Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Too PC or Not Too PC? That should not be the question.

Internet comments should generally be avoided. That's just a simple truth of the internet in the 21st Century. It's a fact that's been in evidence almost since there were comment sections at the end of articles, but in my early days of web surfing, I managed to read enough forums where things were civil and interesting, which makes it hard for me to break the habit of reading reactions. That said, even I know that Deadline comments tend to be a total cesspool of angry aspirings, bitter malcontents, and nutjob far right-winger types following the latest Drudge Report link.

But one recent comment actually provoked a few thoughts and before I knew it, I had a whole post. Last week Deadline ran a story about an Urban Cowboy relaunch at Fox that was no longer going forward. The wrinkle was that this project was intended to be a "Latin music-flavored" relaunch. To put it another way, they were going to cast it with Hispanic characters and actors. The first comment, probably from a mouth-breather sent there by Drudge or Breitbart, read "Good. Making it a Latino version of a great movie was just a stupid idea. Can we just stop being PC about programming. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Hahaha, you get’s what you get. LOL."

"Stop being PC about programming." What kind of a white supremacist paradise do you live in where the idea of a 1980 movie remade with people who have darker skin is some kind of threat to you? This is one show. One. Show. How many channels and digital networks do we have generating original content now? Gotta be in the hundreds, right? And yet somehow, one hour of TV featuring brown faces is immediately suspect and "PC."

Why would it be "PC" to be cast ANY show with an all-Latino cast? Why is that not just seen as serving an audience that doesn't see themselves represented on TV? How is it that no one considers the possibility that with so few diverse shows on the air, this kind of premise opens a lot of doors for writers to explore stories that haven't been retold again and again, completely beaten into the ground.

I remember when MODERN FAMILY premiered and I head the same suspicious accusations, "They only cast it that way to be PC. You've got the gay guys, the immigrants. Doesn't it seem like some liberal focus group put this together?" Here's the thing, idiots. Gays watch TV. Hispanics watch TV. Why is there paranoia when they get to participate in the reindeer games? And if you carry this argument out to its logical conclusion, it feels like the person is pushing for yet another family sitcom centered on a typical nuclear family. Isn't there, like, some fifty years of territory already covered with that? MODERN FAMILY's success is less about it covering demographic territory and more about the fact it was covering territory that hadn't been strip-mined to death.

Writers are always trying to find new stories that haven't been told. It's pretty safe to say that you won't find many network sitcoms about a gay couple, and certainly not many at the time where they were treated as characters first and not some sort of avatar of ALL gay couples. The same could be said of the Jay and Gloria thread. I can't think of many depictions of an aging patriarch marrying a much younger Hispanic woman that wasn't treated as some kind of trophy wife joke.

It's the 21st Century - we need to stop viewing every non-white, non-hetero depiction as some kind of insidious offering to the evil PC Gods. Some of the best-regarded TV shows of all time were unique from anything that came before. SEINFELD was drastically different from most sitcoms, eventually becoming incredibly ambitious in terms of how its stories were structured and how the characters were depicted. Conventional plots were cast aside for an often minutae-based approach. You wouldn't get that by sticking to the same story-telling tropes that drove LAVERNE & SHIRLEY, for instance.

It's not like you have to go far to find white characters represented on TV. Hell, I'm half-Jewish and it would annoy the hell out of me if someone said, "Why does THE GOLDBERGS *have* to be about Jews? They only did that to be PC."

Something that didn't really strike me until I really thought about it is that we DON'T often see Jewish families depicted on TV. THE GOLDBERGS's recent Hanukkah episode was a revelation because I couldn't even think of the last time a TV show did a Hanukkah episode. I guess there was at least one episode of FRIENDS with a Hanukkah subplot, but compared to the yearly onslaught of Christmas eps, the ratio isn't even close. (Being only of half-Jewish descent, I can TOTALLY relate to THE OC's Christmakkah episodes... except for the gift Rachel Bilson dressed up as Wonder Woman. Even with eight nights of gifts, I never was lucky enough to get that. But I digress...)

When people complain about TV and movies "trying to be PC" what they're really reacting to is that something was put out there that might not be made for them. This mere fact should not be cause for fear from anyone. We live in an era where there's more TV - more GOOD TV - than anyone could reasonably try to keep up with. Every last program doesn't NEED to be made for you. FRESH OFF THE BOAT and BLACKISH aren't shows that were funded by some insidious Politically Correct agenda - they're stories that sprang from voices that haven't been a huge part of the choir.

So in the new year, perhaps we can resolve to make knee-jerk reactions like this a thing of the past. If something doesn't appeal to you, it's so easy to ignore it. I've ignored SLEEPY HOLLOW so aggressively, I'm not even sure if it's on the air anymore. Keep changing the channel, and eventually you'll find something you like.

And would it kill TV to get just a FEW more Hanukkah episodes in come next holiday season?


  1. Out of curiousity, I decided to read the comments there - over an article I could have cared less about. I don't really get it myself- there are hundreds of pilots that, for one reason or another, don't get picked up, and the majority of those pilots are never seen by the general public.

    I for one would be more concerned on how the show would re-introduce the Bull Ride, which the 1980 film helped popularize.