Despite receiving modest ratings, HBO's The Wire (2002-2008) is considered one of the greatest TV dramas of all time, recognized for its realistic portrayal of urban life and deep exploration of sociopolitical themes. This scene from its first season shows low-level drug dealers D'Angelo, Poot, and Wallace having a conversation while waiting for drug buyers in the housing projects of inner-city Baltimore.
This public service announcement was commissioned by the UK-based charity Tender, and aired in Britain during the 2014 World Cup. This 40-second spot depicts a young woman intently watching a soccer match on television. Shot from the point of view of the television, the camera focuses closely on the woman’s facial expressions and only the sound of the TV is heard. The woman appears to become increasingly frightened as it becomes clear that the team playing on the television is losing (we hear the crowd booing). Her expressions turn from anxiety to sheer terror. The woman proceeds to switch off the television and the screen goes black for a few moments. The viewer is then presented with plain text against the black background; “No one wanted England to win more than women… Domestic violence rises 38% when England get knocked out of the World Cup.” The final image utilizes the hashtag #StandupWorldCup. The ad was released just days after England was knocked out of the tournament by Italy and Uruguay.
This 2015 video from Aisha Harris at online news, politics, and culture magazine Slate.com uses scenes from popular U.S. television shows to illustrate how people of color continue to be represented stereotypically and as peripheral minor characters in television shows because the roles and characters written for them are created by predominantly White writers. The video points out a range of stereotypical tropes such as the token minor or first to get killed off Black characters (such as T-Dog in The Walking Dead), or one-dimensional token Black, Latino, or Asian sidekicks (such as Winston in New Girl, or George from Law & Order: SVU), or servants (such as Rosario in Will & Grace, or Sum in Sex and the City) in contrast with complexly portrayed White characters in the same shows. There are also the exotic, sexy Latinas with a foreign accent (such as Gloria in Modern Family), or emasculated Asian male foreigners (such as Raj in The Big Bang Theory or Han in Two Broke Girls) who serve as the comedic relief because of their foreignness, which in turn makes the White characters look better and reinforces that they are what is “normal.” The video also connects these limited and damaging representations with how they affect viewers’ perceptions and behaviors in everyday life. At the end, the video creators argue that while some shows are now getting better at depicting people of color in leading roles (such as Grey’s Anatomy), it is because the writers and producers behind the show reflect diversity and include people who actually know what it’s like to live as a multi-dimensional person of color.
Debuting in 2009 on TLC, Toddlers and Tiaras focuses on the world of child beauty pageants. It follows young pageant participants and their families as they go through the process of training and competing in local, regional and national pageants. Since its debut, the series has stirred plenty of controversy, with critics accusing pageant parents and organizers of overly sexualizing and exploiting children.
This video segment is from Amazon Studios produced television seriesTransparent, a show about a family’s experiences when the middle-aged family patriarch reveals that he is transgender. The scene is from season one (2014) and shows the difficulties and discrimination that transgender people face when going to gender segregated public bathrooms. The scene starts at a shopping mall with daughters Sarah and Ali and transgender character Maura pausing in front of the bathroom entrances before heading inside. Maura is a bit hesitant, but Sarah encourages him to go inside while Ali follows warily behind them. While waiting in line, Sarah refers to their father as “dad,” and Ali goes ahead to use the restroom. As Sarah and Maura wait, two teenage girls and their mother see and relate to Maura as a man and are angered and offended that a man is in the woman’s restroom. She starts asking Maura to leave, saying, “Sir, can you hear me? Because this is a ladies’ restroom and clearly that is a man.” Sarah steps to her dad’s defense, and says, “This is my father, and he’s a woman. He has every right to be in this bathroom,” and the woman argues back, saying, “No, he does not. You know what? I’m calling security. There are young women in here that you are traumatizing.” The argument escalates and the woman says, “your father is a pervert!” Ali is shown listening from the bathroom stall, and eventually comes out, asking, “Dad, don’t you need to go pee?,” and Sarah and Maura both say no, wanting to just leave. The scene ends with the three of them in the parking lot, with the daughters asking their father, “are you ok?” and she responds, “I will be,” as she walks to her car to leave. The daughters are then standing there talking to each other, and Ali says, “God, why is he doing this now?” and Sarah responds, “Why, why did he wait so long?””