Little Angeleno

Little Angeleno
Hollywood, California,
September 13
I enjoy smiling at strangers and experimenting with strange vegetables. I fall in love easily and frequently. Formerly known as Hollywood Assistant but have left Tinseltown behind. I'm on a quest to better the world somehow, though I'm not sure what that means yet. I can neither confirm nor deny that these stories are, in fact the truth. You'll just have to go with it.


Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 24, 2009 3:27AM

In Defense of Community

Rate: 18 Flag

This blog contains some slightly inflammatory comments, so if you don't want to hear me get up on my high horse in regards to this blog post, please keep browsing. 

Some lady posted an argument on how racist the show Community is and her self-righteous blog got on the cover. So here's what I think about race, as a half white, half Japanese woman living in Los Angeles, and a minion of the entertainment industry.

First of all, I'm just happy that another Asian actor is getting jobs that don't involve subtitles and ninja stars. Congratulations to Ken Jeong on all of his success. I'm happy there are a plethora of lead roles for minority actors in a leading comedic half hour comedy on NBC. I'm happy these roles were written for minorities and are being performed by minorities. That's more than Friends, Kung Fu, and Seinfeld can say. I'm happy that the most endearing character on Community is an Indian guy named Abed.

Secondly, I think we're all well-aware of how far we have come in terms of race, and I think we're well-aware of how far we still need to go. Yes, I think it's important to hear voices from different facets of the culture. Entertainment is an incredibly important window into how a society sees itself and these kinds of issues should be debated and sussed out. But  lets be completely honest: networks would rather reproduce a powerhouse like Two and a Half Men starring THREE WHITE MALE CHARACTERS, instead of My Wife and Kids or The Tracy Morgan Show because one makes a lot of money and the other two didn't make as much money. Entertainment has no obligation to be reflective of authentic multicultural voices, it has an obligation to what sells. 

Thirdly. Pity is as much a part of racism as stereotyping is. Only one creates a parody of the issue and thereby has the potential to deconstruct it, whereas the other one can't take a joke. You complain that the minority characters are mere charicatures without acknowledging the fact that, as a comedy, all of the members of the cast, including the white lawyer and the white aging professor, are charicatures. It's really easy to stand on top of a podium and wave a big racist flag over something you don't understand, like irony. You can easily claim you know something that other people don't because you've seen it with your own two eyes. You, after all, know everything about working at an urban community college. Here's the thing though: I don't know if you noticed, but it's a TV show set in Greendale, Colorado, a city that doesn't exist, and, as in The Office, the show is more about the characters than it is about the setting. And many of the characters happen to have diverse backgrounds. 

You might think a show is unfunny, you might think the actors were poorly cast, but to make claims about the show's subversive racism because it's two lead characters are white is simply narrow minded and inflammatory. I'm not saying that part of your argument is incorrect. The Knapsack of Priviledge is real and it exists. You have one. I get that you're a teacher, and you have a close intimate relationship with your students and that gives you access to their life story, but where do you get off feeling like you have the right to speak for them and people who share their ethnic backgrounds on what is and is not offensive? Oh, that's right, you're a white woman, so you have the priviledge of speaking for the less fortunate people who are not white. That's a little item in the knapsack of priviledge you were talking about.

Many apologies for now being racist and probably mean towards you. It means that my barbs are also pointed at, well, myself, really. I don't know your students, and I don't know you at all. I found the show endearing, funny, and I'll be watching it tomorrow night- I want Ken Jeong to keep working because I think he's talented, and I absolutely love Abed. And Joel McHale is dreamy. I do share your dissatisfaction with the lack of diverse characters on network TV. I hope there are more Bernie Macs and George Lopez's and Raven Simones and Chris Rocks and Dave Chapelles out there who can carry their own show and make money for greedy, sticky fingered studio execs. I do see a future in which Lindsay Price is the star, and not the supporting lead. I think we're heading there. 

In the meantime, I'm going to sling my criticisms at the Kardashian family, Paris Hilton and Accidentally on Purpose for cementing images of women as irresponsible and sex obsessed. At least one of those three bad boys is a scripted show, so I can't give it too much flack.

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Sorry for all the vitriol. Watch Community or don't watch Community. But claims of racism towards a show that is giving non-whites solid acting roles seems counter-intuitive.
"Pity is as much a part of racism as stereotyping is."

Even more egregious for being so coated in sympathetic dreck.

Great post.
"Entertainment has no obligation to be reflective of authentic multicultural voices, it has an obligation to what sells."

I think that if Hollywood does take a chance on a person of colour and he or she makes tons of money for a studio or production company then maybe there'll be more minorities on TV.

You're correct in saying Hollywood doesn't have an obligation, but it is in their best interest to show more people of colour in lead roles so that more people like us will hopefully identify and watch them.

Money does talk and it presides almost over everything in Los Angeles.

A great piece, wonderfully written and I look forward to more of your work.

P.S. I honestly feel that whites will never fully understand the discrimination people of colour have to face.

Plus, if you want blatant discrimination and racism, go into the gay community. If you're older and a gay man of colour like me, you don't even register on the wire anymore.
@Luis: Which is why I think instead of criticizing the show's "racist" qualities, the woman should be asking more people to watch it. Then maybe Abed will have his own spin off.
I still am amazed each time I read your work by how well you write...
What? You don't think Khloe Khardashian is a good role model? The hell you say! ;)
Good points. Because the show is set in Colorado (a pretty white state), it would be surprising if at least some of the students WEREN'T white. (The actual percentage at a real Colorado community college would probably be much higher.)

Even in majority-black New Orleans, Delgado Community College has a number of white students.
Yes, tell it like it is. I frankly think that Stephen Colbert had it best about "racism" -- if you smelt it, you dealt it. We all have these feelings, they come out when we not on guard, we regret it when they do. Polite people ignore it.
Thank you for this. Rated.
Congrats on the EP! I knew after reading it you'd receive one. Well deserved!!

I enjoyed reading this. I hope that someday you graduate from minion to...whatever comes next in Hollywood. Production assistant? Script reader? I'm quite clueless.

And Community rocks, by the way.
@Ellen Dane: I was actually promoted from Production Asst/Script Reader to what I'm doing now. Sounds weird, right? Glad you enjoyed.
Gonna say it again...brava!
good job, HA. Nice to meetcha; read ya.

Take care, out there....
@ Sao: Christin's point, she writes, is: "And so here I am, after watching “Community”, trying to write a blog that will point out the systematic racism at least in this one show, if not in all of Television."

I'm trying to point out that she revealed systemic and subversive racism within her own statements, that she is proliferating the very racism she seeks remedy for. I take issue with the fact that someone is crying "Racism" at a show that, if anything, is aware of the complexity of diversity and may attempt to subvert it. At least, we'll find out if that's the case in future episodes.

I actually mention that yes, the representations are charicatured, and I followed that up by saying that ALL of the characters are charicatured because it's a comedy, including the white characters.

Just because you are white, and just because you are liberal, and just because you have opinion, does not mean that your opinion is the right one. I understand that she is trying to say that she would like a show that stars someone with a little diversity. I understand that she is trying to prove that stereotypes=bad, but I don't agree. In comedy, stereotypes can often politically subvert the negative imagery by calling attention to how untrue the stereotype is. When you can laugh about it, you've moved past those uncomfortable feelings and the stereotype is no longer truth.
Excellent! And true to the facts, like "Oh, that's right, you're a white woman, so you have the priviledge of speaking for the less fortunate people who are not white" As a white male, I'm really, really tired of that.

And I'm not actually White, I'm Armenian--but what does that mean to anyone, except Genocide Revisitors and L.A. cab drivers (who love it when I say my Armenian name, Garabed Gregorian) hahahahah...
@Sao: Fair enough!

@berry: You know the funny thing, I have an Armenian friend that calls herself white. The issue of identity is never cut and dry.
"Oh, that's right, you're a white woman, so you have the priviledge of speaking for the less fortunate people who are not white."

My students are intelligent young men and woman who are fully capable of speaking for themselves. The last thing I want to be, or need to be, is a "self-righteous" white messiah.

Part of the reason why I have an emotional connection to this issue, is because I spent half my life growing up internationally where I was the minority in a foreign culture. Though I don't pretend for a minute to understand my student's experience here in America, it at least makes it a LITTLE bit easier to recognize that I DO in fact have an invisible knapsack of privileges here in the States, being a white woman.

And Hollywood Assistant, as you put it yourself, "I'm not saying that part of your argument is incorrect. The Knapsack of Priviledge is real and it exists." You and I both know that the majority of white culture DOESN'T know that the knapsack exists and thinks that the idea of white privilege is just a bunch of hogwash devised by minorities who want to play the victim.

So what worries me most about your rebuttal is that the readers who think white privilege is a myth and were irritated by my post, didn't hear you acknowledge the issue at hand, but instead heard you lacerate my character, thereby ratifying their ignorance. They walked away convinced that they were right in not giving this issue any attention.

Shouldn't you and I be working together, since we both agree on this matter? Or do you believe that because I'm white, I don't have a place in this conversation?

In one last point however, you have changed my thinking about the show "Community" and have won me over to your view: "In comedy, stereotypes can often politically subvert the negative imagery by calling attention to how untrue the stereotype is. When you can laugh about it, you've moved past those uncomfortable feelings and the stereotype is no longer truth."
It is "caricature," not "charicature."
What did Hattie McDaniel say: "I'd rather play a maid than be one." Not sure if that's relevant here. I read the other post and as a white woman was not offended by it, but after reading yours, yes it was somewhat condescending. I just got back from Colorado Springs, Colorado and hated it like poison-again relevance. But I will probably watch the show. It looks funny and you make excellent points about casting. One thing I do know about situation comedies, they almost never get parenting right. Do I think parents should be omitted from entertainment? No I do not.
@Christin: Thank you for stopping by. My biggest criticism of your blog had nothing to do with your personality or your life. My biggest criticism is that your accusations of racism are misdirected. I acknowledge that fact that you and I, as fairer skinned members of society, are given a lot of unspoken advantages, and that other people who are like us don't realize that they are given such advantages. What I am bringing to your attention is that it is condescending of you to say that a show with an ensemble cast of different ethnic backgrounds is racist because the lead character is not, himself, of a different background. I think this kind of sympathy is another item that we pull from the invisible knapsack that gives the fair skinned sympathizers a sense of superiority, not just to other white folks, but to the people that are being defended. Instead of focusing on what you deem as inauthentic representations of the members of your own *community*, you could try to focus your attention on the sparkling jokes that, if anything, mock the stereotypes, not what's behind the stereotypes.

At the end of the day, you and I are definitely on the same page about media in general. I don't see a backwards step with Community, I see a forward step, and I see lots of people of color all mixed together on one really funny show. Funny, in my very humble opinion.

I'm very excited to have this discourse with you. I completely respect what you do as a professor, and Peggy's essay is an incredible one. May it enlighten the minds of many of your students.

@emma peel: Thanks for the spell check. ;)
Hollywood Assistant: I think the show is hilarious. It's one of the best out this Fall. We watched the second episode tonight and as with the first one laughed through it. I'm going to keep watching it.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I just want to clarify: I never said it was a bad show! I've never thought it was badly written. Just having read McIntosh's essay on white privilege I was extra sensitive to the perpetuation of white leads in TV.

'kay, lovin' the discourse too. G'night. Christin
Whoa. There was irony in "Community?"

I thought all Indians had aspergers. Taj from American Pie. Suresh from Heroes. All Bollywood films are really just people blithering off chemical equations and avoiding eye contact after all.

Thanks for the well-crafted essay.
How can you not love a show that is responsible for THIS: