A White Actress Said That Her Sitcom Has To “Address Race” And I Don’t Know What That Means
I swear I was minding my own business — and scrolling through the shitfest of the morning when I happened upon a tweet that highlighted an article in Variety— featuring the cast of the newly revived Will & Grace.
Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally dutifully followed their show’s producers to PaleyFest LA for a panel discussion on how awesome it is to be back in action — and what the forecast is for upcoming seasons now that we have a shitty president presiding over a shittier climate.
I did watch Will & Grace back in the day although I wasn’t consistent with my viewing and even though I found it mostly funny — there was the obvious lack of diversity that plagued almost all of the popular shows of that era.
It was a White White World!
And that was illustrated in abundance when the most beloved staple — Friends — had the audacity to feature a group of White people living in New York City with no evidence of what it really means to dwell in the most diverse hub in the nation. The coffee shop that served as the neighborhood hangout barely showcased people of color. And of course the friends on Friends only had White friends —and once in a blue moon — they ventured into unfamiliar territory — which resulted in collisions with minorities.
Minorities was the word that dominated that circuit — a time when shows like Mad About You, Friends, Will & Grace and Sex and the City were all the rage — and the likelihood of diversity ever becoming “a thing” was zero to none. There was no incentive to include minorities when the majority ruled both onscreen and off. Sitcoms were enjoying the benefits of exclusion without the accountability or responsibility that should’ve attacked that level of gross negligence.
I was a fan of Sex and the City — so much so that I’m able to tell you exactly which episodes featured Black talent and how long they lasted. As you can imagine — those instances didn’t happen enough to justify the fact that these women were social butterflies — living in a City that doesn’t lack much in the variety department. And yet — Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte hardly dated any men of color or interacted with women of color.
But — that was then and this is now.
Now — the word — minorities has been replaced with diversity.
Now — cable giants like HBO are ready and willing to go from a show that only had White women to shows that only have Black women. Although to be fair the cabler did dip into the pond of many colors before diversity became the mandate with the experimental Jill Scott vehicle — The №1 Ladies’ Detective Agency — which nobody saw.
In any case — witnessing this intense urgency to devour the gains from the trendiness of inclusion is disarmingly gross.
I can still recall how Oprah invited the cast of Friends to her daytime show to bid them farewell and congratulate them on their very last season — and wondering why the fuck she would do something like that. This was a show that spent a decade catering to White people — but then it hit me that her own show also catered to White people. So — she was basically giving the masses what they wanted and hoping to survive long enough to see her own people get their due so she could be part of that revolution.
I’m not going off a tangent — I’m just merely painting a picture from the past so that you can be just as disgusted with the present as I am.
For me — this new era of awakening is not only bizarre — but it’s also annoying as fuck. Not only do we have to contend with movie studios plotting how to exploit futuristic African countries — but we also have to behold the “born again” dispositions of green-eyed producers who are willing to include people of color if it means mass audiences and box office victories.
Then you have the all-White sitcoms from the time when minorities were too minor to include — making their heralded comebacks with the intention to anoint their relevance with the word that they finally realize has an actual definition.
That probably explains why a White actress casually shares her hopes for her show’s survival by promising that “race” will be addressed accordingly.
That actress is the very funny Megan Mullally who plays the even funnier Karen on Will & Grace — the NBC show that was a hit then and is even more so now — which is the reason why the cast and producers have been making the rounds to convince fans that their viability isn’t a hoax.
Mullally told the audience at PaleyFest that her show will always be “entertaining first” but next season there will be every attempt to “address race a little bit more than we do.”
That brings me back to that morning tweet and the person who tweeted it was just as confused and irritated as I was when I finally read Mullally’s comment.
How does one go about “addressing” something that shouldn’t have to be addressed? Why do the producers of a “groundbreaking” show like Will & Grace with a cast of characters that dwell in New York City — have to make the conscious decision to “address race” when they chose an iconic melting pot as the backdrop of their masterpiece?
Mullally probably meant well and truly believed that her contribution to the narrative of diversity would validate her “wokeness” and make up for all the seasons past when she wasn’t at all interested in “addressing race” since we were still stuck with the word — minorities.
In all honesty — I will never know what Mullally meant — but I do comprehend how what she said emphasizes all the reasons why I hate how White people in the industry are shamelessly hijacking what they perceive as the “trend” that’s lasting longer than anticipated.
They’re not complaining — in fact they’re relishing it because it gives them the opportunity to comfortably incorporate a doctrine that they avoided like the plague — until it was unfashionable to do so. Suddenly it makes sense to only cast Black women in a superhero flick — or produce racially-motivated films or re-write all-White sitcoms so they reflect the current climate — that is now finally “addressing race” like never before.
To a White actress — addressing race is basically paying homage to people of color — who need to be addressed before we go back to being invisible again. This is necessary since our lives only matter when White people are paying attention — and are willing to acknowledge that a dog dying during a flight home can’t compare to the shooting death of a twelve-year-old Black boy.
I vote that Will & Grace refrain from the whole “race thing” and stick to the White world that they know and love.
It worked for Girls — and in all honesty I prefer the days of old when White people in positions of power refused to use their influence to celebrate the beauty of diversity. It was cruel — but at least it was honest.
The fakery of today is destructive and insulting and it also reveals why a White actress thinks that race is an issue that has to be addressed.
What does that even mean?