Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Reality on TV not Reality TV

Yesterday a friend mentioned on FB how she was watching Dr. Who and realized how infrequently she sees interracial couples on American television. That sparked an interesting chain of conversation regarding American television culture and the acceptance of seeing interracial relationships outside of plot points.

One point that I brought up is that while you are seeing more on TV the writers make a point to discuss, joke about and highlight the difference in race/ethnicity...it's always "planned". Rarely is there a couple that truly "just happens" to be interracial (i.e., hired the best actors for the job). And if it is the best two actors for the job the writers then exploit the difference of race and use it for plot fuel.

In House ("Fools for Love") an interracial couple are found out to be half-siblings and Foreman is accused of being against interracial relationships.... in the same episode Foreman makes a bet with House that a nurse isn't dating Wilson...in the end you find out it's because Foreman is dating her.  
Debra Messing's character (Will & Grace) dates "Ben Doucette" (played by Gregory Hines), Will's boss, for a few episodes in Season Two and Three. At first the writers didn't bring notice to or highlight the interracial romance until the episode "Husbands and Trophy Wives" when (as Grace and Ben are preparing to go to Ben's Yacht Club) Will says, "Wow. The black man is taking the Jewish girl to the Yacht Club. You two are so out, you're in." Here we are not only highlighting the fact the Ben is black and Grace is White but also assuming that being in an interracial relationship is someone the "In" thing to do. 

Tara and (psychotic vampire) Franklin on True Blood.
Catherine and Warrick on CSI. 
Dr. Yang and Dr. Burke on Grey's Anatomy 
Jay and Gloria Pritchett on Modern Family
Hodges and Angela on Bones (although so far I don't remember their relationship being highlighted, only that Angela is herself the child of an interracial relationship) 

The list just continues....and while I love that shows are no longer strictly one color of characters or another, it is disappointing that the characters can't just go about their lives without 1) having their lives be the punchline to a joke and 2) not genuinely dealing with the racism and differences that interracial couples have to face.

Now, I'm not saying that ALL shows are this way. Leonard and Priya on The Big Bang Theory, do in fact discuss the fact that her traditional Indian parents may not accept him as her boyfriend...even if it did lead into a break up.

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I've been lucky. My BF and I haven't had to face the challenges that many interracial couples do. No discrimination...no family deputes...we've been lucky. Maybe it's because we live in larger metropolitan cities where Asian/Caucasian couples are prevalent? Maybe it's because our friends and families support us and our relationship. 

I realize this entry has become more of a nonsensical rant than anything else. I guess I'm just tired of seeing love (of any kind - interracial, same-sex, etc) exploited for comedic value and wish that television writers would wake up and start portraying "real life" more.

(Further thoughts and blogs I've written on interracial dating can be found here and here.)

3 comments:

  1. I feel like the couples I mentioned that were interracial- the four on Glee- that it rarely comes up. Santana and Britney? Talks about their lesbian relationship, not their color. Artie and Tina dated. I remember his wheelchair being brought up, not her race. Santana dated frog lips. Don't remember her race being brought up. She also dated Puck. Then, Mercedes and Sam date. I don't remember race being brought up, at all. I don't watch the show all the time, but that's a lot of not being brought up interracial couples. On top of that, looking at a calendar of shows I've watched at some point, only a few don't commonly feature interracial couples. Like, Suburgatory. I've seen it a few times and only remember white people on it. I would say the problem with tv in the US is actually not enough racial diversity. TV is sexual enough that every person of color has usually had at least a couple of relations outside of their race. It's just that for every non-Cauc race, there are 4-5 white people on the air, making it less about interracial couples and more about racial diversity in general. I don't remember the last time I heard about an IR relationship talking about race on tv. Honestly.

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  2. I can think of two more shows which featured interracial couples. In season 8 of Scrubs, a Caucasian female intern and an African-American male intern start hooking up in the on-call room. Of course, Turk has to make a "jungle love" joke. But Lost did it, and Lost did it right. Rose and Bernard. http://lostpedia.wikia.com/wiki/Rose_Nadler They were a middle-aged interracial couple, and every aspect of their involvement in the show was very tastefully done. Race was never an issue. In all 6 seasons of Lost, not one comment was made about their interracial relationship. And they were good characters, the kind you could never say a bad thing about. Their relationship was neither plot fuel nor a punchline.

    You are right, however. Characters like Rose and Bernard are definitely an exception.

    ~Shane

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  3. I was TOTALLY reading this blog and thinking, "YANG AND BURKE, YANG AND BURKE...YES!!! YANG AND BURKE!" hahaha

    Anyway, I think we're finally in a day and age where society is finally able to realize that skin color is truly irrelevant to a person's ability to love. My boyfriend and I are fortunate to not face any sort of racial puns. We're also a Caucasian/Asian couple, but I really don't think that has anything to do with it. (I almost typed "due with it" wtf?)

    I mean, Yang and Burke didn't really deal with racial puns either...but then again I did find it odd that Yang is Jewish. That definitely came out of nowhere...

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