There Should Be More Racism, Sexism, and Homophobia on TV—Wait, Let Me Explain!

Recently, I was watching old episodes of Scrubs on Netflix and thinking about how good that show actually was. One of the main things I loved about it is that it addressed issues of racism, sexism, and homophobia. That’s not to say that Scrubs was a perfect show. It certainly had problematic moments, but what I find especially interesting was how the show acknowledged microaggressions and showed many of their lead characters exhibiting these microaggressions.

tumblr_ld2ktl0TbF1qzcdbso1_250In TV shows today, if a character is shown to be racist, sexist, or homophobic, they are usually utterly despicable, villainous characters. And while some real people are like that, on a daily basis, most people are more likely to encounter casual racism, sexism, or homophobia (aka microaggressions) from others, rather than undiluted hatred. What’s even worse is we can encounter these behaviors in people we admire and even respect. Furthermore, if we critique such behavior, people almost immediately become defensive because they will believe we are insinuating that they are some villainous KKK member or something.

Instead of having totally evil, racist, sexist, and homophobic characters, maybe it’s time we portray more characters who exhibit casual racism, sexism, or homophobia, and show them being critiqued, learning from their mistakes, and changing their behavior.

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Ink and Luce Talk About Racial Issues: “Following the Plot”

jackie chan chris tuckerLuce: Welcome back to this edition of Ink and Luce Talk About Racial Issues—can I just say that your username being Ink brings up a lot of issues?

Ink: Right?

Luce: Like, Ink is a black person, of course he is. But let’s get back to Rostad’s video.

Ink: Okay, last post we made a bunch of decisions about the whole piece, except for the last two paragraphs. Frankly, I find them to be the most interesting—they’re not about just Cho Chang, JKR, Harry Potter anymore—now we have this whole issue of what the Asian female-white male relationship looks like. My impression is that there’s this recurring trope of a white male and an Asian female—really, there’s a recurring trope of a white male and every kind of other ethnic female in fiction and popular culture, particularly film, and in a lot of ways that’s because we respond to that much better than the other way around—

Luce: Hold on. You say we respond to it better—but I don’t think that’s the case. I think writers and producers of media think we respond to it better, so that’s what they write. I do think that people would accept, for example, the idea of a protagonist being gay, if only they were given the chance. It’s the same thing with the idea of an Asian male and his white female love interest.

Ink: I think it’s a bit of both actually. First off, let me clarify that when I say “we,” I’m referring to our culture at large—I do believe it’s true that we respond better to a white male and an ethnic female, but let me explain why.

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Martha Jones and the Culture of Casual Racism

There’s a lot of opinionated posts out there on Martha Jones. Some people think that she was the worst out of all of Ten’s companions, and some people think she was drastically underrated, but almost all the opinions on Martha center around her race. Martha was the first major companion of color on Doctor Who (Mickey Smith, a previous companion of color, only traveled with the Doctor for three episodes).

And to be fair, Doctor Who had its share of racism problems with Martha—for example, when Martha and the Doctor land in 1599 in “The Shakespeare Code”, Martha asks the Doctor if she’d be all right walking about London. The Doctor responds “Just walk about like you own the place, works for me”—ignoring the fact that it mostly likely works for him because he’s taken the form of a white male.

Martha Jones, resident BAMF.

Martha Jones, the heroine of this story.

I used to think that Doctor Who had done a terrible job portraying racism with Martha, but after rewatching Series 3, I started to change my mind. Yes, Doctor Who hadn’t portrayed much overt racism with Martha, but perhaps that was the best option from a storytelling perspective. I wouldn’t have wanted the show to smack the viewer over the head every episode with “We are in the past! Look at this racism!”, and I also wouldn’t have wanted them to avoid taking Martha into the past, so I think the writers managed to strike a fair medium between the two. What Doctor Who did show us was a fairly accurate portrayal of casual racism.

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