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Sets Are in Color, but Television Isn't

October 08, 1994

Rick Du Brow's commentary on Latino roles in television is right on the mark ("Latino Roles Still 'Mired in Stereotypes,' " Oct. 1). So is Jesse Jackson's crusade to get the networks and advertisers to stop pretending that no one else exists except whites.

The entertainment industry has yet to explain why, for all its cultural and ethnic diversity, L.A. has some of the most one-sided, boring and ethnically embarrassing programming yet. Look at the weekly lineup and you'd swear that the only communities around to broadcast to are West L.A., San Marino and, say, upper Glendale. In fact, current TV commercials have come a long way and even at times seem more realistic than the programming.

What's the problem here? Are the "old boys" still using outdated methods like taboos, marketing research firms and those ratings boxes to set standards in filmmaking? Will someone please tell me why Hollywood is still terrified of things like love scenes done by people of color?

I've lived in L.A. most of my life, and I figured that by 1994 I could finally enjoy films and television that, at the very least, respected people of color. Obviously, this hasn't happened very much.




I have been fascinated by the recent round of kvetching about lack of representation of various minorities on television. I am a member of another minority that until April, 1977, was all but invisible. I am disabled, and we are 43 million strong.

Whom do we see as role models on TV? Chris Burke was there, until he became an adult. Marlee Matlin as a lawyer, with dishy Mark Harmon as her sign-language interpreter, was unbelievable, at least to network execs.

As a young person, at least I had Ironside, who would solve crimes from his wheelchair using his intelligence--and running the legs off his assistants. But "The Six Million Dollar Man" and "The Bionic Woman" embraced the American mythos that disability was something that needed fixing.

So where are the disabled people on TV? "M.A.N.T.I.S.," a black genius who became a super-hero after a gunshot wound? Except he gets to escape his paralysis by donning an "exoskeleton." Almost as good as new.

It's not about pity or understanding, it's about rights.

Happy to be as I am.


Marina del Rey

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