Shonda Rhimes, who’s the first Black women to have 3 dramas on the air, is getting flack for pointing out that ABC Family’s new show “Bunheads” doesn’t have one diverse cast member. Rhimes expressed her disappointment via the following tweet:
“Hey @abcfbunheads: really? You couldn’t cast even ONE young dancer of color so I could feel good about my kid watching this show? NOT ONE?”
When her followers questioned her point-of-view, the showrunner clarified further. To sum it up she isn’t bothered by her child watching white performers and she likes that the dancers are of different sizes, according to Entertainment Weekly but the lack of diversity stood out to her. I think she was compelled to say something because ballerinas are almost as important to young girls as Princesses— so I can see why Rhimes might think it important to include diversity for such an aspirational role. But in some ways the show mirrors the historically insular world of ballerinas, where depending on the company, diversity is a notion not a practice. However, we live in the age of Misty Copeland, a soloist in the American Ballet Theater (and lest we forget Alvin Ailey–which accepts dancers of every ethnicity) so we know it is possible. And to see that reflected in “Bunheads” would have made it quite modern instead of ordinary.
But as we’ve seen with “Girls”, show creators and writers tend to write what they know. The argument is that it is the only truth they know (I find that simply sad but that’s beside the point). But living in a bubble isn’t the answer either–especially since the Census shows the browning of America over the next few decades. We’re talking about this issue now because we’re more aware (and perhaps vocal) than say when Amy Sherman-Palladino” created “Gilmore Girls” . This lack of diversity, however, doesn’t lie solely with a show’s creator. It’s also the responsibility of a casting director and network executives to reflect whatever their imperative is. For ABC Family perhaps diversity is not a priority these days, :”Lincoln Heights” went off the air in 2009.
One of the most interesting things about Rhimes’ detractors is that they believe (or so the comments suggest) that when Rhimes says women of color that she automatically means Black. I don’t think that’s the case. Yes, a Black woman can advocate to see more Asian, South Asian and Hispanic faces in the mix. And yes a Black face would be nice but that is not the only way to show diversity and we know it and so does Rhimes–it’s one of the things she does well.
I really think Rhimes’ point was that it’s time for television to draw outside the lines, stretch their imagination and see what happens.Read Also