SNL diversity solution misses root of the problem
Lorne Michaels, creator and producer of “Saturday Night Live,” was under great scrutiny after hiring six new white, mostly male, cast members for the show’s 39th season.
Before the midseason finale on Dec. 21, “secret auditions” exclusively for black women were held, according to the Washington Post. As a result of the auditions, Sasheer Zamata was added to the variety show’s cast on Jan. 6, along with writers Leslie Jones and LeKendra Tookes on Jan. 8.
While I commend Michaels and his colleagues for trying to diversify the show, I’m stuck here asking why only black women? What about someone of Latino background? Asian? Native American? What about a transgender or handicapped person? My problem with SNL’s strive for “diversity” is that it seems like it’s only achieved when you add a few black women to the mix.
Don’t get me wrong here. After watching Zamata’s early work, I’m already a fan and excited to see what she’ll bring to SNL. But for the executives to very specifically weed through a single group of people doesn’t sound like diversification to me.
The cast isn’t even really diverse after the addition of Zamata. She, Jay Pharaoh, Kenan Thompson and Nasim Pedrad make four people of color, three of whom are black, out of a cast of 17 players. For the executives to search for a player of a specific race or gender satisfies the token minority standard of diversity. This problematic standard helps fuel stereotypes and often shows people in a single dimension.
Understandably, one can’t mash a bunch of different colored crayons at random and expect a masterpiece. I’m sure Michaels hired who he hired for reasons that are for the benefit of comedy, but I haven’t seen them yet. I love Mike O’Brien but I can’t be the only one thinking the past half season was a bit lackluster.
The real problem presented here is inequality and misrepresentation in the media, nothing new. But in the year 2014, it seems that we’ve taken one step forward and two steps back. I remember growing up with shows with diverse casts like “Power Rangers” and “Out of the Box.”
As an American woman of color, I’m pleading for all of the media world to realize that there is more to diversity than just white and black.
To truly celebrate America’s melting pot (or tossed salad, if you prefer) culture, we need to embrace it in the media with accurate representations.
Tiffany Do is a junior journalism major from San Francisco, Calif. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.