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Friday, January 3, 2014

Kerry Washington is Every (black) Woman

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“But Hollywood is about more than just entertainment and sales. Its images also reflect back to the people a sense of who they are, who they aren’t, and who they hope to be, thereby influencing the consumer and other choices we make in our increasingly mediated society. In this sense, Hollywood images work both to reflect and shape the world around us.” - Ralph J Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA
Emmy nominated and Christle approved actor Kerry Washington hosted the November 2nd SNL episode, making Washington the ninth black female to host a show in SNL’s 38 years. I don't consider myself a huge SNL fan, but I did make an effort to watch some of the skits from this episode. And wow - SNL tackled their diversity problem head on from the first skit. Back in October, SNL cast member Kenan Thompson told TVGuide that SNL producers haven' found black female talent "that are ready." SNL's creator and executive producer, Lorne Michaels, said to expect one - two black female cast additions in January. Congrats to these women, but SNL can't claim to be a diverse show yet. Ladies and gents, behold … tokenism.

I'm not implying that these women aren't talented, but I am arguing that their addition to the SNL cast comes as a response to the diversity criticism SNL has faced recently. If Michaels truly believed in the power of a diversity, why haven't we seen a history of a diverse cast in SNL over the past years? A special shootout to my friend Myra (@kaminaay) for reminding me that the argument for a diverse entertainment industry spans beyond the lack of black female actors in mainstream television. People of color and other marginalized groups have been historically been left out of the acting, writing, directing and producing pool.

This leaves people asking one of life's biggest question - so what?

My answer: diversity makes life better (and is present in everyday life)

I believe that diverse perspectives and backgrounds make for rich stories. Screenwriter Shonda Rhimes is a testament that diverse casts can be successful (Grey's Anatomy and Scandal anyone?). PS - diversity can also help your bottom line.  UCLA's Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies recently found that diverse casts and writers attract more television viewers. My bottom line? Representation is important and I might scream if I see Kenan Thompson play another black woman. 

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