Every so often I find myself writing headlines, looking at them and thinking, well, isn’t that just obvious? Why does it even need to be said? And yet, sadly, we live in a world where they still do.
This morning, for example, I had the dubious pleasure of interacting with a man on Twitter, a white man, who took great pains to inform me that the fact that Magnum PI hadn’t hired – or even attempted to look for – any latinx writers to give their new latinx lead a real and believable background and a place in the community he represents was okay, because hey, the actor was there to add little things, and that what… did I know want the cameraman to be latinx too?
My response – to him, and to all of you, is the same: hell yes.
For reference sakes, here’s where it all started, or at least, the reason behind me talking about this on Twitter, a forum which we all know attracts more trolls than people looking to have sensible conversations.
EP Eric Guggenheim is asked if there are any Latinx writers in the #MagnumPI room. Guggenheim says they don’t deny Hernandez’s heritage. Lenkov says there are not Latinx writers in the room because it’s hard to find writers. (good god.) #TCA18
— Diane Gordon (@thesurfreport) August 5, 2018
No, I’m not sure whether we should be laughing or crying either.
The problem of diversity is so big that some people, like this unfortunate soul, can fail to grasp the fact that we don’t just want a token character that looks like us; we want an experience we can relate. We want not just to SEE ourselves on TV, we also want to hear ourselves, and see the characters go through familiar situations.
You know, the thing white people have always had.
The thing One Day At A Time, whose EP/Writer Mike Royce was quick to call out Magnum PI, gives us in spades.
psst it’s only hard if you don’t actually look https://t.co/DwuByCrmVC
— Mike Royce (@MikeRoyce) August 6, 2018
The fact that Magnum PI is at the forefront of these discussions is a hilarious side effect to CBS’s attempts at diversity. A couple of weeks ago, at San Diego Comic Con, I stood in their press room, looked around, and for a second, was fooled into thinking they were really trying.
Was it naiveté on my part? Or was it, simply, a desire to see the world you want to live in, a sincere hope that all the shouting has been for something, that someone out there is listening?
I’m not sure – but it’s clear I was wrong then, and though Magnum PI wasn’t then, and isn’t now, the kind of show I envision myself watching every week, before, I’d been thinking that maybe, it could be the type of show I could find a way to support, somehow.
Those days are long gone.
Am I happy that Magnum PI cast a latinx lead? Yes. It’s a hell of a lot better than Supergirl did, for example, casting two white people to play latinx, but if you cast latinx actors without any intention to tell actual latinx stories, then you’re basically doing token representation, and that’s not what anyone wants.
We want what One Day at A Time has given us. We want what Vida has given us.
It shouldn’t be that much to ask. It shouldn’t be absurd to suggest that latinx characters are treated as actual latinx characters and now just tanned faces with white people’s backgrounds.
And it really, really shouldn’t be too much to ask that I be allowed to express my opinion on Twitter without a white man explaining to me what being a minority is like.
Have we come a long way? Yes? Are we anywhere near where we need to be? Hell no. Don’t let a face that looks different convince you otherwise. Real diversity starts in the writers room, and should, hopefully, translate to each and every job behind the scenes. You know, like the cameraman that man on Twitter was joking about me needing.
If not, then what are we even doing other than checking some boxes and pretending we’re learning a lesson?
Magnum PI premieres September 24th on CBS.