If you’re a big fan of traditionally feminine and glamorous TV shows like “Sex in the City,” and you’re not a big fan of the lack of women of color in most media, you’re in luck.
Some media outlets are beginning to produce ethnically diverse shows that cater to a younger demographic. While stars like Mindy Kaling, Shonda Rhimes and Kerry Washington are on the rise, it’s rare to find women of color in the spotlight. Showrunners pigeonhole women of color into certain stereotypical roles, and to find women of color who play roles that don’t revolve entirely around their racial identities are rare. People are genuinely interested in seeing women of color on TV, as evidenced by the popularity of shows like Scandal and The Mindy Project.
In the past few months, YouTube shows like An African City (a Ghanaian remake of Sex and the City) and Ultra Rich Asian Girls have provided viewers with a glimpse into the way the rich and famous live. Much like their Americanized counterparts, these reality TV shows show off the glamour of having a dispensable income, all while showing cultural values that might not be fully reflected on cable TV.
Critics argue that these shows characterize people of color as being superficial and wasteful. Writers, on the other hand, argue that this is the best way to combat stereotypes of what women of color should look like. To the latter, it’s a three-dimensional way of looking at people through the lens of empowerment, even if the ordinary viewer can’t identify with all aspects of the characters’ lives.
An African City creator Nicole Amarteifio said in an interview with CNN that it was her duty to create the shows that she wanted to see on TV. “I wanted something for African women, something for us and by us,” Amarteifio said. “I was tired of the sole narrative of the African woman being about poverty and disease. I wanted to see another narrative, one of beauty, glamor and intelligence.”
The main characters of shows like An African City and Ultra Rich Asian Girls discuss taboo topics like sex, economic mobility and the role that women play in an increasingly globalized world. Women on these shows are unafraid to say what they want and are candid about the problems that they face in their lives, providing viewers with role models for character development. Not only should we applaud the actresses who infuse these characters with life, but we should also remember that showrunners who conceptualize these shows want to change the face of diversity in mainstream media.
It’s refreshing to see the popularity of ethnically-tuned YouTube shows. Hopefully, some of these shows can make it to primetime or subscription-based services like Fresh Off the Boat and Transparent have, but in the meantime you can still find them on YouTube. How’s that for diversity?
Cover image courtesy of JW Intelligence.