Pop Rocks: Media, Let's Have Even More Diversity in 2014
Of course I am talking about Phil Robertson of the A&E reality show Duck Dynasty and the comments he recently made in GQ magazine. I'm not even going to repeat them; you already know. Robertson's comments on homosexuality are incredibly hurtful and close-minded, but I don't want to get into that. It's his comments on race that I find even more appalling. To paraphrase, Robertson said that blacks were much happier pre-civil rights, and he never heard any of them "singing the blues." (Jon Stewart already pointed out that, umm, that's exactly when the blues was started, buddy.")
I don't know about you, but I find these comments on race much more shocking than his comments on homosexuality, and the fact that we are ignoring that in favor of the more controversial gay rights/anti-Christian issue. That topic, sadly, is rather new on the scale of "crappy things people need to get over already" and has some time before it fully percolates. But the black/white/race issue should be dead. Period. And the media needs to help.
Another reason that Robertson's comments, welcomed by many I should add, come at such an unfortunate time is that it felt like 2013, maybe, kinda, sorta, the media had opened its eyes a bit to diversity. Kinda, sorta, I said.
Looking at this year through the lens of television and film, one might think that some sort of light bulb had started to turn on and that 2014 the dimmer switch would be at full blast. In terms of film, 2013 saw the universally acclaimed Lee Daniels' The Butler, 12 Years a Slave and the "maybe you haven't heard of it but it's going to be nominated for a bunch of stuff" Fruitvale Station. And how about The Best Man Holiday, which opened its run with a weekend gross of $30.6 million, only $8 million behind that weekend's screening of Thor. To date the movie has brought in close to $70 million!
But blacks were not the only group to say, "I told you so!" The Mexican export Instructions Not Included grossed more than $44 million dollars in the United States, and it's in Spanish. The movie is now the second-highest-grossing foreign film of all time. Take that!
Television didn't do all that bad either at remembering, oh yeah, not everyone in this country is a white male. Orange is the New Black is filled with diversity, whether you like the premise of how this diversity is being showcased or not. Scandal is one of the top shows of the year and features an African American actress as the lead and as a no-nonsense, don't mess with me type.
Daytime talk shows have been adding more and more diversity to their line-ups this past year, and guess what? Ratings have soared. When The Family Feud added Steve Harvey as their host four years ago, all of a sudden people tuned back in. According to the L.A. Times "Last year, its viewership soared 40% to an average of 7 million viewers an episode. Ratings for the 37-year old program hadn't reached such heights since the early 1990s."
Of course, there were plenty of stories of the lack of diversity on the big and small screen, but let's focus on the successes. Producers are all about the payout, and the green signs have been pointing to variety of ethnic groups. Whatever the reason, it felt like all of a sudden, in 2013, Hollywood was getting it.
But then this Robertson shit comes out and we the people are defending what he has to say and we're still buying Duck Dynasty merchandise, more than ever. Of course it's his right to say whatever he wants; I'm not arguing that. But really, really? It's 2013; do we honestly still live in this kind of world where comments like that fly?
The media has been studied and researched over and over to be the tipping block for societal change. It's as if people see things on television and think to themselves, "I guess if it's cool with my favorite TV characters, it's cool with me."
If I could wish anything from the media in 2014, it's that we don't stop this trajectory of flipping the switch. Let's keep it going and let's get better.