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Blackface TV: From Amos ‘n Andy to Bridgerton

A four (4) part Docuseries, an examination of what passes for Black Television and “black” character-driven TV today. An in depth look at the extent to which it’s just another Minstrel Show, “white” imagery in Blackface.

Provides a history, using examples, beginning with the Minstrel Show form and how that basic format/formula continues despite having “black” producers/creatives working in the medium and despite having so-called Black networks.

The entertainment form began as a “white” one and has hewn to that form ever since. Blacks who are working in the medium today haven’t really innovated nor strayed too far from what the industry deems right and proper for “black” folks in both form and content, in front & behind the camera.

During the Black Arts Movement of the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s the mantra of Black Mediamakers was “by, for, and about” Black folks. In what ways today do we have the “by” and the “about,” but not the “for?”

All of these “black” shows or shows with “diverse” casts, with so-called “colorblind” casting that make their way to the Broadcast, Cable, VOD networks has the effect of diminishing, devaluing the African Diasporic culture and history, while elevating the centrality of the Eurocentric POV, which ultimately is the point.

“As a white American..I have a white frame of reference and a white worldview, and I move through the world with a white experience. My experience [contrary to the messages projected in the media and educational systems], is not a universal human experience,” Robin DiAngelo writes in White Fragility.

Historically how has American media, particularly television presented what is ultimately this “white” worldview, even when wrapped in Black packaging, to the detriment of audiences Black and White?

The series pulls back to curtain to see just how the strings are connected and provides historic context to the programming that has made its way into our homes. We examine both the familiar and the hidden, the classic and the mediocre the good, the bad and the cringeworthy. The story unfolds through interviews, archival footage, commentary & critique.

The television entertainment form began as a “white” one and has hewn to that form ever since. Blacks who are working in the medium today haven’t really innovated (in the way that Jackie Robinson changed major league baseball or “black” players reinvented professional basketball, playing above-the-rim) nor strayed too far from what the industry deems “commercial.”

The “elephant-in-the-room” question is why? We will examine this question along the lines of the answer posited in a 2016 article in the New Yorker, titled, “The Oscar Whiteness Machine,” by Richard Brody.

“…[T]he presumption that baseline experience is white experience, and that black life is a niche phenomenon, life with an asterisk. The result is that only narrow and fragmentary views of the lives of African-Americans ever make it to the screen—and I think that this is not an accident. If the stories were told—if the daily lives and inner lives, the fears and fantasies, the historical echoes and the anticipations of black Americans were as copiously unfolded in movies as are those of whites—then lots of white folks would be forced to confront their historical and contemporary shame. They’d no longer be able to claim ignorance of what they’d like not to know—which includes their own complicity in a rigged system.” What are the ways that Black folks themselves participate in that “rigged system?”

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Walter Gavin, Producer

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