Sunday, February 26, 2017

Ethnicity and Race

The very notion that some people believe we live in a post-racial society still baffles me. Considering the Esposito article was written almost a decade ago, aligning with the election of President Obama, forces me to think back in time a bit. So even if I think it’s ridiculous, it’s much easier to fool ourselves and believe that a post-racial society exists. I was a little late in watching Ugly Betty but when I did a binge watch occurred as I was immediately hooked. The episode that Esposito chose to unpack is highly memorable and I agree with the reading. But I think the color-blindness is even obvious just in the title sequence: 

The face is fragmented and different colored skins are mixed together. All the while, our Latina protagonist (white-passing) Better, is the character who will convince us and her white cast counterparts that fashion or, “beauty”, is a thing that can be learned and earned. We’re meant to believe that her ugliness is her braces, her hair, her “lack” of fashion, but as Esposito highlights it is her otherness that keeps her from advancing in the industry.  
That said, witch Christine Acham’s article in mind, The Cosby Show which intentionally ignores race provides a better understanding for the immediate desire to forget without forgiving. In contrast the episode of the Black-ish that we saw in class, it’s clear how television can be utilized as a means of communicating to audiences directly. I’ve never seen any other episodes of Black-ish but the way that points of the show utilized a documentary style edit with slow motion and historical footage made me much more aware of my space, place, and time. I wasn’t a passive viewer watching television, I felt like I was being told something and I needed to pay attention. The article by Gray then added to this historical and cultural context. That “highly visible media personalities (…) helped to focus, organize, and translate blackness into commodifiable representations and desires that could be packaged and marketed across the landscape of American popular culture” (68) was the peak point of the article, for me and brings the Esposito article back to mind. How do you commodify something/people, who are “ugly” to society?


  1. What was so impactful about the Black-ish documentary footage film, and even the television episode in general, is how this sitcom television show places the story within the context of history and reality in a way many other television shows do not. After we look at the episode we watched in class, I did some further reading on the show, and it almost seems as if the show is a direct reaction the some of the critic the Cosby Show has had. "Black-ish addresses not only the racism that the Johnsons face as an upper-middle class African-American family, but also includes the racism African-Americans from a variety of backgrounds face in America." I'm curious how much they talk about how racism and oppression affects how parental figures talk to their kids/grandkids about "pulling themselves up by their bootstraps" and working hard as the antidote to their problems. It seems we see a bit of this when the grandfather shows his grandson the actual meaning of Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech and how white people often try to de-claw or soften up the speech.

  2. Although I was a little disappointed by the "no matter who we voted for let's just all get along" end of the episode.

  3. Having never seen Ugly Betty, I'm super interested in your impressions/deconstruction of the title sequence and thing that analysis plays really nicely with the Esposito article. Looking specifically at title sequences, its interesting to consider how the title sequence of something like Orange is the New Black plays with the same kind of close up in a different way, featuring close ups of a variety of female faces - would you also see that as a version of color-blindedness like that of Ugly Betty? Or does the visual allowing each (not necessarily normatively beautiful) face to stand on its own (even if it is in pieces) complicate easy integration into a sort of neoliberal move towards color-blindness? I'm on the fence on this one, so I'd love to hear what everyone else thinks!