We've had a stunningly diverse year on television, with the successful debuts of Empire, Fresh Off the Boat, Black-ish, Jane the Virgin, and How to Get Away With Murder. This is an exciting development that many are quite happy about. But an editor at Deadline Hollywood has employed a proprietary algorithm to generate the worst possible take.
In an article published on the entertainment news site last night, Deadline Hollywood's TV editor Nellie Andreeva argues that there are now too many people of color on television. Yes, let that sink in for a moment.
"Ethnic ["Ethnic?" Really?] castings exploded this season," Andreeva writes, before luring the reader into her story with a deceptively sane-sounding paragraph:
The change is welcomed by talent agents who no longer have to call casting directors and ask them if they would possibly consider an ethnic actor for a part, knowing they would most likely be rejected. “I feel that the tide has turned,” one agent said. “I can pitch any actor for any role, and I think that’s good.”
"Good?" That's great! Diversity, representation, actors getting cast on the basis of their talent without regard for stereotypes — all great.
Wait, why does the next sentence start with a "but?" Oh, no. Shut it down:
But, as is the case with any sea change, the pendulum might have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction. Instead of opening the field for actors of any race to compete for any role in a color-blind manner, there has been a significant number of parts designated as ethnic this year, making them off-limits for Caucasian actors, some agents signal.
Might have swung too far? Hear that? That's the tiniest violin in the world, being played by a tiny Caucasian actor who's bummed he didn't get cast as Lucious Lyon.
What follows is a whole lot of whining from conveniently anonymous sources. Though African-Americans account for 13% of the U.S. population, one unnamed talent representative declares that “basically 50% of the roles in a pilot have to be ethnic." Andreeva calls this a "quota," a claim that is totally unsubstantiated.
If you want to play the numbers game, you will lose, and not only because the casts of the vast, vast majority of television shows that have aired since the dawn of the medium have been blindingly white.
Doubling down, Andreeva suggests that the positive reception of shows like Empire and Fresh Off the Boat has nothing to do with cast diversity, but "because they represent worlds and points of view that were not on TV." Huh. Do you think that TV's newfound ability to showcase those "worlds and points of view" could maybe — just maybe — have something to do with its suddenly more inclusive talent pool? Or did you want to depict a Taiwanese-American family's struggles to adjust to life in '90s Orlando with the original cast of The Golden Girls?
Andreeva has yet to respond to the backlash that's boiling over on social media, but Shonda Rhimes — creator of Scandal and executive producer of HTGAWM — has nevertheless stepped up to the plate.