“Diversity” has been a consistent buzzword that many networks have been throwing around this last decade as the main ingredient in a “sure-fire hit” formula. But don’t be fooled. This is Hollywood’s M.O. Money and ratings remain king. Just like when “Friends” exploded in the nineties, you couldn’t turn a corner without being bombarded by a billboard advertising a show about “nice-white-twenty-somethings-lounging-on-couch” assaulting you. Boy, I miss “Smelly Cat.”
Now, while many have gladly embraced the notion of more diverse casting, some others have dug their heels in deep, citing artistic freedom to write what thy know. Others, continue to “white-wash” every story – I see the you, Nicholas Sparks, and refuse to turn towards inclusion. Whichever side you’re on, it may soon be a moot point. The ginormous numbers of Fox’s “Empire” and the continued domination of Shondaland’s tv shows, all with large and diverse casts, tells us that diversity may finally have staying power. But I would argue that it’s not as simple as that. Diversity is not just a skin color. After all, many networks have tried (and failed) to add diversity by just adding a hodgepodge of races and ethnicities but have been missing the point entirely. While that’s a great place to start, it’s just that – only a start. To really get there, I think some “tweaking” may be in order. Here are a few suggestions…
Transpose Genders/Sexual Orientation
This is a pretentious way to say “swap out” a guy character for a girl character or vice versa. For instance, let’s say your male lead character is trying to win a trophy for some sport. Instead of giving him a nemesis that’s another dude who looks and sounds like him, only meaner, make the nemesis female. Think how funny it would’ve been if BIFF had been a girl bullying GEORGE MCFLY in “Back To The Future.” I mean, a girl giving wedgies is hilarious!
Turn Tropes On Their Heads
Another way to mix things up a bit is to “subvert tropes.” Let’s say you have a character who’s a stripper paying her way through college (insert “eye roll” here). Instead of her being a sweet hooker/stripper with a heart of gold, why not make her pissed off? What if she’s a BITTER STRIPPER who feels duped because she thought she would make more money and the pay is crap? So she gets back at the club by planning a heist and robbing the place? I mean, that’s why “Set It Off” is such a cult classic.
If that fails, revert to the previous tweak and just her male. MAGIC MIKE XXXL: Mike Goes To College. Anyone? Anyone? Hhmmm maybe not, but you get the point.
Just Add More
Long gone are the days of just adding one “black friend” to a group of white friends and expect the audience not to call foul. So a third and final way to “tweak” diversity is adding more of it. Four instance, on the recent season premiere of “The Mindy Project” on Hulu, I was so surprised to see four “brown people” in one episode. And guess what, it was completely normal. Why can’t you have Mindy, her parents and “beauty nemesis in her head” Freida Pinto, all sharing the screen without it being deemed “ethnic.” It was great, it was real and it was hilarious!
So, as I scroll through my dvr tonight and watch “Fresh Off The Boat” and “Dr. Ken”, I will take solace in the fact that, perhaps, next year, I can add a show with an Asian-American female lead that stars an actress who is not Lucy Liu… or that lady from “Lost.” Happy writing…