Yes yes, y’all! Actor and graphic novelist Erika Alexander (you may know her as Living Single's Maxine Shaw) approached the R to cross-post the very first post on her blog, Showbiz Is Glamorous—and we were thrilled to do so!!!
Check it out:
Why did I write an episode of Mad Men with Negroes? And by that I mean with “Negro” characters in it, not with.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Anyway, why did I write an episode of TV that I know will never be made?
ThoughI work as an actress and have pitched and sold a television series or two in my time in Hollywood, I’m not a writer on Mad Men, so this episode won’t appear anywhere but here. Why, then? And why negroes? Aren’t we finished with all that? In honor of the Season 6 premiere, let me tell you about it.
I like Mad Men. A lot. I like the subject matter (advertising); I like the cast (Don Draper is hot); I like the look (sexy Eames meets Op Art); I like the writing (Matthew Weiner is a storytelling beast). I love the writing.
I have only one issue with Mad Men (OK, with a bunch of shows, but let’s stick with this one): I’d love to see more diversity. I’m a Black actress, so diversity is an issue that comes up for me. A lot. Mad Men, Game Of Thrones, Girls, Veep–these are cool shows, except for the fact that they would really rock with more people of color, series regulars or otherwise. I complain, wtf?…and bemoan, WTF!…but alas, for all my years in TV, I’m not able to make a difference in my own living room. Or am I?
Thanks to an equal-opportunity employer advertisement, placed in The New York Times to childishly taunt rival company Young & Rubicam, SCDP was forced to integrate. Don Draper has a new secretary named Dawn. And she’s a black woman.
Now, given the track record of office hanky panky on Mad Men , I suppose I can’t blame viewers for wondering if Dawn will get any action. (Although much of the speculation seems to disregard the era’s racial and beauty hierarchy.) But it’s interesting to note who viewers think is most likely to make a play for Dawn.
All over the web, folks are certain that Lane Pryce–and only Lane Pryce, who had a brief liaison with a black woman in season four–will be unable to resist Dawn’s charms. Why? Because a few dates with a particular black woman equals “a fondness for black women”? Because once you have the jungle fever, there is no turning back? Because only a certain sort cavorts with sisters?
There is something implicitly gross in this discussion. There is the idea that black women are all the same. One doesn’t like a particular, unique black woman, so much as have “a thing” for all of us. We aren’t women, but peculiar fetish objects. And once a man “catches” the fever, he can’t let it go. He is susceptible to any black woman in his vision. Of course some men do fetishize women, but loving women of color is consistently positioned as an unshakeable compulsion, rather than genuine interest.
Friend of the R—and newbie Clutch Magazine writer—Tami Winfrey Harris takes on Mad Men and the real in interracial relationships on Clutch Mag today.
@xsinclair—liking someone with green eyes and liking someone of a different race/ethnicity aren’t the same. To say that is a bit disingenuous under the guise of some sort of “we’re all the same here”—the old-fashioned word for it is “colorblindness.” And we give that idea serious side-eye here at the R, partly because the idea is rather dismissive.
Having green eyes tends to have a rather neutral to “positive” meaning in quite a few segments of the global family—I’m thinking of the conversations around the “exotica” of having such an eye color in some nations and/or racial/ethnic groups (think the ooh-ahhs around Aishwaya Rai and some Black folks of various hues chasing after lighter-skinned Black folks with “light-eyes and good hair”) usually known for brown eyes (Indians and Black people, respectively) that’s deeply related to the notions of “the lighter (meaning the closer to white features), the better.” (For Black folks, that idea is more directly tied to white supremacy, whereas with Indian society, the myth of “lighter is better” pre-dates the British invasion and colonialism but is definitely exacerbated by those facts.)
Liking someone based on their race/ethnicity/skin color has been fraught with a *lot* of historical baggage and tension, no thanks to the hierarchies around race and sexuality and desirability, which includes racial fetishism. If it wasn’t, Tami wouldn’t have had to write her post in the first place.
@sexartandpolitics—thanks for the back-up, luv!