I would imagine that pretty much everyone reading this wants to make the world a better, kinder, more inclusive place.
And there are so many ways we can do that! We can support companies that use safe, fair workplace practices. We can contact our politicians and make our voices heard. We can make dietary choices that are better for the planet.
What’s one tiny step we can take to make our corner of the world more inclusive?
We can watch tv shows by and about people whose life experiences are different than our own.In the same way that we vote with our dollars, we vote with our eyeballs and our Netflix queues Click To Tweet
I’ll be watching tv anyway – I might as well tv shows that happen to expand my mind + heart + horizons.
A funny thing happens when you become emotionally invested in a tv show: in some small way, you learn more about a group of people and get more comfortable with them. Yes, I realize tv shows are works of fiction and, no, I don’t think watching Transparent makes me an expert on trans culture. But I do think that becoming emotionally invested in someone’s life – even if that person is a fictional television character – will make us (at least slightly) more empathetic in real life.
There are some funny, smart, gloriously accessible shows that are written by or prominently feature people who are very different than most of us reading this blog. We can watch a sitcom starring an Indian woman and eye guzzle a comedy/drama featuring a transgender sex worker and then queue up a drama with the first black female lead in 40 years.
And while our viewing habits are no substitute for voting or protesting or writing our politicians, when we watch things we’re telling The Powers That Be “Hey! I like this! Do more of this!”
If you can’t see it, you can’t be it. So in a tiny way, when you watch Scandal, you’re driving up the ratings, making it more likely that networks will create more shows with strong, successful black female leads, giving black girls more women on tv to look up to.
When we watch these shows, we’re telling networks they’re making sound business decisions. We’re telling the companies that buy ads they’re making wise investments. When we tell our friends “Hey, are you watching Fresh Off The Boat?” we’re spreading the word and increasing viewership.
Here are some of my favorites:
The Mindy Project
A good ol’ fashioned rom-sitcom about a funny, stylish, self-absorbed lady OBGYN in NYC (who happens to be Indian-American). Also, there’s a nice dash of feminism thrown in and OH GOD CAN WE TALK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED IN THE MIDSEASON FINALE.
A primetime soap featuring political intrigue and impeccably tailored white pants suits on the woman we all want to be: Olivia Pope. The show also tackles topics like abortion and rape and it’s the first network drama to have an African-American female lead in almost 40 years.
Fresh Off The Boat
This show is really, actually laugh out loud funny. It features Chinese immigrant parents + their three American-born kids (one who loves hip hop) … in Florida … in the 90s. The show is sweet, funny, and the character of Jessica is like no other tv mom I’ve ever seen. Jessica for President!
Let’s be real; this is a nighttime soap. There are medical misdiagnoses and murders and affairs AND IT IS SO GOOD. In addition to race, it touches on mental health, sexism, abortion, and incarceration. Honestly, I’ll just watch anything Taraji P. Henson is in.
Jane The Virgin
This nighttime soap/comedy cleverly borrows a page from Mexican telenovelas with voice overs and “in case you missed it” recaps. The Latino cast is talented and charming (Gina Rodriguez be my BFF, plz) and the plot covers things like undocumented immigration, class, and mental health. And evil twins, etc. Written and produced by a woman!
Reruns of Roseanne
Roseanne was one of the only shows of that era – and one of very few to date – that starred white characters leading working class lives. It’s a comedy, sure, but it was groundbreaking. As Wikipedia states: The show was also significant for its portrayal of feminist ideals including a female-dominated household, a female lead whose likability did not rely on her appearance, relationships between female characters that were cooperative rather than competitive, and females openly expressing themselves without negative consequences.
A beautifully acted, gorgeously filmed, painfully funny/real dramady about an L.A. family whose patriarch comes out as trans in his 60s. The characters are wonderful and annoying and you’ll want to call your friends after every episode to discuss what happened. (Were you as gutted as me when Ali screws it up with Syd?!)
Of course, changing the world requires more of us than changing our Netflix queue. But it’s a fun, easy place to start.
But I want to hear from you! Which tv shows (or movies or books) opened your mind and expanded your perspectives?
P.P.S. Let’s all watch Tangerine right now