Sunday, August 01, 2004

Monk and the Sassy Black Chick

Just saw the latest episode of Monk, a cute show that's gone way down hill.
I've been meaning to talk here about how one could have predicted Monk would
jump the shark from the moment they changed the theme song from their bright, appropriate one to that grating Randy Newman song, how it was a sign that the producers didn't really
understand their own show and what made it good, that from that point it was
inevitable that one day there would be a show where Monk had to babysit a
chimpanzee. But now I have something else to talk about, the tendency of
television producers of lily-white shows to make their rare black characters
fat sassy women, cool streetwise guys, or occassionally impossibly noble
black people apparently there to teach us all a lesson about the struggles
of the African-American. In the case of Monk's latest episode, "Mr. Monk
and the Girl Who Cried Wolf," it was the sassy woman.

Now, I know there are big sassy black women, I see them behind the counter
at ice cream shops or talking loudly in the subway, but I don't actually
know anyone like that, and I'm willing to bet the producers of Monk don't
either. I'm white, I'm not a streetwise clubbing kind of white, I'm a
pretty dorky white, and I meet black people at work or at friend's parties
or when I go swing dancing and the women aren't sassy and the men aren't
streetwise. In fact, they are all pretty much like the white people I meet,
well-educated, soft spoken, and often kind of geeky (trekkies and the like).

So when I see yet another sassy black chick, it once again makes me wonder,
where on earth are the black people who reflect my personal experience?
There are a few in movies who seem closer to the mark, like Denzel and
Halle, but television insists on pulling their black characters from the
black lower class.

The first time I met a black kid I was 10. And I was shocked, because he
was nothing like the black people I saw on television like J.J. Walker: he
was exactly like all the white kids I knew with darker skin. Same clothes,
same taste in music. Why is it virtually impossible to see anyone like that
on television? Do these television producers simply not know any black
people, are they going entirely by what they see on *other* TV shows? I
just don't get it.

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