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Is Interracial Coupling On TV Meant To Soften The Blow Of Casting Black Leads?

by Emmanuel Akitobi
October 24, 2011 7:22 AM
66 Comments
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I recently got my hands on a DVD copy of the BBC's acclaimed 2010 legal drama, Accused. The six-part series features the stories of six separate characters who have, through various circumstances, found themselves entangled in the criminal justice system, sitting in a courtroom, awaiting their individual fates. Throughout each episode, viewers learn how they ended up there in the first place.

Episode six of the series is titled "Alison's Story", and features black actress Naomie Harris in the lead role as schoolteacher Alison Wade. Alison is married to unemployed David Wade, played by white actor Warren Brown. There's nothing odd about that, obviously. But It got me thinking about a a trend, of sorts, that I've noticed with regard to the casting of black actors in lead TV roles.

Just a few weeks before I watched Accused, I watched the BBC mini-series, The Shadow Line, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor in a lead role as DI Jonah Gabriel. Like Harris' Alison Wade, Ejiofor's Jonah Gabriel is depicted as having a white spouse, along with a white mistress.

Again, this isn't abnormal, and by no means am I intending to imply that it is. What strikes me as odd, is that the race of the characters had no effect on the stories being told (they weren't even mentioned), yet the producers of each program chose to depict these lead black characters in interracial relationships, as opposed to the same-race relationships typically seen with white lead actors.

The more I thought about it, I realized that this might be a trend in television casting. For every recent TV role I could think of that featured a lead black actor as a character who held some sort of position of power, that character seemed to be paired with a non-black romantic partner. Not convinced that this is a deliberate trend? Then let's keep looking.

Not only is the wife of Idris Elba's John Luther, of the BBC's Luther, portrayed by an actress of Indian and Swiss descent, but his stalker/friend, with whom he shares an illicit sexual tension, is white.

Could it be that in order for TV networks to give the greenlight on casting black actors in lead roles-- specifically roles of authority-- that the compromise is the interracial coupling of the character-- to ease the blow, so to speak? Does the interracial coupling of a black lead character make that character less threatening in the role of authority that he/she portrays? If that is the case, then it's certainly not a new idea.

From 2004 - 2005, actor Don Gilet (pictured above) starred in the BBC series 55 Degrees North as DS Nicky Cole, a black detecive from London who, very conveniently, is transferred to a more rural work location, devoid of much ethnic or cultural diversity. Fittingly, DS Cole ends up becoming romantically involved with a pregnant white colleague.

And before anybody says, "Oh, those are British shows. That's a British thing.", let me divert your attention to a few examples of the trend's presence here on U.S. television.

When Blair Underwood was cast as an Afro-Latino U.S. president in NBC's The Event, the role of the First Lady could just as well have gone to a black actress, whether she was depicted as Latino or otherwise. Some may even argue that chosen actress Lisa Vidal's Puerto Rican ancestry made her an ambiguously ideal choice for the role. But given Hollywood's penchant for pairing Underwood in interracial relationships, on shows such as Sex and The City and The New Adventures of Old Christine, it's hard to imagine that this wasn't the case with The Event.

When Shonda Rhimes' Grey's Anatomy premiered on ABC in 2005, when Isaiah Washington was cast as fictional Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital's Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery, an authoritative position of power in its own right, he was romantically paired with Korean-Canadian actress Sandra Oh.

Rhimes' Grey's spin-off, Private Practice, fared no better than its predecessor. Taye Diggs and Audra McDonald were cast as two successful doctors who were not able to make their love last. Fortunately, the daughter (pictured below) produced by their own failed same-race union was able to show them how it's done.

I want to again state that I am not opposed to the depiction of interracial relationships on television. I believe that true love knows no color. As a matter of fact, the depiction of interracial love on television offers a closer look at the actual world we live in than what most other programs offer, in my opinion. I just want to know what the motivation of the networks is. What makes them favor pairing black lead characters in interracial relationships, as opposed to same-race relationships, when they are casting these shows?

Am I correct in my assessment that when it comes to casting black actors in lead roles on television, there's a required compromise to be made? Is it fair to say that in order for some networks to be comfortable with depicting black characters in a position of authority, or with any semblance of power, that interracial coupling is a given? And if so, is the intent to soften the blow of daring to depict such a character on television, even in the year 2011?

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66 Comments

  • Miles Ellison | July 6, 2014 8:17 PMReply

    This wouldn't be a big deal in cultures that weren't carrying tons of racist baggage and all around ignorance.

  • gary | July 6, 2014 6:37 PMReply

    I think the Negros should have there own TV station, the same as the Indians in Canada have their own. The Indians in Canada will only watch their own station, for the most part. Chinese have there own, Islams have,so why not the blacks in the USA ?? Most blacks would watch their own and why not. It is the same for us. Maybe its called brainwashing !

  • Gary Loftus | July 6, 2014 6:30 PMReply

    I don't watch those interracial shows-some of these networks are trying to say it is normal, but it really isn't. I could not see myself going into a Kraal in Zambia, or Botswana and taking a negro girl from there for a wife !! The culture and politics are very different with the different races.

    I read that the lady that stars in Unforgettable now has to have a negro american as her boy friend /lover. I will not be watching it. It is strange that when a white and a negro has a baby, that baby is black. Look no farther than the present USA president.

  • alan | March 29, 2014 7:58 AMReply

    it's about getting whites, especially white males used to high immigration and encouraging white women to go with blacks

    It's about causing dissent and trouble. They will not allow people of various races to mix and associate naturally

    It's anti white male, basically

  • kid chaos | March 13, 2014 9:52 AMReply

    What kind of white man would want a black woman?Ir on tv just black women dreams

  • Anyomous | June 16, 2014 4:13 PM

    I am a black woman who has dated white men in the past and currently, so I find this very offensive. You should be ashamed to make such a biased comment.

  • Travis | March 2, 2014 8:46 AMReply

    Not to mention how bw&ww marriage have the highest divorce rate of all marriages in USA while wm&bw marriage having second lowest divorce rate - actually 44% lower than white marriages have.

  • James | September 26, 2013 12:01 PMReply

    Actually British Television shows tend to be a bit easier with pairing Black men and white women, if you look at the American shows, it seems they have a big problem with casting Black leading men with Black spouses, or lovers (if that spouse/lover gets any considerable screen time). They also seem to have just as big a problem casting Black male leads with identifiably white female companions. This never seems to be a problem with white male leads who seem to have partners covering the entire spectrum.

  • noshame | September 16, 2013 2:08 AMReply

    Simply, yes.

  • John Prewett | August 11, 2013 10:24 AMReply

    Why all the MSM picturing of "diversit",.... usually black man and white woman. Why ? What's the goal ? Besides increasing racial animosity that is. Many people of both races simply resent MSM depiction of black/white couples. Sneer at that if you wish,... but it is the truth. The growing commonness of white woman/black man diversity pic used by MSM irritates many white men, ... and simultaneously increases black man feeling the powers that be are telling him he is entitlted to a white woman,... then if/when he meet any resistance he is more prone to react violently. End result, more animosity all the way around. Couple this with decades of ever growing forced/imposed integration,... due to internet increased awareness of and discussion of interracial violent crime .... flash mobs, gang attacks,... home invasions .... most all of the interracial being black perp white victime,.... racial animosity is growing.

  • Gary | July 6, 2014 6:45 PM

    I agree with you totally, for 90 % of us folk, this black/ white thing is wrong. The culture is African with the Negros and always will be. They will always call themselves African Americans, what does that tell you? 200 hundred years later they feel they are the down trodden. They need to stop breeding and get an education. Am I allowed to say this ?

  • alan | March 29, 2014 7:55 AM

    correct

  • Thea | August 9, 2013 4:18 PMReply

    It's true we can see interracial couples on British television but there are multiple interpretations as to why this is the case. Softening the blow of casting black leads is just one interpretation. However, the BBC also have diversity quotas, which could be one of the contributing factors as to why a black lead is cast in a 'racially neutral' role, as has been pointed out.

    My interpretation is more from personal experience as a British black girl, however, it could be due to a shift in society being reflected on television. When I was at school, I noticed a trend where black boys were quite popular among the white female students. However, it didn't work the other way with black girls being popular among their white male counterparts. This is something which seems to have continued to the present day, as a lot of my friends are married to or are dating black men.

    In addition to this, black people are an ethnic minority, minority being the key word. Also, they tend to band together in communities within certain towns and cities. If a black person moves out of that community, they will find themselves surrounded by the 'ethnic majority', which is white people.

    This is especially the case when it comes to education and work. There may be socio-economic reasons involved, but the higher up the education and career ladder you go, the fewer black people there are. Therefore, classmates or work colleagues are more likely to be white and people tend to form relationships from among those they associate with.

    So for me, I hadn't noticed a problem with interracial relationships on television because they seem to highlight real life in many ways - the generational increase in popularity in black men and the lack of ethnically similar potential partners in education, the work place and their environs.

  • alan | March 29, 2014 8:02 AM

    True, but this is a problem. By nature, men in any society expect to mate with their own women. Men naturally do not like competition from outsiders, especially if those outside meet with some success

    It will cause trouble one day, especially if they try to make a fool of Anglo males, the most tolerant people on the planet

    One day, they will not tolerate the intolerable

  • destiny | March 13, 2014 9:07 AM

    More black women go to college than black men so black men should not have a problem finding 'ethnically similar potential partners in education'- its black WOMEN who have that problem. Also, this is tv and film casting. With all the black actresses vying for limited roles, these tv shows should have NO PROBLEM finding talented, beautiful black women to cast alongside these men. Also, black men are NOT that popular. MOST white women still prefer their own race, and believe it or not, most black men still prefer black women.

  • przora | January 21, 2013 6:39 PMReply

    As an avid fan of British tv, I have definitely noticed this trend. I haven't really come to a conclusion of whether its negative or positive, but it's definitely interesting. And if you want to see not only the depiction of interracial relationships but also ardent declarations of love between characters of two different "races" on British tv, check out the following--Merlin, Torchwood, Misfits, Skins, Being Human, Love/Hate, and Footballers Wives--I'm sure I'm missing some.

  • Travis | March 2, 2014 8:51 AM

    The purpose is to do some propaganda how "tolerate" British society is and "how open-minded we Brits are". Likely just bad conscience because the racism and things like "white race" was first founded in Britain. They created that brutal ideology of "weak races". Now they are white washing all those British sins: "hah hah, don't believe what be have perhaps sometimes taught you - it was just a joke."

  • Madigan | January 19, 2013 7:18 PMReply

    As the child of a biracial relationship, I really like the trend in British TV shows to have mixed race couples, and to see men of color with white women, which is rare in America.

  • ricky | February 5, 2013 3:48 AM

    What American media do you consume? Depictions of non-white men with white women is not "rare" in American media. I'm an American who watches US and (popular) UK tv shows. When showing interracial relationships, American television shows usually show black men with white women. This pairing isn't near the majority of interracial relationships in the U.S., but in recent years it seems to be the default interracial relationship to depict in television shows and adverts.

  • Interesting | January 4, 2013 10:05 PMReply

    Came across a book online yesterday, that addresses this phenomenon and gives an insightful look at race-relations in America, past and present: "White Men Can't Hump: Race & Sex in America." Don't let the title get to you...it's a good read.

  • Niqi | January 4, 2013 9:50 PMReply

    Warren Brown isn't white.

  • Winston | January 22, 2013 9:33 AM

    Maybe you don't know who Warren brown is. That's what your comment tells me.

  • Tameka W | September 19, 2012 9:55 PMReply

    I have questioned this many times. I dont think I have ever seen a british show or film that spotlights a black man and a black woman in a relationship. I am American and that is very strange to me. I would think the UK public would be more offended by the mixed-race coupling.

  • Ricky | February 5, 2013 4:05 AM

    It is odd, isn't it. The only black couple I've seen on British television was the Black couple on Shameless. I know Britain has a lot non-White citizens, yet the overwhelming majority of interracial pairings I see on popular British shows are Black males with White women, it's like no other pairing exists.

    Why would you think the Brits would be more offended by mixed-race relationships? I'd aspect that kind of attitude more out of us Americans.

  • Alfredo Pelaez | July 19, 2012 1:20 AMReply

    As an American who is the child of a white-ish Cuban and black-ish Cuban it was always difficult for me to understand why TV and movies always paired people of the same color together as if there was something wrong with the alternative. I wound up marrying and having a kid with a German-Scott-Irish American girl, but I have had relationships with all varieties. I think Charles Johnson may be onto something when he says that maybe it's because the writers are simply taping into their own lives in which there isn't anyone around who isn't "white", but also seems to be the case in my experience so I don't think that they are intentionally being "racist" or anything. Maybe STAAL is right in that maybe one day we will look similar, though in my opinion I think that is a good thing.

  • anon | May 12, 2012 10:55 AMReply

    For the british tv shows most of the characters are written WHITE i.e "racially neutral" so they are not gonna go out of their way to change casting just to accomadate a black couple.
    But as for the u.s shows I do believe its done to make it more 'palatable' and also to make sure that very few black actors are given employment as for the most part, especially in tv they dont just show the couple but aslo the family so that would be twice as many blk people on tv than most whites could cope with and it WOULD be deemed a "BLACK show"

  • anonymous | May 9, 2012 7:59 PMReply

    Staal that is ridiculous. Blonde women will never be extinct and calling that Genocide is offensive.

  • Staal | February 28, 2012 4:30 PMReply

    Just more brainwashing from the Left of our young people to not care about their identity and heritage. Nothing against non-whites but excessive interracial relationships will see the extinction of blonde women. Genocide in real time. I cannot believe most people are willing to see their own kind go to nothing without even a whimper of protest. They are brainwashing your children that this is desirable. Shocking.

  • George | November 1, 2011 1:08 AMReply

    "It seems that most of the new shows I see are just a group of all white women surrounded by a diverse group of men."

    News shows, yes, but TV shows, no. Criminal Minds full of whites and one black man and one Hispanic. Mentalist, one serious looking Chinese, Unforgettable, all white with one Indo-Nepali woman passing for black. I have not seen any love interr-racial love interest showing white people.

    Where are all of the non-white women?

    Asian newscasters, but not much in Hollywood.

  • Somebody | October 29, 2011 12:58 PMReply

    It seems that statistics are always gathered regarding male vs. female representaion or racial representation. This data is always used to indicate that the media is white-washed.

    But why are there no studies done to break down racial representation by each gender? If this is done, it would be clear that there is in fact diversity on television, but it is mainly only in male representation. It seems that most of the new shows I see are just a group of all white women surrounded by a diverse group of men.

    Where are all of the non-white women? If I were to base my view of reality on primetime american television, I would believe that non-white women do not exist. The men just pop into existence.

    Real diversity = Men AND women of all colors
    Hollywood diversity = men of all colors and WHITEwomen

  • George | October 26, 2011 3:33 AMReply

    In fact, not only are there not any Asian/White IR couples, but they try to whitewash Asian related shows whenever they can....

    http://www.grantland.com/blog/hollywood-prospectus/post/_/id/36227/about-that-whitewashed-akira-remake

    And even Night Shyamlan who is Asian is guilty of this....

    http://www.8asians.com/2008/12/18/white-washing-avatar-the-last-airbender/

  • George | October 26, 2011 3:25 AMReply

    Tired Foreign Black Chick:

    "I thought Grace Park was a love interest to the main lead or whatever? oh well."

    They showed her very briefly with another white guy ( an extra) but the guy disappeared from subsequent shows. They nearly kissed, when a shootout interrupted outside. Oh well as you say.

    "AW/WM is not shown that much on TV for whatever reason. And it’s not due to a lack of asian actresses. But is the reason really white women? Why always white women?"

    That is what Nielsen claims and that is what ratings agencies claim. Just like black women cannot stand black men with white women, there is at least some aversion to Asian women dating or marrying white men both among white women and Asian men (who of course dont care much for each other beyond those showing up on the AMWW Magazine blog or Speaking of China blog...such white women and Asian men are few and far between).

    "I have seen that the writers of some of these IRs(even wm/bw) are white women, so not all are biased."

    One of those writers you talk about comes frequently on the Speaking of China blog and she is married to an Asian woman. Another example is Diana Farr married to a Korean.

    Agree with what you says, but how many of these were successful serials or re-runs. In the Mentalist show, the Chinese guys never smiles, always serious and is completely asexual...no love interest with any women or for that matter men.

    "White racists in the south don’t give a flying fuck about Asians and their pairings or any non-black with white pairings. You could put them with anybody and it wouldn’t make waves here. In fact it’d be preferred over the B/W IR couples."

    Anything is preferred to B/W IR couples or perceived B/W IR couples (by this I mean a very dark skinned Indian male with a very light skinned Indian female who are mistaken for a B/W couple). But, that does not mean they are accepted. at least on TV. Hollywood looks for green color and that is it and green color does not come their way if they put IR couples involving white people. The only reason Grey's Anatomy did not fizzle was because the main IR couple was non-white. If it involved a white person, the ratings would have dropped perhaps even leading up to the show's cancellation!

  • JMac | October 26, 2011 2:29 AMReply

    Dayum, FBC!

    Do you count adult cartoons? American Dad, Family Guy (at least two couples if you consider the dog a white guy, lol), Cleveland Show.


    @George

    White racists in the south don't give a flying fuck about Asians and their pairings or any non-black with white pairings. You could put them with anybody and it wouldn't make waves here. In fact it'd be preferred over the B/W IR couples.

  • James | September 26, 2013 12:18 PM

    Yep, you nailed attitudes here in the South. Also the truly weird thing I've come to notice about racists is that racism often isn't a two-way street. You've got racists that could care less about interracial relationships as long as it's a white man that is the instigator.

    They also don't really tend to care that much about Blk/white relationships if the woman is "unattractive". Truth be told it seems some white guys whether they are racist or not seem to have a problem with any black man dating any extremely attractive woman regardless of what race she is.

  • Nanette | October 26, 2011 2:09 AMReply

    On U.S. television show "The Unit", Dennis Haysbert was lead actor and his wife was played by Black actress Regina Taylor. The show itself was... well, what it was, but I liked their relationship (loving, loyal, communicative, so on, even when they had problems) and that she wasn't the typical "starlet" type, or tinted White person looking.

    Haysbert's wife on "24" was also Black, but if I recall she was a deceitful, scheming, backstabbing fruitcake. Still...

  • Mecca | October 25, 2011 12:34 PMReply

    Foreign Black Chick,

    Woah! You did your research girl! I noticed many IR pairings on a regular basis on TV. Even, from the early/late 90's & 2000's many of these North American shows had IR pairings everywhere!

    You forgot to mention Canadian shows like; "Zach Files" Shadia Simmons character dated Zach, "Degrassi" Drake's character dated Ashley for many seasons on that show! Also, Instant star the lead actress (white female) dated a Black rapper. "Ready or Not" Busy Ramone dated a black guy in the very first season. I can go on for days!!!

  • TiredForeignBlackChick | October 25, 2011 12:22 PMReply

    More wm/bw in series:

    Shameless (Kevin and Veronica)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ap4_lX3G_E4

    Duke and Evi on SyFy's Haven
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3kTEhvLias&feature=relmfu

    Ugly Betty (Vanessa Williams IR pairing)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMMh8bAG3zs

    Ugly Betty (Gabrielle Union IR pairing)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJH7PJtuu-g

    Friends (Ross and Joey's IR pairings)
    Gabrielle Union: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQ8RDba5mR4
    Aisha Tyler: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LK1X4GxyFcU

    The Secret life of An American Teenager (Camilla Winbush IRs)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQTRk0c7heA&feature=channel_video_title

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZT6AfHbVP1U&feature=channel_video_title



    And there are hundreds more clipped here (whiteman/blackwoman):
    http://www.youtube.com/user/WikkedTV


    So... yeah.... wm/bw is not lacking on TV. Quite the OPPOSITE.

    I'm tired of people saying what they know deep down is not true. I've laid all the cards in the table. It requires research and critical analysis, not making superflous statements like 'white men think it's ridiculous therefore bm/ww is more'.

    By the way some of the pairings I've listed are written by white women, so it's not like they have some grudge against black women and IR. Let's stop this division between white and black women, it's just stupid.

    My white mother in law introduced me to my now fiance and many of the IRs I read(wm/bw) are written by white women. Please, americans... Live and let live! Geez!

    Oh... Thanks for the article Emmanuel!

  • A Believer | October 25, 2011 6:37 AMReply

    Daaayum. Glad someone on here takes the time to do some research and show insight into an opinion.

    I'd always thought black males were paired with white women more, but maybe that was the 80's. *shrug*

  • ForeignBlackChick | October 25, 2011 5:53 AMReply

    Well knowing the sensitive nature of this topic(apparently), and misconceptions held in concrete, some people won't see the implications of the length of this list.
    Granted, i havent produced one for bm/ww or asian women(which nullifies my argument I guess), but anyways here goes:

    Lincoln Heights (both black daughters had white guys, while their brother had no one)

    CW's Life is wild (american boy falls for african girl and so does his young brother)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpoL5RTAink

    Malcolm in the Middle: Francis(Malcolms older brother) and Amaani from Mozambique

    Retired at 35 (main rship is bw/wm)

    Newsradio (every male pursued Khandi Alexander)

    Life as we know it

    Melrose Place

    Friends with Benefits

    10 things I hate About You

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer

    Hidden Palms

    Stargate Atlantis

    True Blood

    Parenthood

    Party of Five (Charles and Tamara Taylor's character)

    True Jackson VP (main rship is Keke Palmer and a white guy)

    Nip/Tuck

    Friends

    Frasier

    Girlfriends

    Melrose Place (90s)

    21 Jump Street

    Saved by the Bell

    Sweet Valley High (Winston and Maria)

    Beverly Hills 90210 (Brandon dated two blk girls on that show)

    Blosson

    Dawson's Creek

    That 70s show (Megalyn Echikunwoke and Ashton Kutcher(?) )
    Student Bodies
    Ace Lightning
    Britannia High (in the UK)
    Blake Hosley High (in Canada)
    Whistler
    Life with Derek
    Desires
    Rescue Me
    the 4400
    Cold Case had around 4 wm/bw storylines.
    Raising the Bar (w Gloria Reuben)
    Veronica Mars (w Erica Gimpel)
    Gossip Girl (Tika Sumpter got paired with both the white guys)

    to be continued...

  • ForeignBlackChick | October 25, 2011 5:32 AMReply

    @eshowoman the cranky film scholar

    *long post ahead*

    I know my facts. BW/WM is the most common IR pairing in the fictional media meaning soaps, films, series.

    What about Shanola Hampton on Shame, That chick on True Blood, Kerry Washington and Sanaa lathan's movies?

    Seen as unrealistic to white men? See this is why western black women piss me off. What kind of 'woe is me' assumptions are you jumping too? They are too ridiculous and not even factual.

    The only two black people on Mad Men where two dark black girls and they were both shown in IRs with the main characters.

    Forget about Zoe Saldana and Rosario dawson. look at Kerry Washinton, Sanaa Lathan and Keke Palmer's IMDB.

    Gabrielle Union is set to star in her 2 ir indie soon, whilst ebing the first of two black girls pursued on Friends.

    When did rachel and whoever ever pursue a black male, and that show was on for 6 years?

    And the token black girls on Boy Meets World, 21 Jump Street, Saved by the Bell, USA High, Sweet Valley High and all those teen 90s shows always had a white guy, while if there was a black guy on the show he would have no one.

    In 'Student Bodies' the main relationship was a wm/bw. And then you can take it back to the 80s with Vivica A Fox(with Jean Claude van damme, Sheba in King Solomon), Lela Rochon in her IRs, Rae Dawn Chong and Sheryl Lee Ralph.

    What about the two black women on Franklin and Bash? the pilot showed one othe main white guys in bed with Garcelle Beauvais whilst her ex on the show(also white) gets pissed at him.

    And teen shows of now... The secret life of an American teenagar... the extremely dark black girl Camilla Winbush has had 3 IRs so far, which all involve kissing and making out.
    The defunct 'Bring it On'... DAna Davis was the mean girl of the school and her boyfriend was the white jock.

    Hellcats had 2 wm/bw pairings.

    Should I get into soaps where black men are hardly even present to give the bw some loving? Guess who the bw get paired with? :)

    Sorry but you unleashed the inner geek in me! i have researched this topic and still am. Too many assumptions and misconceptions.

  • BluTopaz | October 25, 2011 5:29 AMReply

    Also, this IR pairing is a tv trend with almost all people of color, not just Blacks and I've often wondered why. Can't think of the name of the show but Benjamin Bratt's character is paired off with some White woman-who is dating Taye Diggs so they got different flavors in one storyline. There are other examples i can't remember right now, but rarely do you see two attractive, professional people of any non-white color paired together on screen. Maybe it's just these characters are introduced to the current cast, who just all happened to be White.

  • BluTopaz | October 25, 2011 5:19 AMReply

    For the love of pete-Zoe Saldana is NOT MIXED RACE
    For the love of pete-Zoe Saldana is NOT MIXED RACE
    For the love of pete-Zoe Saldana is NOT MIXED RACE
    For the love of pete-Zoe Saldana is NOT MIXED RACE
    For the love of pete-Zoe Saldana is NOT MIXED RACE
    For the love of pete-Zoe Saldana is NOT MIXED RACE
    For the love of pete-Zoe Saldana is NOT MIXED RACE
    For the love of pete-Zoe Saldana is NOT MIXED RACE
    For the love of pete-Zoe Saldana is NOT MIXED RACE
    For the love of pete-Zoe Saldana is NOT MIXED RACE

  • Jam | January 22, 2013 8:20 AM

    You think Zoe Saldana is of one race only? What race would that be? She is not White. She is most assuredly not Black, maybe 50 or 60% Black. Put her next to a real black person, like Obama's father, Idi Amin, or Nat King Cole and you will see the difference. You obviously know nothing about race.

  • Jeneane | October 25, 2011 5:02 AMReply

    Half the time, Hollywood does these pairings just to play with white women's fantasies about black men and put a twist in otherwise whitewashed shows--see Taye Diggs and Blair Underwood in just about every TV role they've had in the 2000s.

    Overall, the interracial love bits are tired, lazy and predictable. It's even trickled down to the major teen shows on cable (peruse Disney and ABC Family). If you haven't the foggiest idea of how to write a believable black love story for your lead actors, then hire some black writers who do.

    (Side note: I could go on a rant about how "Luther" seems to be "Captain-Save-a-Crazy-White---," but I'll leave it alone. Idris needs to find a sister as a love interest ASAP, though.)

  • eshowman, the cranky film scholar | October 25, 2011 3:53 AMReply

    Sorry, ForeignBlackChick but the majority of the black white pairings on TV and in the movies in both Britain and America are black men and non-black women and the few black female interracial relationships are full of drama and also doomed to failure (Ultraviolet, Being Human, Trauma, Parenthood and Hawthorne). I definitely think that IR relationships soften the blow. As Dave Chappelle says nothing says acceptable like a pretty white girl. Having a white man peruse a black woman and have a real romance would turn off white women and be seen as unrealistic to white men and they are the audience that this media is made for.

    Zoe Saldana may consider herself a black Hispanic, but that is not the way she is marketed. She and Rosario Dawson and other mixed race blacks are cast as exotic Others, safe for white male consumption, but rarely for long term romance and marriage.

    The British show Misfits had a black couple and it barely lasted one season before they were paired with white people.The American version of Being Human changed the black woman for white and I a sure the upcoming U.S. version of Misfits will do the same. I was born in England and love British TV, but black women are largely invisible, even with the diversity mandates.

  • stars | October 25, 2011 3:21 AMReply

    Emmanuel, Your assessment is 100% CORRECT.

  • Cherish | October 25, 2011 2:20 AMReply

    Divided and conquered. It's ova.

  • TiredForeignBlackChick | October 25, 2011 1:23 AMReply

    @George

    I thought Grace Park was a love interest to the main lead or whatever? oh well. AW/WM is not shown that much on TV for whatever reason. And it's not due to a lack of asian actresses. But is the reason really white women? Why always white women?

    I have seen that the writers of some of these IRs(even wm/bw) are white women, so not all are biased.

    Please let me add just six more wm/bw, since I can't put all ;)

    Drop Dead Diva (Brandy Norwood ongoing IR).
    She was introduced to the show's creator by the (white) producers of her 90s 'Cinderella special'. It was also an IR by the way, with an Asian prince. His parents were played by Whoopi Goldberg and some white guy.

    Anyways, Brandy on Drop dead Diva, where she was introduced to disrupt Parker and Kim (much like Nicole Beharie's character is on The Good Wife to disrupt a white guy's sex life ;) ):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BalFtjA_d68

    More:

    Rookie Blue (Enuka Okuma ongoing IR)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LpK5RTsCC8

    ER (Thandie Newton IR). John Carter travels to Africa and falls for an African nurse, she ends up pregnant.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42c4pWNYa74

    Franklin and Bash (Garcelle Beauvais ongoing IR). [Show also has Dana Davis, who was in an IR with the high school jock on ABC's 10 Things About You series.]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4AnDL3w-qU&feature=channel_video_title

    Castle (Tamala Jones ongoing IR)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEo8oGsiGFM&feature=channel_video_title


    I think I'll stop there. IR is everywhere. Nothing wrong with that except that it's so obviously slanted towards black women/white men, as Tambay and AccidentalVisitor once discussed on this website.

    Anyways whatever.

  • George | October 25, 2011 1:11 AMReply

    British shows are far ahead of the US shows. In the US shows most prominent interracial couples have been minority interracial couples which more palatable for the racist white audience, particularly in the south. They just dont want white people engaging in interracial dating or marriages. That is why even in Hawaii Five 0, based in Hawaii, where white-IR couples have never been an issue, they had to find a person with some Asian blood to sell as the Asian love interest for Kelly Chin Ho (Daniel Kim) and despite a proliferation of AWWM couples in the country, they will never allow Grace Park (Kono) to be a love interest of any white males on the show. The racist white women among us will tune it off and the ratings will fall!

  • angel | October 25, 2011 1:03 AMReply

    the truth is networks don't want advertisers to think the show is for a black Audience, so they surround the lead with white folks. Because according to them white people don't care about black characters.

  • JMac | October 24, 2011 12:35 PMReply

    @politicallyincorrect

    Is it the advertisers being racist or the networks themselves? I'm wiling to bet advertisers gladly paid top dollar to air commercials during the Cosby Show or even Hangin' with Mr. Cooper. I still see commercials with black families on major networks during primetime. Seems to be the writers/producers/showrunners/network executives who are afraid too many ethnic people turn away whites. If they're paying one actor almost 2 mil per episode it's not hard to see why they let such a fear control them.

    @ Charles

    Not sure I would list white male writer's being uncomfortable writing black couples as a factor. How many white male writers write female predominant shows and (now) latina predominant shows - too f'ing many. Still, as Emmanuel pointed out race isn't even written as a factor in these scripts. It's literally as if they write the script w/ no racial connotation and say hey, we could put a black chick/guy here and they don't change anything afterwards to use or exploit the new racial dynamics. In that situation, they could hire two blacks (or asians or latinos) to fill the lead roles and go straight into production. But they don't.

    Rereading the post again, those are really good questions. Additionally, does IR somehow legitimize or raise the believability factor that the black person is truly competent/ intelligent/fair-minded/successful because whites don't marry stupid broke biased black people? (Ha) Has there ever been a show where a black person is an incompetent lower class jackass married to a different race- and it wasn't a comedy? I can only think of the Parenthood movie but that was comedy-drama and we never saw the black mother of the biracial kid. Haven't seen the tv version but it sounds cleaned up.

  • ForeignBlackChick | October 24, 2011 12:11 PMReply

    Although the article raises some good questions, I've given up on figuring 'white people' out. Perhaps these relationships are a fantasy of the person writing them?

    They want to imagine themselves with Naomie Harris or Nicole Beharie, so they write accordingly?

    Could be as simple as that. I know that's how I write my couples. Sort of like harmless vicarious living :)

  • ForeignBlackChick | October 24, 2011 12:05 PMReply

    On American TV I see as if the most common IR pairing is black WOMAN white MAN.

    Especially during the 90s.

    But black women are often tokens not leads(unlike their male counterparts) so the IR relationships they have are less noticeable/pronounced, but much more in number.

    Look closely.

  • Kumar | October 24, 2011 12:00 PMReply

    @Carlton RIP Eggs.

  • Carlton Jordan | October 24, 2011 11:41 AMReply

    Good post. The last time i saw a good pairing was on True Blood....and of course that didn't last.

  • urbanauteur | October 24, 2011 11:36 AMReply

    Its nothing more but multi-A-culturalization in the context of this so-call post racial matrix, Hollywhite once again, usurp OUR culture and feed the unsuspecting masses novacaine for the brain.
    where's Cristo Grease AL Sharpton's pork chop nationalist take on this?

  • biwtican | October 24, 2011 11:33 AMReply

    it is a part of the concept of racial cleaning used in some countries, (Brazil, Argentina, etc.) to remove the dark skinned people from the general population. television and film teache what is normal and ideal. it teaches that 2 black people is generally a failed relationship. you have a better chance at success if the colors are mixed. I hope my people don't destroy themselves chasing the false promises of the decendents of the former slave masters.

  • illthoughts | October 24, 2011 10:26 AMReply

    Eriq La Salle was complaining about this long ago when he was a cast member of ER. Will Smith too when he made HITCH. Hollywood thinking that a black couple would automatically make white viewers think that that movie is not for me. The best romantic comedy of all time is COMING to AMERICA but doubt if it's even on a white person's top ten. LOVE and BASKETBALL another great romance movie but most white people have never heard of it. These networks break two legs with one bat by having a lead of color and they thinki they're being risque by having an interracial couple.

  • politicallyincorrect | October 24, 2011 9:13 AMReply

    Two black leads/more than two blacks in minor roles = urban which = black audience only.

    Which equals less advertising dollars. Call these advertisers out on their racism for once

  • Moionfire | May 29, 2012 7:18 AM

    This is a late response, but you are right. Even when a black cast show gets high ratings, the advertisers give a lower spot rate. Many of the black shows on the now defunct UPN actually had higher ratings than the white replacements. However the advertisers paid more per 30 second ad.

  • Monique | October 24, 2011 8:29 AMReply

    Well, I have to say, I'm all over the place with this...I have no issue with interracial pairings (obviously) on the small or big screen but I do take issue with trends and/or things being done out of fear. If interracial pairings exist on tv solely because IR "is the new black" as Cynthia stated or execs fear black women and men (or ethnic couples in general) don't sell to the overall public...that's a MAJOR problem.

    In my opinion, what rests at the heart of this topic is story. Without a good story nothing that's put on the screen (big or small), white, black green or purple will be worthwhile. If we don't have diversity, as in showing all forms of love on the television, we risk an even bigger problem = negative social conditioning. Artists should be free to write and film what they like, but it is up to producers and these execs to not only be discerning in what they put out to the public but also to diversify. It's not about color, it's about what you are saying behind the color or what you are using the color to say.

    I dunno if that makes sense. I'm not for censoring art but I'm also not for using art to mislead.

  • reg | October 24, 2011 8:23 AMReply

    i think your theory certainly part of the story, but i don't think it's the only thing going on. i imagine that just as much as they may be making the blk lead "safe" for general (ie, white) consumption, they might also see themselves as taking something of a risk, of crossing an old taboo line, showing something slightly titillating to middle-brow sensibility. not too far from the same itch that is scratched by viewing interracial porn (to make perhaps too fine a point). just as they're showing their egalitarianism by casting a blk actor, they also get to "play in the dark" without quite "going over to the darkside". i also suspect that they might feel that an all-blk couple is just "boring", ie, not as much wattage as a mixed couple: it's an unfortunate fact of life that few blk actresses command the attention from mainstream audiences that wht ones do. i'm also wondering about the difference in this phenomenon between dramas and comedies: the huxtables vs. "the undercovers". all of the shows you mention are dramas, most of the same "race" couples i can think of are comedies. hmmmm.

  • Charles Judson | October 24, 2011 8:19 AMReply

    I'd say it's a combination of factors. The primary one of course being that those who are doing the casting are currently much more comfortable with hedging their financial bets by not banking on two Black leads.

    I'd also lay blame on the lack of roles that have allowed both leads to build any cred. It's difficult to go bat to for an actor who has no track record either as a powerhouse actor, as a draw or even has some name recognition. However, that leads to the question of how do they create that resume if no one ever gives them a chance? This goes back to the posts that S&A has done on how old the current crop of bankable and or established Black Male (and Female) actors are. Who could you cast opposite Zoe Saldana who is her age and audiences would recognize as an example? She's ONLY 33. It's not like she's 22 or 65. At her age, you should be able to name at least 5 cats without even thinking.

    You also can't ignore a harsh truth that for many audiences, an all black cast codes as only for Black audiences. Which is something almost all films and shows of color face, be they headed by Asian or Latino/Hispanic casts. But, in this case I'd say that the marketing teams need to do a better job to combat this. No one watches a commercial and says hey, that all black family is drinking milk, maybe it's only for Negroes.

    Lastly, it can't be ignored that for many writers, the concept of a Black couple in a relationship is not something they ever consider, or, even feel comfortable writing about. It's the equivalent of male writers who avoid writing women because they don't think they can do it, or even worse, have an on going blindness to it.

    One aspect that can't be ignored though, is how often in some of these interracial TV relationships, the characters are alike in temperament, drive and/or profession. Which ironically, mirrors real life. Many of my friends are engineers and once they left GA Tech, many of them found dating hard because they'd find well paying jobs in Indiana or some small town in Alabama, and they'd be the lone person of color, or the lone person of color in a position of authority.

    This leads me to wonder, Hollywood being what it is, if that's not what the writers are unconsciously tapping into. Especially White writers, as they maybe in situations where the only people of color they run into constantly are often outnumbered by White folks. While we're often used to being in rooms that are all Black, or are all White except for us, it's doubtful a White middle aged showrunner can count on their hand more than a few times he or she has been the only White person in the room, and done it on a purely social level.

  • Donnie Leapheart | October 24, 2011 8:06 AMReply

    Even with a bi-racial president, the fact that the topic of interracial pairings still bothers so many people in this country is perplexing. I see people get up-in-arms by this even when the actors in question are bi-racial themselves. LOL.

  • JMac | October 24, 2011 8:01 AMReply

    I've always said that it's just a way for tv execs to appear to be forward thinking when they really just don't want to have more than one black lead in a show or having too many black people in a show.

    Two black leads/more than two blacks in minor roles = urban which = black audience only.

    Although in a few cases, I think it's done just to be different. I put Grey's Anatomy in that bucket.

    Interesting theory about making black men look less dangerous. Watched PBS Mystery last night with Zawe in a supporting role as the secretary. She doesn't soften Jason (or hasn't so far) but guess she would if she was more significant. Instead they're going with the daughter, ex-wife, screwed up childhood, depression angle. Regardless of race, they need to make hard-nosed investigator characters more likable and sympathetic. Perhaps in your above examples, it's more about being lazy or wanting to focus more on the plot than spend too much time inventing new characters and background stories to forge a connection between the main character and the audience.

  • Cynthia | October 24, 2011 7:33 AMReply

    You hit the nail on the head Emmanuel with your assessment. It's become the "new black" for mainstream television in my opinion.

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