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Douchebag Decree: Race, Bunheads, and Amy Sherman-Palladino

Douchebag Decree logo in red and blue letters it says Ye Olde Douchebag Decree. Bitch hereby declares the following person a total douchebag

It's never a surprise when new shows on television lack diversity. Someone writes about how awfully white a show is, it stirs up some commotion on the Internet but people continue watching, (*cough* Girls *cough*) and that's about the extent of it. And it's not so different for Amy Sherman-Palladino's new ABC Family show, Bunheads (except maybe it's less addictive than Girls). I mentioned a few weeks ago in an On Our Radar post that Grey's Anatomy creator, Shonda Rhimes criticized the show (via Twitter) for its lack of racial and ethnic diversity. Totally relevant and very much called for. This has been blowing up all over the interwebs, and of course, Amy Sherman-Palladino responded, but it surely wasn't what anyone wanted to hear.

Trigger warning for transphobic language at 4:30

the protagonist of bunheads stands straight up in an all red showgirls outfit with feathers on her head

For the sake of accurate and informed cultural criticism (which is why I watch most TV shows), I bit my tongue and watched the first episode of Bunheads. In the office. On my birthday. The show begins with a scene of dancing Las Vegas showgirls. Two of the dancers dressed in red are bickering about how the women dancing in front of them—the dancers who take their tops off—are paid more. They continue to criticize them, saying they are ugly, comparing one dancer to Muammar Gaddafi, amongst other sorely inane comments. A dancer of color walks through and snidely says, "I heard that Gaddafi comment." They shrug off the confrontation, while one contemplates where she'll be getting drunk that night, and the other (whom we will soon learn is the show's protagonist) refuses to go out drinking because she needs to be perfect and glowing for her audition for Chicago the next morning, and accepts a bouquet of "African roses" from her "stalker" sweetie. Great start, right? Hmmmmm, not so much. I'd continue, but I don't want to bore you and/or make you cringe. I'll tell you this though: She marries the guy, moves in with him and his mother, and ends up co-teaching ballet with her. Super.

a photo of amy sherman-palladino smirking and wearing an oversized black velvet hat

Ballet is already a notoriously privileged and white-dominated form of dance, so we might expect the cast of Bunheads to be mostly white, but why why why do we need another show about upper-middle-class white women? There's nothing cutting-edge about that. Yes, it is important that we have shows on television created by women, for women, but blatantly disregarding issues of race within a TV series (and then disregarding criticism of this blatant disregard) is not okay. These issues are intersectional, let's not forget that. Visibility: It's important, but not just for women. It's important for all oppressed groups, be that women, people of color, people with disabilities, those who are not wealthy, not heterosexual, not cisgender, and all intersections therein.

In reference to her criticisms, in a sad effort to turn the issue into something else, Palladino is quoted saying, "I've always felt that women, in a general sense, have never supported other women to the level that they should." Well, Amy, how the heck should women support women? Tell me. Or maybe I should tell you. First off, in order to be a woman who is a supporter of women, you should probably be supporting all kinds of women, not just white ones. And maybe check your privilege as a white lady, listen, and respond in a way that doesn't silence anyone. Also, pointing out flaws (such as a lack of diversity) IS support. It's highlighting what you could have done better, and ideally, you'd take this constructive criticism and improve your show in the future.

In Palladino's defense, the interviewer is the one who turned this into a woman showrunner vs. woman showrunner showdown. That said, Palladino could have addressed Rhimes' actual concerns had she cared. But no, Palladino chose to steer clear of the issue and continued to speak about how difficult it is to put a show on the air—which I'm sure it is—and how time constraints, budgetary issues, and other "bullshit" gets in the way, and that is understandable, but please, DON'T SKIRT RACE.


cast of bunheads in various ballet poses with the protagonist in the center wearing casual dancewear

She continues to say about the female characters she writes, "They don't hate men. There's no point in hating a man. Why? They are nice. They take us to dinner, every now and then you get a purse, or a nice pair of earrings... women who don't like men, I feel sad for them." Who said anything about hating men? Anyone? Even so, she's saying we should respect and appreciate all men because they all fit this description, and misogyny isn't a thing, and because some women hate men this is why women aren't getting ahead, and women shouldn't be allowed to criticize other women, because God forbid we have opinions. Also, she's assuming that all women date men. Not to mention, men who have money. Oh. OH. Let me call my invisible man friend (who is super nice and wealthy) and we'll go to dinner, and we'll talk about how I've never ever felt oppressed by normative gender roles and power structures.

Alright, I'm going to reel this back a bit. What Rhimes said was not an attack of "woman hate." It wasn't an attack at all, she was merely drawing attention to the racial issues that plague popular media, and often supposedly feminist media or media that is meant to "empower women." In fact, Shonda Rhimes continued by saying that she appreciates other aspects of the show, it was just that whole thing about race or whatever that Rhimes was upset about. Palladino didn't seem to get this though. Criticizing a show by, for, and about women for its lack of racial and ethnic diversity is not misogyny. Okay? Glad we have that cleared up. And with that, I hereby declare Amy Sherman-Palladino a total douchebag. She might redeem herself one day, but not now—not with her garbage arguments and pathetic excuse for a show about women's empowerment. I certainly don't feel empowered. Do you?

Want to see a longer version of the interview? Check it out here.

Photo of Amy Sherman-Palladino courtesy of Getty Images. Bunheads photos courtesy of ABC Family.

Previously: Adam Carolla & His Broken Record Routine, The U.S. Senate Federal Credit Union LOLz at Boobs

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Comments

47 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Too harsh. Bunheads is not

Too harsh. Bunheads is not the greatest show. I wish there was more diversity on television in general. Giving them a douchebag title seems mean-spirited.

So women characters aren't

So women characters aren't allowed to be flawed? You completely simplify the point of Michelle's impulsive marriage - she sees herself at a dead end in her life and career, therefore marrying this man is her giving up.

Since he DIES, the story will now revolve around her relationship with her mother-ln-law and finding roots in her and the ballet students. Here's a show where the central relationships are tied to female friendships, where two girls can actually talk to one another about things other than men and that's not empowerring?

Not what I was trying to get at...

That's not at all what I was trying to get at. All characters SHOULD have flaws, and frankly, all characters DO have flaws, and that's awesome because real people have flaws too. I simplified the plot to save some space and get to the issue at hand–that being the lack of diversity. Like I said, shows created by women, for women, about women are super important, but if it's about women I can't relate to, then I simply can't feel personally empowered. I'm sure many feel like this show is their jam, and can't get enough of it, but the way Palladino handled Rhimes' criticism is quite silencing to women of color, and I just wanted to point that out. It wasn't supposed to be a stab at the story, although, I'm not particularly psyched about it, so it's not something I'll be watching again.

You're entirely entitled to

You're entirely entitled to that; but I think you're doing the show a major discredit by describing it in a way that it isn't at all.

" upper middle class white woman" Yeah, her shitty motel apartment next to a prostitute*really* gave the audience that impression.

"accepts a bouquet of "African roses" from her "stalker" sweetie." Seconds before, she illustrates her displeasure with him making an appearance and mentions in the episode that she blows him off 90 % of the time, referring to him as being "creepy and technically a stalker." Self awareness ahoy!

As for Palladino's shitty response, it is totally disappointing and off base, but I suppose I don't take as much issue with it as I do with the interviewer herself. She projects the question to be a woman vs woman issue and Palladino responds to that issue alone.

I feel like Palladino was probably a little defensive too because in the second episode, we are introduced to Fanny's friend Vi played by Valerie Pettiford and black ballerinas are featured amongst the dance class. Not to say it covers her ass for diversity, but Rhimes called her out based on a PILOT episode, something filmed in advance as mainly presentation. Maybe let the show actually develop before calling it out for something that should be held accountable to EVERY television show on the air. All it does now is make it harder for the show to include diversity without it looking shoehorned in.

yes - the part about it only being the pilot

i feel like that's something that everyone is leaving out. i'm not a fan of ANYTHING on ABC Family for the record, and in particular not this show, but their whole argument here is overly simplistic and skirting over these inconvenient details that prove this ISN'T A VERY BIG DEAL.

OPPOSITE

ok, maybe not totally opposite, but i don't think she deserves to be called a douchebag (which has all of its own implications anyway, but whatever, it's apparently a "thing" you guys do here).

what she said isn't untrue or uncalled for. and this post makes it seem like what she actually said was "omg, like, no, are you kidding me? that's like, SO misogynistic...er whateverrrrr." she did kinda skirt the issue of race, but i can't really blame her for not wanting to talk about it....for one thing, it's not totally her fault, and maybe she could take some responsibility, but ABC would not have liked that (and we all know she has the tendency to get in trouble with her networks!).

so saying that women writers/producers/directors in tv should stick together - yes, i'm all for that. that doesn't mean that her response was calling the criticism misogynistic though. that's going too far on your part. she could have said something else about the race issue, and who knows, maybe she/ABC family will at some point.

and last but not least (here is where everyone gets mad at me) i don't think anyone necessarily is obligated to have a certain amount of people of any ethnicity or race represented in their show! yeah, representation is great and all, but you said yourself that this (ballet) is a world typically inhabited by a certain kind of person...should they be shamed for reflecting reality? yes and no, kinda? but would anyone really have felt any better if they stuck a "token black girl" or someone of another ethnicity or race on the show to quell these kinds of outcries?

Yes, actually

I *would* feel better if they stuck a "token black girl" on this show. There are only four main ballerina characters on Bunheads—why couldn't one of them have been a person of color? I don't think one in four is a "token" in any sense of the word.

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

But this town is super small

But this town is super small and basically cut off from the world. It's a quiet place that is secluded and thrieves on the fact that it is not diverse. That's part of the setting.

This town has a hive mind. By having people of the same race, this strengthens the town's seclusion.You can't just stick a person of color in there. The upper class white aurora is part of the show.

sure

ok so maybe *you* would feel better about it, but i (and others) would look at that as being cheezy in this show, obligatory, and kind of patronizing, given the setting of the show and what it is about.

representation on tv and everything is a totally valid concern! i'm not saying it's not - i just don't think ASP did anything horrible here (her comments in response to the race thing - not the other stuff, but that's not what we're discussing...) and she certainly doesn't deserve to be called a douche.

for the record, gilmore girls wasn't very diverse either! i mean i can count the black people in the whole cast from the entire series on one hand. i didn't read bitch then...did you guys call ASP out for that, too?

Personally, I'm not mad at

Personally, I'm not mad at you; I think your third paragraph (reflecting reality v. tokenization) brings up a very good point.

I've never seen Bunheads, so I may not be completely qualified to comment, but I'm not sure Amy Sherman-Palladino deserves to be called a douchebag.

So what's the fix?

What should Palladino, or for that matter, Lena Dunham, do to fix the problem, then? Were I writing a TV show, as a white woman, I wouldn't feel comfortable trying to represent the experiences of women of color, since I've never experienced them, nor would I feel comfortable assuming that a woman of color's experience of whatever I was writing about lined up with mine. People with power in media need to give women of color equal opportunity to represent themselves on television, so the white women who have an easier time getting the power don't have to call up their friends of color every night to check the reality of what they're writing. Dunham's new, and this is her first big break, so I have no idea what kind of clout she has to be able to affect writing staff decisions, but Palladino should definitely have enough by now.

Since representing women of color is clearly not something that comes naturally to these women, which means they have to put thought into it and do it deliberately, to what extent should they commit their shows to representing them? Just adding one character of color is definitely tokenizing, and while there is definitely a place and a need in television for shows whose primary function and casting objective is to represent people of color, these women have written, pitched, and been successful in launching shows whose primary function and casting objective is to represent the lives of women, so while race should definitely be a concern, it shouldn't be their main concern.

Or should it? These shows are called irresponsible for trying to be cutting edge in their representation of one minority without taking the others into consideration, but has any show been produced to date which represents all oppressed groups equally? If a show does seek to do that, can it be about anything else? 

Okay, so as a showrunner, you

Okay, so as a showrunner, you don't want to misrepresent women of colour - good on you. So maybe you hire a writer who is a woman of color, and thus slightly more qualified than you are to write about women of color (sort of - because they can't really speak for ALL women of colour, but if we're going to talk about finding someone who represents everyone, it's just going down a spiral of impossibility.) Maybe you don't have the budget to hire a writer of colour. So you do some research - you speak to people who have those experiences, and to the best of your ability and in good faith you incorporate them into your story.

What you probably SHOULDN'T do is, because you can't write them, just do the easy thing and pretend they don't exist by sweeping them under the rug. The key thing is to TRY at least, and not throw your hands up in the air and go "la la la! It's too hard! I can't do it! I will shirk any and all duty I have to represent diversity!"

That said, I've watched all 3 episodes of the show, and I'm not sure if the post-pilot episodes were edited or filmed in response to the "backlash" - because in several scenes with the ballet dancers, there is a very conspicuous black dancer standing behind the white lead dancers as they converse - and she just STANDS there, without a single line of dialogue. It is insanely disconcerting - like she is literally part of the wallpaper and the others are just ignoring her. The same goes for the Asian dancer, the boy dancers .. but usually they are kind of off to the side and out of focus, so it doesn't look like they're listening in on the main characters' conversations and being ignored.

Maybe they just need to give other characters more dialogue.

it is not a question of difficulty

but rather how patronizing and "fake" it would come across as to write about experiences that are not your own or hire people (to act or write) to bring those experiences to a show, just because of pressure from people who "feel they should be there."

as someone else said, if we always (every.single.time. - with no regard for context) made these moves to represent people of every single minority group out there (not saying it shouldn't be done) then could shows be *about* anything else?

Ugh!

I am a multiracial woman. I watched the pilot of Bunheads and didn't like it. Won't watch it again. But I watched Girls, and I loved it. And I *identified* with it. I think it is very sad that people don't seem to realize that people of different races, cultures, and experiences can still identify with each other. It makes me sad that a young white woman writer doesn't realize that a young multiracial woman's experience actually isn't always that different from hers.

On a different note, I know they say "writers should write what they know", but if they always did, imagine the amazing stories we wouldn't have. I'm sure not every screenwriter who writes a spy movie is a spy themselves... you get my point. If you're a good writer, you *should* be able to be creative and empathetic. You *should* be able to envision yourself in someone else's shoes, and if you can't you *should* assemble a team that can.

I don't agree that representing diversity would make your show "about race". Look at another new show that came out this year: The New Girl. It has racial diversity without being about race. I just want more shows that represent the breadth of human experience. And I agree with the writer of this article. While I loved Gilmore Girls, Bunheads is nothing new.

Give me a break! First of

Give me a break! First of all, Sherman-Palladino is a humorist and was making silly, satirical, self-mocking comments. Second, why beat up on a pioneer of women showrunners when we have politicians working to take away BIRTH CONTROL, nutrition programs?! Third, Gilmore Girls was acclaimed for being racially diverse.

But the politicians!

And this, my friends, is what we like to call The Genocide Fallacy.

Just because there are politicians working to take away birth control doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about Bunheads. Bitch is "a feminist response to pop culture," after all.

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Amy's track record

Don't condescend to me. I've done cultural studies at the PhD level, thanks. Amy Sherman-Palladino helped make Roseanne have some of the most memorable feminist working-class characters in the history of television. Rory Gilmore had a "Stop the War on Choice" poster in her room and her hero was Christiane Amanpour. Amy has had to fight to bring women-centered multi-generational shows to the mainstream. If you think she is the biggest "douchebag" in pop culture this week, you need to get out more.

Not my point

My comment had nothing to do with your Sherman-Palladino expertise; I'm sure you know lots about her work. I was addressing your comment that Devyn shouldn't have written this post because "we have politicians working to take away BIRTH CONTROL, nutrition programs." The two issues are not mutually exclusive, and, like I said, Bitch is a pop culture site so we're more likely to cover a TV show than a politician who's anti-nutrition.

I'm a Gilmore Girls fan too and I also watch Bunheads, but that doesn't mean Amy Sherman-Palladino is immune to criticism or that her shows aren't lacking in racial diversity. A show can certainly be pioneering in some ways and flawed in others.

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Criticism is one thing.

Criticism is one thing. Declaring her to be "a complete and total douchebag" is ridiculous and offensive and you know it. Our pop culture is full of woman-hating, rape culture, sexist, ageist people who support the Republican anti-woman, anti-child agenda and who might deserve such an epithet. Why is Amy, who while far from perfect, is without question, one of the most feminist voices on network TV since the 80s being singled out with a verbally abusive diatribe?

Not the most Productive use of blogging space

1. the "transphobic comment" in the video didn't really strike me as such. She didn't insult transgendered folks, she simply mentioned them. She acknowledged that not everyone fits into the gender binary. Nothing wrong with that.

2. An attempt to shove in an extra minority now would feel like they are pandering to our demographic in the most base way, and that feels insulting to me. (It's the TV equivalent of saying you're not racist because you have 1 black friend.)

3. I can understand your frustration, but there are better and more important things to write about than a ballet show with too many white people. Isn't there an organization for women of color in ballet or something that could use some exposure from an outlet like this?

Instead of wasting our time attacking shows that don't write about what we want them to write about, let's put the focus back on encouraging more of our people to write those stories, and bring more attention to shows we like.

I feel like it's not just

I feel like it's not just that there's a show with a ton of white ballerina dancers - the main issue is HOW ASP responded when faced with what I think objectively is a very valid point made by Shonda Rhimes. You can totally see the difference in how Lena Dunham responded - instead of telling people to shut up and stop criticising her because she's a woman showrunner, she's responded sincerely and has made attempts to address people's concerns (whether she's done it well or not I'm not going to comment, but she seems completely honest about her attempts to continue the dialogue).

The main take-away (I think)

Even if you feel the decree of "douchebag" is too strong or that Sherman-Palladino addressed the lack of racial diversity criticism well, over half of the interview focused on a very disconcerting topic: WOMEN WHO HAVE OPINIONS ABOUT OTHER WOMEN'S WORK ARE NOT SUPPORTIVE. WTF??? And Manibo does well calling this bullshit. How are women supposed to succeed if we don't receive feedback and constructive criticism? Why is it that calling out a very relevant and important flaw makes someone a hater of a gender? If a woman voices her opinion to another woman about that woman's work, this doesn't mean she hates women or is trying to sabatage or "push out" the female competition. It is not "inappropriate" to criticize when criticism is due, regardless of that person having a vagina or identifying as a woman. Tell that to the interviewer and Sherman-Palladino.

Did we watch the same video?

Agree with those who think the douchebag decree was unwarranted. Could Amy Sherman-Palladino have handled it more gracefully? Sure. But information - which she was previously unfamiliar with - was presented as an attack, and she responded it to as such. Having watched the video, I'm really having a hard time seeing where your venomous attack came from.

Also, a trigger warning? For that? Can we stop treating everyone with kid gloves?

First I read the comments and

First I read the comments and then I watched the interview and I'm appalled that more people aren't calling ASP out for her statements. She took an issue of diversity in programming and turned it into a women-are-their-own-worst-enemies argument. For her to talk about the lack of sisterhood, she certainly takes an interesting approach by saying that it has been men who have supported her and other women are competition. Yes, the lack of representation is real and extremely problematic and instead of turning against women who notice the glaring whiteness of new programming, maybe we should be holding the media-makers responsible and make them take a deeper look at the problems they continue to perpetuate. ASP's argument that she did not have time to find dancers of color is a complete joke. I'm a dancer of color and know plenty of programs with young ballet dancers of color. If we as women seek to work for equality then it should be for equal representation of all people. We should not be happy with the success of a few and ignore glaring disparities along color or any other lines. Nor should we dismiss these criticisms as whining--we should keep a productive dialogue going and not reduce other women's complaints and observations as petty jealousy. We should take each other seriously, with respect. After all, isn't that what we have all been fighting for?

OH MY GOD

i watched the video again, and now my only response to all this is - as someone else said - did we all watch the same video?!?!?

let's parse this out:

1. THE INTERVIEWER framed the question in a way that (1) presented this "attack" on her show to her, and (2) FORCED HER to take some stance on women criticizing each other. given that "hey, girl love!" is a positive thing, she could have given a worse response. again the INTERVIEWER keeps bringing up that issue, and in fact implies that Rhimes is "omg, just jealous!" because she thinks that "there's no room for anyone else." ASP did nothing wrong there.

2. THE INTERVIEWER was not even asking about the representation issue, she kept wanting her to talk about the women criticizing each other thing. in the moment, i'm sure what was on ASP's mind was how to handle THOSE questions in the best way possible, and probably wasn't thinking about NOT TALKING about something.

3. her comments about "not caring about eating disorders" could be taken the wrong way, i guess, but i feel that she meant that she wasn't going to make the show "predictable" in that way (that is what a lot of the pre-premier talk about the show was) and wanted it be about something else. and i don't see how what she said was in any way transphobic, anyone care to explain that to me?

I feel this is relevant.

I feel this is relevant.

Please, fellow commenters, stop defending the exclusion of people of color from mainstream television and other media.  

 

It is relevant, so thank you

It is relevant, so thank you for posting. However, for me, it isn't really the issue. I don't think the author of this post is wrong to raise awareness about the lack of racial diversity in the show. What I find myself responding to is the tone of the piece, which contains a level of vitriol that just seems out of proportion to the offense.

I see from reading the author's bio that she's a current student at my alma mater. I have some thoughts about how that might be informing her take, but I'm wary of making assumptions about someone based on group membership, so I'll refrain from sharing them. Devyn, I wish you the best on the crazy journey that is a Hampshire education.

relevant in that it framed devyn's perception of this?

i think so. what we are defending here is not the exclusion of people of color from tv. we are defending a person against vilifying comments that are unwarranted and MAKE NO SENSE. ASP did not in any way say that calling her show out for not having enough people of color on it was misogynistic - the interviewer gave her some badly framed questions and pushed her to talk about that rather than "respond" to the race thing.

honestly, this blog post casts bitch in a bad light, and i kind of can't believe they let it go up (but it was on racialicious!!! so!). it makes me think either that (a) they did not even watch this video at all, or (b) they watched it already knowing what they were going to say about it because racialicious and the like already said it out on the interwebs, thus they let these other opinions shape and frame theirs. which is bad writing. it's bad journalism, it's bad blogging (if there ever was such a thing!).

in all actuality, this has NOTHING to do with race - the people vilifying ASP now (and calling her a douchebag) are exposing themselves at actually being rather ignorant and unable apparently to watch a video with basic listening and comprehension skills. if they wanted to make this about race, fine; it would be valid to talk about how this show (and um, all of them on abc family) lack diversity and what that means and if it can be fixed and all that. GOOD. i would WELCOME that discussion. but it has no place here, because this discussion is being introduced by that interview, which is stupid, and is bad media (to use that video to bring up that subject).

it also kind of casts intelligent and feminist women in a bad light because you know, things like this kind of perpetuate those stereotypes that we bitch and piss and moan and fly off the handle at every.little.thing. it also puts the rest of us intelligent women who actually think for ourselves in the awkward position of speaking up for a woman that is being torn apart for no reason, and then someone cries that WE MUST BE DEFENDING THE EXCLUSION OF PEOPLE OF COLOR THEN!

I was the anonymous commenter

I was the anonymous commenter above you, and...YES! I didn't articulate my thoughts as clearly as you have (even to myself), but this is EXACTLY what I found objectionable about this post.

Well, here's the thing...

If I saw folks who said they were aligned with the feminist cause argue as passionately for why it isn't acceptable to continue creating all of these all white worlds as they do for why we shouldn't be so harsh on the creators of these all white world, then things would be different, wouldn't they? But what many of us see, time and time again, is the rush to defend white creators and what they want to create, without an equivalent rush to defend women of color creators and what they want to create.

And what we also see is folks who generally don't pay attention to all the things we write on a daily basis (you know, all the web series we highlight, and books we shout out, the many other series and networks that we call out that do not involve women) suddenly get angry because something they like is being criticized when it's the same damn hype cycle every single time. Bridesmaids, Bunheads, Girls, are all considered great victories for women, and if you point out that the worlds they are painting marginalize or exclude women of color the critiques laughed off as unrealistic (and in that case, someone really needs to talk to Ann M. Martin about Jessie Ramsey) and women hating women, when there two things are true at the same time:

1. ASP was baited in the interview, but

2. She could have really handled the obvious questions on race and diversity better, especially considering that there's been a very consistent cycle of creators being called out on their casting choices.

Race has everything to do with why this interview is being discussed. And trying to minimize it, or vilify those who point this out, just contributes to the decades long fracturing between mainstream concepts of feminism and the realities of women of color.

Then again, most of us who care about both anti-racism and feminism have already realized that we will not find allies here, so we keep a running tally in our own spaces. We hang in places like Racialicious, Hyphen, Clutch, Thick Dumpling Skin, the Crunk Feminist Collective (and way too many places to list on Tumblr), so that when this very argument resurfaces (and it always does), we can continue to point to the long arc of history. And when we do that, we will here the same assurances that people would "welcome these discussions" at another time, and that time never comes.

But don't worry - I'm sure we'll be having this exact same conversation during the fall TV season. See you then!

i still don't see why it's

i still don't see why it's simply so hard to understand that what we're criticizing here is the author's analysis of the video. not ASP. not even bunheads. and not representation in media as a whole.

And yet...

...you brought up my site into a conversation where it has no bearing. (The linked reference goes to XOJane.) Why was that? Strange how you shifted the blame to the WOC owned and operated site, and not the other majority voiced ones who had similar critiques...

And you seem to have ranted quite a bit about "intelligent, free thinking women" and distancing yourself from people who critique every little thing, which again is a useful dodge when people don't want to talk about race. Makes a bit less sense on a site like Bitch, which makes its bread and butter by analyzing (many people see this as overthinking) messages in pop culture. If you think she was wrong about the message and the video, fine.

But, you should also remember that while she may have been tossed leading questions, but she jumped right into saying that women haven't helped her and don't help her. (Because that's totally feminist!) She also mentions, later that "I don't do message shows. I don't give a shit who you learn your life from." which again, dismisses diversity (or addressing major issues in ballet like eating disorders) as not necessary. Her points about pulling together a pilot are correct - but why not just say "hey, it wasn't at the top of my mind, and we didn't think it would alienate some of our potential viewers?" Why pull the same song and dance that always gets used to minimize race and racism issues on television? If ASP is talking about creating shows with voice, about smart women, but women of color aren't represented, then what do we have? Yet another show that could have been different, but chose not to be.

Is labeling her a douchebag harsh? Yup, I can see that, though Arfin deserved the one she got. But was Devyn's analysis of this video wrong? Not by a long shot.

i see your point, but i still

i see your point, but i still disagree. i think ASP was given leading questions and the way she is being treated isn't fair. i think the video clip here was not a good one to use, because i don't think it illustrates devyn's points.

i'm not crazy about her not talking about race, because i think it is a valid point and she could have. and i think we should continue to talk about it. but i don't think she is a "douchebag" because of what she said in this interview.

and i don't appreciate being told that i'm dodging talking about race, because i'm not. and your assumption about which link i was talking about smacks of your willingness to label me in a certain way, since you assume i brought up the WOC site out of nowhere, when i was originally replying to Caroline (?) up there, who did link to the racialicious article.

thank you

Latoya, thanks for your response. The amount of anger and hostility in the comments section smacks of the eye-opening debates of SlutWalk, Girls, etc... People seemed to abandon dialogue and jump to insult when the issue, representation and experience of race is called out in work or spaces that some pockets of women consider feminist (with disregard for the women conspicuously not represented). When criticism is not engaged in dialogue but attacked it draws a line in the sand and stalls the wider feminist movement.
I keep reading about how smart and saavy ASP is and the accolades she got for the diversity in Gilmore Girls but her responses, baited or not (I'm sure she saw the tweet before the interview), were sour and dodged the question. Like Lesley Arfin of Girls, they're in the public eye and audiences who want to like their shows are responding to the disappointment that in 2012 the issue of diversity on major programming is still an issue and that women we consider feminists still can't wrap their heads around it.
I watched the interview several times and still can't get over the smugness of ASP. I still wonder why so many think Devyn is so far off in making her decree.

Okay. I am a writer,

Okay. I am a writer, currently working on a novel. Two characters are a ten year old girl and a thirteen year old boy, siblings, whose mother is from India and works as a special ed teacher, and whose father is an African-English dentist.

Did I include these characters for diversity? No. I included them because that's how they appeared in my imagination. They came to me and introduced themselves and this is who they were. Period. When you're a writer, characters appear to you. These kids' race has no ulterior motive on my part, any more than the fact that the little girl wants to be an actress/singer (and loves to sing Heart songs) and the boy does Tae Kwon Do has any ulterior motive.

Honestly, FOR A WRITER, not necessarily for everyone else, the worst thing that can happen is to let any notions of political correctness get in the way of the imagination. That's just my defense of ASP, I guess.

it's just bad writing

I think a lot of what people are taking issue with here is an instance of bad analysis. As someone already posted, if you watch this interview, the entire tone assumed by the interviewer is leading ASP towards certain answers through this false yah-yah sisterhood. It kind of threw me off that after a very specific build up, she led with a question that had nothing to do with racial minority representation. It was one baiting moment after the other, and instead of accurately identifying this, and calling out the interviewer for intentionally pitting two women against each other, you've chosen name calling and bullying. In the context of the posted clip, if there's a douchebag force to be reckoned with, it's the interviewer. She didn't ask, "So what are your thoughts on this comment?" or "Do you think that's a fair criticism?" it was completely manipulative. This is not to say that I think ASP is an innocent. She seems to be dodging the issue, and the show Dance Academy focuses on the white-centered world of ballet and still manages to have a diverse cast without making it a big deal, or making it seem forced. However, it's a total eyeroll to me that the author would take the time to identify a perceived transphobic comment out of fear of triggering readers, while operating with the same "yeah, let's bully her into submission!" strategy that right wing groups have used for years to keep so many groups *out* of shows. Controlling someone's creativity for the sake of inclusion is just as tyrannical as censorship, and demanding that everything conform to a preferred reality for the sake of comfort is polarizing and elicits defensive reactions from discerning readers...as evidenced by the comments this has collected.

thank you.

THIS. a thousand times yes.

awfultruth, First of all,

awfultruth,

First of all, please don't "eyeroll" at a transphobic trigger warning—many people are triggered by transphobic language and if you're not one of them just ignore it.

Second, this is a blog post. Devyn is not a producer on Bunheads who is able to "bully [ASP] into submission" or "control her creativity." And how, exactly, would Amy Sherman-Palladino's creativity be compromised if she cast a non-white actor on the show? Bunheads has already touched on the body issues and stress that come with practicing ballet, and I for one would love to see the show explore how race enters into the equation.

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

I think both this blog post

I think both this blog post and - perhaps more importantly - the response from Kelsey Wallace has reflected really poorly on Bitch. Numerous commenters raised what I see as entirely legitimate concerns, and they've been largely dismissed -- or been held up as evidence of commenters' racism.

One of the hallmarks of good cultural criticism is that your readers should be able to understand why you're making the critiques you are -- even if they vehemently disagree with them. In this case, I don't even think most of us who think this post was over the top *do* disagree with the basic issue Bitch claims this article was about (the lack of racial diversity in television). The problem is that the evidence Devyn provided is incredibly shoddy. Several of us have watched the video and read her article and we *honestly don't know how she reached the conclusions she did.* And rather than admit that, hey, yeah, maybe this clip wasn't especially illustrative of the problem Devyn is writing about, Bitch has instead opted to dig in their heels and imply that the problem is that most of the commenters just don't get it.

Kelsey, first of all, i asked

Kelsey, first of all, i asked what was considered transphobic about what ASP said, and no one said anything to me. since you clearly take issue with this video as being transphobic too, can you tell me what Devyn might have meant?

and the thing is, i'm sorry to say, perhaps as a blog post this just isn't worthy. the argument about race representation in this show is for sure, but putting it into a douchebag decree and placing the blame on ASP because of this video is ridiculously unwarranted. i'm curious - did editors or someone "higher up" suggest this post, or was it Devyn's idea?

frankly, looking at what else devyn's written on here as an intern so far, i don't see any other analyses so i don't know if this is just a fluke convoluted post or what....

as far as the trigger warning

I don't understand why people are zero-ing on the trigger warning. That's not what this post is about.

But I'll do my best to address your question, zeldafitz. There is a trigger warning because if someone was watching the video, and they are someone who gets triggered by transphobic language (ASP bungles discussing trans people and/or gender-nonconforming people...the fact that I'm not sure whom exactly she's trying to address illustrates her clumsiness with the topic), ASP's words would have come out of nowhere. The trigger warning allows viewers to skip or at least be prepared for what they're going to hear and see. For everyone who isn't triggered by this, GREAT! It doesn't affect you, so stop worrying about it.

____________
Kjerstin Johnson, editor-in-chief
Did someone say "Comments Policy"?

Transphobic language is not something to be scoffed at.

Specifically, ASP used the word "transvestite," which is first of all, a very dated term, generally used in extremely derogatory ways. The word is not widely used or accepted within trans and queer communities, except in specific situations of reclamation. Many of those who identify as trans or queer (myself included) do not feel comfortable with the word, because of its derogatory and triggering nature, so I added a trigger warning. Simple as that.

It wasn't a "higher up" who told me to write this. I heard about Shonda Rhimes' comment a few weeks ago, saw that ASP responded, and I had something to say back, and this is what happened.

Could someone explain to me

Could someone explain to me what "triggered" means in this context? When I think of being triggered, the example that comes to mind is someone with PTSD seeing something that causes a flashback or debilitating levels of anxiety/distress. Is it thought that this level of upset could result from hearing the word "transvestite"? I can definitely imagine someone being offended by this terminology (I found it offensive, and I'm not trans), but it's hard for to me imagine a reaction that's that extreme. So I'm wondering if the word "triggered" is being used to connote a less severe reaction here?

Some more info

Here's some more info about trigger warnings: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Trigger_warning

Now, everyone, let's please stay on topic—if the trigger warning doesn't apply to you, don't worry about it.

Thanks!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

In response to Kelsey and Devyn

ahhh...ok, i get why what she said was offensive now. i honestly think i heard "trans*" and that was it; just misheard her and didn't pay that much attention to it. but i get it. i also didn't know that a trigger warning was a thing - i thought it was a snarky way to further shame her and not an *actual* warning. but my mistake in mishearing her terminology shows why i wouldn't have thought that needed a warning. my bad. i apologize.

i know that that is not the point of your article by any means, but i want to be clear that i don't in any way think that makes her a douchebag - being ignorant of terminology doesn't make one a douchebag until you learn why what you say is offensive and still dismiss it.

but devyn, i wonder if you could respond to my other comments (and those of others) - the ones that honestly question what your reasoning here was for placing such an attack on ASP when it was the interviewer who basically pushed her to talk about the whole women criticizing other women thing (which you address only kinda), and who actually kind of villainized Rhimes for saying what she did? if you look around at all the video clips of this, and all the sites talking about it, it seems that her comments are getting edited to make them seem more crass and dismissive of the issue than they actually were.

I personally really

I personally really appreciated the trigger warning.

Trans* people (especially trans* women) are subject to a lot of violence, and are frequently labeled as "transvestites" or "crossdressers" as an erasure of their gender identities. That kind of language is unacceptable and signifies violence for many people, including me. It is never okay to dismiss what might be triggering to other people as worthy of an eye-roll or dissmiss it as using "kid gloves."

I generally think of Bitch as a safe place to read the comments section as a trans* person and I would like to keep it that way. Thanks.

if you read the rest of the

if you read the rest of the comments here, you can see that no one meant to be offensive and the comments made about the trigger warning were a misunderstanding by some people. i personally didn't know what "trigger warning" meant, and assumed it was just another snarky way to shame ASP further. but now i know what it is.