How To Get Away With Diversity on TV

It’s not revolutionary to say that black people and minorities in general need more representation in Western media – just turn on your TV and see for yourself. So when ABC – one of the United States’ historical Big Three TV networks – announced a new all black cast sitcom, it definitely caught people’s attention – including mine. The first thing that came to mind when I heard about Black-ish was: “A new show featuring a black family? Great! But wait…why is it about being black?”

I guess the talented TV guru Shonda Rhimes got me used to dramas where black characters can be the heroes even when race isn’t a central piece of the plot. By taking over ABC’s Thursday night with Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and her new show How To Get Away With Murder, the screenwriter/director/producer is not only the first female African-American to produce all shows on a network’s primetime – she’s the first person ever.

Shonda Rhimes has not only given leading roles opportunities to many African-American actors, she also made America care about powerful Female, Latino, Asian, Gay, and Lesbian characters. In a country where race and gender still affect salary, education, health and justice…this is a huge deal. But just like any race-related matter in the USA, Shonda Rhimes has raised controversy as some people don’t seem to understand her vision. And by some people, I don’t mean your average casual racist – I’m actually referring to a New York Times editor.

A very doubtful article written by Alessandra Stanley was recently published on the prestigious publication, in which the author questions Shonda Rhimes’ tendency to tell stories through the lens of strong Black Female characters, while ignoring racial issues in her scripts. Even if Stanley’s intention may have been to start a debate on minorities in the media vs. real life, it’s hard not to deem her piece as offensive when it starts with this: “When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called “How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman.” Ouch.

The writer tackles interesting issues but creates confusion by not explaining why they are interesting: “They (Rhimes’ characters) struggle with everything except their own identities, so unconcerned about race that it is barely ever mentioned.” By not putting things into context – which is a not so post-racial America –  it seems like Stanley’s says it’s totally normal for Black Women to question their legitimacy as powerful individuals.

As awkward as it is, this article does lead to a deeper and everlasting question: should art be a reflection of our society, or should it be a vector for change? Shonda Rhimes’ shows may be Utopian, but if all screenwriters created content that mirrors reality, our perception of the world would stagnate.

The New York Times’ article backlash made me consider Black-ish in a different light. The new comedy is uplifting the audience by showing something you rarely see on TV: a successful African-American family. But it also addresses the issues that come with making it as a Black person in America, like the struggles of staying connected with black culture in a white world or the lack of diversity in the workplace. The one thing it might be missing is the complexity of black identity itself, but for a 20 minute sitcom that has already been compared to Modern Family, I still think Black-ish is a necessary complement to Shonda Rhimes’ achievements.

Will you be watching?

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Working in New York vs. Working in Paris

Work is probably the best way to get to know a city, its people, and vibe. Even after working in Manhattan for a year and a half now, leaving the office at 5.30 PM still feels like a luxury, and I haven’t gotten used to the fact that coworkers bond over mani pedis. Based on my experience in both Paris and New York, here are a few typical work situations that would be completely different from one side of the globe to the other:

It’s 9 AM in the office…

Paris: You’re early today

New York: Why are you late?

Getting an early start in New York is a give and take: you get to enjoy life after 5 o’ clock and avoid the Parisian infamous “metro boulot dodo” grind.

Chandlermorning

It’s lunch break…

Paris: What are we eating today?

New York: Are you eating today?

I’m not saying that New Yorkers don’t eat for lunch, but they usually skip the lunch break and snack in front of their computer instead of going out for a proper meal. It’s kind of sad but again, that allows them to peace out early and go about their lives.

liz-lemon-mac-and-cheese

It’s 6 PM in the office…

Paris: I hope you didn’t have any dinner plans tonight

New York: You are burning the midnight oil

One thing that I don’t miss about working in Paris is the very thin line between your personal and professional life. In New York, having plans is something your boss and coworkers actually respect. Staying late at work is not rewarding like in France: it’s seen as a lack of productivity.

crying-wine-robin-desk

It’s Happy Hour…

Paris: Let’s go to the bar downstairs at 8 PM

New York: Let’s get drunk in the office at 5 PM

In New York, most corporate people have dinner at 6 PM, which for me is still apero time (if not gouter.) So having drinks with coworkers is always an early event that can be started in the office.

madmen

It’s the company’s Christmas party

Paris: Make sure you don’t get drunk in front of your boss

New York: Make sure your boss sees you drunk (and end up liking you more)

Again, New Yorkers love their glass of scotch or a skinny margarita. Staying sober is not the best way to make connections.

spirit

 

From Paris to New York or the other way around…what has YOUR work experience been like?

 

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How Nicki Minaj’s Booty Started A Juicy Debate

If there is one thing that America loves, it’s a good ol’ scandal. Put race and a butt in the middle, and you get the buzz of the month!

Nicki Minaj is currently under fire for releasing the very racy art cover of her latest single “Anaconda.” From social media to online publications and even national news, everyone seemed outraged by the rapper for posing in a pink thong, leaving close to nothing to the imagination.

nicki anaconda

How was this exactly shocking news, when the show business industry has clearly made it a rule for entertainers to go naked or go home? This is the very question that Nicki took to her Instagram. For the first lady of rap, the nature of the controversy was strictly racial and she posted recent magazine covers to make her point.

Sports Illustrated

When white supermodels bare their booties for the world to see, it’s acceptable. When Nicki flaunts hers, it’s a massive attack. The rapper thinks society’s tendancy to hypersexualize black women is to blame. To her point, black women have been misrepresented in the media for centuries, and rarely portrayed as anything other than sexual objects. While she is bringing a crucial and usually silenced issue to light, is Nicki’s argument really relevant here?

Compared to the daily dose of female body images I am exposed to as a Millennial, the Anaconda art cover isn’t too different. But it does bother me more. Why? Because I do hold music – and especially hip-hop – to a higher standard than fashion. I don’t expect to be intellectually stimulated when I grab a magazine, but I do when it comes to music. That’s what the “Bootygate” scandal should be about. If the chorus of a song is “Oh my Gosh, look at her butt!” then what do you expect the visual to be?

The source of the problem is the content of the music, which is what Nicki Minaj, sadly, won’t take responsibility for. Like pioneer female rapper MC Lyte recently pointed out when asked how could hip hop be more substantial: “It would sound a little bit more realistic. It would be more reflective of the struggle that’s actually happening. It would be the reporting of truth. And right now, it’s a big party.”

If Nicki is going to compare the uproar her Ananconda cover caused to anything, why not mentioning Lady Gaga’s latest single cover instead of women that have nothing to do with the music industry?

gaga single

In that case, Minaj’s argument would be more powerful: it does seem like we are given free ratchet passes to white female artists. Her peer Iggy Azalea, who interestingly just dropped the teaser of the J-Lo remix “Booty,” is the perfect example.

But whether the raciness is served by a black or a white female rapper, the truth is hip hop lovers like myself are over it. We want to be lyrically challenged. Nicki Minaj may be the queen of punch lines, but the day of a punch song about something other than her booty (implants) is long overdue.

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