What we’re living in now has been lauded by critics and viewers alike as Hollywood’s “Golden Age of Television”. Seen as the antithesis of an increasingly commercialized film industry, the world of television is seen to offer greater emphasis on good storytelling, rich characters and a solid, all round immersive experience. This certainly seems to be true as we are seeing more and more filmmakers, directors and big name actors migrating to the small screen. Yet amidst all of this, there is another age emerging as we speak; one that can be dubbed the “Brown Age of Television.”
Looking at the slate of upcoming shows, juxtaposed with currently airing shows, the fact that there are arguably more people of colour in front of your screens than there have been since the 90’s is liable to leave you in a state of mild shock. But who is making these shows, you may ask – or not, who is running them?
Shonda Rhimes, Mindy Kaling and Courtney Kemp Agboh are just some of the women of colour taking the reins of the small screen to tell their own stories and do it in an entertaining way. Running the gamut from terse crime shows, trendy sitcoms and roller-coaster soaps these women are rejecting the usual pigeonholing that seems to happen to black and brown people in the media that tells them they can only exist are certain way.
Not only is this representation important, but authenticity is as well. There is no one black or brown narrative and shows like Scandal, The Mindy Project and Power show that. Not to say that they are above reproach, especially with Kaling’s penchant for only casting white men to play love interests, but one can tell just how unsettling the image of a black woman in power might be to the old guard by reading bizarre instances of “criticism” leveled against Rhimes for projecting her supposed “angry black woman”-ness onto her main characters.
The success of these women and their shows will hopefully go a long way into showing that black and brown narratives can work and sell in the mainstream. Rhimes is already a powerhouse producer with her own programming block on the American network, ABC, The Mindy Project is currently enjoying a quip-filled third season while Agboh’s Power was recently renewed for a second season.