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Diversity in Media: Result of Scandal’s Success

Of the 54 new shows this fall airing on the Big 4 and the CW, 26% will have nonwhite leads. Of those, six leads are black women which is a pretty big deal considering last year the only black woman lead was Kerry Washington in Scandal. It’s obvious that Scandal’s success has led to broadcasting companies focusing on the fact that viewers want to see themselves.

The following are all nonwhite lead’s for the fall (either the main character of the show, or the secondary main character.)

A | between names means they are on the same show;

  • ABC: Cristela Alonzo, Alana de la Garza, Karen David, Viola Davis|Aja Naomi King, and John Cho.
  • CBS: Elyes Gabel|Jadyn Wong and Maggie Q. (Halle Berry will also lead in Extant which is a summer show.)
  • FOX: Taraji P. Henson|Terrence Howard, Octavia Spencer, and Rohit Kumbhani.
  • NBC: Alfre Woodard and Craig Robinson.
  • CW: Candice Patton and Gina Rodriguez.

Factor in the casts of Blackish, Empire, Cristela, Fresh off the Boat, and Jane the Virgin, that’s five shows with nonwhite families. I did not count all the supporting actors and it will be interesting to see the total percentages when GLAAD puts out their media report next year.

I mentioned earlier that broadcasting companies are paying attention to Scandal’s success. ABC definitely wants to capitalize on this and their programming chief Paul Lee said so during Upfronts last week. He believes that ABC will now “reflect the new face of America” as Scandal and Modern Family both “represent diversity — and both really resonated with the country.”

ABC now has Blackish, Cristela, and Fresh off the Boat which all have to do with the character’s experiences as nonwhite people. As an Asian, I’m hopeful for the latter as it is about  a Taiwanese-American family in the 90s.

Even so ABC then has seven shows that have diverse casts and fit Lee’s placement of shows with “cultural diversity.”

Modern Family and Scandal of course will continue to air. Shonda Rhimes’ third show airing in the fall, How to Get Away With Murder has three nonwhite leads. (This is the second time Rhimes has had three shows airing at one time. With her contract extension to 2018, we’ll be treated to her brand of outrageous drama for a long time to come. ABC at least will have diverse shows until then and most likely after.)

In fact from the promo it looks like Connor may be gay, bi, or maybe just uses sex to get information. If Connor isn’t straight, that will be interesting to watch. (Plus I’m hoping by cultural diversity the shows based around minorities will also have non-straight characters as well.)

Lastly Selfie, a modern My Fair Lady is led by John Cho and has two other black cast members as well.

Time will tell how the comedies do especially as they all have terrible titles. The trailer for Cristela has been getting some flak for being not very funny. I hope that all of these shows are successful and good TV. If they succeed then next year we may see the number of nonwhite leads go up. If they don’t succeed broadcasters may choose to not invest in diverse shows in the future. 26% is a huge increase. Maybe a couple of years from now we’ll see that 50% of shows will have nonwhite leads and cast.

Seher
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Seher obsesses over show ratings and usually writes about media representation issues. Otherwise, she's reading away for her graduate program in anthropology.

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