How indifference to differences can get a little… weird

I know that this sounds like the first half of a joke, but seriously, what’s up with people not seeing things like color, gender, or weight?

Let me repeat: what’s up with people not SEEING color, gender, or weight? It’s nice to know that people are beginning to treat others equally, or at least claim such, but don’t pretend that differences aren’t there entirely. It makes you look like you’re hiding something. Or you’re just insufferably awkward.

If someone is black, someone is black. There doesn’t have to be attachments or undertones to that statement. People try to step around or gurgle “black” because acknowledging and saying the actual word “black” is supposed to be racist or something. It’s not. It’s a fact.

Stop defying sound, natural observations because you are uncomfortable for some unsaid or said reason. And it’s also not a matter of juggling political correctness. It’s a matter of being plain weird.

I have some examples. One is in real life. And another from popular culture.

So, my boyfriend and I watch the show Louie. We don’t have FX, so it’s excruciating, but worth it to buy the new episodes off Netflix. Actor Louis C.K. writes, directs, and is the star of his own show. It’s one of my favorite things I can get my grubby fingers on when it comes to television. I wish I had a t-shirt with Louis C.K.’s face on it, that’s how much I love him.

If you know anything about C.K., you know he’s a realist and tells things like they are. There is no place C.K. doesn’t go—from farts and jacking off to divorce, depressive tendencies, and class differences—nothing is truly off limits for him. Sometimes, his honesty is painful to look at or so unfortunately true, you can’t help but laugh. Even when he’s being distasteful, it’s done tastefully, which makes for a genius of a comedian.

There’s an episode off the most recent season in which Louie (Louis C.K.) goes on a date with Vanessa (played by actress Sarah Baker), a fat girl—a hilarious, charming, intelligent, and cute fat girl at that.

But she’s still a fat girl. Thus, it takes a lot of work for Vanessa to score a date with Louie, himself a round fellow who runs into rejection a lot. But she still has to court his favor because like the majority of people still stuck in the physical portion of first impression mode, Louie isn’t interested.

Louie determines that she is undateable, which is not to be confused with unfuckable. Sure Louie would fuck her, she points out, but he would have a harder time with getting to know her a on relationship level because she’s fat. And when she calls herself fat, Louie says “no, you’re not fat” because he is uncomfortable, and that’s what uncomfortable people say. That’s a lie, and she calls him out on it. She’s disappointed in him because the lie contradicts what he stands for, or what she thought to be true about him, one of the reasons she was attracted to him in the first place.

See scene for yourself. Awesome stuff.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8KiRrqrlZc

This is what makes this show brilliant, not to mention gut-bustingly funny. It calls human nature out on its bullshit when it thinks it’s being completely transparent.

…which is why I’m confused about something very pertinent to the show. It’s not an episode at all. It’s a casting decision.

So here’s my question: why is Louie’s ex-wife, Janet (played by Susan Kelechi Watson) on the show black? Or the reverse question: why are Louie’s children on the show not interracial? I’m not mad. I’m not pulling a racist card on Louis C.K. But on a logical level, why is this not so?

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The show is good. The writing is good. The acting is good. But still, the discrepancy is distracting. It pulls me out of the viewer/story experience, and the plausibility of a character(s) in a show that aims to be as raw real life as possible.

I’m not the first person to ask this question or its opposite. I sure as hell know everyone is thinking it, but they either don’t care or are afraid to address it, just on the off chance it’s racist, which it’s not.

Actually, the topic was publically addressed in a Jimmy Kimmel Live interview. When asked why he chose a black actress to play the mother of his white children, C.K. responded, “If the character works for the show, I don’t care about the racial.” This in my opinion is the equivalent to “I do what I want.” And that’s cool; it IS his show.

But I don’t buy that. C.K. is a keen observer, a more careful creator than that. I believe his casting choice to be a social experiment on viewers. Maybe he is daring viewers to see past color.

And this is great on a wider cultural, social level, but doesn’t add up on the basic 1+1 level. It’s weird, and it doesn’t make sense. It’s common for C.K. to be weird, but he usually somehow explains his weirdness. So… I feel like I’m missing something.

My follow-up question is: if you could use a fat girl to convey a message, why can’t you use a black woman to convey a message, too? Or an interracial family? Those would not only make more basic sense, but could be used to address real color issues THAT STILL EXIST. I feel like the show is missing out on these elements that could make it that much better.

A second example has to do with a webinar I attended for work recently. I won’t go into any specifics because I’d like to keep my job and feed my family (my boyfriend, my bird, and myself). The host of the webinar works for a company in the industry I work in and for. The topic was on attracting and retaining women in an industry that is predominately male. The people attending the webinar, keep in mind, were WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY. Also, keep in mind “Women in Industry” was in the title and description. He didn’t miss the literal memo.

So, I was confused when he spent the majority of his interview sweating to be politically correct about gender. I felt that it was distracting and defeated the whole purpose of the presentation. He continued to clarify himself after every question, which all began with something like: “What do you think women in the industry…”

Basically the host reinforced that there is no difference between male and female employees. He cleared his throat and bumbled over the actual word “women.” Over and over again. I began to feel bad for the guy.

I thought, okay… that’s great that you are at the point of acceptance, at least for rhetoric’s sake, but the reality of it is that women are asking questions on behalf of themselves and other women so they may further themselves in the workplace. They are the target audience here, so you don’t have to tiptoe around the fact that they are clearly women.

Another fact: there still is inequality between men and women in the workplace because women are still paid less and are still less likely to hold positions of power, particularly at an executive level.

If we want to promote women in the workplace we have to first simply acknowledge that they are indeed women (not men) and also accept that they need more of a boost. Being a woman in a male dominated industry should be taken as an advantage. I’m not saying we should throw a parade every time a woman gets hired in this industry, but still some acknowledgement on the strides and tangible examples of excelling professional women would be helpful in bringing more women in (the objective).

Going into deeper meaning of things: not seeing in color, gender, or weight (for example) may sound ideal, but in my humble opinion, it actually does more harm than good. It takes away from the whole uniqueness, diversity, and celebration aspect. It makes us seem like we’re all the same when we are clearly not (and that’s a good thing!).

It also says “We are now wiping our hands clean of isms or ists because, guess what, those things no longer exist. We’re good now. Everyone is on the same page about equality.” Nope, this is simply not true.

Denying differences may pave a smoother road for more passive forms of isms.  These forms are not blatantly aggressive or hurtful, but they still always stick out like a sore thumb. I just don’t think it will do us good to waltz around differences, ignore them, or pretend they don’t exist. Maybe I’m just being a pain in the ass, but I remember when it was cool to embrace our own and each other’s differences.

5 thoughts on “How indifference to differences can get a little… weird

  1. I just recently binge watched the first 3 seasons of Louie on Netflix. I noticed that in the first season, it seemed like Louie and the other writers initially had no intentions on introducing Louie’s ex-wife. I can buy his explanation that he wanted to just choose the best actress, since adding the ex-wife’s character seemed like an after-thought to expand the storyline. The funny thing is, I never even think about it because I can’t imagine the show with any other actors besides them. I guess the theory you had about color-blindness actually worked on me 🙂

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  2. Simplynoche,

    Thanks for the read and comment. I didn’t even think of the “after-thought” expansion to the storyline. A very good point! Louie does tend to vary from season to season, and is a very in-the-process kind of show, which is another thing that makes it awesome and indeed binge-worthy. None of this takes away for my true appreciation for the show and what it does on a basic level, as well larger scale, and what it will continue to do. Seriously, thanks again. You rock 🙂

    Sarah

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  3. Oh! And I completely missed something and confused me about the show even more. Simplynoche, you know that episode where Louie does a sort of flashback to explain how his divorce fell apart? His wife of the past is white. It’s not even consistent, but maybe that’s the point.

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    1. Yeah I do vaguely remember that episode, but TV viewers have A.D.D. which is why that memory was surpressed for the both of us LOL 🙂

      Still not up to season 4…waiting for Netflix

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