Forgive me for writing about this late, but when I’m off (especially lately, with all the ANS coverage), I do not read news or work-related email. Sorry. Anyway, digging through my email today, I found this story in the LAT about the shock – or lack thereof – of the growing number of interracial relationships on TV.
The problem for the potential lovebirds has nothing to do with Christine being white and Daniel being black. Their barrier is a policy prohibiting teachers from dating parents. That they would be an interracial couple is basically a nonissue.
Or, as one of the mothers of a student in Mr. Harris’ class exclaims when she first spots the handsome new teacher, “Who knew diversity could be so gorgeous?”
The plight of Christine and Daniel is just one example of a flurry of interracial and interethnic relationships that have quietly developed in prime time during the last few seasons. Similar relationships on TV and film, particularly between blacks and whites, often touched off controversy or met resistance in past decades. But in recent seasons, with little or no fanfare, mixed couples have popped up on programs as disparate as “House,” “Lost,” “The L Word,” “Boston Legal,” “My Name Is Earl,” “Men in Trees” and “Desperate Housewives.”
NBC’s “Heroes,” about a group of ordinary people who discover they have superpowers, has at least three interracial relationships, including a troubled mom (Ali Larter) with a double personality who clashes with her estranged prison escapee husband (Leonard Roberts). On “Grey’s Anatomy,” Isaiah Washington’s and Sandra Oh’s characters are engaged, and T.R. Knight’s and Sara Ramirez’s characters recently eloped. FX’s “Nip/Tuck” featured Sanaa Lathan as a woman caught between two white men: her rich tycoon husband (Larry Hagman) and the plastic surgeon Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) treating him. On HBO’s racially charged “The Wire,” a Baltimore police major (Lance Reddick) hooked up with an assistant state attorney (Deidre Lovejoy) following the collapse of his marriage to a black woman.
Most of the series with mixed couples take a colorblind approach to the romances, downplaying the dynamics or scrutiny that such couples might encounter in real life. The colorful mash-ups that made Lucy and Ricky on “I Love Lucy” so intriguing yet familiar and comfortable have been toned down, largely stripped of cultural conflict and discovery. Issues of race may be front and center in the political, sports and entertainment arenas, but unlike last year’s Oscar winner “Crash,” where Los Angeles residents of different races repeatedly clashed and hurled racial epithets, the only “crash” on these shows is when the characters’ lips collide.
Obviously, the article caught my attention for a few reasons. Oh, yeah, my husband is black and I’m Filipino.
The mention of the three interracial relationships on Heroes made me stop and think for a second, also – OK, so there’s Niki the split personality and her husband, who phases through things; there’s also the prognosticator painter Isaac and Simone (or Peter and Simone, either way, its a black woman with a white man) – and who were they referring to for the third? The only other couple I could think of was Japanese dude Hiro (yatta!) and the white Texas waitress who could remember things – Charlie.
Anyway, it made me think that maybe the lack of attention to race on these shows is more reflective of real life than we think. I don’t know about anyone else, but going through my old notes and stuff made me remember how diverse my friends were through junior high, high school and college. Just in junior high, I had an friends who were Mexican, Indian, Armenian, Filipino, white, black, Chinese, Korean – and those are just the ones who wrote me notes.
BUT then again – when a relationship becomes serious, as mine eventually did, it becomes unavoidable. There were obvious repercussions, but in my case, I couldn’t tell if my family’s backlash to my decision to get married was due to Trinity’s color or because I was actually defying them. See? We haven’t even really talked about it yet.