With the recent surge of popularity of “Scandal” (Season 4 premiere of 9.8 million viewers, Entertainment Weekly), “How to Get Away with Murder” (series premiere of 14 million viewers, Entertainment Weekly) and “Black-ish” (series premiere of 10.8 million viewers, Entertainment Weekly), there is seemingly a quest to infiltrate the white culture that has dominated television for years. Beyond the popularity, there is power in the prominence of shows centered on persons of color.
“Scandal,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Black-ish” and other shows present opportunities to address cultural misunderstandings, explore cultural perspectives and to infiltrate television norms.
When sitcoms starring people of color infiltrate white perspectives on television — stories and characters that dominated my TV screen for years — the media importantly provides a platform for compelling stories.
These stories tell America that shows with people of color are acceptable, that such stories are valid and that such characters may resonate with American citizens.
“Scandal” introduces us to the notion that law and politics are valid professions for people of color, disassociating America from the notion that menial professions are the limit for people of color.
“How to Get Away with Murder” shows that people of color may operate at faculty ranks in higher education and that they may continuously pursue higher education — debunking the notion that blacks, Latinos and Asians are not qualified for graduate studies. “Black-ish” illustrates that black families are not confined to the ghettos that accompany your city’s suburbia, and families of color are capable of social mobility as well.
There is value and importance in the prominence of shows centered on people of color. The prominence of these shows furthermore introduce opportunities to explore cultural insights and opportunities to address cultural offenses.
In my eyes, these shows eliminate the perception that television has created: that one perspective exists, one story is valid and that one soundtrack orchestrates the experience. For example, beyond adding an intellectual and competent layer to the perception of the black woman in America through its main character Olivia, “Scandal” interestingly incorporates R&B; and Soul music into its soundtrack, adding another cultural element to its prime time slot on ABC.
Incidentally, during the series premiere of “How to Get Away with Murder,” Huffington Post’s Sept. 26 article “People Magazine Tweets, Then Deletes Controversial Viola Davis Comment,” documented a People’s Magazine tweet anticipating Viola Davis to integrate an illiterate dialect into “Murder,” akin to the dialect used in “The Help.” Undermining the black woman’s capability for eloquent and intelligent speech, the article’s note of People’s behavior causing an uproar indicates the importance of the aforementioned shows: They present opportunities to address topics that cause offenses, confusion or misunderstandings.
Follow Joshua Gray on Twitter: @theJoshuaGray