Who’s allowed to make fun of you? That’s what it comes down to in television political correctness. This post isn’t to debate the rights and wrongs of racism, but instead I’d like to point out the double-standards of the acceptability of racism in television. I personally think that the right amount of racism at the right time could be quite funny. Sometimes we need to laugh at ourselves in order to realize that maybe we could improve our behavior.
But who’s allowed to make fun of an individual or group of people? Could a White person make fun of a Black or Latino person – without repercussions? Well, it already happens all the time in Family Guy and South Park. On the other side of the coin, could a Latino or Black person make fun of Asians? or Middle Easterners? or White People? Yes, of course, but you only see that in comedy clubs and random clips online. Which brings me to my point… Everyone makes fun of everyone, BUT, Whites have a bigger stage to poke fun at other races, while in contrast, the rest of us have a limited reach.
The most popular animated shows on FOX are all predominantly written by Whites. Once in a while (if not more often) you’ll see a racist joke here and there, and I don’t see a problem with that. I actually find some of it funny; BUT, my issue is that other races lack the opportunity to have that huge FOX stage to do the same thing in return.
For example, Seth MacFarlane is given the opportunity to have Family Guy on the air – and I loved what that show has done for adult comedy animation. It basically took the Simpsons and made it seem like a Nickelodeon kid’s show. Yet, when it’s time to replicate the success of Family Guy, one of the other shows that Seth MacFarlane develops is The Cleveland Show. Why!?
Out of so many great characters ready for a spin-off from Family Guy, they choose the Black caricature? Were they trying to attract a Black audience? If so, it didn’t work. I don’t know many of my Black friends that watch The Cleveland Show. Still, the show is so similar to Family Guy that I have never even found my own interest or taken the time to actually watch it.
Yet… what I’m getting at is that they have the White showrunners – Seth MacFarlane, Mike Henry and Richard Appel – developing a Black caricature. To me this is the equivalent of Blackface in cartoon form. They make a Black character for White people to laugh at. Is this okay? Nobody seems to care, mainly because “it’s only a cartoon”.
What if the same thing happened in real life, and there were White guys with their faces painted Black on prime-time TV? Would it be okay then? What’s the difference right now? Cleveland’s face is painted black, isn’t it? He’s created and portrayed by White guys, isn’t he?
Well, I’m not one for censorship. If people want to be racist, I rather they’d be racist to my face than behind my back. What I don’t stand for is the inequality of opportunity to have “all-inclusive” racism in television. Is it possible for a Black or Latino have the same stage and do the same thing? FOX doesn’t seem to think so. If there’s going to be a Latino animated show, they will probably have Seth MacFarlane be the showrunner, and they’ll just tell him “You do it, Seth. You’ve met Latinos before. Do a show about them, too.”
The other half of the problem is that the smaller Black and Latino TV networks are so busy trying to mimic the larger White networks that they would never create something as original as Family Guy. A lot of these smaller TV networks that supposedly target Blacks or Latinos operate out of pure pandering, and are usually ran by White executives that don’t understand the culture they’re targeting. Overall, there’s a lack of real vision and risk-taking in the part of these outlets, which in turn affects all of us minorities, since our voices are hampered and smothered by gutless, bland, and unoriginal programming. It saddens me to see great potential distribution become a waste of broadcast time.
Back to my initial question, who’s allowed to make fun of you? The answer: It’s up to you. We all have our own tolerance gage. Yet, I believe in fighting fire with fire. I don’t want to shut down The Cleveland Show for being racist. I rather create something that will equally compete and let the viewers decide how much of it they want. That’s how my new animated show “Counterfit” came to be. Counterfit is a show about a guy with nothing to lose, and fixing injustices his way.
Most people that have been discriminated in their lives find Counterfit hilarious. Why? Because they understand why he acts the way he acts. On the other hand, there are some people who find Counterfit uncomfortable to watch – and this is something I like. When Alfonso Amey and I were throwing this idea around, we knew that it would have an impact – not necessarily all positive – but an impact, nonetheless.
Because the reality is, why is it okay for Family Guy and other White animations to portray Latinos and Blacks in a stereotypical fashion, but when it’s time to reverse the roles and portray Whites in a weaker position, it immediately becomes “uncomfortable”?
If we can watch a Black man get relentlessly beaten by cops for 5 minutes on the six o’clock news in real life, then we should be able to watch the same thing reversed in a fictional cartoon.
Check out Counterfit “The Neighborhood Dude” and you be the judge… I just hope he gets the same fair judgement The Cleveland Show gets.