TV Tokenism

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Using television network dramas as a subject of study, how do writers, producers and advertisers present minority characters? And what is the effect on viewers? Cites evidence from a variety of shows and Max Weisbuch' 2009 study, "The Subtle Transmission of Race Bias Via Televised Nonverbal Behavior."

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TV Tokenism

  1. 1. 1 This is a Black Screen
  2. 2. 2 TV Tokenism Spiro Bolos ! New Trier High School ! An American Studies
  3. 3. 3 The Past Spike Lee’s Bamboozled Multiple examples of the negative portrayal of AfricanAmericans in last 50 years Similarities to today’s sitcoms?
  4. 4. 4 Spike Lee’s Bamboozled
  5. 5. 5 The Present Purpose of TV Shows Prized Demographics (18-49) “Upfront” Presentations Dramas vs Sitcoms/Reality TV
  6. 6. 7 9:00 9:14 9:42 9:27
  7. 7. 8 Tag/Teaser Act IV Act III Act I Act II
  8. 8. 9 Commercial Commercial Tag/Teaser Act IV Act I Commercial Commercial Act III Act II Commercial
  9. 9. 10 Commercial Commercial Tag/Teaser Act IV Act I Commercial Commercial Act III Act II Commercial
  10. 10. 11 Commercial Commercial $$$ Commercial Commercial Commercial
  11. 11. 12 Top-Watched Dramas (2012) 1. Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) 2. NCIS (CBS) 3. Revolution (NBC) 4. Once Upon a Time (ABC) 5. Glee (FOX) 6. NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS) 7. Person of Interest (CBS) 8. Criminal Minds (CBS)
  12. 12. 13 “[N]etwork TV goes out and creates a bunch of pilot shows. They’re basically practice shows... SOURCE: NPR’s Talk of the Nation, “After Chaotic Year, Dramas Play at TV Upfronts”: Eric Deggans, TV/Media critic, St. Petersburg Times
  13. 13. 14 [E]ach network could create something like 30 pilots, and they may only pick ten. Ten is a lot, if they pick ten. SOURCE: NPR’s Talk of the Nation, “After Chaotic Year, Dramas Play at TV Upfronts”: Eric Deggans, TV/Media critic, St. Petersburg Times
  14. 14. 15 So that’s a pretty low batting average to spend an average of a million, maybe $2 million a pilot, and then only pick up a fifth that you actually produce.” SOURCE: NPR’s Talk of the Nation, “After Chaotic Year, Dramas Play at TV Upfronts”: Eric Deggans, TV/Media critic, St. Petersburg Times
  15. 15. 16 The 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?
  16. 16. 17
  17. 17. 18 “Networks scrambled to create more diverse casts after being criticized by the NAACP three years ago.” SOURCE: “US Watches TV in Black and White”, Duncan Campbell in The Guardian, 2/6/03
  18. 18. 19 Result? “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 or compromised) Main Character receives bulk of screen time
  19. 19. 20 Result? “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 relatively little screen time or relegated to subplots, only
  20. 20. 21 30 Rock: “Toofer & the Diversity Guy”
  21. 21. 22 Examples... CBS: “NCIS”
  22. 22. 23 Examples... CBS: “NCIS”
  23. 23. 24 Examples... FOX: “Fringe”
  24. 24. 25 Examples... ABC: “FlashForward”
  25. 25. 27 FlashForward: “Pilot”
  26. 26. 27 “Where’s my token minority partner?” FlashForward: “Pilot”
  27. 27. 28 1:43
  28. 28. 29 2:06
  29. 29. 30 3:46
  30. 30. 31 4:04
  31. 31. 32 5:15
  32. 32. 33 6:06
  33. 33. 34 “The Best-Dressed Man”? 7:08
  34. 34. 35 “The Authority Minority” 7:08 - 7:27
  35. 35. 37 “Token Faces”
  36. 36. 38 “Token Faces”
  37. 37. 39 “Token Faces”
  38. 38. 40 “Token Faces”
  39. 39. 41 Examples... CBS: “CSI: Miami”
  40. 40. 42 CSI: Miami “Mystical Minority”
  41. 41. 43 Examples... AMC: “The Walking Dead”
  42. 42. 44 Examples... AMC: “The Walking Dead”
  43. 43. 45
  44. 44. 46 The Walking Dead “The Token Trade”
  45. 45. 47 The Walking Dead “The Token Trade”
  46. 46. 48 The Walking Dead “The Token Trade”
  47. 47. 49
  48. 48. 49 X X X
  49. 49. 49 X X X
  50. 50. 49 X X ? ? X
  51. 51. 50 The Walking Dead “The Token Trade”
  52. 52. 51 “This is God’s plan. He’ll take care of me — always has.” The Walking Dead “The Token Trade”
  53. 53. 52 The Walking Dead “The Token Trade”
  54. 54. 53 X The Walking Dead “The Token Trade”: complete?
  55. 55. 54 What is the effect? Max Weisbuch, Tufts University: “The Subtle Transmission of Race Bias via Televised Nonverbal Behavior” (2009)
  56. 56. 55 The Experiment
  57. 57. 56 The Experiment
  58. 58. 57 The Experiment
  59. 59. 59 The Experiment
  60. 60. 60 The Experiment
  61. 61. 61 “Black characters elicit especially negative nonverbal responses, such as facial expressions & body language, SOURCE: Tufts Journal, “Lessons in Black and White” (January 6, 2010)
  62. 62. 62 “...and viewers exhibit more racial bias after exposure to such negative responses.” SOURCE: Tufts Journal, “Lessons in Black and White” (January 6, 2010)
  63. 63. 63 “The takeaway message is that bias can be contagious and can be transmitted through nonverbal behavior.” SOURCE: Tufts Journal, “Lessons in Black and White” (January 6, 2010)
  64. 64. 64 A reason for optimism? Kerry Washington
  65. 65. 65 A reason for optimism? ABC: “Scandal”
  66. 66. 66
  67. 67. 67
  68. 68. 68 A reason for optimism? NBC
  69. 69. 69 A reason for optimism? ABC: “Last Resort”
  70. 70. 70 A reason for optimism? ABC: “Last Resort”
  71. 71. 71 Questions 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?
  72. 72. 72 Thanks. Kerry Brennan, Deborah Hill, John S. O’Connor, Mr. Paul Waechtler & the Northfield Campus Songs: Public Enemy: “Burn, Hollywood, Burn” Wilco: “Kicking Television”
  73. 73. 73 This is a Black Screen

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