Last night at my friend Dave’s I watched the Fox hit Prison Break and was stunned to find out that there were no black guys in the prison. Well a couple maybe. In order to glamorize its grim setting and avoid hairy racial politics, Fox chose to whitefy the prison. Unrealistically, of course. Black actors should be pissed.
The larger point is that the only way blacks seem to make it on television as an ensemble is playing sports or on a comedy. The great dramas that have gripped television culture in the last ten years are white. The HBO all-you-can-eat tables of American life, Six Feet Under, Sopranos, Big Love, Deadwood and so on, are white. I guess only white people have dark currents and struggles in their lives. Or more likely, we’re scared of those currents, are conflicted about blacks and crime. I’m told that Deadwood creator David Milch wanted to do a 60s black radical drama, which given his track record would surely be startling and loving and black to the eyeballs, but I’m still waiting.
I guess the old racist line, Darkies just like to dance and sing, is still alive. Now they just like to play ball and make jokes.