How American Television is Changing for the Better

Written by Chelsea Hinkofer

American television has seen some recent changes from a casting and technical stance. These are not changes we should heed with warning, but rather welcome.

Lately, women of color have been attaining more lead character roles, directing opportunities, and writing positions. Some prime examples of women of color as main characters that are killing it are shows like The Get Down (Herizen Guardiola is mixed race), Jane the Virgin (Gina Rodriguez is Latina), and American Crime (Regina King is African-American). These shows portray women of color as real people, not some stereotype. They show the struggles they go through and give a realistic view of the world where not everyone is white and looks and dresses a certain way.

There are more shows taking the leap and casting women of color in main roles (such as Fresh Off the Boat, Empire and Blackish), but what this might mean is that America is finally changing its stance on white people being in charge. However, this does not seem to be the case when it comes to directing, writing, and producing.

In 2015, Slate reported that “A Writers’ Guild of America report released earlier this year noted that staff employment for people of color actually decreased between the 2011–12 season and 2013–14 season, from a peak of 15.6 percent to 13.7 percent. The number of executive producers of color also decreased in those seasons, from 7.8 percent to 5.5 percent.”

So why aren’t women of color taking on more roles? Maybe because of how society treats them. First off, they are women. There is already pressure for attention since men have dominated the television world since it began. Why would a casting director look at a woman for serious, in-depth roles when a man has always played them? Secondly, they are of color. Being white has advantages that people of color don’t receive. As the number of women of color premiering in roles on the silver screen increases, behind the scenes the number of women in technical roles decreases. It seems that networks don’t want women of color as writers or producers or directors, but they’ll take women of color as actors to gain audience numbers.

So maybe networks should stop looking at people as “numbers” and maybe look at them as, well, people. Look at their creativity and ability. But it won’t happen unless society changes as well. When society does not take entire races of people seriously, why would the networks?

Chelsea Hinkofer is a recent graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and always looking for the next big news. In her down time you can usually catch her reading comics and watching horror themed movies and shows.

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