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Representation of Ethnicity

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Miss N Phillips

on 24 April 2016

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Transcript of Representation of Ethnicity

MS1: Representation of ethnicity
A brief history of Representation of ethnicity in tv drama - 1930's to 2012
Lesson Aims

To be comfortable in understanding what you should be looking out for when considering how ethnicity is represented in the media.

To develop understanding of how to make 'Points' in representation essays, and how to support them.

Lesson outcomes
To have developed skills to
conduct your own analysis
in this area.
Representations during the 1930s - 50s
dramas featured extreme racial catagories. Afro americans and other ethnic groups marginalized in first drama serials
Rising damp ('74)
- ethnic representations in TV drama often narrow, acting simply as the comedian of the show or as a 'token' cast member, alongside the white lead character.

The Fosters ('76)
, first predominantly black British television situation comedy.

Roots ('77)
Landmark period drama about slaves broadcast in the US.
The success of Roots had lasting impact on the television industry. The show defied industry conventions about black-oriented programming: executives simply had not expected that a show with black heroes and white villains could attract such huge audiences.
1988 Desmonds (C4).
Based in a barber shop. Though not the first black (or predominantly black) Bitish tv situation comedy, it was the first to be set mainly in the workplace that provided an insight on black family life different to those seen before on British TV. The characters had aspirations and were socially mobile. The vast majority of the crew were also black.
1936 - 54
The early development of TV drama

1930s - 40s - emergence of The Soap Opera
on TV. Soap and certal companies sponsored serial dramas on radio that hooked huge numbers of housewives in the US. When TV came, these serial dramas easily transferred.
The Guiding Light
has been going for over 70 years in the US and is the longest running soap in the world.
Shift from live to pre recorded TV drama
1957 -
Emergency Ward 10
first episode, the first medical drama. Attracted controversy for its portrayal of an interracial relationship, showing the first kiss on television between black and white actors in July 1964.
1960 - The first episode of
Coronation Street
is shown on ITV, one of the first British kitchen sink dramas (these tend towards realism). The social issues and dramas faced by ordinary people has always been the mainstay of soap operas. This places them within the realist approach to narrative. People identify with the characters.
1955 - 79
Popular drama and social realism
(kitchen sink dramas)

1980 - 90
C4, TV drama and Thatcherism

1990 - 2012
Reinventing TV Drama

1968 - Star Trek
The first kiss between a white man and a black woman on US television between Lieutenant Uhura and Captain Kirk. Though they didn't physically touch lips, the actors were told to simply feign the act.
1950 - live TV Drama
Nineteen Eighty Four
broadcast on the BBC.
Development of British Television's 'Multicultural' agenda.
Black communities and organisations such as CARM began to express their dissatisfaction with 'public service broadcasting', objecting to poor representation and a lack of access to the means of media production.
Establishment of the London Minorities Unit (London Weekend Television), the African Caribbean Programmes Unit and the Asian Programmes Unit (the BBC, both of which were replaced by the Multicultural Programmes Department in 1992).
1983 - first black
character appears on
Coronation street
Shirley Armitage
2003 - Eastenders Asian family, The Ferreiras arrive. Criticised as boring and unrealistic.

2007 - another Asian family, the Massoods arive on the square, with a much less safe storyline - with the elder son Syed embarking on a gay affair. According to Barb, Eastenders is the third most popular series amoung ethnic minorities.
1998 - first asian family appears on coronation street (the Desai family)
Soaps have always dealt with social issues but in the 80s they became more overt about publicising their concern for social problems that represented more than the plight of individual characters and dealt with the public sphere rather than the personal. They were felt to have responsibility for how they handled sensitive issues such as representation of minority groups. However, producers found it hard to integrate diverse characters into the dominant white family narrative underpinning the soap:

"On the on hand, if their gay and black characters were integrated into the community, treated positively and became familiar and well loved, the soaps were likely to be accused of presenting a utopia or positive images in which the implications of gay and racial differences were ignored; on the other hand, if gay and black characters were treated as different, the soaps stood to be accused of marginalizing them, or making them exceptional and placing them outside the norm." (Christine Geraghty, quoted in Popular Media Culture."

Eastenders is the one clear exception here. Recently it has introduced a number of new characters from different ethnic minority backgrounds. They are neither 'token' (merely there to fill an obvious gap) nor margianalised, but are well rounded, complex personalities in their own right.
1982 - Launch of Channel 4
with its minority interest remit, providing hope for representations and media practitioners outside the usual mould of white, middle class male.

The key thing about this time was the plethora of new channels - cable, sky, BBC3, ITV2 and so on. More channels means more people chasing audiences and advertisers. This leads to the targeting of more niche audiences (like Dave, Movies for Men etc), rather than the one size fits all Soap opera.This opened up the door for content and experimentation in TV drama.
Progressive attitudes?
March 2011 - Midsomer Murder co-creator has to resign his post after suggesting there was no place in Midsomer for ethnic minorities, describing the drama as the "last bastion of Englishness"
2002 - The Wire is broadcast in US in, later broadcast on BBC2 in 2009 after showing first on uk cable. Acclaimed for its realistic portrayal of urban life, its literary ambitions, and its uncommonly deep exploration of sociopolitical themes. Representation of ethnicity is implicit, not explicit.
Progressive attitudes?
2009 - report into cultural stereotypes on TV concluded that shows like The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing represented the UK's diverse ethnic mix more than British soaps
2011 - first ever South Asian family move into Neighbour's Ramsey Street. Actor Sachin Joab says the family were written in without resorting to "cheesy stereotypes."
British soaps - 80s to 2012
1985 - Eastenders
- First episode launched.
- It was intended to demonstrate the BBC's ability to produce popular programming.
- Featured Turkish family in first episode and Asian families in its first year.
2009 - EastEnders airs its first episode featuring an entirely black cast in its 23-year history
Just as with
representation of gender, we
can't judge how progressive representations of ethnicity are unless we understand how
narrowly defined
they used to be. Since case study 1 is a soap opera - Hotel Babylon - today's lesson begins with a short history of representation of ethnicity in TV Drama

Ethnicity, Race, Nationality - what's the difference?

Race refers to your biologically engineered features. It can include skin color, skin tone, eye and hair color. Ethnicity on the other hand, does not always describe colour. Ethnicity however, is not just about race. It is about tradition, learned behavior and customs. E.g. learning where you come from (generations of your family), and celebrating the traditions and ideas that are part of that region.

Links: The film industry.
The majority of films that make it onto the big screen in the UK are made in Hollywood. How diverse are the films, and how might this impact?


Links: The Games Industry
Ethnically diverse?
Full transcript