Non-Traditional Lead Characters

Lead characters in Hollywood films or Netflix Original programs are supposed to enhance the audience’s viewing experience by “removing us from our environment and placing us within the film.” Lead characters can be cops, doctors, fathers, mothers, super heroes and so much more. Most people are accustom to seeing certain people play lead roles. The only issue with the majority of shows and films are the lead characters are played by people from a Caucasian background. Breaking away from the mold, Netflix Original shows such as Dear White People, On My Block and Luke Cage place lead characters from different races in order to bring a fresh face to television.

All three Netflix shows showcase racial identity from African American backgrounds and Latino/a backgrounds. Dear White People has a lead character of a young woman in college who runs a radio show at her college. The purpose of the radio show is to inform her listens about the racial remarks of the white students actions towards African Americans. The show focuses in on how white students at the school performed on “blackface” for Halloween costumes during a party, which were filmed and sent around the school. African American students at the school gather together in order to plan a protest against these racial allegations. The main character ends up falling in love with a white male, which her friends do not approve of the bi-racial relationship. The show On My Block follows a group of friends transitioning from middle school to high school. The lead character and his friends are Latino/a, living in a ghetto area, where Hispanic gangs rule the streets. The characters are not only physically changing from hormones, but are also changing mentally, by trying to get an education in order to live a life outside of the ghetto. Luke Cage produced my Marvell, uses Mike Colter an African American who plays Luke Cage. Colter’s character is unlike most super hero productions that use a white male as the main lead, this series uses a colored person.

The shows challenge traditional stereotypes such as growing up in low income, not having a parental guild and living a day-to-day struggle. By placing characters from different cultural background, audiences get to see the lives of others beside white people. For example some audiences, mainly white audiences aren’t happy about having an African American as the main lead. In an article called “Luke Cage” and the racial empathy gap: “why do they talk about being black all the time?,” by Nico Lang, claims “While white audience members are accustomed to their stories and histories represented on screen, they become less comfortable when others are handed the mic. This concept is often known as the “racial empathy gap.””

Between the three shows, the most compelling characters I enjoyed was from On My Block. The show really focused in on the everyday challenges of transitioning into adulthood, figuring out who your friends are, going against family values and struggling to fit in a non-Caucasian environment. The problems the characters encounter such as going against family values or beliefs and walking down the streets to hear gunshots. The group of friends knows they need to help each other stay focused on school to gain an education so they can try someday to leave the ghetto and beat drugs. I was personally able to connect to the characters in Dear White People, because like African Americans, being gay, I can’t just turn off who I am from the outside. We walk down the street and can get criticism from people just because of who we are. Even though I don’t know what it is like to be of color, I do know the struggle of people judging us just the way we look, or talk, or use of body language.

Nico Lang, “Luke Cage and the Racial Empathy Gap: ‘Why Do They Talk about Being Black All the Time?’” Salon (October 5, 2016): https://www.salon.com/2016/10/05/luke-cage-and- the-racial-empathy-gap-why-do-they-talk-about-being-black-all-the-time/

Netflix and Why Racial Identity Matters

The depiction of characters in Dear White People, On My Block, and Luke Cage do challenge the traditional and stereotypical representations of ethnic minorities because of how fleshed out the  characters all are. Stereotypically, ethnic minority characters are very one dimensional, made to only embody one trait, and are not center stage of the television show. Rather they are in the background, or are the protagonist’s friend. In these shows, however, they are the main characters and have just as much depth to them as any white protagonist normally does, as well as just as much screen time. A large reason behind this, I believe, is because more ethnically diverse directors and writers are being given this opportunity by Netflix to create media. As Lang pointed out in the Salon article, from 2007 to 2014, a massive three quarters of characters with speaking parts in major Hollywood films were white, and of the 732 movies that were eligible for an Academy Award between the years of 2011 and 2015, only 58 had two black leads, which is equal to 7.9% of those nominated films having black leads. Those numbers, plain and simple, are not equal.

One thing that I took notice of, although unfortunately did not shock me, were the tweets included in the Salon article about white viewers being up in arms due to the fact that Luke Cage was “racist” for not portraying white characters. Now, I am speaking from the perspective of a white person so my understanding of racism will never be complete and I have much to learn, but within a society where whiteness is praised, one cannot truly say it is racist to lack the very same elevating whiteness which saturates our media every day. You have so many other films and media, Tim Burton and Wes Anderson were touched on in the Salon article in particular due to their success, that hardly ever casts black actors. This is a large part of the reasoning behind this discomfort with shows like Luke Cage, On My Block, and Dear White People in the eyes of white viewers—it is unfamiliar. This is why there needs to be more people of color represented accurately within the media and more people of color writers, directors, producers, and actors need the space to produce content so as to further educate. Netflix at the very least has created more of a platform for this exposure, and through this I believe minds and wordviews of bigoted viewers can be changed because it paves the way for informed, active, viewing. Not everyone who has bigoted views will change and I understand that, but more exposure to groups of people who have not had equal exposure in the past is a good place to start.

I personally loved all of the shows and many of the characters, and while I could not relate to them entirely because, as a white woman, I do not face the same challenges they do, I appreciated Sam due to her involvement in journalism, which is something I am interested in, as well as the friendship dynamic between the kids in On My Block and how the neighborhood setting and conversations reminded me of some of my middle school and high school dynamics from an age standpoint. I also have a love for Marvel, which sucked me into Luke Cage from the start.

These characters’ problems and concerns are relevant to me because I live in a society where racism exists. For example, in Dear White People, as a white person I could use that media to help recognize what is and is not alright for me to say, and stand against things like blackface parties which Simien says are more common place than we might think. Also, as someone who takes part in social media, I see the anonymity fueled trolls which Sam deals with all of the time on every social media platform so much that it is inescapable, even if I am not dealing with anyone trolling me on the topic of race. Simien brings up how in conversation, people tend to stick to the topics which are safe and correct, saying, “Let’s not talk about slavery. Let’s talk about Abraham Lincoln.” Well, no matter who you are, having those tough conversations about slavery rather than Abraham Lincoln are necessary for progress. Also everyone has to acknowledge there was a problem and a knife (both of white being racism) to begin with, as Simien references the knife in the back quote from Malcolm X. This includes me as a white person and everyone else in this society in an effort to help minimize and put an end to racism. Even though my experiences are different from what any person of color will experience, I loved all three of these shows, and look forward to being able to continue watching them and more importantly continue learning from them in the future.

Racial Identity and Multiculturalism on Netflix

When it comes to producing and creating shows that revolve around a multicultural and racial topic or identity, I haven’t seen any other network or creative site that matches Netflix. We will be focusing on three shows: Luke Cage, On My Block, and Dear White People to demonstrate the forwards movements that Netflix makes to provide content and perspectives from people outside the white gaze.

Looking at the narrative worlds of these shows, it becomes apparent that they are going to involve the tackling of the “racial empathy gap” as Nico Lang points out. Luke Cage for example does not have many white characters, or white people in general in the show. This forms the narrative world as belonging to how African-Americans live in the present day. We learn that Cage was put in prison for something he didn’t do because of his profiling. We see that he is struggling to support himself even though he works hard and goes to multiple jobs. We also see the flip side of class beaus Cottonmouth is a very rich and influential man in some kind of mafia. When looking at On the Block and how their narrative worlds are formed, we see from the beginning that this neighborhood is lower class, and it’s dangerous as well when we hear the gunshots at the party. This is a norm for these children however because instead of running in fear they get excited when they know what kind of gun fired. It again draws away from the white gaze, as neighborhoods such as these are not usually represented on network television. Moving on towards Dear White People and this one differs from the other two as the main characters are surrounded by white people, but the perspective is focused on the blacks. This makes the narrative world feel as though the kids on the campus are trapped or always being on guard when they are on campus because they are surrounded by white people who do not understand the world that they live in every day.

When it comes to if these shows show racial stereotypes, I would say yes and no. For Luke Cage we get the scene of the men talking about sports in the barber shop, which is a stereotype of black men, however these kinds of barber shops do actually exist. I think that this scene also shows the relationships of the people in the community and the divide between the older generation and the younger. For On My Block, Ruby Martinez’s family was the most stereotyped because of the grandmother being a very devout Catholic, as well as Ruby shouting “Ay Dios mio!” when he realizes he is in a dress outside. The Latino gang is also highly stereotyped by riding in lowriders as well as wearing wife-beater tank tops all the time. For Dear White People I didn’t notice so many stereotypes of being African-American as much as I noticed stereotypes about these kids being outspoken college students, which is common in every college. The point of this show was to draw attention to the black stereotypes that white people assume because these stereotypes are false, however instead of showing these stereotypes visibly, the characters call them out on their own.

One stereotype that was noticeable, and to me problematic to some degree comes from Luke Cage. He is a quiet man who works hard, and takes pride in his work no matter what he does. However, I found this to be similar to the quiet black man stereotype that we see in TV and films such as servants, or janitors. I realize that these are the only jobs he can get because he was incarcerated and wants to lay low because of his powers, but this stereotype just kept staring at me in the face despite him being the main character and the “superhero” of the show. Another thing that is present in the show is isn’t necessarily a stereotype, but rather a comment on our society today where black men are subject to violence at a high rate, however we have a Cage being a black man that is “bulletproof.” This makes him impenetrable from the violence and death that surrounds him and his fellow black men every day and the irony of that is astounding.

For On My Block I noticed that Jamal doesn’t necessarily fit the stereotypes of being an African-American man either. Stereotypically, black men should be strong and tough, like Jamal’s father. He should have a love for sports and not show any weakness. Jamal is a nervous, skinny, goofy kid that doesn’t fit his father’s expectations. I think this is a positive way to show this character though because it allows black men and boys to show emotion and to be who they actually want to be rather than what society expects them to be. I think that can go with the other boys in the show such as Cesar because he makes it clear at the end of the first episode that he doesn’t want to be a part of his family’s gang, but he is struggling to separate himself from what his family expects him to do, not only because it will disappoint them, but he could also be hurt if he does. This highlights the traps that these low-income neighborhood kids can be stuck in just because they live there.

To change the minds of anyone based on one show is difficult to do, so I don’t think any of these shows, try as they might, will transform a bigoted person. A bigoted person would also probably not go anywhere near a show titled Dear White People if they know that their prejudices and cruel judgements are going to be called out as wrong. As for most people who just need to be properly educated about discrimination that thrives in this country, I think that all of these shows have the ability to open up their minds, and perhaps make people more open and welcome to others different from them.

When looking at which of these shows is the most appealing to the largest audience it would have to be Luke Cage because of the great appeal for the superhero genre, and the fact that it fits into the Marvel Cinematic Universe is another reason that it became as popular as it did. It also doesn’t have such a brash title as Dear White People does and it’s more appealing than On My Block because more people can sympathize with Cage’s situation more than they can living in a low-income neighborhood where violence and gangs are rampant. However, I personally think I sympathized with On My Block though because of the kid’s drama between themselves, and the awkwardness of growing up and growing different from your friends. I think that Dear White People was the most informative however because I am a white person, and the show was basically telling me personally how and how I should not interact with people of color. It also allowed me to see the daily struggles that POC go through every day with ignorant and sometimes racist people.

Looking through an industrial perspective, it is difficult for minorities to get stories and shows like these ones out into the public because of the limited resources and doors that are open for them. Julien Simien said in his podcast that he had to work a day job on the side of just trying to get money to get his movie off the ground. Even then he explained all the hoops he had to jump through and how patient he had to be just to finally get a buyer for his show. He also has to deal with the backlash once the movie and show was released. People got offended by having their pregudices called out, and didn’t belive that “blackface parties” actually happen, which only proves Simien’s point in that the show is to open people’s eyes to the realities that black people face every day.

Animated Comedies (Blog 6)

When it comes to the new type of animated television shows versus the live-action television we are all so accustomed to seeing, I prefer the animated series. The comedies that are done in animated series seems to be quite a bit more vulgar and they can get away with it too. In F is For Family, Bill Burrs character, Frank, uses quite a bit of abrasive language that would seem to offend a majority of people if it were said by a real actor on live TV. Words like “God Damnit” and “Jesus Christ” are not used often on live TV but when you are watching these animated series, they are said often. You find this in many series beyond the ones assigned this week. Shows like Family Guy and South Park are full of crude humor that are meant to offend certain people, but it doesn’t seem as offensive as if we saw an actor in person saying these words. In F is For Family, they immediately bring up the fact that Franks son is high at the dinner table, which is not seen in live TV. This is something that would be alluded to, but it is not something they would outright say.

The language the characters use is not the only difference between live television, they can change the way the characters look as well. In Archer, they use Lana as a provocative, beautiful brunette woman who constantly has her breasts being flaunted. This is not frowned upon because it is in and animated show where nothing is real. If you were to go into a live TV show and show a woman like Lana, wearing the same outfit in real life, it would cause quite a bit of a stir. On the contrary, when it comes to live action shows, I find that they have a harder time being serious and catching the audiences emotions like a live action show may. There is something different about being able to see the facial expressions of a real human being that will always catch more attention than an animated face would. I personally cannot image many animated TV shows that are not in the comedy genre besides animated children’s shows like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

I find that Adult Swim on Cartoon Network has done an average job on the evaluation of animated series. There are pros and cons to what adult swim has done. On the bright side, Cartoon Network has released some shows that create a lasting impression on the audience and will always have their audience laughing. Adventure Time is a show that has been around for years and can appeal to a large audience. Whether you are an older adult or a younger teen, there is aspects of Adventure Time that can appeal to you. The problem with Cartoon Network is they release a plethora of shows that I have no interest for or they simply do not catch enough attention for a season two and it seems like a waste of time.

For me personally, I will always watch these animated comedies. The amount of mudslinging and offensive material I find in shows like Family Guy and South Park fill my cold heart with joy and happiness. Archer is a show that will always have a spot in my heart because it essentially remakes what I had always wanted to see in the James Bond movies. Then, Rick And Morty just signed another 70 episode deal and now they will be playing for what seems like forever, so Jacob is going to have animated comedies to watch for the rest of his life.

Jake

The Wokeness of Netflix’s Reality TV

An important note should be brought up here before we go any further: I hate reality television. I find it to be canned and not very similar to reality at all. It feels like a scripted show trying to act unscripted; everyone’s reactions are overdone and they are often drawn out far too long with commercials killing the flow of the show entirely. With that in mind watching the first episode of Queer Eye was an enjoyable experience and I would definitely be interested in watching more. Nailed It fell a little more into the overly processed reality television, although through no real fault of its own; Queer Eye takes place in the real world in a regular man’s dingy basement apartment whereas Nailed It takes place on a soundstage set up so that contestants each have their own little kitchen to create monstrosities cakes. Nailed It wasn’t without its charm as watching the sassy older woman (and cake baking legend) tease the contestants was entertaining, as was listening to the French chocolate master Jacques Torres critique one contestant’s odd choice of footwear. I believe the difference in “reality” between these two programs can be explained by their difference in subgenre.

A large part of reality television can be subdivided into different genres; the shows we watched were no different. Queer Eye was a makeover program about 5 gay men who spend time with a straight man who isn’t living the kind of life he wants and needs some help getting out of his rut. What made the first episode of Queer Eye so compelling was the powerful culture clash between the very openly (even stereotypically) gay men of the “Fab Five” and the conservative southern culture that subject Tom was a part of. What ensued was not the Five acting condescending towards the seemingly backwards rednecks, nor was it Tom and his fellows disparaging the Five for their alternative lifestyle; rather it was a uplifting tale of openness and acceptance as Tom freely discussed his thoughts, feelings, and fears with the men and they gave him great advice and genuine, caring support. The show ending with the rugged Tom openly crying after his newfound friends had to leave was extremely touching; despite the relatively short time we got to see their friendship grow, the outpouring of emotion felt earned, far different from the dramatic, ham-fisted emotional plugs like the golden buzzer on America’s Got Talent or the chair spinning on The Voice.

These types of emotional plugs are seen most often on the talent show subgenre of reality television, and that is exactly what Nailed It is. It has a competition, prizes, expert judges, even a little video backstory of each contestant. However, Nailed It does depart to an extent from the talent show formula to an extent; their contestants are all bad bakers on a baking talent show. So the audience gets to watch merely who screws up their cake the least, as opposed to who makes the best cake. It is an entertaining departure that makes the show feel a little fresher than some other shows like American Idol, although it’s hard to say if Nailed It will create a lasting impression like I believe Queer Eye can.

Critics of reality television say that it lacks staying power. The Hollywood Reporter said that “in 2015, [Netflix] chief content officer Ted Sarandos told Netflix investors ‘the disposable nature of reality’ made it less interesting for streamers.” While the Reporter says that Nailed It “finds the funny in home baking disasters, rather than celebrating near-professional amateurs,” the format is still largely the same as the innumerable baking shows that came before it and I can see the argument of it lacking staying power. Queer Eye on the other hand is “a woke celebration of LGBTQ rights.” It has staying power because it battles for acceptance that, while slowly making headway, is still not near where it needs to be. It shows the talent and the humanity of all these men and, perhaps even more importantly, that people from wildly different walks of life like Tom and the Fab Five can become friends and share a real connection. This is the kind of show that gives people hope and can maybe open the mind of those who do not want to accept the LGBTQ community. That is what makes shows like Queer Eye non-disposable.

New Genre on Netflix

Netflix has been a staple for many types of genres since its inception. Genres such as dramas, horrors, and comedies have thrived on the streaming platform, gaining huge amounts of attention from the public and critics alike. However, until recently reality television has almost exclusively been left to cable television. Nevertheless, Netflix finally dipped into this genre with shows such as Queer Eye and Nailed It! Reality television attracts a certain audience, but can easily can a big following quickly if the show is interesting.

Nailed It! mixes the reality shows where a cash prize is awarded to the winning contestant with a cooking reality show. There are also elements of comedy, family, and drama/stress. Cooking shows are very popular. Certain networks on TV are even exclusively dedicated to food. So, for this type of show to be effective, it has to be done extremely well in a creative way.

Between the two shows mentioned, without ever watching either, I only had heard of Queer Eye, so I was interested to see what the hype was about. The concept of mixing a bunch of people together without somewhat different backgrounds and views is entertaining. The location of Atlanta is also an interesting choice, given the makeup of demographics with the combination of rural and urban. This show falls under the category of lifestyle television. With that said, there are other elements included especially topics of LGBTQ. The idea of a ‘test subject’ is entertaining, it keeps the show new and fresh, adding and subtracting a new character each time.

Both of these shows feel familiar with other shows but yet have a unique twist which makes them entertaining. Nailed It! is obviously a cooking show- but instead of watching professional chefs cook up masterpieces, this show captures bad home cooks looking to improve. Of course, there are shows about bad restaurants already on cable, but it is rare to find one about ordinary people who have to cook at home. This is very relatable for the mass public. Almost everyone has to cook, or learn how to cook and many people struggle in the kitchen. For an audience viewer who relates to this, they watch it for that very reason, or for a better cook, they could even tune in for amusement. It lends a positive message towards personal success, challenging the cast to be the best chefs possible (and winning money).

As mentioned, with so many existing reality programs on cable, Netflix has to be unique. In the article, “How Netflix and Amazon Are Driving a Global Reality TV Renaissance,” Hollywood Reporter (April 9, 2018), by Scott Roxborough, this topic is discussed as he says, ” In typical self-promotional fashion, Netflix has claimed its move into nonscripted will revolutionize the genre. So Queer Eye isn’t just a retread of a hit format from the early 2000s, it’s a woke celebration of LGBTQ rights (although that definition fits the original just as well).” This show clearly brings new qualities to the world of reality TV that are unprecedented especially in the LGBTQ movement. New, relatable shows such as these two, will be key for attracting new audiences.

Reality TV: Often Anything But

I, like many others, have always looked upon reality TV with some degree of disdain. From the moment I was introduced to shows like American Idol, Survivor, and any of the dozens of home makeover shows on HGTV, I knew that the reality television genre was not for me. That is not to say that there are no reality TV shows that I have watched and enjoyed. There was a time in which I would catch an episode or two of Pawn Stars daily, as I enjoyed seeing what strange and interesting antiques and collectibles would find their way onto the show. However, even as I watched the few reality shows I liked, I could never shake the feeling that everything I was seeing on screen was ironically extremely fake. I cringed (and still do cringe) whenever I saw the plastered on smiles and heard the canned, dull jokes people on reality TV shows always wielded. Now I have seen the first episodes of two of Netflix’s attempts at re-imagining the reality TV genre, Queer Eye, and Nailed It!, and, I have to say, it has not changed my opinion so much as it has slightly adjusted it.

If there’s one thing good I can say about the two shows mentioned above, it is that they manage to remove a lot of the ‘trashiness’ that was often inherently involved in a lot of reality programming. And when I say ‘trashiness’, what I mean is mean-spirited or low-brow attempts at entertaining viewers. In other words, an appeal to the lowest common denominator that ends up making the show, at best, a guilty pleasure for many people. Now, not all reality shows always relied on this kind of content, but many of them forced a competitive edge into their shows in order to create fake conflict and drama. In contrast, Queer Eye does not promote any kind of conflict, instead focusing on life improvement and actual home design in a positive manner. Nailed It!, on the other hand, does have a competitive aspect to it, but tones down the conflict between the cooks to focus more on what they are actually cooking.

I still have to say that I did not enjoy watching these shows, however. While Queer Eye did leave me with positive vibes, I simply am not very interested in the “makeover program” (Roxborough) genre to the extent where I am willing to sit through a full episode of it. Similarly, I am not very interested in the “talent contest” style of show either, and I had some problems with the way that Nailed It! occasionally seemed to take a mocking tone towards its contestants. Despite this, I do believe that in changing the places where these shows hold their entertainment value, Netflix has succeeded in removing a lot of the “disposable nature” (Roxborough) present in a lot of reality television. Furthermore, I think that Netflix has even been able to bring in some aspects to these shows that hold value above and beyond entertainment. Queer Eye in particular held, I believe, intelligent lessons on open-mindedness and concepts of masculinity. While I do not believe that the show manages to say anything ground-breaking or revolutionary, and the morals it provides is somewhat lessened by the fact that Tom’s (The subject of the first episode) struggle is being aired publicly, it does challenge the viewer to think and apply lessons from the show in their real lives. They have, in other words, brought some reality to reality television.

So you thought you didn’t like Reality TV

While Queer Eye and Nailed It! don’t break the reality TV mold, both offer something a little different in the landscape of unscripted Television. Queer Eye is a blatant makeover program, yet tackles issues of masculinity and gender expression when it comes to every man the “Fab Five” meet. And while anyone who has seen the Great British Baking Show will feel right at home with Nailed It! the Nicole Byers led-vehicle offers gentle feedback to amateur bakers for laughs. Both shows fit under their respective genres but use their standard forms to coax different reactions from the viewer.

 

I want to start with Queer Eye here, not just because I am a massive fan, but because the show’s genre-specific approach has more going for it than meets the eye (wink, wink). On the surface, we have five men, Antoni, Tan, Karamo, Bobby and Jonathan who are all experts in their respective fields that range from cooking to hair and, of course, fashion. Like any other makeover show, concerned friends or family members contact the hosts about the poor state of the episodes’ subjects who are in desperate need of Fab Five’s help in order to become who they really are under their shoddy exteriors. While the concept sounds shallow and the viewer might be puzzled how Antoni’s simple guacamole mix is going to turn someone’s life around, the real magic of the show resides in the conversations the men have with the subject regarding masculinity. It didn’t take me long to notice it was the only show in recent memory where I saw men actually cry together on screen. In the first episode, “You Can’t Fix Ugly,” the show starts with Tom who is about as manly as they come. He’s got an unkempt beard, a rattily voice, wears practically the same outfit every day and absolutely loves cars. The idea of five queer men remaking a guy like this made me nervous, to say the least and I didn’t feel any better once I saw what his house was like. While Tom may be a bachelor, his house is anything but a pad. So, when I saw Tom open up to Antoni about wanting to get his former lover back, I was shocked. And once Tom talked to Karamo, I was practically in tears as he encouraged him to invite his ex-wife to his car show. I noticed that I genuinely rooted for another man to succeed in his emotional endeavors on television and reach self-actualization. But when it came to watching Tom cry at the end of his makeover, I lost it and began crying too. What I was watched went far beyond just a simple makeover show. It gave me hope that a better future for men exists in which we’re not afraid to be open towards our feelings and can communicate our emotional needs. To see a guy as rugged as Tom succeed in this endeavor filled me with that hope.

 

While I certainly didn’t cry watching Nailed It!, I was certainly charmed by the show’s “just go with it” attitude. The production quality of the show is kitschy to say the least but in a way that seems pretty aware of itself as Nicole Byers makes tongue in cheek jokes to the contestants. Watching people fail miserably is something people are probably no stranger to witnessing on television, but this baking show doesn’t just offer cheap laughs at the demise of baked goods made by nervous amateurs. In fact, there’s a real genuineness that arises from watching average people try their best, knowing full well nothing they touch will ever become a masterpiece. This comes out in the judges’ critiques too as Jacques Torres and Sylvia Weinstock, along with Byers, are quick to make jokes at the expense of the bakers but are just as sure to offer some encouragement. If this where Hell’s Kitchen none of these bakers would last a minute, but like a polite friend, the judges seem to acknowledge what the contestants were going for with their often flawed creations. It’s not television that will necessarily make you think, but it might encourage you to have a little more patience for those

Reality TV, Love it or Hate it!

Reality television, some people love it and some people hate. I am one of the few who are obsessed with watching reality shows. From Keeping Up With the Kardashian’s, Jersey Shore, Below Deck, Real Housewives and so much more, yes I watch it all. The best part of reality television is we get to take a front row seat of watching other people lives from the comfort of our own house. Services like Amazon, Apple and Netflix are all now bringing in reality television in order to make their subscribers happy. The market shows the demands of reality television are growing every day and companies are trying to bring in new content all the time.

Netflix has it’s own original and re-newed episode of reality tv which include Nailed It! and Queer Eye. Both programs bring us into other peoples lives rather the person is trying to bake a complicated dessert or trying to help give others make over’s. While I was watching Nailed It! I feel in love, with the host Nichole Byer. Having meet Byer in person, as set as the host, she brings in comedy to the show. Unlike tradition cooking shows, where contestants are expected to have amazing cooking skills, contestants are ordinary people trying to cook, which make the show more reliable to viewers.

When people take about reality television as a genre most of the time the genre just gets referred to as “reality television. However, having the name just at the genre is too broad and should be broken down into sub-genres such as, “make-over,” “cooking,” “dating programs,” surviving programs,” and so many more. In order to take the deciding process easier for the viewer to select programs, there needs to be sub-genres for reality television. As I go to choose my personal genres for reality television I lean more towards the “lifestyle” genre such as Real Housewives, Jersey Shore and Keeping Up With the Kardashian’s. The reason I enjoy this sub-genre so much is because I get to look inside the lives of “celebrities” and what the lifestyle of a celebrity would be like. When I watch these shows it is like a mini escape of my own reality and I get “placed” into another persons life for a moment. Nailed It! I would place under the “cooking program” sub-genre because even though the show isn’t about professional cooking, the show still contains all elements of cooking shows. Queer Eye belongs under the “make over program,” sub-genre because the viewer is provided with a contestant who receives a complete life make over.

As a gay male, Queer Eye presents a positive representation of the LGBTQ community and gender stereotypes. The best part of the show is the “fab five” stars all represent a classic “type” of gay guy. You have a more masculine gay male all the way down to a more “feminine” gay guy. The show does an amazing job of presenting five gay males who help give make over’s to heterosexual males in southern states. In the first episode of season one, we are introduced to an older man named Tom, who represents your typical older southern cowboy. Tom having an open mind as well as never being around gay men builds a true connection with the boys that will last forever. An article called How Netflix and Amazon Are Driving a Global Reality TV Renaissance, by Scott Roxborough in the Hollywood Reporter, Roxborough claims “Netflix’s Bajaria said in a statement following the launch of Queer Eye. “These series elevate the genre with innovative takes on familiar formats. They deliver immersive and nuanced stories. They elicit so many emotions from viewers, from tears of laughter to tears of joy — and that’s just Queer Eye.””   Both Netflix original reality shows are a spin on classic sub-genres, which positively represent what viewers expect to see but showcase them in a refreshing modern lens.

Scott Roxborough, “How Netflix and Amazon Are Driving a Global Reality TV Renaissance,” Hollywood Reporter (April 9, 2018): https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/how-netflix- amazon-are-driving-a-global-reality-tv-renaissance-1100793

Netflix, Viewers, and the New Opportunities of Reality Television

Reality TV is vastly different from scripted programs, but in the case of Queer Eye, there are some similarities which did not entirely depart from the latter genre. Those depicted in the show, both them men who host the show and the guests, had some “character development” throughout the first episode. One man refused to enter a church at the beginning of the show due to his experiences of how the church treats those within the LGBT community, but halfway through the episode he talked with Tammy about his experiences, and her experience, and they came to the point that Tammye believed God loves everyone, and that not all Christians are good, but there is vastly more good than bad. Then, at the end of the episode, the same man entered a portion of the church to show the work they had done on the building. Also, Tammye’s son, Myles, refused to attend Homecoming due to his experiences with how the church treated him as a gay man, but after various conversations throughout the course of the show, he decided to attend.

Queer Eye offers a different perspective on masculinity because it shows five men entering someone’s life to improve their physical appearance, state of their home, the way they cook, as well as their overall well-being. These are all things which many believe exist in the domestic sphere, which is therefore dominated by women. To see men in these roles breaks the barriers that state masculine men cannot have anything to do with this sphere. It proves that masculinity doesn’t have to be tough and stoic, rather it can be quite the opposite. It also goes against the perspective that men have to be attracted to women, since all of the men in the series are gay. Essentially, it breaks down many stereotypes about men, for the better.

Nailed It, in my opinion, could not have been more different from scripted television. The vague plot of a baking show was overshadowed by the comedy of the entire premise—tossing a few amateur bakers into a room and telling them to replicate wonderful pieces where they have no hope to begin with. It was amusing, but did not have the same wit as BoJack, nor was there any “character development” like what is regularly shown in scripted shows, and even appeared in Queer Eye.

I recognize Nailed It is a comedy and therefore this should be taken with a grain of salt, but I think it can be problematic in the way that it applauds poor bakers. In a bigger message, it applauds failure, which is not necessarily a good thing when the rewards is $10000. The show sets contestants up for failure, and although it does award the person who does the best, none of the contestants attempts at recreating cake pops and a wedding cake were good and the show recognized that and congratulated it anyways. I think the show is fun, offers an outlet for those who have tried baking and never had a knack for it, and should still exist, but I would be tentative for some viewers to see it and think all it takes to succeed is to do horribly on a gameshow. There needs to be more drive.

When it comes to genres of reality television, I definitely believe they can be broken into smaller categories. Mostly dating programs, game programs, talent programs, home programs. The article pointed out that within the United States demand for unscripted shows jumped 125% in the first quarter of 2018, and so that has to count for something in terms of popularity. I think people can use reality shows to escape in a more realistic sense, because they know they are watching other’s lives, which can make it appealing. Also, it shows what can be possible because it is more realistic, and this sense of possibility can also be what is so alluring.

Dating programs would be all of the shows similar to Married at First Sight and The Bachelor, where the primary focus is romance, although I would argue that sometimes these shows can be scripted to an extent, making their existence in the reality television realm a little blurry. Game programs would be things like Big Brother where the goal is to compete to win something of monetary value, usually. Talent programs are things like America’s Got Talent, American Idol, and American Ninja Warrior (although this could be either a game program or a talent program, my entire biased fascination with the fitness level needed to compete put it in the talent competition). Home programs could be shows on the HGTV, Travel, and Food networks.

In terms of my own preference, I find the talent programs and the home programs the most interesting. The prior I love because of the hope behind it, seeing people practice at something to the point where they excel in it and can be recognized for their talent is inspiring for me. The home programs I love because of the unique view on culture it offers. Mostly I enjoy watching House Hunter’s International and the various shows Andrew Zimmern hosts due to the vast perspectives on foods it allows viewers to see. I enjoy the concept of being able to travel different places, even if it is only for thirty minutes and through a television screen.