Not all Television So Forward Thinking

I recently wrote a post in this blog praising the fact that television programmers and writers should be applauded for the large number of sitcoms and episodic programs that show inter-ethnic couples as normal and a valid choice without making a big to-do about the skin color differences between the characters. Well I have to also point out where I recently saw two programs where unfortunately the writers succumbed to the “one-drop” rule that says if you have one drop of black blood anywhere in your heritage, no matter how far back, then you are simply black.

One show was the animated series “Family Guy.” There was an episode I happened to see the other day, and I don’t know if it was an old re-run or not, that featured the lead character dealing with the discovery that way back in his family tree, his great-great-great grandfather, or something like that, was black. The joke of the episode then centered on him coming to terms with his being “black.” Now the writers didn’t make it out that he thought black was negative or anything like that, thank goodness. He simply felt that “being black” meant hanging out with blacks or “dressing black”, etc. Of course, the only real problem here being that the fact that he was only 1/16 or so black, but the episode kept alive the notion that 1/16 was enough to overwhelm all his other blood.

Another show I saw just last night, was the hilarious, “Earl” (actually I can’t remember the full name of the show but I think that is it). Now ironically this show is to be praised for the fact the central couple on the comedy is an inter-ethnic, black and white, couple and little to nothing is made of this fact. Kudos to them. But last night’s episode also went down the road of keeping alive the ole “one drop” rule. In this segment, we discover how the couple came together and how it came to be that they had their bi-ethnic child. Earl does not originally know his then-wife has had an affair with this other man so he, and his parents, are surprised to discover that the baby his white wife delivers is “black” as they referred to the child. Again, credit goes to the writers in that overall much wasn’t made of this in a “racial” way and indeed Earl comes to accept the kid and fathers him until his wife chooses to be with the real father. (I know dysfunctional, but that is the basis of the show.) But nevertheless, once again, that “one-drop” rule made its presence known. The white wife gave birth to a “black” child as if her ethnicity was wiped out.

So steps forward and steps backward. Despite the resilience of the “one drop” rule I’d like to think that the steps forward in these cases were at least bigger than the steps still mired in muck due to not letting go of that awful blood-line baggage.


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