May 16, 2008By Mala Bhattacharjee Posted: May 16, 2008
I knew it was just a matter of time, but I'm in a lather about soap diversity again. And, no, it's not about AS THE WORLD TURNS. Guess who gets to board the failboat this week? THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL! It's uncharacteristic enough that B&B's Los Angeles is the whitest white that ever whited (and the straightest straight that ever straighted despite focusing on fashion design) but then, this week, the show introduced a new character of color. Cause for celebration, right? Oh, no, my friends...oh.no.
Marcus the Mystery Guy had the misfortune of arriving at Chez Forrester the day of Storm's memorial service, and upon spying the strapping young black man, Eric and Donna did what anybody would do and... assumed he was on the catering staff. ::head-desk:: Yeah. I have no words. Okay, I have words but none of them are fit for print. I suppose we should be lucky that they didn't think he was going to try and rob the mansion in broad daylight or press some money into his hands after assuming he was homeless.
I get that the Forresters are flush, but being rich and privileged doesn't mean you have to be written as so clueless and arrogant that a black man arriving on your doorstep means he's a waiter. Even more cringeworthy than the initial introduction was the fact that, then, all throughout Storm's service, viewers had to watch Marcus circulate with a serving tray. Ridge and Eric complained snootily about Storm not really deserving the send-off and they barely gave him a second glance. 145 years since the Emancipation Proclamation still isn't long enough for that image to be remotely okay.
I didn't think using such blatantly offensive stereotypes on daytime television was still acceptable in 2008, but it's becoming more and more clear that I'm terribly naïve about that sort of thing. As an educated woman of color with friends from all kinds of diverse backgrounds, I assume that most people have basic common sense about racial issues. Watching ATWT, watching B&B this week, it's clear that's not the case. What were they thinking? "Ha-ha, LOL, wouldn't it be funny...?" Well, it's not. This is Donna's son, and if they had cast a white actor, I seriously doubt that they would have used the catering staff conceit.
More and more, I feel like this is a reflection of why daytime as a whole is suffering, of why the genre may not last another decade. There are just not enough writers and showrunners using their heads and writing for their whole audience. We need more minority writers, more minority actors, and more people behind the scenes in general who get that writing for characters of color doesn't have to be as complicated as brain surgery — or as cheap as a minstrel show. Come on, people... Just think. Is that too much to ask? If y'all need help, I'd be happy to come in and do a little seminar on Diversity 101. Yes, you could tell me that other shows are still getting it right, that no one in Pine Valley would dare mistake Jesse Hubbard for a bus boy, but ALL MY CHILDREN had to bring Jesse back from the DEAD just to give black characters a story. We're talking about a show that vanished Jackson's black son to the ether.
Bet it's only a matter of time before Donna's does the same disappearing act.