While many of the ideas presented in this week’s readings are fairly widespread, reading all three in conjunction left me feeling rather pessimistic. Gray tell us that any programming that is for black audiences is not motivated by any desire to see black stories but purely for profit; Acham’s findings that The Cosby Show, despite whatever Bill Cosby’s intentions, perpetuated racists views of white audiences; and Esposito’s assertion, using Ugly Betty as an example, that the topic of race is still avoided and thus left to fester.
All in all rather depressing, if not groundbreaking but interesting nonetheless. I saw some parallels in Acham and Esposito’s articles: study of episodes of television that ran concurrently with pivotal moments in history (The Cosby Show and the L.A. Riots / Ugly Betty and Obama’s election) and the use of ideas of class and meritocracy to distract from race. Like Sasha, I found Esposito’s overly thorough look at the myth of post-racial societies/racism/representation/etc to be surprising. In contrast, I found Acham’s claims to be slightly more nuanced in that she considers the different ways that race, class, encoding & decoding, and historical context are considered. The focus on Bill Cosby, a strong supporter of respectability politics, and the ways his attempts to create a family that just happens to be black, even if it wasn’t read that way by viewers, was an interesting point of contention to consider.
My own personal experience with Ugly Betty is interesting since I used to be a big fan of the show what it aired. As a 14 year-old Asian kid with immigrant parents, I saw myself in Betty and I too believed that if I tried hard enough I could get anywhere I wanted without accepting handouts because of my race and/or gender. And connecting it back to the readings, I also thought it interesting that gender wasn’t brought into any of these conversations about race. When out with two female friends last night, we decided to recount the most sexist behaviors we’ve experienced but I could only think of racists things that had happened to me. Sure, I get cat-called all the time but I’m more bothered that kids will yell “konnichiwa” at me on the street.
Salma Hayek, one of Ugly Betty’s executive producers, recently asked Jessica Williams at a Sundance luncheon celebrating women in film, “Who are you when you’re not black and you’re not a woman? Who are you and what have you got to give?” To which, Williams replied “A lot. But some days, I’m just black, and I’m just a woman. Like it’s not my choice. I know who I am.” Though the whole exchange was interesting/cringy (http://remezcla.com/features/culture/salma-hayek-jessica-williams-latinos/?utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=paid&utm_medium=cpc) I think it is important to know that race and gender (and class) are interconnected. While Betty is Latina, she is also a woman and while Esposito may not consider the role her gender also played in her conflict with white, gay, male Marc, it most definitely did play a role.
As a personal/amusing tidbit, there is a webseries Quiet Tiny Asian (which I was directed to by Kathy). I was laughing but only because it was so sad how accurate it was. Here are my two favorite episodes