her evil minions (producers Jenna Banns, Betsy Beers) at ABC either refuse to portray Black women on their shows in the TV lineup – consistently eliminating them from roles, as in “Off the Map” – or continue to stereotype Black women as (arguably) successful, but dysfunctional with sterile roles, as in Grey’s Anatomy and, to a degree, Private Practice.

    And although, yes, Ms. Rhimes is a Black woman, the typical pattern for her shows is to
    1. systematically and completely exclude Black women, or
    2. In the rare cases where Black women are portrayed, cast them as less-desirable than their non-Black counterparts (i.e. out-of-shape, harsh, mean, emotionally barren – feel free to pick your stereotype as Shonda Rhimes and her crew uses them all), unable to be involved in healthy relationships with any man, and definitely not a Black man.
    At best, Ms. Rhimes and her crew may cast a Black woman as the “best friend” to a white or non-black cast member, as if that is some special compliment. At her worst, Black women are portrayed as “the b*tches” she wants America to believe them to be, stark and humorless.
    Let’s hope that her upcoming movie based on “B*tch is the New Black” gets canned before production.
    Black women of all shades look great, and are romantic, and sexy. And with so many struggling Black actresses looking for parts, I know she can find some beauties that fit the bill of smart, beautiful, friendly, and can play the “hot” roles, all rolled into one.
    Who needs to support a Black woman who routinely eliminates us from the shows she produces, and thinks that the only time we’re worthy of portrayal is as b*tches? Who thinks that Black women, and Black women alone, are not worthy of portrayal in romantic relationships? Who thinks that an equally attractive Black woman should not be cast among equally attractive co-stars? Who is OK with producing a movie casting Black women with the gumption, discipline, and standards to become highly educated professionals, as b*tches? Obviously, in her self-hating mind, Black women are not of “the beautiful people”, thus we deserve to be marginalized, eliminated or maligned and scorned.

    Do we want our daughters and the next generation of Black girls growing up believing that they are not as beautiful as anyone else? That the best they are is a b*tch? That they are less kind, intelligent, and sexy than other women on this planet? That they cannot be human and have days like everyone else when they are angry or frustrated or even feeling mean without being cast as a “B*tch”? That they have to trade in their standards and success for fear of being denigrated?

    I think NOT.

    So who needs a Shonda Rhimes? If this is the best she can do to portray Black women, then we certainly do not.

    And who needs Jenna Banns, Betsy Beers or the ABC network?
    Yes, that’s right, the ABC network. Who needs to support a TV network that has recently shown that it supports producers (such as those above) who would willingly eliminate Black women from its popular primetime programming altogether rather than show them in non-stereotypical roles? And yes, this is the same network that gained some of its highest ratings ever, gained millions of viewers – and millions of dollars – all because of the work of another Black woman, Oprah Winfrey.
    So much for being appreciated.
    Do we want Black women and girls believing that they can toil away to produce original material for a network only to then be completely written out of the script? That they should support a network that really wants to see them disappear? Who wants to benefit off of the media power of a Black woman, but not give the legions of young, beautiful Black actresses a chance to work and prove themselves? Who wants to keep up the status quo in popular programming of either eliminating Black woman characters or stereotyping then in unflattering portrayals? That tells our young Black girls that they are less than others? That they are mean, etc?
    Again, I think NOT.

    If producers and the media want to eliminate Black actresses, or portray Black women and girls negatively, it’s time that we use our combined voices to eliminate them. Don’t support anyone or any entity that will not support you.

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