Friday, April 8, 2011

Diversity in Hollywood 2011 and Addendum

Last time I talked about diversity I stated:
Yes there is a big diversity problem as there has ever been in Hollywood. I personally started my company to try in my little way to combat that. Hence the mission of 'Nother Brother Entertainment is "To further propagate diverse images through development of films."

I was tired of seeing substandard television in particular featuring African Americans ...something I have been keenly following for about 20 years now...
Of course this discussion can (and probably will) go on forever, but some more examples and ideas came to mind and had to post them as well.

Even though I have loved television for…ever, I have always been aware, even acutely aware of black stories on television. When a black show came on I would always try to check it out. In the 90’s a plethora of black shows debuted on television and probably not for the reasons you think. Dr. Jason Johnson explains a lot of it in the excerpts below as he compares it to the predicament of former RNC Chairman Michael Steele.

Quiz Time: Do you remember “Sister, Sister,” “The Jamie Foxx Show,” and “The Steve Harvey Show?” What do all of these shows have in common?

Each of these shows was part of the now defunct WB network’s television line-up from the mid-90’s. They were all popular African-American sitcoms that were ranked in the top 10 in black households before getting the axe in 1999. Basically the WB used black shows to stabilize the network then dumped them all when things got better. This “WB” syndrome as I like to call it, can also apply to politics, as it perfectly explains the recent plight of former RNC Chairman Michael Steele.

Broadcast television was dominated by NBC in the 1990s, so when the WB was launched across the nation in 1995 Warner Brothers executives had a novel idea: Why not create programming for a niche African-American audience that was all but ignored by other networks at the time? From this idea shows such as “Jamie Foxx,” “Steve Harvey” and “Sister, Sister” were born to huge ratings and critical acclaim across black America. In fact, it was black programming that kept the WB alive in the ’90’s as most of their other show attempts had failed (Anyone remember Kirk Cameron’s sitcom “Kirk”? Didn’t think so).

Then, in 1999 it all changed. The station had finally stabilized financially and began to focus exclusively on creating and promoting shows targeted at white teens and young adults. Goodbye “The Hugleys”, hello “Dawson’s Creek,” “Smallville,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Charmed.” It didn’t matter that the black shows were successful. Executives at the WB always aspired to grab the white teen audience like Fox and MTV and had no problem using black shows to get there. I call this the “WB syndrome” – throw some blacks in there early on to sell the product then dump them the moment the white audience is secure. You saw the same thing with Jennifer Lopez’ dating life and Timberland boots.

In order to avoid cancellation, the WB eventually merged with UPN, both stations purged themselves of any remaining minority targeted programs and created the CW. Despite their best efforts to survive on white viewers alone the CW is still firmly planted in last place.
Excerpted from "Michael Steele: The WB Network of Politics" You can read the entire editorial here

Ever since “the purge” there really haven’t been that much minority programming on broadcast television. Even the newly formed CW purged itself of all minority shows in 2009 (something I posted in our sister blog Cool Black Media here )

It is also important to note that UPN , The WB and eventually The CW “borrowed” the model that the Fox Network started of “narrowcasting” when it began in 1986 to build an audience. In 1994 after Fox cancelled the black shows The Sinbad Show, Roc, South Central and In Living Color, Representative Ed Towns (D-NY) stated
“Fox-TV created its niche based programming based upon racy, black, and youth oriented programming. Apparently as the network moves to become more mainstream, its attitude to positive black programs is, we don’t need, nor want them anymore…” - The Fox Network and the Revolution in Black Television (linked below)
Again this discussion happens over and over and over and over and…well you get the idea. I even dug through my uncle’s old Jet magazine collection and…well not really I’m a little more advance than that. LOL. Through a Google search I found a Jet magazine article from Aug 9, 1999 titled "Why Are So Few Blacks Starring On TV?" You can read it here

There has been recent news of a deal to bring an African American broadcast network to television, something that has only antecedently been achieved only in cable and satellite. (You can read about that in our sister blog Cool Black Media here )

There have also been several sound bites by film stars Idris Elba and Morgan Freeman on the matter

"Can I be candid? I don't like all of Tyler Perry's films. Yes, I did work with Tyler for 'Daddy's Little Girls' because it portrayed a positive image of a black father. I am happy for Tyler's success...we need Tyler Perry ... by going to support his movies, we need to show economic strength. But we are also responsible for elevating film. I'm not with buffoonish characters like Madea or Big Momma."
-- Actor Idris Elba weighing in on Tyler Perry's success in Hollywood and buffoonish imagery. (Vibe)

When asked by BET for his take on the lack of African-American actors on stage, at this year’s Oscars, Morgan Freeman replied,
“I think we need to get over that sh*t. How many Chinese do you see? You don’t see them out marching and sh*t. Oh God please. I think … We need to get over it, that’s all.”
You can read more info on the Morgan Freeman quote, as well as a lot of reader comments at the great website Shadow & Act here

When it concerns diversity like I stated before “IT HAS been the same ol’ song and things probably won’t change that much. We just have to do what we can to ensure that our stories are being told.”

Related Link 1-


Apr 11, 2011

Panelists talk about media and popular culture. This program was part of an Aspen Institute symposium on the state of race in the United States. (1 HR 41 MIN)


Will Griffin
Chair and CEO
Hip Hop on Demand

Donna Byrd

Mona Eltahawy
Middle East Columnist

Spike Lee

CLICK the graphic below to view the video

Related post-
Diversity in Hollywood 2011 and Beyond

Related Link 2-
The Fox Network and the Revolution in Black Television

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