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TV Tokenism

Spiro Bolos
Spiro Bolos
Spiro BolosSocial Studies Teacher at New Trier High School District

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

TV Tokenism

1 of 55
1




This is a Black Screen
2




TV Tokenism
Spiro Bolos & John S. O’Connor ➔ New Trier High School ➔ CASE
3




The Past

    Spike Lee’s Bamboozled
    Multiple examples of the
    negative portrayal of African-
    Americans in last 50 years
    Similarities to today’s
    sitcoms?
4




    Spike Lee’s Bamboozled
5




The Present

    Purpose of TV Shows

    Prized Demographics

    “Upfront” Presentations

    Dramas vs Sitcoms/Reality TV
6




“Basically, network 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
Ad

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TV Tokenism

  • 1. 1 This is a Black Screen
  • 2. 2 TV Tokenism Spiro Bolos & John S. O’Connor ➔ New Trier High School ➔ CASE
  • 3. 3 The 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 Spike Lee’s Bamboozled
  • 5. 5 The Present Purpose of TV Shows Prized Demographics “Upfront” Presentations Dramas vs Sitcoms/Reality TV
  • 6. 6 “Basically, network 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
  • 7. 7 [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
  • 8. 8 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
  • 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 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?
  • 11. 11 “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
  • 12. 12 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) Main Character receives bulk of screen time
  • 13. 13 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 little screen time or relegated to subplots, only
  • 14. 14 30 Rock: “the Diversity Guy”
  • 15. 15 Examples... CBS: “NCIS”
  • 16. 16 Examples... CBS: “NCIS”
  • 17. 17 Examples... FOX: “Fringe”
  • 18. 18 Examples... ABC: “LOST”
  • 19. 19 Examples... ABC: “FlashForward”
  • 20. 20 FlashForward: “Pilot”
  • 21. 21 “Where’s my token minority partner?” FlashForward: “Pilot”
  • 22. 22 1:43
  • 23. 23 2:06
  • 24. 24 3:46
  • 25. 25 4:04
  • 26. 26 5:15
  • 27. 27 6:06
  • 28. 28 “The Best-Dressed Man” 7:08
  • 29. 29 “The Authority Minority” 7:08 - 7:27
  • 30. 30 “Token Faces”
  • 31. 31 “Token Faces”
  • 32. 32 “Token Faces”
  • 33. 33 “Token Faces”
  • 34. 34 “Token Faces”
  • 35. 35 Examples... FOX: “House, M.D.”
  • 36. 36 Examples... CW: “One Tree Hill”
  • 37. 37 Examples... CBS: “CSI: Miami”
  • 38. 38 CSI: Miami “Mystical Minority”
  • 39. 39 Examples... FOX: “24”
  • 40. 40 24: “Pilot” Episode
  • 41. 41 next appearance elapsed time 43:00 1:49 0:36 24: Sen. David Palmer (domestic)
  • 42. 42 elapsed time 2:57 24: Agent Jack Bauer (domestic)
  • 43. 43 What is the effect? Max Weisbuch, Tufts University: “The Subtle Transmission of Race Bias via Televised Nonverbal Behavior” (2009)
  • 44. 44 The Experiment
  • 45. 45 The Experiment
  • 46. 46 The Experiment
  • 47. 47 The Experiment
  • 48. 48 The Experiment
  • 49. 49 The Experiment
  • 50. 50 “Black characters elicit especially negative nonverbal responses, such as facial expressions & body language, from other characters.” SOURCE: Tufts Journal, “Lessons in Black and White” (January 6, 2010)
  • 51. 51 “...and viewers exhibit more racial bias after exposure to such negative responses.” SOURCE: Tufts Journal, “Lessons in Black and White” (January 6, 2010)
  • 52. 52 “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)
  • 53. 53 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?
  • 54. 54 Thanks. Kerry Brennan, John S. O’Connor, & the Bolos Girls Songs: Public Enemy: “Burn, Hollywood, Burn” Wilco: “Kicking Television”
  • 55. 55 This is a Black Screen