White Noise TV


American TV has come a long way from its racism (think: the 1970/80’s sitcom Taxi and the foreigner, Latka, who was coincidentally the stupid guy) but it still has a long way to go. Now it’s not so obvious when there is cultural superiority or racism taking place in TV, but I still get a sense of it when I watch shows like UnderCovers where they cast the whitest looking African-Americans as their leads. Yeah, The Cosby Show was a breakthrough for American television because it was a positive portrait of an African American family, showing that not all black people have to be low-lives. But there is a difference between defying a negative stereotype and hiring actors who can only be as white as possible. But networks like NBC and CBS wouldn’t make as much money if they actually aired African American comedy like Tyler Perry shows during prime time!

The issue of race on TV is still difficult. There are still a lot of jabs against immigration, negative portayals of foreigners (i.e. characterization in Disney media where all foreigners are either stupid or evil), and the general lack of cross-cultural TV shows. We want TV to be funny, so jokes about cross-culture is funny (for example, I love All in the Familyfor its satirical humor) and we want characters to be relatable. The problem is, with the networks aiming for a largely white audience, relatable characters have to be relatable to white people. Maybe the writers do this because they are afraid of stereotyping if they were to make them “un-white” but on the other hand, it makes it look like normalcy is white. [frowny face]

Last night I watched the new NBC show “Outsourced” and thought it was mildly funny loaded with cross-cultural information. Perhaps that’s what the writers were going for, but I thought maybe the humor could have been stronger and the intercultural insights could have been less obvious–it’s almost in both ways they were trying too hard. Of course this television program exists because there is a market for it out there. The audience is vast: the outsourcing of American jobs is becoming a bigger and bigger issue for folks, there is greater interest in traveling abroad among college students, and then perhaps those who experienced India would find it interesting, too. Yet after watching the show I wasn’t too sure who really was the audience. The humor was almost innocent (except for that subtle reference to Internet porn with the boss eating ribs on webcam) that it seemed more suitable for Nickelodeon. Like any other traveler I know, I like to make jokes about the culture differences but maybe I am just biased to my own sense of humor. It’s obvious to me that the audience is at least American because of the design of the show: they had to select the most American looking Indian actors and the office doesn’t look anything like the photos I’ve seen of India. They don’t need to make it look like India’s worst, of course, but they don’t have to make it look like America, either.

Am I just totally off with thinking that American networks are superiorists? (But I still love my American TV time…is that my white side?)

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