Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A diversity debate amongst the TV debutantes

The new ABC Family series Bunheads got a bit of unexpected attention after their premiere episode aired,thanks to a Twitter comment. Shonda Rhimes,the creator of such popular programs as Grey's Anatomy,Private Practice and Scandal,chose to add her two cents about the casting choices of the show with this tweet:

"Hey @abcfbunheads: really? You couldn't cast even ONE young dancer of color so I could feel good about my kid watching this show? NOT ONE?"

This criticism was seen as an attack on BH creator Amy Sherman-Palladino(best known for Gilmore Girls) and she has responded to it by saying that it's been her experience that most women in her profession are not very supportive of one another to begin with and that she had a limited amount of time to pull Bunheads together,which may explain her choices regarding the cast:

Similar complaints have arisen around the new HBO series Girls which,unlike the small town locale of Bunheads,is set in Brooklyn,NY. While many critics did applaud the strong female focus of the show,many found the lack of ethnic characters disturbing.

That's not the only fault to be found with this dramedy that comes across to some as just a hipster version of Sex and the City, yet it also came upon the heels of it's debut episode. Even after a few episodes,folks are still divided upon the merits and failings of Girls,with creator Lena Dunham promising to work on these issues in season two:

On the opposite end of the social spectrum, Michael Patrick King received a lot of flack for the humorous content of his new CBS sitcom,2 Broke Girls,a show that rightly has a diverse cast since most of the series action takes place in a greasy spoon diner in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn and is female centric to boot.

A good portion of the critiques were about the ethnicity jokes,something that other programs on the same network also indulge in without so much as a raised eye brow. It's enough to make a TV viewer wonder if the whole cliche about damned if you do and damned if you don't is really that much of a cliche:

While it is important to have diversity in TV and films,there are those who dislike placing a "token" character in the mix just for the sake of looking more open minded than the show creators may be. I also find it interesting that a lot of this criticism has been tossed at female friendly shows,a genre that's had it's own tough row to hoe in pop culture.

Personally,I'm more interested in watching something like Bunheads or 2BG than Girls and yes,some of the points raised about all three are worth discussing and dealing with. However,it would be nice to see a little unity on what matters most with any fictional format and that is the reality being presented here.

An urban setting would naturally demand that a through blend of different races,creeds,sexual orientations,etc be represented while a small town or remote part of the world may not. That doesn't excuse anyone from excluding whole pockets of humanity from their storytelling circle but the criteria for this should be what is best for the main theme of the show in question,not to simply fill an agenda or use one group as the punch line for the other.

We may someday see a pop culture world where these issues are a true thing of the past,yet for now the wise choice might be to let the good stories take us as close to that realm as possible by allowing their characters to show us the world in their own way:

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