TV Tokenism

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Presented with John S. O'Connor at the 2011 CASE Conference: "What Does It Mean To Be An American?"
http://www.casechicago.org/

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TV Tokenism

  1. 1. 1This is a Black Screen
  2. 2. 2TV TokenismSpiro Bolos & John S. O’Connor ➔ New Trier High School ➔ CASE
  3. 3. 3The Past Spike Lee’s Bamboozled Multiple examples of the negative portrayal of African- Americans in last 50 years Similarities to today’s sitcoms?
  4. 4. 4 Spike Lee’s Bamboozled
  5. 5. 5The Present Purpose of TV Shows Prized Demographics “Upfront” Presentations Dramas vs Sitcoms/Reality TV
  6. 6. 6“Basically, network TV goes outand creates a bunch of pilotshows. They’re basicallypractice shows...SOURCE: NPR’s Talk of the Nation, “After Chaotic Year, Dramas Play atTV Upfronts”: Eric Deggans, TV/Media critic, St. Petersburg Times
  7. 7. 7[E]ach network could createsomething like 30 pilots, andthey may only pick ten. Ten is alot, if they pick ten.SOURCE: NPR’s Talk of the Nation, “After Chaotic Year, Dramas Play atTV Upfronts”: Eric Deggans, TV/Media critic, St. Petersburg Times
  8. 8. 8So that’s a pretty low battingaverage to spend an average ofa million, maybe $2 million apilot, and then only pick up afifth...that you actually produce.SOURCE: NPR’s Talk of the Nation, “After Chaotic Year, Dramas Play atTV Upfronts”: Eric Deggans, TV/Media critic, St. Petersburg Times
  9. 9. 9 “Come to think of it, I saw a white judge on Law & Order last night!” — Grizz 30 Rock: “Racism is Back.”
  10. 10. 10The Future What is TV Tokenism? Is it real? If so, is it a problem? If it is a problem, what, if anything, should be done? How does it mirror the tokenism in our society? What are some other examples you can cite?
  11. 11. 11“Networks scrambled to createmore diverse casts after beingcriticized by the NAACP threeyears ago.”SOURCE: “US Watches TV in Black and White”, Duncan Campbell inThe Guardian, 2/6/03
  12. 12. 12Result? “TV Tokenism” Dramas: Main Character is white or white-looking Main Character is center of story-line (obviously) Main Character is complex and can be morally ambiguous (conflicted) Main Character receives bulk of screen time
  13. 13. 13Result? “TV Tokenism” Dramas: Supporting Character is a “token” minority Supporting character may be in a prestigious and/ or “buddy” position Supporting character is rarely complicated Supporting character receives little screen time or relegated to subplots, only
  14. 14. 14 30 Rock: “the Diversity Guy”
  15. 15. 15Examples... CBS: “NCIS”
  16. 16. 16Examples... CBS: “NCIS”
  17. 17. 17Examples... FOX: “Fringe”
  18. 18. 18Examples... ABC: “LOST”
  19. 19. 19Examples... ABC: “FlashForward”
  20. 20. 20 FlashForward: “Pilot”
  21. 21. 21 “Where’s my token minority partner?” FlashForward: “Pilot”
  22. 22. 22 1:43
  23. 23. 23 2:06
  24. 24. 24 3:46
  25. 25. 25 4:04
  26. 26. 26 5:15
  27. 27. 27 6:06
  28. 28. 28 “The Best-Dressed Man” 7:08
  29. 29. 29 “The Authority Minority” 7:08 - 7:27
  30. 30. 30 “Token Faces”
  31. 31. 31 “Token Faces”
  32. 32. 32 “Token Faces”
  33. 33. 33 “Token Faces”
  34. 34. 34 “Token Faces”
  35. 35. 35Examples... FOX: “House, M.D.”
  36. 36. 36Examples... CW: “One Tree Hill”
  37. 37. 37Examples... CBS: “CSI: Miami”
  38. 38. 38 CSI: Miami “Mystical Minority”
  39. 39. 39Examples... FOX: “24”
  40. 40. 40 24: “Pilot” Episode
  41. 41. 41next appearance elapsed time 43:00 1:49 0:36 24: Sen. David Palmer (domestic)
  42. 42. 42 elapsed time 2:57 24: Agent Jack Bauer (domestic)
  43. 43. 43What is the effect?Max Weisbuch, Tufts University: “The Subtle Transmission of Race Biasvia Televised Nonverbal Behavior” (2009)
  44. 44. 44 The Experiment
  45. 45. 45 The Experiment
  46. 46. 46 The Experiment
  47. 47. 47 The Experiment
  48. 48. 48 The Experiment
  49. 49. 49 The Experiment
  50. 50. 50“Black characters elicitespecially negative nonverbalresponses, such as facialexpressions & body language,from other characters.”SOURCE: Tufts Journal, “Lessons in Black and White” (January 6, 2010)
  51. 51. 51“...and viewers exhibit moreracial bias after exposure tosuch negative responses.”SOURCE: Tufts Journal, “Lessons in Black and White” (January 6, 2010)
  52. 52. 52“The takeaway message is thatbias can be contagious andcan be transmitted throughnonverbal behavior.”SOURCE: Tufts Journal, “Lessons in Black and White” (January 6, 2010)
  53. 53. 53Questions for Discussion Is TV Tokenism real? If so, is it a problem? If it is a problem, what, if anything, should be done? What are some other examples you can cite? How does it mirror the tokenism in our society?
  54. 54. 54Thanks. Kerry Brennan, John S. O’Connor, & the Bolos Girls Songs: Public Enemy: “Burn, Hollywood, Burn” Wilco: “Kicking Television”
  55. 55. 55This is a Black Screen

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