BY MELODY GAUS
When I was a kid growing up in the 1990s and 2000s, there were a lot of shows on television; “Friends,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “The Fairly Odd Parents” and “7th Heaven.”
While these shows were fine, they were all very limited in diversity, something I feel resulted in my peers and I having little exposure to people different from me.
Fortunately, though, in the past few years cable and network television have been featuring more characters from different races, ethnicities and backgrounds, which have broadened my world view, helping me to see how people from different backgrounds live, and helping others identify with characters in ways they previously could not.
This is the era where everyone can see themselves represented on T.V.
Here are five shows that best represent this trend.
- The Wire (HBO): The setting of “The Wire” is not too far from us Sea Gulls, in Baltimore. At first the show was worked to be a police drama, creator David Simon said. However, Burns said he saw what he perceived to be potential problems with police in Baltimore, and as a result wrote what became “The Wire.” The show tackles many themes including poverty, the drug trade and Baltimore’s school system. “The Wire” is also known for using Baltimore locals, many of whom are African-American, in contrast to big-name stars. This results in a greater authenticity and feels less forced.
- Fresh off the Boat (ABC): “Fresh Off the Boat” is one of the first comedies to have Asian-Americans as its main characters. “Fresh Off the Boat” (or “FOTB,” for short) is based off of the experiences of a man named Eddie Huang when he was 11 years old. At the time, Huang’s father owned a steakhouse in the U.S. and expected to get rich. The show is told from Eddie’s point of view and so negates many stereotypes about Asians, as Eddie breaks out of the role his Chinese mother expects of him. Eddie likes rap music, doesn’t want to study and doesn’t follow Chinese tradition. Rotten Tomatoes praised “FOTB” for its humor and ability to transcend stereotypes.
- Empire (FOX): “Empire” is about the African American Lyon family, who founded Empire Entertainment, a hip-hop company. At the beginning of season one, Luscious Lyon (Terrence Howard) learns he has ALS and struggles with coming to terms with his disease. The family struggles with many issues and dramas, as well, among their relationships with each other, so the show shouldn’t get boring. Besides race, the show addresses diversity along the lines of disability, sexual orientation and mental illness. I have put Empire on my list of shows to watch because of the number of people who become wrapped up in drama and completed relationships, which I prefer not to have in my real life (but keeps television interesting).
- Black-ish (ABC): “Black-ish” is about Andre Johnson Sr., a well-off black man who wants to pass on his “black pride” to his children. Johnson’s kids are very indifferent to their father’s enthusiastic views, though, wanting to be treated the same as their white friends. The show confronts many interesting and thought-provoking questions such as: What does race really mean? and is it possible for one to fit in, while holding on to their sense of pride in their ethnic identity? Like “FOTB,” “Black-ish” uses humor to challenge racial stereotypes and prove that we’re all one and the same.
- Orange Is the New Black (Netflix): Taylor Schilling plays main character Piper Chapman, a privileged white woman who is engaged to a white man similar in status. When Chapman’s ex girlfriend, Alex, names her among a drug ring that Piper was associated with in her youth, Piper is sent to jail. There she is introduced to people she never would have thought she would interact with. This show is unique because it is not only directed by a woman and about women, but also because the actresses come in many shapes and sizes that do not conform to the typical Hollywood model who is a size two. It also provides a space for people who were seldom ever represented on television or in society before, such as transgender people, to feel they have visibility. People in real life who have similar characteristics now have the ability to look at television (or the Internet, or iPad), and say “look, that person is like me.”