According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2012, more than half of babies under the age of 1 were a racial or ethnic minority. Such findings support the assertion that, ultimately, the United States will become a majority-minority country. Thus, cultural production via television should reflect such. For this reason, I am rather befuddled when I see television shows whose cast fails to reflect the demographics of the location in which the show is set.
As an example, although the state of California had the most single-race, non-Hispanic Whites in 2011, the state’s population is rather diverse with Asians, American Indians, Blacks, Hispanic/Latinos, Native Hawaiians, and bi-racial or multiracial persons collectively comprising 65 percent of the total state population. Looking more closely on the local level, Pasadena, CA, the setting of the Big Bang Theory, is similarly diverse with 64 percent of racial and ethnic minorities encompassing the total population. Consequently, as much as I find the Big Bang Theory humorous, I am often disappointed to see that the show neglects to reflect the apparent diversity of the city in which it is set. With the exception of Raj’s character, there are no other racial or ethnic minorities regularly incorporated into any of the show’s storylines. Granted, the show’s writers typically utilize an ironic sense of humor to mock societal pathologies such as racism. Yet, one could contend that the writers’ efforts are undermined when the show’s cast is symbolically representative of the cultural hegemony that facilitates these exact pathologies.
Likewise, more than half of the population of Los Angeles includes racial and ethnic minorities. Los Angeles is often the setting of many television productions. Most recently, it is the setting of the new television show, Scorpion. Similar to the Big Bang Theory, only one of the show’s main cast members is a racial or ethnic minority – again, a diametrical opposition to the actual, prevailing heterogeneity of Los Angeles.
The lack of diversity in the aforementioned shows is simply one side of a multidimensional issue. To be specific, the shows’ characters represent an additional side of the homogeneity issue in this context. Although one show is a comedy and the other is a drama, both shows are focused on a group of geniuses. On each show, only one is a racial or ethnic minority and/or female. Needless to say, the casts of both shows reify the notion that racial and ethnic minorities and/or women are not generally associated with the image or role of genius. Perhaps, the shows’ producers could challenge the existing hegemony and make the casts more reflective of the U.S. population.