Yesterday, for the first time in years, we had a black leading man highlighted on daytime: U.S. President Barack Obama, on The View. Yes, folks, in order to have a full hour devoted to a black man in daytime programming, to have a voice and tell a story on the front burner, he has to be the most powerful elected official in our country. “Post-racial,” my ass!
This was the absurd series of thoughts that was running through my head this morning…that soaps are a truly fascinating microcosm of society and yet, the seven shows we have on air do not represent current American society in the least. A genre that helped women realize they had places outside the home and validity outside the traditional two-parent household, that featured integration and AIDS education and cancer awareness…has fallen behind in mirroring what this nation has become. We have one significant leading man of color: Maurice Benard as General Hospital‘s Sonny. One. And his half-Cuban (God forbid he be wholly Cuban!) character is an unrepentant mobster. Um…whoo-hoo? Yay? All My Children‘s Hubbard family, The Young and the Restless‘ Winters and Days of our Lives’ Carvers barely rate airtime unless they’re in scenes with white characters. Latin characters are few and far between as well: Days‘ Hernandez family will soon be losing a member, when Arianna is written off; AMC jettisoned the Santoses, and Y&R‘s Rafe holds the trifecta of being Latin, gay and seldom seen. And Asians…? Please. In the 32 years I’ve been watching soaps, there has been one contract Indian character on soaps…Dr. Saira Batra, and she was on GH: Night Shift. Can you imagine CNN telling Sanjay Gupta he could only have a significant role after 11 PM? GH‘s Kelly Lee is a glorified dayplayer. Y&R‘s Ji Min Kim was killed off. I mean, I could go on and on listing the examples of diversity fail…but listing it does no good. Someone has to change it.