“Token Race” Characters
Why the “token Black American” character but not the Asian American in popular TV shows?
Lately, there has been a surge of shows featuring mostly Caucasian casts, but including a “token Black American” character. Recent shows to begin running such as The New Normal, Suburgatory, Emily Owens M.D., Happy Endings, Guys With Kids and The Neighbors include a “token Black American” main character but not necessarily a “token Asian American” character. For that matter, “token Middle Eastern” characters or “token Native American” characters or “token Hispanic American” characters are non-existent. When recently-aired shows do feature Asian American main characters, most feature South Asian characters (The Mindy Project, New Girl, Unhitched, Whitney). So, why the “token Black American” character but not the “token other-race” character? And why the South Asian character rather than East, North or West Asian character as a main character?
I find it disappointing and somewhat disheartening that the “token-race” character continues to exist, rather than casts embodying characters of all races, backgrounds and cultures. Clearly, despite progress made in recent decades, whiteness is still normative in most media venues. Hopefully, media will continue to progress in a more diverse direction. Comparing recent media publications with past publications seems to indicate positive changes. As our generation matures, I am hopeful and think it is likely that these positive changes will continue.
P.S. some feedback I forgot to say in class: I really enjoyed how this course approached the notion of stereotypes and stereotype analysis. By focusing only on stereotypes in media, instead of the multi-faceted-ness of representation, theoreticians may actually do more harm than good. I enjoyed the way in which this course approached subjects of representation and media overall.
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