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Old April 23 2013, 08:21 AM   #53
Sci
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Re: Why I Wrote A Mad Men Episode With Negroes, by Erika Alexander

IndyJones wrote: View Post
Sci wrote: View Post
IndyJones wrote: View Post
But, beyond that, can't we give Matt Weiner the benefit of the doubt in assuming that this was a deliberate choice with no malicious intent?
Malicious intent -- or even conscious intent -- doesn't have to come into play at all, though. A creator can be unintentionally ethnocentric. It's human nature to think in terms of your own group, whatever group that may be -- and thus it is easy to find yourself, if you are white, only writing about white people, completely without meaning to.
My point was that I believe it to have been deliberate, but not malicious. You're positing that it was accidental.
No, I'm pointing out that unintentional ethnocentrism is one possible scenario. I made no claims about the particulars of the Weiner/Mad Men case. My emphasis was on the idea that function is more important than moral intention in evaluating whether or not there ought to be more minorities on any given TV show.

Now, I didn't address the question of whether or not there can be a legitimate creative reason to have a mostly-white cast -- my point was that if you're criticizing a show for lacking diversity, that's not the same thing as accusing the creator of being a closeted racist, or of having malicious intent.

Sci wrote: View Post
...the issue is whether or not the show ought to have more black people.
No. Because that would be a different show.

Could it have been just as good or better if it had? Absolutely.
Okay, listen. There are legitimate creative arguments to make that depicting the kind of social circles Mad Men features in an honest way means focusing on a very white circle of characters... at least at first.

But we've seen several posters in this thread point out that the black community and Mad Avenue ad firms came to intersect quite a bit in the 60s. After a while, the question becomes -- at what point does this cease being an honest depiction of the racial isolation of the scions of the 1960s's system of white supremacy, and become itself ethnocentric as a work of art?

I have only seen the first 9 episodes of Mad Men. I don't know enough details about future seasons to have a specific opinion about this particular show. But in general, I would say that if a show doesn't have a very specific creative reason not to have minorities, then it ought to default to having minorities (and in meaningful, substantive, non-stereotypical roles).

Because if you set "white skin" as your default setting, you are, whether intentionally or not, perpetuating a system of white supremacy and minority invisibility. The question, again, is not "are you racist in your heart?" It's, "How does this narrative function?"

ETA:

I will say this. I like the show, but from the very first episode, it's bothered me that Mad Men is essentially a show about rich white elites being rich white elitists. It honestly bothers me that the show focuses so much on the lives of these wealthy assholes, yet doesn't feature, say, the lives of the black custodians who work at Sterling Cooper, too. The lives of the working class can be as rich of fodder for drama as those of the upper class, and I think that doing more to emphasize the contrasts and intersections of these communities would have made for a stronger show, from the very beginning. I am as interested in the lives of the black elevator operators as I am in the lives of the white telephone operators -- and all the more so, because I didn't grow up in a world where you didn't press your own elevator button, and I wish the show didn't just treat the casual racism as another instance of My Goodness Things Were Different Back Then.
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