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America's ongoing return to racism, or: Where did all the TV black people go? Aug. 8th, 2015 @ 12:35 pm
So I was thinking about something last night.

From the perspective of an outsider, it kinda seems like America has become more racist over the last few years.

It *really* seems like American television has. And that's odd, and problematic.

See, one of the causes often cited for the rise in the general acceptability of gay people in America is "the Will and Grace effect" - basically, TV representation equals familiarity equals acceptability, kind of thing.

But at the same time, black people have become so much *less* visible, and I wonder if that increases the "othering" effect.

When I was a kid, there were lots of American black people on TV. I have vague memories of loving a show called Good Times, and of course, although now problematically, there was the Cosby Show. At some point there was Family Matters, and into the 90s there was The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. There were no doubt others, but those are the ones I recall from Australian TV.

Meanwhile, not for nothing, but back in the freakin' 70s, there was M*A*S*H, which despite a white regular cast quite frequently featured black (and other POC) secondary characters, minor characters, and extras, with regards to whom their skin colour was not their defining factor, even in episodes that were definitely About Racism.

There was an episode where the doctors determine that a field officer is assigning the most dangerous duty to black soldiers, because he's a horrible racist and he doesn't like a desegregated Army and he wants them out of his unit.

For extended scenes involving dialogue, the main black characters in that episode are one of the soldiers, who nonetheless gets some chat about where he's from and is also shown having been spending time playing board games with Father Mulcahy and other things to suggest that he's actually a person, and an officer, who joins the doctors in exposing the racist commander and forcing him to resign his commission. (Who is also a dentist, and gets to tie the episode's main and sub-plots together and have one of the episode's best lines.)

In another episode, there's a field medic named Moody, who is respected and liked, but at one point turns up being treated for minor injuries to his hands after he's apparently been in a fight at Rosie's Bar. When I was a kid, I never fully understood why he'd been fighting - what he tells Hawkeye is that, "Some guys wanted to know if I could tap dance."

I understand that now, but at the time, all I knew was that this clearly bothered him, because Moody is annoyed that he let them get to him - he knows better, because he'll have something guys like that will never have: self-respect.

In another, meanwhile, there's a wounded black soldier being treated under local anaesthetic for a shoulder injury, so he's sitting on a gurney with no shirt, but some dressings visible. He's a well-built, broad-shouldered sort of fellow, and gets an admiring look from one or two nurses; when he asks if his shoulder is bad, Hawkeye tells him something like, "Are you kidding? I wish I had shoulders like yours. Compared to you I have no shoulders at all, my neck goes straight on down to my hips."

Then he says something like it's going to be fine, don't worry, I think, but... that's that.

Why is it that, forty odd years later, I find it a lot harder to think of characters on broadly popular TV shows whose characterisation is informed by their race, but not defined by it?

Why don't I know of any current all-or-almost-all-black sitcoms? I know I don't really keep up with sitcoms, generally, but you know, there's usually at least one on that it's impossible not to know is there. Currently it's The Big Bang Theory, which seems to include an Indian guy but no black people, from what I know, and for a number of years it was Friends, which managed to exist in some kind of parallel universe New York where there were no black people in New goddamn York.

But back in the day it WAS The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The Cosby Show was huge. Good Times, Family Matters, The Jeffersons - which I don't think I ever even saw, but it was famous enough that I've heard of it in the same way I've heard of Three's Company.

Current Mood: tired


Surprises... Sep. 2nd, 2011 @ 08:20 pm
Still sick.

Watched an episode of White Collar tonight, and did a quick (less than five minutes) sketch of Tiffani Thiessen (Elizabeth) while I watched. It came out recognisable! I am pleased.

My next planned subject is Marsha Thomason (Diana). Googling her for a reference pic, just then, I discovered that she's actually from Manchester.

That would explain why the episode where Diana had to "fake" an English accent (Manchester dialect), her accent was flawless. Having assumed Marsha Thomason was American, I'd wondered if they'd had Thomason do her best English accent and then picked the region by what matched what she achieved. But no, they just took the path of having a Mancunian actress who normally fakes an American accent.

I wonder if she and Hugh Laurie share an agent or something.

Now for drawing. It's easier to practice faces, at this point, with actors and actresses than people I know - if I'm drawing someone who's a part of the fabric of my emotional landscape, then too much of them and me is in the drawing for what I'm trying to achieve.

White Collar: Why You Should Watch It Aug. 21st, 2011 @ 04:49 pm
So, lately my TV-type obsession has been White Collar. I'm up to the end of season 2, and I am still utterly in love with it.

Here are the reasons why White Collar is awesome. Awesome.

1) Good Writing

Seriously, this is one of the best-written televisions shows in the history of ever. Good stories, good dialogues, clever ideas, great characters... and it's a show that involves law enforcement (as the FBI) that actually pays attention to the law. In the very first episode, one character heaves out a tome entitled "Warrant Law", because whether they can legally do something or not actually counts.

2) No Seriously, The Characters

The central characters of the show are Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), an FBI agent, and Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer), a con man, thief, and convicted forger serving out his sentence working for the FBI as a consultant (while wearing a tracking anklet).

They're both awesome.

Also, Neal wears very nice suits very very well, and absolutely rocks a trilby.

The other major characters include:

- Elizabeth Burke, Peter's wife. (Tiffani Thiessen)

Elizabeth is amazing, and White Collar is remarkable and gives me endless joy for the way their relationship is written. They love each other, they respect each other, and their relationship is founded on that love and respect - and trust.

In one episode, Elizabeth finds another woman's business card in the pocket of Peter's jacket. Why, you might ask, is she going through his jacket pockets if she trusts him? Because she's doing laundry, so she's emptying out the pockets of all the clothes.

Peter explains that the card belongs to a woman who, as part of a case he and Neal are working on, he had spent the entire afternoon flirting with. Elizabeth's reaction to discovering that her husband has been flirting with a beautiful woman is... to laugh so hard she nearly cries, because she knows that Peter hates flirting, and her trust that he wouldn't cheat on her is absolute.

I love seeing a healthy, loving, functional relationship based on trust and respect on TV.

- June, Neal's landlady. (Diahann Carroll)

June is an older black woman - I'm bad at guessing ages to begin with, and June is stunningly beautiful, but she has a 22-year-old granddaughter, so she's certainly not that young. She invites Neal to live with her, knowing that he's a freshly-released convict, because he's charming and looks good in her late husband's very stylish suits, and she - an excellent judge of character - knows she can trust him. They become fast friends. (Her late husband, Byron, was also a criminal - a very very good one.)

- Diana Barrigan (Marsha Thomason)

Diana is in the pilot as Peter's "probie" - probationary agent. She is elsewhere for season 1 (Marsha Thomason was doing another show, I think), but returns as a fully qualified agent in season 2 to be completely brilliant. She is smart as a whip and completely kickass. It's also pretty brilliant to have a character who's both black and a lesbian, and yet, not have that be in any way the focus of her character; if you were to sum up Diana, the central aspect of her character would be brilliant FBI agent.

- Clinton Jones (Sharif Atkins)

Jones is another FBI agent, who rounds out the core of Burke's crew at the FBI. In many ways, he's the anchor of the team. Peter, Neal, and Diana are all fantastic, and will generally be the ones who come up with the spectacular acts of crimefighting, but on various occasions every single one of them would be absolutely screwed if not for Jones.

The thing about Jones is: he's a highly intelligent man, but he doesn't quite have the inspired brilliance of the other three. But he knows that, and he's okay with it, because he knows he's awesome, and he knows that he's part of a truly excellent team.

More than that, he has a genius for covering the details that the others lack - when things start to go south, Jones is the one who's anticipated the risks and is ready with backup. The word that comes to mind, with Jones, is solid.

- Mozzie (Willie Garson)

... I don't know if I even have words to sum up Mozzie. But he's very very cool.

So, yeah. It's a brilliantly well-written TV series, featuring some very, very pretty people, including actual representation of minorities as major characters, and you should watch it.

(Oh, and in case it's the kind of thing you need in your TV: if you watch with slash glasses, Peter and Neal are totally gay for each other, in a way that's even kind of okay because they're also both totally gay for Elizabeth, so you can have your slash pairing or your OT3 and it'll just work fine.)

In which, clearly, I need a White Collar icon Aug. 16th, 2011 @ 09:49 pm
So, Dean ([livejournal.com profile] velithya) and I have been catching up on White Collar for the last few weeks.

There is so much that is awesome about White Collar, but tonight we watched episode 2x13, "Countermeasures", and in this episode, a scene happens which is exactly the fic I had vaguely planned to write.

White Collar DOES MY FIC FOR ME AND PUTS IT ON TV WITH THE REAL ACTORS AND EVERYTHING.

White Collar is amazing.

Speaking of Dean, I drew a picture and gave it to her and she posted it on her LJ (with permission). ♥

So, yeah, there's a sketch I drew over there. Because she likes my drawings. :3

"Dangerous" dog breeds... Feb. 21st, 2011 @ 03:10 pm
I'm watching The Dog Whisperer. They're showing Cesar Milan's pack at his Dog Psychology Centre.

37 dogs, most of them pit bulls, dogs which have been abused and neglected. Many of them had apparently been "marked for death", but now they're all well-adjusted members of the pack.

It's rather fascinating.

The last episode I watched featured a boxer who'd become problematically aggressive - including having bitten a neighbour - and was scheduled to be put down until the mother (of the small boy whose dog it was) saw an ad about "does your dog have mental problems" that was for the Dog Whisperer.

That one was positively tear-jerking, but it rapidly turned out happily. The parents had been terrified of the dog hurting their children - they'd already taken to keeping him away from any possible encounter with people outside the family.

Fortunately, the dog wasn't vicious at all, just very protective of his family and needing to be trained to calm down.

Cesar Milan seemed more than a little upset that this dog had been slated for death.

It's adjusted my view on the potentially dangerous breeds rather.

See, I like dogs. I like cats around the house, because cats are company without always needing attention the way dogs can, but I like dogs. And my favourite breeds are breeds that can be dangerous - German Shepherds, huskies, Belgian Shepherds... the closer to wolf the breed remains, the more I probably love it.

But I always thought that it was a bad idea to get a dog of any of these breeds that wasn't still a puppy if you had children or weren't physically vigorous (for want of a better phrase), because they could be unpredictable. I'm starting to be convinced otherwise. (Although I think it's still pretty clear that you shouldn't get one if you're not going to be dedicated to looking after it, including taking care of its psychological issues.)

If you don't know the dog's history, you don't know what might be a negative trigger that will make it react violently. But I'm starting to think that that doesn't matter - if the dog is properly placed in its new family, if it feels comfortable and secure but also properly submissive, it'll be okay.

Submissive, in a dog, not being a sign of emotional abuse, obviously. Submissive in the sense that the dog is secure as a pack follower, not a pack leader. They are pack animals and you should always keep that in mind with dogs. (I've always thought that, I'm just finding a lot of things I wouldn't have thought of regarding enforcing it.)

What has yet to stop amazing me is the way dogs react to Cesar Milan. It's like they look at him and instantly recognise them as their king...

TV Crush: Lie to Me Jul. 4th, 2009 @ 10:54 pm
So, getting triggered by episode 2 aside, I'm kind of in love with Lie to Me.

It has exactly the sorts of things that I tend to like. Ten things to say about it:

1) Plots that revolve around sociopolitical issues that treat them with much more subtlety and complexity than is usual. (At some point I'll post spoileriffic meta on this stuff, because: seriously, it's kind of awesome.)

2) Every single character in this show is, on some level, broken. And it's handled really damn well. The character interactions are complicated, and it pulls off some really interesting dynamics. The show passes the Bechdel test with flying colours - and, hell, we have complicated friendships between men and women that aren't sexualised at all.

3) So, hey, the major characters include two men and two women. One of the women is Latina. She's not a stereotype, she's brilliant in some ways and flawed in others, but they managed to make her strong without being "feisty".

4) So, of the two "senior" (in the agency) characters, one is male, one female. The male is Cal, and he's messed up in the head, so his primary relationship outside the agency is with his daughter. His daughter is awesome - she's fifteen, so she does some teenagerishly silly things, but she's basically a good kid - and Cal knows it, and they have a good, yet not unrealistically flawless, relationship. The female, Foster, is married - her relationship is also not without its complications, but it's handled really well too, imo.

5) The two "junior" staff members, Loker and Torres, are both single. Both have been seen dating - Torres has been seen responding to (respectful!) overtures from two men, in the episodes I've seen so far, one white, one black. Loker's date that I've seen was with a black woman. The "inter-racial" aspect of these interludes isn't mentioned - it's just about attraction. (Did I mention that the men involved were totally reacting to her as an intelligent and charismatic woman, not just to omg a hottie?)

7) Which is not to say this show is all about some kind of post-racial utopia - in fact, this may be the first TV show I've seen that actually takes on the concept of implicit/aversive racism, the idea that subtle racism is alive and well and dangerous. Hell yeah.

8) No, seriously, complicated relationships. That don't need to be wrapped up for a Hallmark moment, that don't need to be sexualised, none of it. If I were to write fic for this show, so far, at least, I could only possibly write gen, or possibly BFF fic. God, it's awesome to see recognition that relationships between men and women can be strong with no sexual component.

9) As a rule, no-one makes an issue of the fact that Torres is beautiful. (Seriously, she's stunning.) Because the thing is that just about all of the interactions between the characters, they're at work, and so people are professional - and the unprofessional moments aren't about sex, either, even slightly. The one time I've seen Cal touch her, in an unprofessional way, he was pushing her away and that was it. Because what matters about her is that she's brilliant.

10) I've seen eight episodes so far, and not been disappointed. However, I am compelled to say, as much as I recommend it to people who like intelligent TV, if you have triggers, you might want to check spoilers for the plots in case they're dangerous to you. (I hadn't thought of this as an idea - after the triggering from episode 2, Dean said, "I hope you're checking spoilers for each episode to know it's okay for you to watch," and I said, "Hey, that's a really good idea," and Dean facepalmed.)

I was shocked when my son told me his boyfriend was a homosexual Jun. 11th, 2009 @ 09:44 pm
I worked out this evening why, all of a sudden, the floor of the main room of our house got so dirty - winter's setting in, and we're bringing in muddier shoes and so on. (And I haven't been leaving my shoes in the laundry like I usually do, for some reason, so I track dirt further in.) This evening I vacuumed the floor and the lower half of the staircase carpet, though. Huzzah.

Feeling a little low and demoralised. I want to write, but I'm low on ideas and not really feeling like any of my current fics.. I'll take prompts in Kamen Rider Kabuto, Star Trek (TOS, Reboot only, right now), Veterans of the Psychic War (hey, I should maybe poke at Veterans II), if anyone has requests. Nothing smutty though, I'm so very much not in that place.

So very, very tired. Have concluded that what I should do now in terms of guitar is practice chord progressions with strumming patterns, since I still kind of hesitate too much when I'm trying to change chords without stopping strumming. Important to accept that it's fine to screw up while doing this, it's a learning process.

I also discovered this evening that the reason my guitar's pickguard showed scratches so easily was that there was still one of those static cling plastic pieces over it. The plastic shredded easily. The pickguard is actually still pretty much unmarked...

Until I started watching these DVDs of A Bit of Fry and Laurie, I had no idea that Hugh Laurie plays guitar. Apparently House plays guitar, and this was a suggestion of Hugh Laurie's. I find that rather nifty.

In other news, 80s fashions really were terrible. Jun. 11th, 2009 @ 02:16 pm
Nobody tell Oliver that despite being incredibly tired by 7pm last night, I didn't get to bed until 4am.

*cough*

And forgot to turn on the dishwasher, so I had to run it while I was awake today, which was annoying. (It's noisy.)

So yesterday I bought the complete series of A Bit of Fry and Laurie. (The reasoning actually includes "sanity", but that gets complciated to explain.)
I started watchingit yesterday evening with Oliver, and we both had variations on the same reaction. Olly watches House, so he was disconcerted by how young Hugh Laurie looks. I've watched a lot of QI lately, so I was disconcerted by how young Stephen Fry looks.

On the second disc, though, there's The Cambridge Footlights Review, featuring an unbelievably young Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson. Stephen Fry was around 25, Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson around 23, and they are all, by the way, already brilliant performers. It's just... weird. Because I'm used to thinking of these people as being Older Than I Am, because they are, but in this recording they're younger than I am now.

In other news, my Brilliant Master Laundry Plan appears to be working flawlessly - including the part which involved letting certain items get rained on extensively for non-water-wasting at-length rinsing. I got everything on the washing line, just in time for the forecast rain to arrive. It's out there, sodden and dripping right now. (Repeated rinsing with water from the tap, you see, is going to waste lots of water; rinsing with water falling out of the sky? Ecologically acceptable.)

The laundry I plan to do this afternoon, however, will be hung on the rack inside, because I actually want it to dry.

It includes my new white washcloth, which never actually got used as a washcloth before I used it as a pad for putting pressure on a wound. It got thoroughly blood-soaked, and soaking it in water for a day left traces of bloodstain, so (because I'm lazy) I soaked it in bleach for a couple of days.

It reminded me of when my mother was sick. We had about twenty or thirty cheap white cotton washcloths which were used in wound care. (Mum's illness involved a lot of major surgery.) The tremendous usefulness of white cotton for such items was driven home to me then, because you do all kinds of things to them without them really showing it. Sometimes they had to be bleached, and it was fine. As often as they were used, they were put through the washing machine's 95 degree (celsius) cycle to render them approximately sterile.

(My parents' washing machine is a terribly good one, and among its features is that it does, in fact, have a cycle that washes just shy of boiling point. On those rare occasions when you want to get seriously antibacterial on your laundry, this is awesome. It also has a choice of 600rpm or 1500rpm for spin cycle - and if you don't care about creasing, that 1500rpm cycle gets things to "barely damp".)

I'm not too fussed about sterilising this washcloth though - it picked up no Infected Matter, has been thoroughly bleached anyway (I'm pretty sure two days in chlorine should kill any unwanted microbes), and I have no bloodborne diseases to fear transmitting to housemates.

I am becoming seriously tempted to trim to just-past-skin-length for the hairs at the bottom corners of my hairline - they don't get more than two to four inches long anyway, because they're kinky and fragile and break a lot, and it just gets annoying.

(Last night I think I shredded quite a few of my longer hairs, too, because the difficulty I have brushing my hair without pain meant I hadn't actually brushed my hair in several days, and it had developed some hideous knots and tangles I couldn't get undone without tearing them apart a bit. Then I washed my hair in the laundry sink, because I'm not allowed to risk getting my sutures all wet, so I can't just have a normal shower.)

Cleaning my brush afterwards, I noted one hair pale and bright amid the dark brown. I thought at first it must have been one of [personal profile] velithya's - I occasionally find a long, light, striaght hair on my clothes, or whatever. Those are hers.

But this one? This one was curly, bordering on kinky, and oh, man, it was a white hair, and it was mine.

Is this a sign that the degree to which I "have grey hair" is possibly going to extend beyond "three of them since about age seventeen"? Who can say. My genetic history for greying is reasonably mixed, but overall, runs to really-quite-late. (My paternal grandmother had yet to go grey when she died, in her early sixties, of breast cancer.) (Yes, I do plan to be good about mammograms when I'm older.)

To do today: Work on linguistics, and also work on a plan for what my goal for further improvement with guitar will be - deciding what my next step to practice is, and starting to work on that.

Current Mood: tired
Current Music: A Bit Of Fry And Laurie

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