The 'Black Problem' in Television
It was recently reported that Patrissa Cullors, a founding woman of Black Lives Matter, was signed by Warner Brothers to a multiyear deal across all of its programming platforms that “encompasses scripted and unscripted series, longform series, animated and kids programming, as well as digital content.”
In a statement released by Cullors after the signing, she mentioned that a reason for celebration is that “Black voices, especially Black voices who have been historically marginalized, are important and integral to today’s storytelling.”
Historically, yes. Contemporarily, no. (This begs the question: Why are most examples of oppression from the past?)
Log onto any Hulu account and a unique feed called Black Stories will populate one of the scrolls. A similar feature appears in Amazon’s Prime Video feed, with a scroll for Black Voices presenting a bevy of black-produced, black-directed, and black-acted shows and films. Netflix also cut right to the chase; they had an entire genre created for Black Lives Matter. If black voices are absent or underrepresented in the media, it is hard to tell by looking at every major media presence.
Cullors’ signing is reminiscent of a similar deal between Disney and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. In early July, the former signed a deal with the latter in which he “will see his projects distributed across all Disney platforms which include ESPN, Hulu, The Undefeated, Pixar, and The Walt Disney Co.” Like Cullors, Kaepernick expressed that he was excited to “elevate Black and Brown directors, creators, storytellers, and producers, and to inspire the youth with compelling and authentic perspectives.” Apparently, he had not yet seen the scroll feeds on his Netflix account at the time of making that statement.
Also this summer, Beyonce reportedly inked a deal with Disney to produce three films to the tune of $100 million. According to Wikipedia, the first of the three, Black is King, tells the story of a “prince's journey of self-discovery... as an allegory for the African diaspora's journey of self-discovery, with the film acting as a clarion call to the diaspora to reclaim their identity through black pride.” It was released this past summer. Despite the fact that Black Lives Matter (of which Beyonce is an ardent supporter) rejects the practice of capitalism, she and the all-black cast of the film appear to have no qualms discovering their pride profiting off the black victim narrative and thriving off a free market venture.
And who could forget Barack and Michelle’s lucrative contract with Netflix? Their multi-year deal is reportedly worth upwards of $50 million. The Obamas will not be hurting for cash anytime soon after also landing a $65 million book deal.
While many leading black leftists are cashing their checks and the world’s largest streaming platforms are elevating countless black voices, not all black perspectives are prospering. Cullors laments that black voices are not being heard properly; one wonders if she actually means it the way she’s saying it.
Larry Elder produced a fantastic documentary titled Uncle Tom that simply asks why blacks are expected to think and vote monolithically on issues critical to the black community. It has been roundly ignored by the media since its release. Sure, it can be viewed as a rental on places like YouTube or directly from Salem Radio’s website, but in terms of equity of distribution, there is a sizable market loss when not accessed through a paid subscription service.
Likewise, it has become known that Shelby Steele, the independent black thinker, had a project titled What Killed Michael Brown? that was rejected by Amazon streaming services. As the title suggests, this film explores the history and facts of the infamous Ferguson incident that ushered in a reinvigorated narrative of police-on-black brutality and murder. For simply asking a question that runs counter to a prevailing (and acceptable) viewpoint, his material is effectively censored.
There is then the disparity of documentary treatment toward the most senior member of the U.S. Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas. Thomas is routinely ignored as a prominent and inspiring black voice. Despite being just the second black justice in this history of the Supreme Court, he was omitted from an ostensible Supreme Court exhibit in the African-American History Museum that focused solely on Thurgood Marshall, the only other black justice in the court’s lengthy history. This is the same history “museum” that rolled out an exhibit on whiteness, condemning traits and practices like hard work, the scientific method, equality under the law, using reason and logic, and expressing oneself politely and appropriately.
Admittedly, there might be a legitimate explanation for the availability of a 2020 documentary titled Created Equal about the famously reserved Thomas. While this expose appeared briefly on PBS - for a one-night special - and can now be rented for $29.99 for a single in-house viewing, a 2018 documentary titled RBG was not only made available on multiple streaming services, including Hulu and Amazon Prime Video (Netflix has a second Ginsberg documentary currently on its platform as well), it was nominated for an Oscar in the category of Best Documentary.
What is one to make of this? Despite Cullors, Kaepernick, Beyonce, and the Obamas all bemoaning the lack of black voices, what is blatantly transpiring hardly seems like an issue of melanin. Black voices, despite being just 13% of the general American population, feel omnipresent. It is a shame that Asians and Hispanics, who together comprise 25% of the American population, are underrepresented so drastically. Their stories are at least equally compelling. Moreover, whereas one group of prominent voices in the grievance industry are profiting on their black fame, equally prominent voices are being silenced for having the audacity to peddle in free thinking and pushing the boundaries.
Television, media, and celebrityhood do not have a black problem. They have a conservative problem.
Parker Beauregard writes cultural commentary from a lens of traditional American values. He has been published on American Thinker, Human Events, and other pro-America sites. He blogs at www.thelastbesthope.xyz. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image: Laura Flanders Show