Sunday, March 19, 2006

Black. White.

I've been watching a new reality show on FX called Black. White. Two families, one black, the other white, are sharing a house. With the help of makeup artists, the black family passes for white and the white family passes for black. They're supposed to experience how the other half lives then come back to the house and get on each other's nerves.

With the exception of the white daughter, Rose, the transformations into the other race don't look too realistic. None of the black people look white, though they do look vaguely Hispanic. At a distance the white father could possibly pass for black, but up close, the makeup for the white parents was a bit off. Their "black face" is more convincing than the white makeup for the black people, however.

The first two episodes have been pretty predictable. The white father, Bruno, is determined to prove that any racism that black people say they've experienced is in their mind. The black father, Brian, working as a white bartender, wants to hear white people making racist comments when they think they're not in mixed company. The white mother, Carmen, is extremely self-conscious and has a tendency to blurt out things that offend the black couple, such as calling the black mother "bitch" and referring to the one of the young black women in white daughter Rose's poetry group as "a beautiful creature." The black mother, Renee, came to the project convinced that white people are insensitive and misses no opportunity to hammer Carmen every time the latter opens her mouth. The black son, Nick, seems to be bored with the whole project. He claims that people of his generation don't see race, so he has nothing to prove and he isn't interested in learning anything either. The producers don't seem to know what to do with him.

Of the six individuals, the white daughter, Rose, is the most interesting. She doesn't seem to have a lot of racial baggage, but at the same time she knows that she doesn't know much about black people. To her credit, she doesn't try to alter her speech patterns, clothes or mannerisms to "act black" the way her parents feel the need to do. She becomes involved with a black poetry group and the fact that she's in blackface really starts to bother her and get in the way of the "realness" she wants to bring forth in her work. She comes clean and at the end of the show it looks like there's the possibility of some real friendships forming between her and some of the other poets.

The show doesn't suck, but it doesn't seem that both families have equal opportunities for learning while doing this masquerade. What can the black family learn while masquerading as white? If they apply for a loan, they might get a better rate. That's about it.

As for the whites masquerading as blacks, a lot more could happen to them, but since the show is set in a large multicultural city -- Los Angeles -- they're not likely to come across really threatening white people that could give them the racist experience that they (really Bruno) seem to want to go through.

Unless, of course, they get stopped by the LAPD.


JamaicanQueen said...

Bruno just seems like he wants to prove that all racisim is in the heads of hose who experience it. Like his stupid comment on wanting to be called a nigger. I think he is being unrealistic. No one is just gonna jump out and call anyone a nigger because they know that an old fashioned beat down would probably ensue. Now if they really wanted to get something realistic going they should have gone to a small town and tried to see if Bruno would get a decent job there.

As for Carmen, I think she is an undercover racist. She doesn't think or realize that what she says can be hurtful or even just wrong. Like telling that boy "Well for you, I don't even know what you are gay straight...." It was not right for her to call him out like that.

Michelle Pessoa said...

Bruno is either very naïve, or he just wants to be an asshole. White people aren't going to call you a nigger to your face in 2006 unless they're with 20 other people when they say it. He seems to think that a black person can reason with a white person who's calling them that. No one white says that unless they're certain that they're in total control of the situation.

Regarding Carmen, she is paralyzed by fear. She's scared of the black couple Renee and Brian because they're very wary. She's also overly nervous about her ability to pass for black. Unfortunately, Carmen is one of those people who when they're scared won't shut up and she makes shit worse for herself. How could you not know that it's not okay to call just anyone a bitch? Even if you think that black people call each other bitch all the time because you watch too many videos, why would risk you going there? If I was on some reality show and I was "passing" as a Muslim, I wouldn't try to tell Muslim jokes to a Muslim. How can that not go wrong?

And as far as the boy whose sexuality she questioned, that was so stupid. Young people are very sensitive. She should know better.