Inter-Ethnic Dating Uneventful on Television

Yesterday’s Los Angeles Times had a very interesting article on the subject of “interracial dating” (their term not mine) as portrayed on television. The article noted how on most of the shows that depict such relationships, race or ethnicity, is never even spoken about. The point of the article was the question of whether the non-issue of these relationships was a good or bad thing. There were opinions of course on both sides of that question, but overall the tone seemed to be one that I totally agree with, that the more we can treat these relationships as “normal” and a regular part of the choices people should be allowed to make, the better. As hard as it is for some people to accept it, many inter-ethnic relationships are quite uneventful in terms of the role of ethnicity. And while there certainly can be issues that must be dealt with, these issues are just a part of dealing with any number of other issues that all relationships have to deal with. So I am thrilled when I see these couplings normalized on television. And I agree with the article, that more and more, inter-ethnic relationships are becoming valid choices on the small screen in particular.

In the LA Times piece, the writer, referenced Julia Louise-Dreyfus’ new show “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and her relationship with a black character played by Blair Underwood. As the article noted, the differences in their skin colors never comes up. Other shows are mentioned, “House,” “Lost,” “The L Word,” “Boston Legal,” “My Name Is Earl,” “Men in Trees,””Desperate Housewives” and “Heroes,” all of which have inter-ethnic relationships of varying cultures. To that list, I would actually add a number of children and teenage-oriented programs, largely on channels such as The Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, which in my opinion show inter-ethnic relationships with much more frequency than even the major networks. Popular programs like “That’s So Raven,” “Sweet Life of Zach and Cody,” as well as even movies made for these channels, like the ever so popular, “High School Musical” have many cross-ethnic relationships. And here also, when I have watched some of these shows with my kids, I have noticed that “racial issues” in these relationships are not dealt with. And that must really be scary to those who have issues with cross-cultural dating, seeing them normalized on children’s programming, the very generation that will grow up to set the standards of what is and isn’t accepted in years to come. Which is exactly why I support the non-issue angle.

I am a movie director and my wife a producer. We just completed a feature film, “A Simple Promise” due out later this year (http://www.asimplepromise.com/) and it also has a number of inter-ethnic couples in leading roles. And needless to say, as the movie is about family and going after your dreams, we saw no reason to make an issue out the mix of the ethnicities. As on those television shows above, the ethnic make-up and connections between the characters is not a problem for them. That it may be a problem for those on the outside looking in, is their issue, not the characters. Entertainment – movies, television, and music – does have the power to influence. Thankfully there are those who recognize that relationships across ethnic lines should be neither hidden nor made out to always be laden with ethnic complications.

Here is a link to the LA Times article:
http://www.calendarlive.com/tv/cl-ca-race11feb11,0,163855.story?coll=cl-tv-features

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