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looking01

the leading cast of HBO’s upcoming series “Looking”

Yesterday, the trailer for HBO’s upcoming gay themed show “Looking” was released. The show is supposed to detail gay life in the San Francisco area, and though the show COULD be very interesting, the trailer lacked something very important. Ethnic diversity.

The trailer shows bits and pieces of different ethnic groups, but the disappointing thing about the show is the lack of Asians in lead roles. Anyone from the San Francisco Bay Area knows that the Asian community is a huge part of the area, and to relegate Asians to supporting recurring roles while the lead cast is almost all white people shows the ignorance of the creators, and is not representative of the San Francisco Bay Area at all. Already giving the show, which doesn’t air until January, little to no credibility.

It brings to the forefront the lack of leading stars of other ethnicities in television and film, and makes one question why those industries are so dominated with white people and hardly anybody else.

One may ask why do we NEED Asians or other minorities in lead roles on television, and my response would be why do we NEED white people in leading roles all of the time? Don’t get me wrong, a good show is a good show and it really doesn’t matter what race a character is. However, the world is so diverse and to only focus on white people shows that Hollywood isn’t really concerned with representing the world as it really is. They are focused on catering to who they think will bring ratings and ticket sales. To think that white people are the only ones watching TV and paying for movie tickets is just ignorant, and there are plenty of examples to show how wrong that thinking is.

Kerry Washington and Columbus Short lead the cast of the very successful series "Scandal"

Kerry Washington and Columbus Short lead the cast of the very successful series “Scandal”

For example, “Scandal” is a recent show with black woman Kerry Washington heading the cast. It’s one of the few major network shows with a minority in the leading role and it’s become a huge success. Also “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” has consistently been the highest rated of Bravo’s “Housewives” series, and still 6 seasons later is the only one in the franchise to feature black women. It would be ridiculous to think that ONLY black people are watching these shows, and even if that was the case wouldn’t that say that maybe Hollywood should consider making more shows with minorities in the lead? The reality is, those two shows are entertaining and people of all races are tuning in and don’t care about the ethnicity of the leading roles.

Looking back to the 80′s when I grew up, there was a bigger representation of at least black people in film and television. “The Jeffersons”, “The Cosby Show”, and the various hit film franchises of Eddie Murphy showed that people, not just black people, were interested in seeing diverse perspectives. This trend continued into the 90′s but in the past 10 years that need for diversity seems to have vanished and it’s hard to put a finger on why.

A general response to complaints about the lack of racial diversity in Entertainment is that we, minorities, should be happy we are represented at all. And yes, every time I see anyone of a different ethnic background in a major TV show or film I do smile, but it just isn’t enough. I have a feeling if things were the other way around, where minorities were the focus of 90% of what we see Entertainment wise and white people were only supporting players, there would be an uproar. As it stands, those people who tell us to settle for what we are given don’t see a problem at all with these complaints because they are well represented.

liza lapira

Liza Lapira, the nerdy best friend on ABC’s “Super Fun Night”

The reason ethnic diversity is needed is to show a different perspective of the world. If “Looking” did feature even just one Asian in a leading role, it would be a peek into a culture that hasn’t been represented in the mainstream. Asians tend to get stuck in supporting roles where they are the same stereotypes, mousy computer-savvy nerds. And even if every role played by an Asian isn’t that stereotype, they are always just supporting players serving as the best friend of a white person who is the real focus of the show or film. No detail is given to their cultural beliefs or values, which gives the impression that in the mainstream world their culture is unimportant. The same can be said of all the other minorities who are mostly shown in supporting, stereotypical roles, with not a care about their life and their cultural history.

Being from the San Francisco Bay Area myself, I heard about “Looking” before it began filming and though I assumed it would be a white-dominated cast I was hoping that a change would come and that there would be a realistic representation of the gay community. I’m actually sad to say that I was wrong. The question now is what is the solution to this problem? I for one will not be watching “Looking” simply because of the lack of diversity, but I am only one person. If lots of people do a silent protest by not watching shows that don’t represent them then maybe the networks will get the hint and begin to build casts that truly represent the world and not just through a white persons perspective. We can sit and HOPE that things will change, but we can also do something about it and that seems like an easy enough start.

Who’s with me!?

(Additional note: I’m not the only one upset about the lack of diversity in “Looking”, read these two articles from Huffington Post and LA Times)