Media tagged Whiteness

SNL - Screen Guild Awards

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            In this satirical take on award shows, Saturday Night Live (SNL) pokes fun at the racial biases that accompany U.S. entertainment industry award show decisions. In the piece, five White actors are introduced for the year’s “Best Actor” award. As each potential winner is announced, the clips of their work that are shown, usually meant to display their acting fortitude, actually highlight their Black co-stars rather than those nominated. For example, one film features an emotional performance of a Black actor as Thurgood Marshall yet his White costar is nominated for his minor performance as a librarian announcing closing time. During the satirical ceremony, the camera cuts to the reaction of the actors as they are being recognized for their work. The White actors being acknowledged make uncomfortable facial expressions or are entirely oblivious to being honored for their glaringly lackluster performance over their fellow Black cast members, who are seen in the background, with looks of scorn or disapproval on their faces. The video ends with the announcer saying that the award is a five-way tie between all the White actors who celebrate on stage, cheering loudly, “We did it!”
           This video, first shown in 2016, ties with the “Oscars So White” movement—the social media campaign that criticized the lack of racial and ethnic representation and recognition at the Oscars award show. SNL themselves has also come under fire over the years for lacking diversity in their casting. This short is both illuminating and self-reflexive, as the same Black cast members are used multiple times in the clip to express disapproval of dominant onscreen portrayals, while also representing a lack of a range of underrepresented talent amongst their own ranks.

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Sony Playstation - White is Coming Billboard

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This Sony advertisement comes from 2006 ad campaign in the Netherlands. The campaign advertises Sony’s white handheld device (which previously came in black), and personifies the devices through the depiction of race. It features the slogan “White is Coming”, with a pale white woman, with white hair and white clothes physically dominating a black person dressed in black clothes. The ad was pulled due to the protests that saw the depiction as racist and insensitive.

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The Daily Show - Assault Swim - Progress in Community Policing

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In this clip from satirical news program The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart highlights the absurdity and racial bias of a 2015 incident captured on video showing a White Texas Police officer breaking up a teenage pool party, in which he unholsters his weapon, shouts expletives, and forces a young, unarmed Black woman in a swimsuit to the ground. The videos of the incident went viral and sparked national outrage and debate about excessive force used by law enforcement, exacerbated by the fact that the officer in this incident is White, and the young woman and people at the party are predominantly Black. Through this satirical news segment titled “Assault Swim,” Stewart talks with field reporter Jessica Williams, a Black woman wearing a bikini over body armor, for an “on-the-scene” update. Their exchange offers a humorous and honest look at race relations in Texas and the nation as a whole by highlighting racial inequities and discrimination related to this incident, with jokes and comments about how “white people always want to touch our hair,” and commenting on what firearm possession means in the hands of different racial groups.

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The Day Beyoncé Turned Black

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“The Day Beyoncé Turned Black” is a mock movie trailer created by comedy television show Saturday Night Live (SNL), which shows the fictional aftermath of a world in which pop-superstar Beyoncé is “revealed” to be Black because of the (real) release of her 2016 song “Formation.” In the satirical trailer, the world is turned upside down because White people finally realize that Beyoncé is Black through the “Formation” song and music video, which unapologetically celebrates Blackness and African Americanness, makes pointed commentary on African-American social issues and struggles, and celebrates Southern Blackness, Black power, and Black femininity.

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This is What Happens When TV Writers’ Rooms Aren’t Diverse

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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.  

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