Recently Deadline Hollywood’s Nellie Andreeva posed the question, “Pilots 2015: The Year Of Ethnic Castings – About Time Or Too Much Of Good Thing?” The very premise of the piece leaves little doubt about the content, and sure enough, the author utilizes somewhat bizarre anti-affirmative action arguments to suggest that maybe the recent growth in shows led by actors of color may be “too much of a good thing.” (If one buys the author’s assertion, of course, that they actually think this is a good thing at all. Their piece suggests otherwise.) Maybe Andreeva should have injected some actual facts into their piece.
In fact, television shows with more diverse casts have been demonstrated to go over better with television audiences than shows with all white casts, and one researcher stated that “[r]acial diversity does make a marked and measurable difference to television’s bottom line.” The reason for this probably has something to do with Andreeva’s other poorly researched claims that because Black people make up 13% of the United States population and, allegedly, we have tons of scripted choices now, “growth in that fraction of the TV audience might have reached its peak.” In fact, shows that actually make it to air still have white leads disproportionate to their U.S. population. Only a month ago, the Hollywood Reporter reported that “TV remained white-heavy onscreen and behind the camera, with minorities underrepresented nearly 6-to-1 in lead roles on scripted broadcast shows and nearly 2-to-1 as leads on cable (relative to their share of the U.S. population).” Moreover, Black audiences have been long known to consume media disproportionate to our population. As far back as 2013, Nielsen reported that Black viewers watched 37% more television than the general population and dubbed us “aggressive consumers of media.” A cursory online search, which Deadline’s Andreeva evidently neglected to conduct, will produce many more studies attesting to the growth populations of color, for example, this 2012 Sacramento Observer piece that quotes another Nielsen study informing us that “[s]ince 2000, the total U.S. population only increased by 11.3%, while the Black population increased by 17.9%, a rate that is 1.6 times the greater overall growth.” This cursory research might also yield several studies demonstrating that our consumption of popular media only continues to grow.
With those facts in hand, one has to wonder what Andreeva really intends when they question whether or not television shows with leads of color is “too much of a good thing.” Because from over here it seems like they’re having a difficult time coming to terms with the (relatively small) growth in television shows prominently featuring people of color and an even more difficult time coming to terms with casting directors specifically reaching out to actors of color. (By the way, another fact, casting notices have not specifically reached out to actors of color). It’s difficult to ascribe intentions to Andreeva, but what’s clear is that they didn’t do their research and, given that Deadline tagged the article as “controversial,” it seems like the piece is ultimately meant to deliver page views without delivering much in the way of critical thought, analysis, or a useful contribution to the conversations about media representation and diversity.
Unfortunately, Deadline Hollywood ranks as a well-read media outlet, and their irresponsible “journalism” in the name of clicks is as insensitive as it is transparent. Hopefully, next time, they’ll take a few minutes to think about whether they really want to perpetuate potentially harmful misinformation and regressive talking points at the expense of actors and consumers of color or if they’d like to meaningfully participate in this important discussion. We’ll see.
This post originally appeared on Marena ni yukyats.