Clash-isms: A closer look on marketing race in the media
White. Click. White. Click. White. Click. Non-White.
Media representation for minority groups are scarce compared to the representation of White individuals. However, networks have begun to include minority leads in some of their shows.
The inclusion of minority leads in television shows can be seen in the ABC Network. The network currently has three minority-lead shows – “Blackish,” “Cristela,” and “Fresh Off the Boat.”
The question is: if these TV shows are only shown to attract viewers, but not to represent accurately minority groups, will they last?
According to The Latino Media Gap: A Report on the State of Latinos in U.S. Media by Frances Negrón-Muntaner, Chelsea Abbas, Luis Figueroa, and Samuel Robson, in 2004, ABC was doing poorly in the network ratings.
“ABC executives Lloyd Braun, Susan Lyne, and incoming CEO Steve McPherson implemented a strategy based on the idea that, given U.S. demographics and appeal of Latino stars, diverse shows could help revive network ratings and increase revenue,” according to the report.
The addition of Latino actresses and actors helped ABC’s rating rise, according to the report. The network’s increase in viewership lead to an increase in advertisement revenue.
According to the report, “Ten years later, diversity continues to be a key component of ABC’s business strategy”.
CSUN Chicano Studies Professor, Miguel Ángel Duran, said ABC is doing something smart with the inclusion of “Blackish,” “Cristela,” and “Fresh Off the Boat,” in its TV lineup.
“They are actively or aggressively going after the different pockets of the American society — the Latino community, the black community, the Asian community,” Duran said. “I have not seen a TV show with an Asian cast as its star in I think ever.”
It doesn’t matter if this is only a marketing move from ABC, and not an attempt to “give a voice” to communities that have long been ignored. The fact is that different race groups are watching these shows.
Elvin Herrera, CTVA and Chicano Studies student at CSUN, said he doesn’t think the shows are being promoted to target specific audiences, but to appeal to a wider audience.
“In CTVA I feel like white people are telling me: ‘oh have you seen that show. It’s really funny! And I’m like but its nothing about their ethnicity,” Herrera said. “The way it’s being marketed I think it’s like I don’t think its being put out there as much, but at the same time I don’t think it’s being targeted to the specific ethnic group the show is about.”
As for the shows lasting longer than a season, Duran thinks it is all about the writing. In order to better represent the minority groups and insure proper portrayal he said the writing has to come from a place of truth.
“Writing from an honest place [is important] like Anthony Anderson… some of [Blackish’s] story arc comes from his own personal experience with his family his kids so that comes from a place of truth,” Duran said.
“So when you have stuff like that and a person who is of color helping [with the] writing, the writing usually comes out pretty good… but if you don’t come from a place of that community then I don’t know how truthful your storytelling will be,” Duran said.
Indeed, from a marketing point ABC is doing something that will benefit the network. A white person might watch “Cristela” to learn about Latinos. Similarly a Latina might watch “Fresh Off the Boat” to learn about Asians.