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Racism and racial representation on soaps


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Posted (edited)

Like a lot of Western culture, soaps have often had problematic relationships with race and depictions of people of color. We’ve spoken about this many times in different contexts on different soaps over the years, but what are the moments that leap to mind as particularly egregious?

 

We talked a bit about Mamie as “mammy” in the classic Y&R thread. Recasting biracial Asian-American Mia Korf with white, Kentucky-born Kassie Wesley (later DePaiva) as Blair on OLTL, essentially erasing a key part of her history, ranks up there for me.

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Taylor the Desert Princess (B&B) was somewhat offensive and it would not work today.

 

The recasting of Y&R's Keesha from an actress of Puerto Rican heritage to an actress of Italian heritage. Keesha's race was never stated but it was implied that she was African-American.

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48 minutes ago, Faulkner said:

We talked a bit about Mamie as “mammy” in the classic Y&R thread. Recasting biracial Asian-American Mia Korf with white, Kentucky-born Kassie Wesley (later DePaiva) as Blair on OLTL, essentially erasing a key part of her history, ranks up there for me.

 

And they proceeded to make fun of that for the next 20 years. If I were a fan of the show at the time (I guess I was but I was also 9 so...) I would have been pissed and quit immediately.

 

Evangeline running to John's vanilla bean dick all the time over RJ felt offensive to me, RJ was one of two black men on the show and painted as the worst man in the world and Hank didn't have any story of his own until he disappeared (BTW can anyone tell me why Nathan Purdee left Y&R?).

 

 

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I don't know whether this counts, but I was definitely appalled at seeing ATWT's Jessica and Margo fighting over Doc Reese like he was Mandingo.

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25 minutes ago, Khan said:

I don't know whether this counts, but I was definitely appalled at seeing ATWT's Jessica and Margo fighting over Doc Reese like he was Mandingo.

Oh dear. I remember how pathetic both of them looked. (Not gonna deny D.J. Lockhart-Johnson was attractive but still...)

 


Oh here’s the clip of Margo salivating over him:

 


Saw you covered “Kong” in the Y&R thread...

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I remember a fan in the AOL OLTL forum defending Kassie's casting saying that the Badderly s/l was over and Blair didn't need to speak Japanese anymore so her race didn't matter. 🤷🏽‍♂️

 

I didn't see these episodes but I've read that the show even went to the trouble of reshooting Addie's flashbacks of her sexual assault with a white actor in place of the original Asian actor.

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I think Agnes was a bit more "woke" than Bill Bell. At least her black characters had rounded, interesting lives, were integrated with the canvas, and knew how to read.

 

Dru (Y&R) and Dayzee (B&B) were from the classic Bell trope of black women not knowing how to read & having to be educated. Also, streetwise street urchins.

 

Having minority characters as best friends and talk-to's is a trope of which all soaps carry collective shame. 

 

I love how a soap may have one or two non-white actors, but as soon as they need a police officer or thug, they have every black or Latino actor on set; the same when they need a doctor or accountant...here comes every Asian actor with an agent. It's sickening.

 

The re-casting of Blair (OLTL) as a white woman was offensive to a lot of OLTL viewers. When Kassie burst onto the canvas with a Southern accent, people were like, "What?!?

 

I forgot about "Kong". 

 

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5 minutes ago, mikelyons said:

Having minority characters as best friends and talk-to's is a trope of which all soaps carry collective shame. 

I had posted this in the Y&R thread but it might be appropriate here:

 

For a while, it seemed like almost every show with a black family did the goody-two-shoes striver with the “hood” sibling they were responsible for keeping in line.

 

Y&R: Olivia/Dru, Neil/Malcolm

OLTL: Hank/RJ

GL: Gilly/David

ATWT: Ben/Isaac

11 minutes ago, SFK said:

I didn't see these episodes but I've read that the show even went to the trouble of reshooting Addie's flashbacks of her sexual assault with a white actor in place of the original Asian actor.

I guess they could argue they were undoing an ugly stereotypical story? It certainly didn’t feel that way at the time.

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1 hour ago, kalbir said:

 

The recasting of Y&R's Keesha from an actress of Puerto Rican heritage to an actress of Italian heritage. Keesha's race was never stated but it was implied that she was African-American.

 

That was pretty bad, I was even more shocked to learn the actress was the original Dinah on GL. It definitely put an odd damper on what overall was a very memorable storyline. 
 

46 minutes ago, Khan said:

I don't know whether this counts, but I was definitely appalled at seeing ATWT's Jessica and Margo fighting over Doc Reese like he was Mandingo.


There was a time during Sheffer’s run were the show diversified but it also a lot inspired righteous indignation. Ben & Lien imploded, Marshall raping Jessica, Bonnie and her violent crime streak, the Zarah/Sarah mess, wasting Reál Andrews sexy doctor character and of course the above Doc Reese story. Just awful but given what else was happening on the show during that time it was the norm. Even as Margo & Jessica were horny for Doc we had Emily horny for Chris Hughes, equal suffering? 
 

Don’t even get me started on what happened to Gilly on GL either 🤢🤮

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Let's add drug addicted black women to this list (YoHarmony; Jamal's mother on AMC)...

Pious Latin mothers who have to pray to the Virgin & have at least one son who is a police officer... (and I LOVED the Vegas). (Pilar & Carlotta)

 

Yeah... The whole hood sibling thing is spot-on and oh so... Cringeworthy. But after the hood sibling becomes reformed, they marry up and do well!

 

I will say, AMC did race pretty well until 1995 when Disney bought ABC (so many ills in ABC Daytime can be traced back to that purchase...) If I remember correctly, Angie's parents on AMC were doctors (or at least her father was a doctor). Taylor Roxbury Cannon was a mean, nasty spiteful woman who people just loved to hate. Derek Frye & Livia Frye were just wonderful. Terrance Frye was so sexy! We can't forget Mimi!! Lucas Barnes was a great addition to Pine Valley, too. An Li's initial story was that she "had" to marry Brian Bodine to stay in the country, but she has more than happy to do it, if not to spite Hayley. The Santos family was a welcome addition to the canvas because it gave us Maria & Edmund (they were so freaking sexy!) and Hayley and Mateo. With the introduction of Noah and the way Julia literally cowered from him in the first scene after she ran away after the tornado were cringeworthy & should never be seen again. By 1996, most of the black characters would start moving off the canvas and, well, we all know what happened next.

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17 minutes ago, mikelyons said:

YoHarmony

 

I tried to block out of all MAB’s attempts to  get “the Black storyline up and pumping”.

 

B&B has been even worse at such stories too. That had something decent with Lark Voorhies as Jasmine back in the day but they eventually dropped her. Maya’s story went very unnecessarily off the rails.

 


 

 

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44 minutes ago, Faulkner said:

I had posted this in the Y&R thread but it might be appropriate here:

 

For a while, it seemed like almost every show with a black family did the goody-two-shoes striver with the “hood” sibling they were responsible for keeping in line.

 

Y&R: Olivia/Dru, Neil/Malcolm

OLTL: Hank/RJ

GL: Gilly/David

ATWT: Ben/Isaac

 

It wasn't even as nice as a "striver", in most of those cases it was the one "uppity" sibling that had to be 'brought back down to earth' by the "hood" sibling. 

In that case, you can add Jessica Griffin/Lamar Griffin (ATWT) to that list. You also had Tyrone Jackson/Jazz Jackson (Y&R) and whatever the hell that storyline that they were involved in, was about.

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9 minutes ago, soapfan770 said:

 

I tried to block out of all MAB’s attempts to  get “the Black storyline up and pumping”.

 

B&B has been even worse at such stories too. That had something decent with Lark Voorhies as Jasmine back in the day but they eventually dropped her. Maya’s story went very unnecessarily off the rails.

 


 

 

What was so disappointing with Maya's story was they brought KM back after her maternity leave only to announce that she divorced from Rick...and then she disappeared. It was kind of a slap in the face to fans that supported that story. They should have just had her go back to Paris to be with Rick.

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I'm still waiting for soaps to give us a full integrated, functioning Asian family on soaps. We've had a stray character here, a product of a liaison from the Vietnam War there, but I want a dynamic family from Asia who are either working class & on the up or the richest family in town. 

 

Also, can we please get black characters out of apartments and condos? Like, if you're a doctor or executive, you should instantly have a two-story house on a soap! Dru and Neil's apartment always drove me MAD.

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5 minutes ago, DramatistDreamer said:

 

It wasn't even as nice as a "striver", in most of those cases it was the one "uppity" sibling that had to be 'brought back down to earth' by the "hood" sibling. 

Good point. In a lot of those cases, the “hood” sibling wound up eclipsing the “uppity” one, who was seen as either boring (Neil/Hank/Ben) or sanctimonious.

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