Sunday, March 16, 2014

15 shows on TV that are more racist than The Mindy Project: a comprehensive racial analysis of all of the comedies on network TV

Recently at South by Southwest, Indian-American Mindy Kaling grew frustrated during a Q&A when one audience member asked her why she was the only doctor of color on her TV show, The Mindy Project. Past experience having dealt with questions about race may have led her to fire back: "I look at shows on TV, and this is going to just seem defensive, but I'm just gonna say it: I'm a (bleeping) Indian woman who has her own (bleeping) network television show, OK?" But what she added next was even more interesting and thought-provoking. "No one asks any of the shows I adore -- and I won't name them because they're my friends -- why no leads on their shows are women or of color, and I'm the one that gets lobbied about these things."
"No one asks any of the shows I adore -- and I won't name them because they're my friends -- why no leads on their shows are women or of color, and I'm the one that gets lobbied about these things," Mindy Kaling
Mindy does have a point. She's the lead of her own TV show, and the show is even named after her for fuck's sake. Just her being cast as the lead is already a big progressive step forward in representation for minorities, but for the sake of argument, let's examine a promotional shot from season two. Although the majority of actors are white, 2/7 people on the poster are minorities. Add a bonus point that Mindy's the lead, and we'll give The Mindy Project a racial scorecard of 3/7. This may not seem like a lot of diversity to some, but when you see my analysis below, you may change your mind. (And if you're not happy about the diversity numbers, I provide contact information to certain networks.)

Even if Mindy were the only minority on her show, she's still the lead,
not a sidekick, and that means something.



But before we get there, let's examine Mindy's previous statement. I know that people zoom in on her, hoping that not only would she break the door open for herself but for other minority comic actors, that she would understand the importance of having positive diverse representation in the media, and that she should be the comedy world's parallel version of Shonda Rhimes (creator of Scandal and overall pioneer of true color blind casting). However, I agree with Mindy's point that she has made strides, and criticism of her isn't fair. After all, she started off getting bit roles before she finally landed her own show, and she may not be in the power position yet to do all the things for minority representation that people hope for her. Additionally, this is just the beginning of more great things to come from her. So really everyone, give Mindy a break, but most importantly, give her some time.
"So really everyone, give Mindy a break, but most importantly, give her some time."
Furthermore, Mindy is right that it is unfair that people lobby her, the minority star of her own show, but they don't lobby the creators of other shows that unnecessarily lack minority representation. Out of 26 live action comedies on network TV, fifteen shows were highlighted in red in this report because they had a low or zero score when it came to non-white representation. Despite my sensational title, I do not think these shows are necessarily racist, but the numbers are glaring that Mindy is right when she said people are lobbying the wrong person. 

For this report, I have analyzed the racial diversity of every live action, scripted comedy on broadcast TV for the Spring of 2014, and from there, I analyzed the network's representation. I based the analysis purely on the casting information provided by the network on its website. Considering that the network website is the self-generated representation of the show, I felt that this was the most fair way to determine the show's image. Additionally, there may be slight deviations with my tallies, but I based my conclusions off of available media, which in addition to the cast page includes bios or other online sources.

CBS
2 Broke Girls 
I like the fact that 2 Broke Girls is about two female best friends, and it was created by one of my favorite funny women, Whitney Cummings. (Although this report is purely about racial representation, I should note that positive female representation is lacking as well so it's nice to see comedies about women.) Based on CBS's cast page, the show has six main characters, two of which are people of color which gives 2 Broke Girls a racial diversity score of 2/6.
CONCLUSION: About as diverse as The Mindy Project
Screen shot from http://www.cbs.com/shows/2_broke_girls/cast/
The Big Bang Theory 
For a show about science nerds, there's surprisingly a lack of Asian characters. (You know it's true.) Out of seven cast members, only one is a racial minority and two are hot blondes. Racial diversity score: 1/7
CONCLUSION: More white than The Mindy Project
Courtesy of http://www.cbs.com/shows/big_bang_theory/ 
The Crazy Ones
The Crazy Ones is a workplace comedy set in an advertising agency so there is really no excuse for its lack of diversity. It after all takes place in modern times, not in the 1960s like Mad Men. The racial diversity score of The Crazy Ones is a crazy low 0/5.
CONCLUSION: A lost opportunity to feature diversity
Courtesy of the cbs page: http://www.cbs.com/shows/the-crazy-ones/cast/
How I Met Your Mother 
I really like How I Met Your Mother, but this group of New York friends is about as racially diverse as Friends, which is not diverse at all. The five white characters in New York City rarely interact with non-white people unless they're doing yellowface (see Ted's cringe-worthy fu manchu below.) Based on the cast, the racial diversity score is 0/5. Based on the yellow face, I give this show a negative rating and a big sad face. 
CONCLUSION: The show put its cast members in yellow face.
Courtesy of http://www.cbs.com/shows/how_i_met_your_mother/
Fu Man Fuck This Episode
Mike and Molly
When Mike and Molly premiered, it was met with controversy because it featured two leads who looked more like the average American than audiences had typically ever seen on television. One Marie Claire blogger was so taken aback by the show that she stated that it would gross her out to see fat people making out. Her post created a firestorm of criticism, and the writer has since apologized. I have to admit, I don't watch Mike and Molly, but I not only respect that it earned a decent diversity score of 3/9, but I also respect its uniqueness in the television landscape.
CONCLUSION: About as racially diverse as The Mindy Project
Screen shot of http://www.cbs.com/shows/mike_and_molly/cast/ 
The Millers
The Millers is a family comedy that revolves around Will Arnett's character, a recent divorcee. He moves back in with his parents, and shenanigans ensue. When it comes to family comedies, it is understandable if there's a lack of racial diversity, but at least The Millers included an obligatory minority friend/neighbor, which you will notice as a trend as the analysis goes on. Racial Diversity Score: 1/7
CONCLUSION: The Millers follows a common casting pattern that is seen on network TV, and the pattern makes this show less diverse than The Mindy Project but sadly more diverse than other shows.
Screen grab of http://www.cbs.com/shows/the-millers/cast/
Mom
Mom is Chuck Lorre's latest creation, and it's about a single mom navigating the dating world and her family life. Since the mom is the youthful Anna Faris, there could've been opportunity to have more diversity when it came to casting friends or coworkers, but alas, this show gets a score of 0/8.
CONCLUSION: Another opportunity to feature diversity blown.
Screenshot from http://www.cbs.com/shows/mom/cast/
Two and a Half Men
Two and a Half Men is known for its chauvinistic humor, and it's no surprise either that it's not sensitive to representing minorities. This show scores 0/5, but on the bright side, it is ahead of How I Met Your Mother, which has a sad negative score because I personally can't stop picturing Ted in his Fu Manchu.
CONCLUSION: No diversity, but no yellow face either.
Screen shot from http://www.cbs.com/shows/two_and_a_half_men/cast/
CBS' OVERALL SCORE: 6/52=12%
Out of 52 cast members, only 7 are actors of color (Remember that I shaved off an additional number because of the yellow face), and none of them were the stars of the show. Learning this statistic, it becomes more apparent that it is unfair to criticize minority actors, writers, or filmmakers, when in fact we should be supporting them. After all, the odds are stacked against them, and instead of tearing those minorities down, maybe we should focus instead on contacting networks about their lack of diversity. If you would like to talk about the lack of minority representation on CBS comedies, you can tweet at them https://twitter.com/cbs.

NBC
About a Boy
About a Boy is based on the movie created from Nick Hornby's book of the same name. It has a small cast, and a racial diversity score of 1/4.
CONCLUSION: About a Boy is about as diverse as The Mindy Project was during its first season.
Screen grab from http://www.nbc.com/about-a-boy/about
Community
NBC's Community is about the students and staff of a community college, and it does a good job of representing the diversity that one would typically see on a campus. Not only is the cast racially diverse but each character also has moments where he or she gets to be center stage. I've never once watched this show and felt that the casting was done just to appease bloggers like me to stop us from writing score cards like this. Racial diversity score: 4/10 
CONCLUSION: A modern premise with modern casting.
Screen grab from http://www.nbc.com/community/about
Growing Up Fisher
Growing Up Fisher is about a family that gets closer after divorce. Because it focuses on a white family, the majority of the cast is white, but it does appear to follow the trope of having one minority friend/neighbor. Racial diversity score: 1/6
CONCLUSION: Another show about a family that uses the minority friend trope
Growing Up Fisher screen grab from http://www.nbc.com/growing-up-fisher/about

The Michael J. Fox Show
This possibly-going-to-be-cancelled show starring Michael J. Fox focuses primarily on Fox's family, and like I mentioned numerous times before, it follows the standard casting trope of having a white family with one ethnic friend, giving this show a diversity score of  1/8.
CONCLUSION: The show follows the super obvious family trope that I had mentioned first during The Millers' analysis.
Parks and Recreation
Parks and Recreation features a talented cast of comedians, and it focuses on the wonderful female, comedian, Amy Poehler. Even more impressive, the show is set in a small town in the Midwest, yet it is still more diverse than numerous CBS comedies set in metropolitan areas such as New York.  Racial diversity score: 4/9
CONCLUSION: Parks and Recreation is doing it and doing it well.

Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live is a late night institution, but it has seen its share of criticism from different minority groups because of its lack of representation on stage and in the writers room. Recently, the show hired 6 new featured players, all white, and this decision brought an onslaught of complaints, which resulted in the show finally hiring an African-American female cast member, a space that had been left unfulfilled since Maya Rudolph left in 2007. Current racial diversity score: 4/17
CONCLUSION: Now that they've cast a black female, would it be too much to ask for an Asian or Latino cast member?

NBC'S OVERAL SCORE:15/52=29%
NBC features double the amount of minority actors than CBS does, and while the minority actors may have supporting roles, they often receive just as much or more buzz than the leads of the show. Examples include Parks and Recreation's Aziz Ansari and SNL's Jay Pharoah. 

ABC
The Goldbergs
This is a show about a Jewish family in the 1980s, and it appears as if they did not add the obligatory ethnic neighbor to the cast so The Goldbergs get a racial diversity score of 0/6.
CONCLUSION: I'm pretty sure there were people of color in the 1980s, but maybe they just didn't live by The Goldbergs.
Photo from: http://abc.go.com/shows/the-goldbergs/about-the-show
Last Man Standing
I've seen a few episodes of Last Man Standing, and I thought there actually was more diversity than the show's cast page represents. BUT since the analysis is based on the promotional material provided by the network website, I'm going to have to give Last Man Standing a Racial Diversity Score of 1/8.
CONCLUSION: The white family with one minority friend trope has struck again.
Screenshot of the show's cast page: http://abc.go.com/shows/last-man-standing/cast
The Middle
The Middle is about another family that does not have any minority friends or neighbors nearby. The racial diversity score: 0/5.
CONCLUSION: Another comedy on ABC about a white family without a minority friend or neighbor.
Screen grab from http://abc.go.com/shows/the-middle/cast

Mixology 
Mixology is about one night in a bar, and the various stories that can come out from being single in that environment. It features a hip, young cast, and thankfully, its diversity reflects what would be found in a modern day metropolitan area. Racial diversity score: 4/10
CONCLUSION: Every cast member is given his or her chance to shine, which makes Mixology a diversity winner.
Screen grab http://abc.go.com/shows/mixology

Modern Family
Modern Family has deviated from the family model of the other shows on ABC by featuring variations of the nuclear family. This has resulted in a fresh, modern show with a racial diversity score of 3/11.
CONCLUSION: This is a well-written show with a lot of dynamic, diverse characters. 
Screen grab from http://abc.go.com/shows/modern-family/cast

The Neighbors
The Neighbors is about the Weaver family who moves into a neighborhood inhabited by aliens in various human disguises. Racial diversity score: 2/9
CONCLUSION: Slightly less diverse than The Mindy Project
Screen grab from http://abc.go.com/shows/the-neighbors/cast
Suburgatory
Suburgatory focuses on a family adjusting to life in the suburbs, but unfortunately, it's another ABC show about a family that scores a zero when it comes to racial diversity. Racial diversity score: 0/7.
CONCLUSION: No minorities in the suburbs, I guess.
 
Trophy Wife 
Trophy Wife is about a reformed party girl who becomes the third wife to an older man. The show has a racial diversity score of 2/8.
CONCLUSION: About as diverse as The Mindy Project
Screen grab from http://abc.go.com/shows/trophy-wife/cast
ABC'S OVERALL SCORE:10/56=18%
ABC surprised me with their dismal score, which was only slightly higher than CBS'. Perhaps I expected better from the network because of the diversity of its flagship comedy, Modern Family, but after examining how many of its comedies feature only nuclear white families, I see that the network isn't as modern when it comes to representation as I had originally thought. If you would like to see a change in programming you can contact them here: http://abc.go.com/feedback or tweet at them https://twitter.com/ABCNetwork

FOX

Brooklyn Nine Nine
Unlike other TV shows set in Brooklyn or New York City, Brooklyn Nine Nine is actually diverse, and the majority of the main cast on the show are non-white. Racial diversity score: 4/7
CONCLUSION: This is the first show in my study where the white characters are in the minority. A truly rare thing to see on network television. 

Photo from http://www.fox.com/brooklyn-nine-nine/
Enlisted
Enlisted is a new show about three brothers in the military who are sent overseas. From the website, it appears as if the main cast is only the three brothers, which brings Enlisted's score to 0/3.
CONCLUSION: The main cast is small and the show is relatively new, so maybe the cast will grow next season. UPDATE 3/16/14: I was notified by an Enlisted fan on Facebook that the main cast is larger than just the three brothers and that there is racial diversity amongst the supporting cast. However, out of fairness to the other shows, I have to keep the score based purely on what was on Fox's website at the time of the study.
Screen grab from http://www.fox.com/enlisted/
The Mindy Project
Criticism of Mindy Kaling because of this show inspired my analysis of people of color in comedy in the first place. People, who attack Mindy for not having enough minorities on her show, should go back to this list and realize out of 26 network comedies, she is the only minority lead and only minority female lead!!! This show deserves way more than the extra point I gave it, but alas, it scored 3/7.
CONCLUSION: After reading this blog post, how can anyone ever shit on Mindy again?

New Girl
It's nice to see a diverse group of 20-30 somethings in a major coastal city, which proves that in the 2010s, we don't have to follow the Friends model of television where everyone in the big city is white. Racial diversity score: 2/5
CONCLUSION: I wish other shows would model themselves after New Girl.
Photo courtesy of http://www.fox.com/new-girl/
Raising Hope 
Raising Hope is about a family raising a kid named Hope, and from the Fox website, it looks like 0/6 people on the show are non-white.
CONCLUSION: All broadcast networks have at least one show with an all-white family.
Photo from http://www.fox.com/raising-hope/
FOX'S OVERALL SCORE: 9/28=32%
Fox has the best score when it comes to racial diversity, and it is the only broadcast network to have a lead show about a person of color, let alone a woman of color. It is also the only broadcast network to have a show with more minorities in its cast than whites.

To sum up my findings:
  • Fox is the most diverse broadcast network when it comes to live action comedy casting, and CBS is the least diverse.
  • The Mindy Project is the only comedy on network television to have a lead of color and a lead with a woman of color. 
  • Nine comedies on broadcast television featured ZERO people of color in its main cast.
  • Four comedies on broadcast television featured a cast that consisted of a white family and one minority friend or neighbor.
  • There were 41 actors of color represented in this study; there were 147 white actors.
  • Out of the 41 actors of color represented in this study, 19 were African-American, 12 were Asian-American/Asian-Pacific Islander, 10 were Latino, and 1 was Iranian. 

16 comments:

  1. I mean, it's a very small point, but to call Amanda Setton on The Crazy Ones white isn't entirely accurate. Her ancestry is Jewish, yes, but she is apparently descended from Syrian and Egyptian Jews as well as Ashkenazi (essentially Central European) Jews. Jews, on the whole, are actually a somewhat ethnically diverse group.

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    1. uhhhh, I am Jewish. And white. The entire yeshiva (Jewish school) I teach at has ZERO, count them ZERO, "Jews of color." Unless you're talking about the ones from Ethiopia, Ashkenazi and Middle Eastern Jews are about as white as they get. The only people who think we aren't white are anti-semites.

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  2. Speaking of negative racial scores, shouldn't 2 Broke Girls get a negative score since the asian actor of color is played for laughs with racist (and inaccurate) stereotypes? From what I've seen, he's almost a modern day Long Duck Dong.

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    Replies
    1. I agree with you there. That's why this post only looked at the racial diversity of the cast but not actually the character portrayals in the shows. That would be a whole different study in itself! :)

      Delete
  3. Great post, Teresa! Can I comment that Fox's two diverse shows, The Mindy Project and Brooklyn Nine-Nine all come out of Universal Television (NBCUniversal). So in addition to Community and Parks and Recreation, NBCUniversal as a whole is making the most progress in the diversity race.

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  4. "It's only racially diverse when there's no white people!"

    Christ this person is fucking stupid. I didn't even read "its" inane opinion on any of these shows, I just looked at the stupid, nonsensical "diversity ratings." How does one go through life in a white civilization with such hated and contempt for white people, while also seeing every single thing in existence that includes white people as racist? You're pathetic. I wonder how racially diverse you'd consider a Tyler Perry movie. 100%? What a joke. Go pick up your welfare check, loser...

    Go ahead and censor the comments, you pathetic coward.

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    Replies
    1. Talking about diversity is not the same as hating white people. You seem to have a lot of anger, and there is nothing I can do about that.

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    2. Another white guy crying about racism. Fuck you. She pointed out that 90% of the shows on TV have no minorities and you compare it to Tyler Fucking Perry. You ever wonder why Tyler Perry has all black people on his show...that's because that's the only representation that they get moron. Look at the fucking list, half these shows don't have one fucking minority on them. Jay you're a crybaby and a racist.

      Delete
  5. White boy whining about "reverse racism," now that's comedy!

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    Replies
    1. :) Aamer Rahman's argument on reverse racism is better than anything I could ever respond, so I'll just share this:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw_mRaIHb-M

      Delete
  6. Have you even seen any one of those shows?
    The Mindy Project is simply ignorant, in every fucking aspect, and stereotypes entire groups of people. The actually funny thing is that Mindy manages to stereotype people /incorrectly/ as well, such as calling a middle eastern man black, so it manages the extreme feat of being ignorant while being ignorant like the KKK guy who beat up a sikh because he thought the turban meant the Sikh was Muslim. That's how ignorant this show is.
    Three and a half men? Ten times funnier than Mindy Project. And it's a show about a family, or course they're going to look similar, they could typecast an interracial family but those are less than 1% of all marriages.

    As for the retarded diversity rating the author needs to pick up a math book. Visible minorities are 20% of the population, so one in five is 100% diversity for a show that's being set in a nondescript location in America. So if the author wants to be fair he'd be calling for decreases in POC in Fox and NBC shows, because they clearly have too many.

    "POC" is a shitty term anyway, it completely erases cultural identity of all non-whites.

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    Replies
    1. Whether or not you or I like the content of the shows mentioned is not part of the scope. The root of your anger seems irrelevant to this analysis, which states upfront that its purpose is to look at racial representation on a select group of television shows.

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    2. Devon yeah that's bs, whites are about 60% of the population (they try to add Spanish people to make it 70% but its 60) and it's shrinking, and you think there should be less Minorities on TV, you're a dope. But then you admitted you were a dope when you defended Two and a Half Men as a good show. It is classic trash TV.

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    3. You guys are great. Why don't we call anyone who doesn't agree with you angry? Or racists?

      I wonder why white people are so frustrated with all the whining?

      Devon doesn't sound angry.

      He IS pointing out that you are over reaching by saying that there should be more diversity beyond what the demographics in the US actually depict.

      If you actually check the US census, whites make up 77%, blacks 12% and the drop off is sharp after that. Sure, why don't we say that white people are in charge of the census so they count people that aren't white...because it totally benefits the government agencies them to report it wrong. Let's not forget that you're implying one of the most diverse workplaces in the US (census) racist.

      There are diversity programs in Hollywood casting, akin Affirmative action everywhere else. At least we're trying... but hey, forget the work every network is doing to make things fair. Let's continue to cry. That's not infuriating for anyone trying to help.

      Your take on it makes total sense though. Every family on TV has to be racially diverse. That makes for good, believable TV.

      And before you say it, I'm not angry. I'm not even slightly annoyed.
      How can I be? You're argument is flawed.

      PS. We'll over look the fact you're using "yellow people" to refer to a demographic. Don't you realize how that is reinforcing the stereotypes we're campaigning against?

      Delete
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