Thursday, March 09, 2006

Michael Jackson Television

Okay, I know I'm supposed to be working, but I just had to comment on that Fox show Black. White.

If I wanted to talk about how ridiculous it was, I wouldn't know where to start, and I'd be here the whole damn day.

So instead, I'll pick apart MSN's review of the show. It will simplify things.

The first thing I take issue with is this statement:

"Black.White." proceeds with open-minded seriousness as it leads viewers to a conclusion both obvious and powerful: race counts, for better and worse. Expressions of racism and racial identity change, but that bedrock truth remains."

First of all, how can it proceed with "open-minded seriousness" if it is leading viewers to an obvious and powerful conclusion? There is no open mindedness when you've arrived in advance at the "bedrock truth."

R.J. Cutler, the show's producer said, "I didn't realize how genuinely different an experience it is to be a white American and a black American."

Is that douchebag fucking serious? There would be an even lesser point than there already is to this show if he thought experiences between blacks and whites weren't genuinely different.

The next thing I take issue with is this precious tidbit: "The series' timing is notable, with race brought into renewed focus by Hurricane Katrina and the disproportionate suffering it caused for blacks in New Orleans. But "Black.White." was conceived before the hurricane, Landgraf said."

Actually, I have two problems with this statement. First the disproportionate suffering of blacks in New Orleans is due to the fact that there were a disproportionate number of blacks in New Orleans. But the actual death toll tells a different story. The black population of the city was around 67% before the storm. The white population stood at 28%. Yet the ratio of black deaths to white according to the vital statistics of the Louisiana governors' office is 48% 41%. It isn't particularly relevant to the show, but it's just one issue that proves there is no honest discussion about race no matter how you spray paint people.

The other issue I have with this statement is minor, but it irritates me. It says the series timing is notable because race issues have been brought into focus by the hurricane, but the idea was conceived before the hurricane. What does that have to do with timing? You can conceive an idea any old time, but inflicting on the public at large takes precision.

And the last issue I have is with Larry E. Davis, director of the University of Pittsburgh's Center on Race and Social Problems. He says the program "will bring (issues of race) into a context and a time frame and a reality that a new generation can comprehend, can relate to and understand," The goal is to "keep hammering away, hammering [a]way, hammering away at the problem."

Ugh. If the goal is to keep hammering away, then I have a headache. Can't people be left alone by the media to enjoy each others' company without having it analyzed and dissected into little pieces? I'm convinced most race issues wouldn't be issues if an exceedingly lazy press would actually investigate something important and quit "hammering away" at ordinary people who just want to live in peace. It opens racial wounds where there weren't any before and it gives people reason to distrust each other. I know the media thrives on one segment of the population's distrust of another, but please. This is at our expense.

And could they have gotten a more bizarre white family? The worst aspect of them (among many) is that they consider themselves liberal. This promulgates the unfortunate thought that if "liberals" are this ignorant, think how bad conservatives must be.

Most people I know, conservative, liberal or otherwise, are not prejudiced or if they are, it can be broken down almost immediately as long as you don't give them a reason to think otherwise. And seeing how inadvertent prejudice is impossible to eliminate, it seems like a pretty good place to be.

And that's pretty much how I see the race issue. If you are an ignorant fool who enjoys offending or taking offense, then I do not care to be in your company. Skin color is irrelevant. Same for friendship. But I admit that I tend to value my non-white friendships just a little more because it wasn't that long ago that it might have been very difficult to have them. But this results from gratitude for my friends, not from a hatred or dislike of my of my own race.

What baffled me about this program was the blindness of the white family. They don't seem to have any inkling that the white race is being judged by their example and even worse, that they are being looked upon in spite of their liberalism, as ignorant racists.

So if the intention of this show is to give whites a taste of their own (supposed) medicine, in that every time you see the white people, you want to scream "Nooooooooo! We're not all like that!" then it is working just fine.

If the intention is to open an honest dialogue about race relations, it fails spectacularly.

But maybe I am looking at race issues through the Houston spectrum and perhaps it isn't exactly honest. I mean, there are so many different racial mixes here, that if you were to discriminate on the basis of race, you would find yourself a very lonely person.

But as far as this program is concerned, the conclusion has already been reached. Case closed. Whites do not like blacks and that is the bedrock truth.

1 comment:

Zelda said...

"It opens racial wounds where there weren't any before and it gives people reason to distrust each other." No truer words have been spoken about that show. Oy!
Kristin | 03.13.06 - 4:46 pm | #


Not Black.White; rather, Us.Them. Just another reason for me to hate "fair and balanced" Fox. A fine analysis. Thank you from all of us who live in peace.
charlie | Homepage | 03.13.06 - 7:16 pm | #


I hate all races. Equally.
Trashman | Homepage | 03.13.06 - 8:46 pm | #


I can't even bring myself to watch it once just to hate it. Seriously, this is television at it's worst!
Brighton | Homepage | 03.13.06 - 9:12 pm | #


Kristin - You hit upon my thesis, convoluted as it was.

Charlie - Exactly correct. Us. Them. Nevermind that the elitist bigots at the network go home to their cozy little one-dimensional existence, while the rest of us actually have to sift through this garbage. The only thing I would argue is that all networks are sinfully and equally guilty.

Trashman - I hate all networks. Equally.

Brighton - Now that I've told you the premise, there's no need. Aren't you glad you have me?
Zelda | Homepage | 03.13.06 - 9:56 pm | #


I was actually looking forward to this show. And then I watched the first 20 mins. Ugh. Had to turn it off right there.
I was embarrassed for both families. Really, they were both so... I don't know... CLUELESS as to what it was to have racial issues.
One family was all about the perceived benefits, the other about the 'wassup' factor. It made me feel bad for both kids, really. Where's the hope for friendship without being like, "hey mom, my friend Billy from my speech class is coming over to work on homework." Never mind the fact that mom will freak out because he's black.
So frusterating. I can only hope that (I know I'm dreaming here) my kids - the the first on the way in 8 weeks - will be able to learn without attention being placed on skin tone, but instead on merit. The mind is a way more powerful tell of a person's soul than their skin.
Wishful thinking, I know...
But hey, if an Oregon liberal can read and enjoy a Texan republican's blog for months on end, there's hope for us all
Erin | 03.14.06 - 2:50 am | #


I'm with Trashman. Makes my life simpler and saves time.
dick | Homepage | 03.14.06 - 8:43 am | #


Can't say I knew anything more about this show than the commercial from the radio with the booming voice to make you think that it's some life-changing experience to see what they go through. Glad I've missed it...

But even more glad that I didn't miss Z's always memorable take on these types of things. :D Thanks for the review, and giving even more reason not to watch.
Sam | Homepage | 03.14.06 - 10:56 am | #


It's not FOX. It's F/X. Or, does FOX own F/X?
Jethro | Homepage | 03.14.06 - 11:48 am | #


Erin - I hope you come back and read this. I have friends who are liberals. And congratulations on your first baby!

I was also embarrassed for both families. But what this show ignored is that black families and white families are living together everyday and while their experiences may not be identical, they have common goals and will work side by side to achieve them - for the betterment of ALL.

What the should have focused on was the fact that while race may count superficially, there are many, many many other things that trump skin tone hands down. Such as a work ethic or strong morals or talent of any kind. Skin tone is pretty low on the totum pole of deciding factors. And there is nothing wrong with a little diversity, even political. So come visit as often as you want.

Dick - Lazy.

Sam - It was life-changing in that watching it made you wish to be struck blind.

Jeth - I think Fox owns F/X
Zelda | Homepage | 03.14.06 - 12:34 pm | #


The very idea of this show made my ears smoke a little bit. I couldn't watch it, and I confess I started to read the review you cited, and I closed the window about 5 sentences in. You put it more succinctly than I could possibly have done - it was a "shit! where do you start?" type equation, and made me a little batty. Well done, my sistah!

By the way, my links are finally up, and I put you in. Great post.
phlegmfatale | Homepage | 03.14.06 - 8:23 pm | #


I haven't watched the show either for the very reasons stated above. I did read the critique on MSN before you posted it. I came to those same conclusions you did. I'm glad I didn't waste my time to see if I was right.
Michelle | Homepage | 03.14.06 - 8:44 pm | #


Exactly what Kristin said!!

I had a race, gender, human indentity class in college which was just an excuse to open those racial wounds and show us EXACTLY how different we were instead of trying to help people find common ground.
Inanna | Homepage | 03.14.06 - 10:19 pm | #


Phlegmmy - Thanks for the link. Luckily for me, I can find the humor in those types of shows otherwise I'd have flames shooting out of my own ears.

Michelle - It was absolutely a waste of time.

Inanna - Some of those old college classes can be a little challenging to sit through. I spent much of my abortive college career dissecting exactly ignorantly prejudiced everyone was instead of just enjoying everyone's company. It was pathetic and I'm much happier finding the good in people along with my Asian husband.
Zelda | Homepage | 03.15.06 - 12:34 pm | #