For a long time, Hollywood and television has been a predominantly straight and white space. But now with the popularity of artists like Issa Rae, Donald Glover, and Randall Park that standard is starting to change and I couldn’t be happier. Just please don’t make me engage with any of it.
You may say it’s problematic that I only watch television shows about white people, but that’s because I only watch one show at all, and that’s Friends. I would totally check out Atlanta, or Pose, or One Day at a Time, but every time I finish Friends I have to start over. I’m going through a lot right now and it’s just comforting. Like when you exist in a space where everybody looks like you. That said, I did just start Fleabag but that’s only because I heard such good things.
When it comes to supporting diverse art I have always been vocal. That’s why I say things like “I’ll get to it later,” or “It’s on my list.” or “Sure I’ll watch the pilot–OH GOD IS THAT A BIRD FLYING AROUND INSIDE? NO DON’T TRY TO LOOK FOR IT. IT’S TOO DANGEROUS. LET’S JUST LEAVE THE HOUSE!”
I guess the problem is that I need to be in the right mood. Recently I tried to watch When They See Us and I couldn’t even get past the first five minutes. The police hadn’t shown up yet and the kids were just talking with friends and family. But it just seemed so raw, you know?
My friends tell me that’s a gross mischaracterization of Queer and PoC art. Films like Always Be My Maybe or Love, Simon are, in fact, very joyful. And I’m sure they’re a hilarious relief from the exclusively sad lives my friends lead. But even the prospect of engaging with that makes me anxious. What if the couple banters over recipes for foods I’ve never eaten? What if the meet cute takes place in a neighborhood I would never visit? What if the quirky white friend is two-dimensional? I just don’t think I can take that right now.
Some say that there is an obligation to financially support diverse artists by paying to see their films. And sure you can spend $10 to passively sit in a dark room watching Moonlight. Or you can spend just as much time standing in front of a full-length mirror practicing pronouncing Chiwetel Ejiofor’s name so you can whip it out in conversation using a tasteful Nigerian accent talking about how good he was. Your friends will be so blown away, they won’t even bother to tell you that he wasn’t in Moonlight.
I guess my biggest fear about consuming diverse art is what if I don’t like it? How do I best critique a film without coming off like a monster?
Must I loudly proclaim “authentic” characters cliché and call everybody else phony on the internet? Or should I simply lower my expectations and acknowledge that adequate representation means having a healthy supply of good and bad art while in the meantime supporting diverse artists regardless?
Maybe the second one. I don’t know. It’s on my list.