Media Representation: The Time Has Never Been Better To Make Our Influence Known

Hey Friends,

 

As some of you may know Acts Of Faith In Love & Life has published roughly 1100 Essays, many that are still relevant and show progression in the scale and scope of ADVOCACY and POWER to benefit black women. Sometimes you have to take a rest to recharge from blogging fatigue and burn-out. We have been active on social media channels involved in current events, as part of a bigger picture to fulfill the need for evaluating, curating, encouraging and recognizing favorable media representation [prints ads, commercials, etc].

 

Advertisers may know a demographic’s value more than we do!  Media companies may even spread inaccurate information about certain groups to prop up another. There are many layers, facets and nuances to this. Suffice it to say, we have to use our thinking caps and see the big picture to cut through a lot of the confusion. We observed other forums take a firm stance about distancing oneself from a lot of media, to not support things that weren’t beneficial.

 

It’s smart to debate the pros and cons. We can appreciate all perspectives on whether to consume media, what to consume and whether people are being passive or more thoughtful in their choices. At this time I think it’s imperative to be more engaged  — with a purpose — rather than missing out on what are solid opportunities to make inroads. Whether it’s a trend or the result of a few people working behind the scenes and everything coming together at the same time, we need to strike while the iron is hot, hot, hot!!!

 

Anyone who thinks they can be more effective as a conscientious objector should do so, but might I suggest popping your head out to take a stab at slaying a beast or two should the opportunity arise? Don’t think you can stomach watching tv shows or movies?????? Well…Broadway and Off-Broadway has roughly half a dozen plays written by black women being produced right now…that you can support! This is unprecedented.

 

WHAT IS DRIVING THIS?

 

Advocacy
Curiosity
Creativity
Normal human urge to “see” oneself

 

Connecting with a large base of women from various backgrounds who are engaged online – and understand reciprocity and boundaries
“Movies make magic. They change things. They take the real and make it into something else, right before our very eyes….”  apply other genres
                                                                                                        ~~~ Reel to Real bell hooks
MEDIA & TV & FILM (& PLAYS ??) 
  • Who’s being represented and how.
  • Who gets to tell the stories and what they decide to tell.
  • What processes are determined? Who are the established industry players? Can you bypass anyone? 
  • Who can be an ally? Do you want to write, produce, direct? Work behind the scenes in other capacities, like Music Supervisor or Grip?
  • What training and resources are available? Can you get a mentor? Should you start of with a short, YouTube series, submit to a film festival or something else entirely?
These are just samples of the avenues to pursue and we want the chance to ask about them and to pursue them. And connect with others towards larger goals as well as individual pursuits.

 

HAVE YOU NOTICED EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT ‘DIVERSITY’?
What’s going on right now is a revenue shuffle and power grab. Other groups are positioning themselves(often at our expense). YOU need to pay attention!
We don’t want to push for “diversity”……but nuanced and reciprocal inclusion and parity. And to have our own projects, alliances and resources available for our use exclusively.

 

We’re not beggars. This isn’t a plea to others to “do the right thing”. Master’s House…Master’s Tools and all that…

 

Nuanced, accurate and a variety of roles…..
This is to get the highest return on our investment. This is to educate more people that they can and should expect a return on their investment. The time we spend watching tv, playing video games, going to the movies creates GENERATIONAL WEALTH for other folks. We should ALSO benefit!

 

As stated above, I’ve seen the argument for divorcing oneself from media entirely. And I agree this may be prudent for some. But I know many are going to watch programs [many low-grade] no matter what. But I also know the more people that insist on better, will get better. Ex. DIY Channel ran a dating/relationship reality show #BlackLove that turned out to be a rather thoughtful journey of discovery for four black women, despite the cringe-worthy title. No ratchetness!

 

Black actresses shouldn’t have to feel “lucky” [as in it was a miracle vs. a process of elimination] they got cast in a project!! Especially if it’s something ultimately lesser-than. With roughly 5 shows in play out of as many as THREE HUNDRED scripted series for lead roles…that’s not a lot to begin with!! Don’t let a few high-profile mentions fool you into thinking there’s dozens of shows to choose from. Where are the directors, producers, writers, and other staff??

 

We can’t be a trend or a fad. We have to create our own infrastructure. Which is why we have some work to do. You can donate to the Media TV Project.

 

IF WE DON’T HELP OURSELVES FIRST…..
What you don’t know is that in my offline life I handle media strategy and content marketing. Combining advocacy for campaigns is something people do as a career – whereas some of your well-received “blogger” faves do the same thing for their audiences instead of a client. Or to brand themselves to sell a product. For example, the Clinton campaign has hired several black women actively engaged online to serve as media hacks in response to the lukewarm response from black women [Millennial and others] voters. Which is why you saw her appearance at Black Girls Rock [run by Beverly Bond], while the three black women running for Senate (a rarity already) Kamala Harris (CA), Donna Edwards (MD) and Pam Keith (FL) were not offered an appearance or even a mention. That was a missed opportunity that should not go unmentioned.

 

I worked as the Digital Managing Editor curating and assigning several dozen articles to shift readership to a more higher level vibration focus and to increase engagement. The above linked article is was what I’d refer to as my signature piece that I’m still very proud of. We published this the morning after Viola Davis won her Lead Actress Emmy – where she discussed how more opportunities for black actresses led to that type of recognition.

 

Here’s an excerpt:
Just having a black female lead isn’t enough though. Characters who are black women often fall into many negative stereotypes. They are often written as fat, sassy, aggressive, angry, self-indulgent, hypersexual, and gold digging single mothers. Rarely are they portrayed as vulnerable, desirable, loving, carefree, silly, elegant, soft or genteel.
 
The rare characters that become love interests for a white male protagonist are often sidelined for a white woman.
 
Black women characters are often forced into the “Mammy” caricature: a workhorse forced to care for white characters, carry their burdens, and assist in cleaning up their messes. Characters who fall into the “Mammy” trope often martyr themselves for the sake of white characters.
 
Fans want a character that is just as three dimensional as the others on her show. We want characters who won’t be neglected and sidelined. We do not want characters who will be abused for the sake of furthering a white character’s story. Any adversity or pain she experiences should further her own character growth foremost.
This was also where we witnessed an aging white soap opera actress with TWO Daytime Emmys go on a very public rage-fest at the mere idea a black actress was celebrated. The lead actress on a hit show on the same network. Everybody and their mother knows Viola Davis can act! I realized the importance of having the right venue and vehicle to discuss this. What was great about using that platform at the time was the name recognition and that the conversation was not happening at other commercial publications anywhere else. From a strategy perspective, I knew the impact and timing was going to create a certain amount of buzz. More importantly, people would begin connecting the dots.

 

ALL of the actresses responded to the article (not saying anything specific just acknowledging that it was out there) and Essence did a dumbed-down copy-cat version a few days later. I’m glad they did it because that means it really resonated! These messages needs to be controlled by people with a clear vision and goal in mind. I have a “binder” full of ideas like this! Doing everything solo is not the most efficient use of my time, however. Tambay is at a similar crossroads. See his Shadow & Act article as he prepares to move it off the IndieWire platform since they were sold to VCs.

 

Our Own Bechdel Test – With A Twist

 

The Bechdel Test, sometimes called the Mo Movie Measure or Bechdel Rule is a simple test which names the following three criteria: (1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man
OUR VERSION
  • Must have a Black woman supporting or lead role
  • Actress must be visibly black 
  • There is an overrepresentation of biracial women that has to be addressed
  • Non-stereotypical role
  • Not written solely in service to the white lead
  • Cast diversity
  • Writer’s room diversity
  • More black women show-runners and Executive Producers

 

SHOWRUNNERS ARE NOT GODS
If you’ve been online in the past 24 hours and in any active tv fandoms [at the time of the original publish date April 8th], the backlash against CW’s subpar version of #Arrow is in the midst of an epic social media beat-down for the decision to kill its canon heroine, Black Canary for NO REASON WHATSOEVER. But before the DUDEBROs thought up that genius plot, they killed off Amanda Waller, Shado, Moira Queen, Slade, Deathstroke — all of the INTERESTING characters to support a crack ship (media trope) that most viewers don’t like, #Olicity.

 

This is a running theme on that particular network with shows produced by Greg Berlanti, related to comic books. The argument may be those are the most popular shows on the network, but the push for male viewers comes at the expense of common sense far too often. They’ve already made two serious attempts at replacing Iris West for a non-canon ship * see the Black Women In Fandom article for a refresher of these tactics.

 

This is also why Scandal has lost HALF its viewership in between the Fall hiatus and Spring return. People are fed up with being insulted by writers and seeing their favorite characters treated like crap for no logical reason.

 

In other instances, writing teams will take nuanced cues from audiences and make little tweaks that are appreciated. Sometimes they’ll listen, other times they’ll ignore viewers but they see the data from social media engagement because networks can afford to pay for powerful software tools to track and analyze everything. In addition, discussions can be categorized with a hashtag, show title, network affiliation and any staff we’d like to address if they have established accounts.

 

Hate-watching a show — or if not outright hate but APATHY — is the death knoll for viewer churn. As soon as something else comes on that’s more interesting…buh bye!

 

INDUSTRY EXAMPLE ONE

 

Taraji P. Henson
Fired from Point Of Interest. Her character Joss Carter was killed off unceremoniously and was not organic to the show. She was grossly unappreciated and her draw was ignored. Viewers weren’t pleased and the actress had to be pragmatic in her response to questions about why she left the show! (Racism and sexism of course).

 

Cast as the lead on Empire. People tuned in out of curiosity. Advertisers would not bite. Fox ran the show and ate the costs. That’s why it aired with “limited commercials”. The show resonated with a wide variety of audiences and became successful.

 

So successful that it toppled the #1 show on tv, a CBS comedy. Fox made up for the initial advertiser reticence by charging Superbowl-level ad rates. Media began discussing the “Empire effect” and there was discussion in the industry about casting more black women as leads.

 

The show has had many cringe-worthy moments and story-wise is often problematic. but people are ROOTING for Taraji to WIN and parlay this into more meaningful roles. We know Hollywood loves stereotypical portrayals. As long as other people control the system, we’ll be going in circles.

 

*As an aside I will mention that Lucious was initially VERY spiteful towards Cookie and rather insufferable. We discussed his hostility being such a turn-off….sure enough the writers made adjustments. While the character will always be a buffoon and blowhard, they have greatly tempered his open hostility and even showed him being helpful to Cookie. I don’t think that would’ve happened if we hadn’t pointed it out.

 

ADVOCACY has already occurred ….to an extent with the #AbbieMillsDeservesBetter hashtag as another example. But despite Fox firing one showrunner after viewer backlash for the entirety of the Season 2 plot, hiring a new one and a renewal for Season 3 Sleepy Hollow continues to ignore the last of its audience for no logical reason. When a show drops from 14.5M viewers to less than 3M due to the sidelining of its lead actress and convoluted plots it DESERVES the long over-due cancellation it has EARNED. Some people may still watch…but they don’t like the show or respect those directly at fault with ruining what could have been a genre-defining series. Butchered opportunity…but the noobs behind the scenes are still making a lot of money.
*** As of the April 8th Season 3 Finale Sleepy Hollow killed the character Abbie Mills AND used a stereotypical trope to do so.

 

Person Of Interest lost millions of viewers and angered many more. No one believed Taraji voluntarily left the show. Two years later….CBS has canceled the show. KARMA!

 

ALL LIVES DO MATTER (these are some of the subversion tactics going on right now)

 

Why non-black ‘women of color’ cannot be representative of all non-white women
During Awards season, we saw a slew of actors, directors and other industry insiders dismiss, ridicule or outright hijack the discussion of ‘diversity’, Oscars So White and beyond
Inserting non-black so-called people of color as the ‘diversity slot’ on shows may still lead to erasure

 

Why white women cannot be representative of ALL women
White women-led shows like Supergirl, Agent Carter and a slew of movies are either under-performing or are outright flops!
Use black male/white women pairings that are ONLY in service to propping up the white woman role

 

INFRASTRUCTURE & RELATIONSHIPS
    • We want to go after grant money, start-up investment, etc.
    • Website that covers tv show reviews [We need ACCURATE number-crunching & legit critique]
    • Private forum to discuss trends out of public spaces
    • Interviews with casts, creators and up and comers in the industry
    • Producing ORIGINAL Content
    • What network will carry the show or develop one  (that can impact how much the network supports the show, what kind of stake they have invested)
    • Will it be an in-house production team i.e ABC Studios, a joint venture or independent Production company
    • Is it original?
    • Is it an adapted story?
    • Who’s the showrunner?
    • Did they also create the show or were they hired afterwards?
    • Who is the Executive Producer?
    • What level of clout the writer may or may not have

 

WE’RE NOT ALL ‘FREE’
Despite there being some part of the Free, White & 21 contingent…….

 

I’ve had half a dozen informal direct conversations via social media platforms with tv show-runners, actors and senior writers about the quality of scripts, the scope of character development, who’s on their staff behind the camera and whether we are being represented in proportion to our participation (not the population). There have also been a few indirect observations of our conversations on why certain shows are working (and to what extent) and why others are flailing or DOA.

 

I’m not interested in getting into a QUOTA bottle-neck as some are offering that as a solution. If the data breakdown for a show indicates more than one-third of its audience is black, then there should be black cast members and writers. This goes back to the purchasing power of black women. Those kind of numbers are the difference between whether a show stays on the air or gets canceled, whether it’s on the fence or a hit.

 

There’s still opportunity for a crafty creative team to appeal to a large audience that will support their projects IF black women in particular know they will be respected as viewers and actually entertained for once! No PAIN PORN!!!!
No “BLERD” Zone

 

The other concurrent situation are these self-declared black nerds who engage in a lot of racio-misogyny directed at black actresses while presenting themselves as an ‘authority’ to outsiders. As usual there’s always a contingent of opportunists who try to undermine real progress, so they can say they have clout and are part of a ‘movement’. We have the receipts!

 

Lunatic Contingent
People who troll shows with certain casts namely BW/WM to harrass the actors, writers and showrunners to convince them to drop the storyarc.

Architects of Vision

Conceptualize a sophisticated, audience-focused digital strategy
Develop and direct all manifestations of our media initiatives to include the website social media, podcasts, streaming audio, and future mobile products

 

Starz is offering a standalone streaming app, CBS trying to acquire more customers for its All Access Pass,  Hulu just announced it’s partnering with Cablevision to have a channel on their lineup. We need to stay on top of technology trends, streaming and distribution avenues and to be in a position to make deals.

 

Well dang…what CAN I watch??
The irony is how some supervising producers of one show are part of a problematic crew, but may be useful on a different project. It all depends on how close the vision of the show is tied to its leadership. Some choices ARE subjective. Generally speaking The Walking Dead (people might disagree after the disappointing season finale), Black Sails, Outsiders, 12 Monkeys, How To Get Away With Murder, Shades of Blue and a few others offer good writing, pacing and variety. There’s about a dozen shows that I’d like to have reviewed – hence needing the right eyes and ears….
Some shows are currently in production. Some shows that are slated to air. Some will be projects that like-minded/ambitious folks can create.

 

A FEW WINS UNDER OUR BELT ALREADY  ——  Yaaaaas!!!
One I can mention is a drama on one of the Big Three networks added a black woman character after I had an very detailed conversation with someone tied to the show. I suspect they already had some plans in the works for changes to increase viewership, but the timing of that conversation was critical! Other changes I’ve witnessed are discussed throughout this piece.

 

SISTERS….WANNA HELP?!

Say yes!
To a pleasurable viewing experience. You don’t have to brace yourself for a sucker punch of negativity.
Say yes!
To feeling GOOD about yourself after consuming this product/show/etc.
Say yes!
To not needing to see other people behave foolishly to feel better about your life because you are fulfilled in other ways.
Say yes!
To supporting projects that create more opportunities for your faves. And those who may be new to you.

 

TARGETS
  • Website
  • Visual and Video Content
  • Outreach
  • Grant & Foundation Applications
  • Private Forum
  • Show Review
  • Industry Overview
  • White Papers/Info
  • Podcast
  • Screenwriting
  • Film Submission
  • Industry Events
  • Industry Memberships
  • Trainings
  • Media Criticism For Couch Surfers
  • Global Resources
  • Cataloging
  • Data Collection & Analysis
  • Pay For Contributors
I’m asking for contributions, preferably $50 MINIMUM + per person. The initial starting fund is $5000, but I will need to do a more extended fundraising campaign for a much larger amount. If you’ve ever learned something or found a discussion useful here…NOW is the time to support in kind in a specific way. I have a domain name and am in the midst of a creating a separate web site. I’m speaking to the BWE audience in particular FIRST because the core concepts of self-actualization don’t need to be explained. I’m finding a lot of women in these fandoms who already understand certain key components and are catching on to others because they’re noticing the erasure and want to address it. You can LEAD by EXAMPLE!

 

Just to give you an idea of a standard operational budget for media projects, on a professional scale I’d be working with a minimum of $3000 per month for costs associated with running a professional website with the goal of larger readership 500K minimum —  which doesn’t include all freelancer/staffing fees, social measurement, tracking and reporting tools, IT support, or equipment — and that is bare bones with volunteers. Later on advertising/event/sponsorship opportunities may be pursued.

 

Think tanks are going to pursue grants and similar. It’s entirely possible to get as many as 3M in daily [not majority white] readership if publications invest in the infrastructure, which includes a responsive, robust website that’s mobile-accessible and visual and video content.  Many publications try to get away with paying writers $50 for a 200-word article as the new [lower] industry standard [except those who can command higher]. What happens is burn-out and lower quality articles that don’t really capture an audience’s attention.

 

This is also for outreach, and setting some things in motion to produce seminars, trainings, consulting, speaking as an authority, etc. It’s a multi-tiered model. Private funding at the core keeps the incentive of being controlled by outside interests out of the picture.

 

I see this as being equally successful as early BWE efforts were because a lot of the things we discussed were so viciously opposed but have come to be embraced and adapted as part of the permanent cultural zeitgeist.

 

Say yes!
To starting the conversation.
Say yes!
To feeling inspired and energized. You want to TALK to your friends about what you just watched.
Say yes!
To having a new set of tools in your arsenal

 

THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

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