By Samantha Reilly
ABC spent months flooding its programming and advertisements with glimpses into a lineup of shows that premiered this past September and October, many of which focus on a specific race and rely on all the expected stereotypes to go along with it.
ABC’s new shows include “Black-ish,” “Cristela” and “Selfie,” which all premiered this fall, and “Fresh off the Boat,” which is scheduled to air in early 2015.
“Black-ish” paints a modern upper-class black family that is out of place and out of touch with their black heritage. The network poses their race against their status as one would pose a Barbie in G.I. Joe clothes—something isn’t quite right about it, and it checks all the boxes for a sitcom geared toward black stereotypes, in terms of mannerisms, physical attributes and the need for “real” fried chicken.
After a long history of being disadvantaged for not being “white enough,” the family members struggle to prove that they are “black enough.” The show’s premiere reached 10.8 million viewers, securing its 22-episode season, according to TV Guide. Though it may show the true colors of modern society, some students say the show promotes an idea that blacks and upper-middle class society don’t mix.
“It definitely addresses stereotypes,” said freshman journalism major Cara Newcomer. “But the dad stereotypes his own family, and at the end of every episode, the dad learns a lesson to rise above the stereotype and realize, ‘Oh, wow. The world is changing.’”
“Cristela,” about a fun, hardworking and perfectly awkward woman, is yet another square piece in a round hole on the network’s fall line-up. Cristela’s goal of becoming a lawyer is misunderstood by her traditional Mexican-American family, which includes her mother, her sister Daniela and Daniela’s husband and kids.
Because the frequent allusions to her mother’s life in rural Mexico and the carefully integrated Spanish phrases aren’t enough to establish Cristela as a first-generation Mexican-American, the pilot episode is full of racial slurs and stereotypes shoved right in her face from her new boss and his London Tipton-akin daughter.
“Cristela” premiered to 6.6 million viewers, according to tvline.com, and remains on air as the network’s weekly Latino fix.
Meanwhile, Eliza Dooley of “Selfie” is the epitome of the basic white girl. She’s social-media obsessed (and famous) while striding through life in her designer stilettos. As Eliza seeks help from workaholic Henry, her media-savvy, carefree attitude begins to diffuse into his 80-work-hour lifestyle.
ABC took a hashtag and conversational feature to a whole new level, plastering the common white girl stereotypes onto 3.5 million television screens in its premiere. Maybe ABC marketers think that “Selfie” serves as its get-out-of-jail-free card against allegations concerning racism in the new lineup, but some students at this university don’t see it that way.
“I think the show “Selfie” is unnecessary. They are just building on a recent phenomenon that will soon pass over,” freshman math major Emma Harring said. “In general, it seems that networks are creating shows to fill a void that doesn’t necessarily exist.”
Coming in 2015, “Fresh off the Boat” will feature the difficult assimilation of a man named Eddie as he transitions from life in D.C.’s Chinatown to the Orlando suburbs.
If it’s anything like ABC’s other new shows, “Fresh off the Boat” is sure to be chock-full of stereotypes. But even with typecast characters and exaggerations of racial stereotypes, some students said they’re glad the bigger television networks are attempting to broaden the demographics of their viewers.
“I think it’s pretty awesome that popular TV networks like ABC are reaching out to larger audiences,” sophomore biology major Joel Villalba said. “Being Hispanic, I can’t name that many television shows with Hispanic actors or actresses. It’s cool to see that television stations are thinking about what the viewers might want to see, rather than doing what has already been done.”
This set of shows is served to the public like a dessert platter, letting viewers have a taste of each stereotypical racial category. The ABC network’s intentions remain unknown, but it’s no secret that producers are calling for attention to the role of stereotypes in today’s world.