What would It have been like if TV classics had casts of color?
Fuller House, a revival of Full House is scheduled to premiere on Netflix in 2016. Growing up, I loved Full House. At night, I imagined that I was a lost Tanner child. Now, I realize I was never destined to join the Tanner family tree—I didn’t fit any of the casting descriptions as a person of color. Twenty years later, I’m wondering what popular shows like Full House would’ve been like if they included people of color?
Culturestrike artist, Julio Salgado, begins to answer the question of what television shows could have been like if they included people of color. In Salgado’s drawings, he redraws and recasts the characters of popular television shows like Friends, The Golden Girls, and Full House. For example, in his reworking of Full House, Salgado states, “This Full House is a Filipino family and it’s set in Daly City. The oldest daughter is undocumented and the youngest two were born in the U.S. Also, uncle Jesse is queer.”
Reimagining these shows reminds me of how I saw myself fitting (or not fitting) into certain sitcoms growing up. While my friends debated whether or not they were more of a Carrie or Samantha from Sex in the City, I was trying to embody my inner Toni Childs from Girlfriends. I grew up on 90s and early 00’s Black sitcoms. As I got older, I never paid attention to shows like Sex in the City, Frasier, or Seinfeld because I didn’t see anyone who resembled me. Seeing no one like me was a constant reminder that I and people who looked like me didn’t belong.
Although television shows are meant to connect and represent the lives of the viewers, the represented individuals normally fit into the selective category of white men and women. This reluctance to include people of color has sent a negative message about what the shows and those involved in their development believe is worth watching.
Luckily, there are successful and diverse shows like How to Get Away with Murder, Jane the Virgin, Scandal, and Empire. However, this question about what television shows could have been like if they were more inclusive sooner is an important one to ask because people of color are still fighting for representation.
When the television networks create shows with no diverse casts, they are telling the viewers that people of color have no stories worth telling.
Even though I’m grateful for the Black television shows I watched growing up, I’m terrified to think about what would’ve happened if they weren’t around. Without these shows there would’ve been no representations of people who looked like me. Maybe this idea would not be as terrifying if popular television shows were inclusive.
If these shows included people of color, then we would’ve been represented sooner. We could have prompted the conversation about what living as a person of color was like in America sooner. And, we wouldn’t have to imagine ourselves as something worth watching.