I read this article this morning over at Racialicious (an awesome blog about race in the media that you should most definitely check out). I reposted it on my facebook page, but as I sat here still thinking about it, I realized it needed a longer post. So here goes.
Tami Winfrey Harris gives a wonderful critique of the show — Glee’s characters are all based on stereotypes, but most of them have been explored at a deeper level. Mercedes, on the other hand, is still the vocal ringer.
I confess that I have not watched the show in a long time, so I cannot speak firsthand about the show’s treatment of characters. However, I remember an episode where Mercedes struggled with her weight and body image, but none where she explore the hardship of being a minority in a mostly white school.
But my real question is this: For a show that has become renowned for its frank discussion of gay issues, why is race left out? Is race a ‘touchier’ subject, or is it that race has already been dealt with and explored?
In terms of race on TV, I still have yet to see myself represented on the small screen– no one is exploring mixed characters (Second confession, I don’t watch a lot of TV in general, so please correct me if I am missing something here!). Racial issues, it seems, are not the hot topic anymore.
So why is that? Is the struggle of being one of a few minorities in a white school to complex or touchy? If I remember correctly the other black kid (did he even have a name?) left at the end of season 1 without much fanfare and was replaced by a white kid who gets a lot of storylines.
So is that what the infamous ‘post racial‘ looks like? Because, you know, since we have a black president (who is really mixed but is read as black. But that’s another post) racial issues are a thing of the past! We don’t need to deal with race because it’s a non issue!
I’m piggy-backing on this article and its discussion of Glee, but this is a trend I see in a lot of places. And I have conflicted feelings about it. Because dealing with race on TV breaks down like this (IMHO): the race of the character is ignored until the one episode where a hate crime or something along those lines reminds all the characters that this one is a person of color. Or the character is only a person of color, a caricature of all people of color. A part of me wants the character of color to be ignored, because then they are a real character, not just a representation of their race. And I want people of color to be cast in roles where race shouldn’t matter — I want to see them as professors, as heads of departments, as people in charge.
But the other part of me wants to see their race and struggles to be acknowledged as a part of who they are. My racial identity is very much a large part of me — it defines much of what I do, and the decisions that I make. I hesitate to tell people my background because I don’t want to be told I’m not doing it right (which I have been told several times in the past). These are real struggles — so why aren’t they a part of the characters on my TV?
What are your thoughts?