“There’s this kind of certain obsession within reality TV about nouveau riche women, and then particularly nouveau riche black women… There’s something the public enjoys about looking at black women who are successful… and making fun of them … and that’s something that has been historically true in our country,” she says. Lindemann specifically references Bravo TV shows and the Housewives franchise, but also points to American network VH1’s Love & Hip Hop franchise, focusing on the lives of a majority black cast in the music industry.
“I think it’s important to think of not just who is represented but also how they are represented,” Lindemann says. “It’s important to attend to that as well and not just say, ‘Okay, well, we’ve met our quota’.”
Diversifying production – and introducing ethics
One way to alleviate some of the more intricate issues regarding representation is to have more people of colour in production. In addition to CBS’ BIPOC cast goals, the network also said they would allocate “a quarter of its annual unscripted development budget” to BIPOC-led projects. George Cheeks, president and CEO for the CBS Entertainment Group, acknowledged the genre as “an area that’s especially underrepresented, and needs to be more inclusive across development, casting, production and all phases of storytelling”. But without statistics on its teams’ current demographics, linked to improvements at every level, the statement lacks specificity. (CBS did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)
ViacomCBS, however, which owns both CBS and VH1 alongside other entertainment networks, launched a diversity and inclusion website that features the company’s coalesced workforce demographics. As of July 2020, 63.8% of the company’s domestic employees were white, while Asian-Americans, black or African-Americans and Hispanic or Latino-Americans made up 10.6%, 11.3% and 11.6% of the company, respectively. Of the company’s senior leadership, it’s notable that less than 25% identify as BIPOC.
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