Non-Whites Needed

The head of CBS Entertainment division, Glenn Geller, recently announced that the network was interested in expanding diversity in its programming including non-white characters who would be shows’ main characters. During an interview after his announcement, Geller gave an example: The character of Nancy Drew in the planned reboot of the Nancy Drew series won’t be white. There was no word as to what color she would be, just that the idea of diversity will be applied to the young detective. The idea of applying diversity to new shows, particularly those which are retooled from past series, is increasingly talked about. In the series Elementary, based on Sherlock Holmes, John Watson is not only a woman, Joan, it is Lucy Liu. Not long ago a version of the musical Annie cast Annie with a young black actress and in the projected Fantastic Four reboot Michael B Jordan, who is black, is cast as Johnny Storm. Lofty as it all sounds, the move towards diversity is not, however, propelled by sensitivity to race relations, rather it is propelled by advertising and the nature of the sought after audiences. As the population is increasingly diverse and advertisers are interested in reaching as many people as possible, it is a move that is deemed necessary. It is a motivation which is in many ways regrettable, but we shouldn’t underestimate the power of this approach in terms of promoting and hopefully enlarging the role of diversity. It will put people of color in starring roles, and in the same way that years ago the Huxtable family made headway toward accepting a black family as being like any other, perhaps even priming people for accepting the Obama family, black and brown main characters will continue removing obstacles and maybe by the time the next round of awards come around, the slate itself will be diverse. Nancy drew casting may be a small step and one derived from the profit motive but is nevertheless one to take us in the right direction. So if you are a consumer of any of those programs, or of the products they advertise, particularly if you are not white, remember networks and advertisers want you—correction, they need you.