When the new ABC Family show Bunheads premiered in May, Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal producer Shonda Rhimes took to Twitter to voice her frustration.
“Hey @abcfbunheads: really? You couldn’t cast even ONE young dancer of color so I could feel good about my kid watching this show? NOT ONE?”
What appears to be a consistent lack of diversity on TV is an oft-discussed topic. While many folks clamor for a wider representation of faces on screen, they are often met with familiar rebuttals to their objection.
“But there probably WOULDN’T be any black people there! It’s a small town/an elite academy/set in 1920s Britain.”
Well, there also aren’t witches and wizards, people with super powers, no hospital staff is made up of models and there aren’t THAT many unattainably gorgeous women who are content to partner with completely unambitious and out of shape men. But that doesn’t stop those stories from getting to the screen.
“Well, they probably just chose the best actors. And the best actors just happened to be white.”
It’s possible that this is sometimes the case, but considering how poorly executed some shows can be, it’s unlikely that the only good actors in Hollywood are non-minorities.
“Black shows just don’t do as well.”
That certainly explains why Tyler Perry was able to get an 80-episode pick up of one of his shows, why Scandal is doing so well and why shows like The Cosby Show, A Different World and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air are so beloved.
Plus, most of the biggest TV flops of all time have had primarily white casts, yet no one suggests that those kinds of shows be ignored.
But despite the fact that arguments against diversity are easy to debunk, does it even matter? Who cares if there are more or less people of color on screen? And if it does matter, whose job is it to make diversity happen on a regular basis?