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Are You Desensitized? How To Tailor Your TV Lens For Women of Color  

Are You Desensitized? How To Tailor Your TV Lens For Women of Color  

Are you desensitized in the way you watch TV?  If you answered no, you’re lying.

The truth is that we all have biases. Some we’re aware of and some others ultimately make us aware of. But sadly no one is immune. Not even you!

Weirdly, the catalyst for this topic was a movie. Comedian Jordan Peele’s satire, Get Out, made it easier for me to get in shape and remove my TV lenses because the flick vividly displayed internalized natures. Things we don’t realize we do because we do them often. Things done without feeling. Desensitized things.

So while reviews pour in about how the film narrows views of a particular racial group even further, I wanted to make sure you weren’t doing the same watching your favorite TV shows.

Donna Meagle (played by Retta) on NBC's Parks and Recreation

Donna Meagle (played by Retta) on NBC's Parks and Recreation

Consider how many times during your life you’ve seen women of color on TV. Now think about whether they were cast in any stereotypical roles, had only one line or non-speaking parts. Next, count the sexualized characters like the mistress and the objectified like the immigrant wife. Factor in every character that came from a “broken home” in a “rough neighborhood” and stop there.

I tallied up and was embarrassed to say there were so many. But more embarrassed that I hadn’t noticed until then. Did you?

You’re probably saying, ok maybe I am a bit desensitized but that doesn’t mean I hate women of color characters! Correct. It does however, mean that you have grown accustomed to the level of inaccuracy women of color characters are forced to portray.  Don’t feel bad. I did too.

I took stock of how I felt while watching WoC’s onscreen, when I didn’t feel anything and why I didn’t like some WoC characters at all.  What I found were 3 elements of desensitization. Here’s how I tailored my lens of sensitivity for women of color characters again.

I suggest you check these three things before sitting down to binge like normal.

1. Concern

Your fave shows have characters you love and some you don’t. It is not your responsibility to love each one but determine your least fave and why. If the words “annoying” or “boring” come up, good job.

I found that what I hated about “those” characters were a direct result of something someone else did to them. I just needed a face to blame and I chose them without thinking twice. They didn’t deserve how I judged their reactions but I did it anyway without concern.  Being fair didn’t matter. Don’t make my mistake.  

How concerned are you about WoC characters?

2. Circumstance

This lens is the most dangerous. It allows you to flippantly watch characters endure perilous situations without batting an eye.

I watched WoC character breakups, deaths, mental illnesses, religious persecutions, workplace oppression, identity struggles, addictions and more. I was affected in the moment. Maybe the next episode too. Then I forgot.

Why? My real-life circumstances hadn’t allowed me to live through what these characters had. I thought it was just TV. I was wrong. That storyline is someone’s truth just not mine.  I observed the way I felt about characters, started to spill over into my real life interactions with women of color. I couldn’t connect with those who didn’t share similar lives to mine.

So think of “that” character you loathe then meditate some more. Though I learned WoC characters fight many wars, didn’t make their individual battles any less brutal.

Have you examined your circumstance lately?

3. Conscious

You are allowed to love TV shows without WoC. Just be vigilant when these characters do appear onscreen. Being fully aware of their treatment is all you have to do.

Also, keep a watchful eye on how you respond to them. Excited? Annoyed?  Check your concern and circumstance.

This last quick step will keep the fun in binging and keep you constantly framing your viewing lens for women of color characters. Instead of perpetuating internalized natures.

Now that you know the lenses, you’ll be able to recognize desensitization-like a pro.

Pro looks good in every shade.

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