Lenny Henry's Comments on Diversity in TV Comedy

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T.W.

  • Tuesday 18th March 2014, 6:31pm [Edited]
  • England
  • 15,786 posts

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/mar/18/lenny-henry-black-asian-television

Lenny undoubtedly (and yet again) makes a valid point.

Talking comedy specifically (though it often can apply to drama), the perennial problem is, as I see it, that black and Asian actors/characters are far too often only really of prominence in 'ethnic' shows. If an actor is black/Asian/other minority, it seems OK to cast them in an 'ethnic' show - such as Citizen Khan, but in a 'white' show, non-white actors are rarely cast solely on their ability.

Why shouldn't a black/Asian/other actor just be cast on the basis of their suitability for a role? Maybe the best example of this in recent years is Paterson Joseph's brilliant performance as Johnson in Peep Show. This genius of this character has nothing to do with the fact that he is portrayed by a black actor.

This should be the way forward really. Most deliberately 'ethnic' sitcoms - although rare - often seem handicapped by being written by and for an ethnic audience. Of course, there are loads and loads of bad/mediocre 'all white' sitcoms.

The way forward lies not in giving non-whites more of their own 'token' sitcoms, but to get producers/commissioners to not be so afraid of casting non-whites in sitcoms where the actor's ethnicity is not of major relevancy to the character they're playing. Some of this responsibility lies with writers, of course, specifically not writing 'token' non-white characters and then loading those characters with stereotypical ethnic traits/concerns.

It seems rather weird that this situation still exists in 21st Century British TV, but unfortunately it does.

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Renegade Carpark

  • Wednesday 19th March 2014, 3:16pm [Edited]
  • England
  • 11,291 posts

Though I agree with Britain's favourite hotel room salesman, I see two massive obstacles for achieving a true representation -

1) The entertainment industry is run by a classist, elitist, nepotistic minority who won't allow working class white people, never mind BAMEs, getting anywhere near their lucrative pots of gold.

2) Most of our shitter then shit drama output is based in the past and really anything set before the Windrush is going to be honkey town. Where the wheels start to fall off is when ethnic minorities are crammed into historical dramas in the most tokenistic and confounding of ways - the recent Musketeers and their Asian D'artagnan and half aboriginal Porthos. (they're probably not those ethnicities, but that's what it looked like to me)

One of the strangest things being lobbied around by the creator of the condensed milk sandwich, is that black British actors are having to go to America to find fame by portraying black Americans. Even though there is a bigger racial divide in the USA, black people there have risen to positions of power within politics and government - so it's not a stretch to have a black chief of police, lawyer or judge regularly represented on television next to the usual drug dealer roles.

Unfortunately, I can't see the situation changing on UK television until BAMEs in the UK similarly rise to positions of power and authority and demand representation.

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MTpromises

  • Thursday 20th March 2014, 7:26pm
  • New York, United States
  • 365 posts

Historical dramas aren't history. Having people of colour playing historically white people would be no more false than inventing dialogue or changing events to be "dramatically compelling".

I still think the UK may be in the denial phase of dealing with racial problems.

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Renegade Carpark

  • Thursday 20th March 2014, 7:52pm
  • England
  • 11,291 posts
Quote: MTpromises @ 20th March 2014, 7:26 PM GMT

Historical dramas aren't history.


You mean Braveheart isn't historically accurate? Anything that is blatantly idiosyncratic will pull you out of the story and destroy any semblance of disbelief.

But you're right, it's definitely the UK, so you'll appreciate my remake of 12 Years A Slave, set in Africa, showing black slave owners mistreating their white captives.

Unimpressed

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Oldrocker

  • Friday 21st March 2014, 12:28am
  • Near my beloved Black Country in Wolverhampton, England
  • 13,416 posts
Quote: Renegade Carpark @ 20th March 2014, 7:52 PM GMT

You mean Braveheart isn't historically accurate? Anything that is blatantly idiosyncratic will pull you out of the story and destroy any semblance of disbelief.

But you're right, it's definitely the UK, so you'll appreciate my remake of 12 Years A Slave, set in Africa, showing black slave owners mistreating their white captives.

Unimpressed

:)

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Nogget

  • Friday 21st March 2014, 5:17am
  • England
  • 6,620 posts

It is interesting that society says that if you complain about there being blacks in Merlin, you're a racist, but if you don't complain about there being whites in the Black and White Minstrels, you're also a racist.

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Judgement Dave

  • Friday 21st March 2014, 11:13am
  • Manchester, England
  • 498 posts

Ashley Banjo already gets bloody everywhere.

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MTpromises

  • Saturday 22nd March 2014, 7:10pm
  • New York, United States
  • 365 posts
Quote: Renegade Carpark @ 20th March 2014, 7:52 PM GMT

You mean Braveheart isn't historically accurate? Anything that is blatantly idiosyncratic will pull you out of the story and destroy any semblance of disbelief.


One would have to have knowledge of history to know something has been changed... so we're safe there. Youth TV (at least in the US) is so diversified I'd imagine future generations will find all white casts jarring regardless of historical accuracy.

If you're really worried about this type of thing, you can relax. People have been pushing for diversity on TV in America since the 70's and 40 years later most things are still predominantly white.

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Nil Putters

  • Saturday 22nd March 2014, 8:36pm
  • A galaxy far, far away or, England
  • 28,689 posts

Shouldn't that be a small "d"?

Or are we talking about those dull street dancers?

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Marc P

  • Saturday 22nd March 2014, 9:25pm
  • England
  • 17,698 posts
Quote: MTpromises @ 22nd March 2014, 7:10 PM GMT

you can relax.


Phew!

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Renegade Carpark

  • Sunday 23rd March 2014, 11:06am
  • England
  • 11,291 posts
Quote: MTpromises @ 22nd March 2014, 7:10 PM GMT

One would have to have knowledge of history to know something has been changed...

If you're really worried about this type of thing


The problem with changing history to suit a revisionist agenda is that you are being disingenuous about the suffering of various ethnic minorities at the hands of their oppressors.

The only thing I'm 'really worried about' is the total distortion and misrepresentation of the past to suit the whimsical needs of the present. Having a multi-ethnic Continental Congress signing the Declaration of Independence is just as absurd as having all black Nazis gassing South American Buddhists in World War 2.

As much as Americans want to pretend that the Thirteenth Amendment never existed or that the French were a dominant force in the US Revolutionary War, these events did happen.

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Alfred J Kipper

  • Sunday 23rd March 2014, 11:53am [Edited]
  • Aldershot, England
  • 6,271 posts

Am I the only one to think the complaining is a bit rich? You want a fairer reflection of your presence on British TV then have a lot less kids than you do. Soon enough you'll get the TV balance looking about right.

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zooo

  • Sunday 23rd March 2014, 11:55am
  • United Kingdom
  • 69,195 posts

Who are you talking about?

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Alfred J Kipper

  • Sunday 23rd March 2014, 12:39pm [Edited]
  • Aldershot, England
  • 6,271 posts

Just putting a different view to the one posited by Lenny's ego. He is a good actor because he's certainly not someone who's been affected by what he's campaigning about.

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Alfred J Kipper

  • Sunday 23rd March 2014, 12:58pm [Edited]
  • Aldershot, England
  • 6,271 posts
Quote: Renegade Carpark @ 19th March 2014, 3:16 PM GMT

Though I agree with Britain's favourite hotel room salesman, I see two massive obstacles for achieving a true representation -

1) The entertainment industry is run by a classist, elitist, nepotistic minority who won't allow working class white people, never mind BAMEs, getting anywhere near their lucrative pots of gold.


Broadly right, just as it in banks and multinational business, the greedy bastards don't want any other types than their own to share profits with or work with.

If some peeved Guardian backed campaign forces the TV industry to change its whole structure and practices by some PC borne law then they will have to pass that same law onto the banks, big business, the police and of course the bar and circuit of judges. Fair is fair, eh.