As a black man of a certain age, grizzled by the weight of societal realities in America, it annoys me when I read about the first black person to do this and that.
Indeed, it is positive whenever a sister or brother breaks through to the other side, from marginalized to legitimate, from second fiddle to top dog. But Ive seen this movie before. Many times, in fact. Though black folks are in front of the camera these days more than at any other time in the history of film and television, were still lagging way behind in other creative and technical aspects of the industry.
According to the Directors Guild of America, two-thirds of all networks had no African American writers and only 17 percent had even one writer. Of those networks, AMC is the worst offender. Additionally, they reported that in the 2015-16 season, women directed 17.1% of episodes up from 15.8% in the 2014-15 season; and ethnic minorities directed 18.5% of episodes up from 17.7% in the 2014-15 season.
You ever watch a show with a black or otherwise non-minority character and become totally perplexed about their motivation? Me too, and its likely because whoever wrote the script was going off preconceived notions, stereotypes and subtly racist troupes to craft an individual whose blackness is a jumble of jive talk, posturing and quasi-negritude. Whether comedy, drama or musical, this phenomenon has appeared all over network television from its inception.
Thats why the recent news of Saturday Night Live alumni Michael Ches ascension to be the lead co-writer of SNL along with fellow Weekend Update host Colin Jost is so significant, yet simultaneously frustrating.
Weekend Update: Gretchen – SNL
To try to understand liberal white women better, Michael Che goes undercover as Gretchen. #SNL #SNL43 Get more SNL: http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live Full Episodes: http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-liv… Like SNL: https://www.facebook.com/snl Follow SNL: https://twitter.com/nbcsnl SNL Tumblr: http://nbcsnl.tumblr.com/ SNL Instagram: http://instagram.com/nbcsnl SNL Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/nbcsnl/
Their promotion brings the number of SNL co-head writers to four following the departure of Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, who left last season to write a show at Comedy Central produced by SNL creator Lorne Michaels.
So far this season, Saturday Night Live is averaging a 2.89 rating in adults aged 18 to 49 and 9.577 million viewers overall according to Nielsen. This is the shows #2 most-watched season in nine years, behind last years highly rated run.
Yes, a brother is one of the lead writers on SNL! Yes, SNL has more black regulars than ever before. But much more needs to be done on SNL, as well as the rest of network television for those shows to reflect societal aesthetics, both in front of and behind the cameras.