Here's an issue which slightly bothers me...the lack of ethnic representation on TV. And by this, I mean characters that my friends, my family and myself can identify with. Ok, we see black people in Eastenders: Gus - the dustbin man, Paul Trueman - the gangster, Denise Fox - the single parent, Chelsea - the crackhead...a pattern forming anyone?? However, I do give credit where it is due, I have taken to the Masood family and feel that the inclusion of cultural themes such as Ramadan is a great move by Eastenders. But for the rest of television, (not everything, because there are some real gems out there) stereotypes seem to play a major role when it comes to casting, scripts, and story lines.
When Gus left Eastenders, I heard the actor Muhammed George discussing his departure during an interview on Choice FM. I recall him saying that Eastenders' bosses had apologised, saying that they didn't know how to write for him, that they were unsure of how to write for an ethnic character. Did I miss something? Am I an alien from another planet? Let's think of some of the best soap storylines that have gone by...Ok, let's settle for good because its been hard times in soap land lately. Coronation Street - Carla-Liam-Maria love triangle. Eastenders - Max-Bradley-Stacey. Hollyoaks -Niall vs McQueens. Emmerdale......anyone watch Emmerdale?? Ok moving on. My point is, couldn't those story lines be acted out by black, Chinese and/or South Asian characters? I think that some productions focus too much on the differences between races and cultures and due to lack of knowledge about certain communities revert to unfair stereotypes when really they should acknowledge that as PEOPLE, we all encounter the same situations from time to time.
At the moment, there is nothing out there which reflects my struggles, no young black female that I can relate to. While I agree that programmes like The Bill do reflect the situations which SOME are going through, I cannot see 'myself' looking back at me from the screen. Maybe it's me, maybe I lead a sheltered life, maybe they are reflecting a majority experience that I am naive to. All I know is that I live in South East London, in a large black community, I have never smoked weed or taken crack, I have never had a gun or knife pulled on me (thank God) I do not have a baby, I do not have a drug dealer boyfriend, I have not dropped out of school and have not been forced into an arranged marriage with Uncle Kojo from Agogo village....yet.
However, what I and many people I know have experienced as a young person living in Urban London is what most young people go through - finding a good man and other relationship issues (tell me about it), dealing with traditional African parents, managing friendships, adapting to the professional world of work. The subject is the same but there are just slight cultural inflections – nothing that should be so difficult for a television producer to recreate. Are theses subjects boring, less sensationalist than the stereotype? Possibly. But in a country with a lack of understanding or respect for other cultures and each other, the message that these stereotypes are pushing out there is just detrimental to society as a whole. For someone whose only experience with Asians are the stereotypical story lines they see on the TV, can you imagine the impact on the perception and understanding of people from that community?
I guess my point is that there is little variety to the representations out there. With white characters you have a mixture of good and evil, on the right side of the law and on the wrong side of the law, doing well in life and not doing so well. You have variety. I am not denying that issues like arranged marriages, "black on black" crime and single parenthood exists in ethnic communities but when this is the only thing we see, then TV must be doing more damage than good.
Noel Clarke, holla at me, we can do business.