After Alice in Arabia: Some Thoughts On Why We Should Look Behind The Scenes


ABC Family Kills “Alice In Arabia”

Good. This is an example of why I believe strongly that the critical focus should be at the decision making/executive level and not as much as it is at writers, directors, showrunners, actors and other creatives. Critics target them but in my experience knowing, talking, working with creatives, many want to be thoughtful about these issues. But not just that, there is a plethora of projects circulating: screenplays, treatments, pitches, ideas by people of color, Arabs, women, LGBTs, that center their experiences and voices and certainly do not thoughtlessly demean and stereotype. These projects many with great & marketable ideas EXIST.
And we can’t accept the excuse that diverse projects aren’t profitable, that no one wants to watch women (Chuck Lorre lives in his own world) trans, POC, at least on television, and the foreign market argument may be questionable.

Yes, entertainment companies need more diversity in decision making positions BUT those folks, women and POC, religious groups, should be those that don’t end up towing the party line. Meaning, it’s easy to hire those who will fill those slots but still fall into lock-step with the conventional wisdom on representation or who already have mainstream to conservative views. There was a recent study that showed that in many cases, the latter is true. Diverse hires in decision making executive (note: not creative) positions tend to be the latter.

Who the decision makers are determine whose projects get seen, considered, approved, made, and to a great extent, what that end product actually ends up looking like. The Hollywood mythology still presents the showrunner, writer, director & producers as having ultimate creative control, even in TV accepted as more collaborative than film (which actually is collective too). But instead, what audiences don’t see, unless they seek out the info, is the amount of influence entertainment executives, not always with a creative background, have upon what we see on television.

This Alice In Arabia development shows that we can make progress by speaking up loud, but we also have to do more than react, and turn attention to the production process before casting notices are sent out, before a show gets on the fall schedule, before a pilot is aired. It’s important to first understand exactly how TV shows (and movies) are made who and why certain projects move forward and why, when they do, they are or are not diverse. A lot of the process is obscured, is “behind the curtain” from our point of view as audiences. But we should move beyond using media criticism tools that look at texts, visuals, imagery and representation, to asking a different set of questions that consider the processes and the often hidden factors that result in representations.
If we do that, maybe we can see more clearly that shows like Alice In Arabia keep getting made b/c the decisions are made by the same old white boys network that could have different shades, genders & sexualities sprinkled in it here and there, but the same persistent attitudes and prejudices.


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