The #TGIT Lineup Helps Normalize TV

Hollywood’s attempts to diversify representation in the media has been disappointing, to say the least, and has proved to be an uphill battle with more than a couple setbacks and downfalls. Still, we remain hopeful that one day there will no longer be a dire thirst for “people that look like me” on TV. Until then, we receive a small glimmer of hope that comes in the form of ABC Network’s Thank God it’s Thursday lineup of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder – all of which have been brought to us by the beautiful and black Shonda Rhimes.

As I (im)patiently await the return the #TGIT lineup, I can’t help but think about how great it feels to finally see so many people of color in a single television show, with female leads nontheless. This great feeling does not solely come from the fact that people of color portray these roles; it comes from how the roles are actually portrayed. For once, black men are not thugs; they are educated, employed and respectful of women, and people who are in the LGBTQA+ community are not flamboyant and their peers treat them with respect. As a woman of color, my emotional connection to Olivia Pope and Annalise Keating runs a little deeper than the average person’s. Finally, I get to see strong black women who are independent, call all the shots, have established careers and, most importantly, are respected.

 

For a while, I couldn’t figure out which was worse: no representation at all or a few representations that were completely offensive, inaccurate and did absolutely nothing to portray women of color in a positive light. I grew tired of seeing the roles that portrayed women of color in stereotypical manners that unfortunately served as the default representation of an entire race. These narratives (i.e. single mother, jezebel, welfare warrior) are played out. While it is possible that some women may loosely fit one or more of the aforementioned storylines, the media often exaggerates. The only thing this message serves to do is to continue to oppress women of color. We are more than these played out character descriptions and we deserve to see ourselves standing tall beside white women in media.

Representation matters because the media possesses enough power to influence how people perceive certain races, ethnicities, and cultures.

If media representations are inaccurate, it prompts people to make assumptions and form (what they believe to be) truths that result in negative real-world interactions. This damages the spirit of people of color and ultimately impacts our physical beings. Our view of the world becomes altered. We begin to see things through a lens that was created by the perceived notions of a particular group. As a result, our possibilities appear to be limited and we are labeled as “different.”

On the flipside, when the representation is positive and accurate, we are reminded of our potential and encouraged to do all things necessary to reach it. And honestly, it feels amazing to watch this unfold and feel hopeful—it feels normal.

Upon receiving the Ally for Equality award at last year’s annual Human Rights Campaign Gala, Shonda spoke of her efforts to normalize, rather than diversify, television. “Women, people of color, LGBTQ people equal way more than 50% of the population. Which means it ain’t out of the ordinary. I am making the world of television look normal,” she said.

Representation matters because we’re tired of being forced to believe that white is the norm.

 

Images Cover | 1 & 2