Open letter to NBC

Heroes and the portrayal of minority roles

By JeffG

Dear NBC,

A part of me didn’t want to write this. I started watching Heroes near the end of the first season and was immediately hooked. I’ve always been a fan of fantasy and sci-fi, and was an avid comic book collector in my youth. I am this show’s core audience. Your writers have taken all the joys and wonders of those books from my childhood and made them new again, with twists and plot turns so good that at times left me breathless. Your actors and special effects team have brought the story to life.

The show is amazing for it’s ability to invoke emotion and leave the viewer in a daze, begging, desperate for more. I love it. I wish it was on everyday. But…and this is a big but…I’m not happy in it’s portrayal of minority roles. You’re walking on a slippery slope.

Maybe it’s just me and I’m looking too deeply into it, but most of the minority roles on the show seem very typecast, and it seems like they’ve all gotten a pretty raw deal in terms of storytelling. For example:

  • Monica Dawson, a new character from season two is a New Orleans resident. She’s a young black woman just getting by at a fast food job, desperately trying to make a better life for herself, her grandmother, and her (apparently fatherless) son. I really want to like this character and I think she has tremendous potential. Unfortunately, she’s been given hardly any screen time and is left undeveloped and portrayed as the stereotypical single black mother as of this time.
  • Mohinder Suresh is a brilliant scientist from India. Because on TV, everyone from India is either a scientist, or a PC technician. This indiscretion aside, Mohinder is fantastic, and very human. But you still went there.
  • D.L Hawkins - a black man who happens to be a former gang member. Was framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Once his innocence was proven, he worked hard to be a role model for his son. Thought to have been killed protecting his family at the end of season one, he actually survived a gunshot wound, only to be murdered at a club trying to bring his psychotic wife home after she went schizo. Granted, he’d have to have been killed regardless. He was becoming an ideal black role model, a good father, and he was married to a white woman. We can’t have black role models and we sure as fuck can’t have black, male role models. I wasn’t so angry about this when I thought he died protecting the people he loved, but when I saw how he actually died in the “Two Months Ago…” flashback, I was so pissed that I had to write this.
  • Maya and Alejandro Herrera - illegal immigrants from Mexico. Maya’s power seems to be to create a localized, lethal plague whenever she gets stressed out; Alejandro is the cure. They proceeded to illegally hop the border from Mexico to find a “Dr. Suresh” from New York in search of a cure for the “devil” inside Maya. Even putting aside the immigration issue, why must a Hispanic woman always be portrayed as either completely stoic or overly emotional, seemingly bipolar, and superstitious? She’s played up as completely naive and foolish. Alejandro, by comparison, seems very balanced and intelligent, but is entirely tied to his sister’s plot and is basically playing background to her role.

Ok, so those are some of my complaints. I know I’m being a bit hypercritical. It’s possible that the recent writers’ strike is leaving gaping holes in the storyboard. To date, the new characters this season seem undeveloped regardless of their screen time, and don’t seem to fit into the general plot. I hope this is resolved.

You, NBC, should get your head out of your ass and pay them what they rightfully deserve. Without them, you’d be nothing but a jumble of shitty reality programs, just like everyone else. I also hope the writers get their heads out of their asses, plotwise, but that may have to do with them not getting properly paid. Either way, the series could tip to either side of the fence currently, it’s up to you.

We’ve seen from the progression of the series that these writers can create strong, believable characters that extract strong emotions from the viewer. They are capable of this. Unfortunately, while the cast is fairly diverse, the writing seems to stem from a very “white-centric” point of view. The stereotyping isn’t extreme, and is much better than some shows. Also the typecasting could be much worse. My problem is that it exists at all.

I know I seem very negative about the show, but I’m surely being overly critical. Because the show resonates so strongly with me, the idea that “with great power comes great responsibility” sets in. I want to believe in this show and the characters in it, and I hold it to a much higher standard than most. Much as the characters have had to stuggle with their powers, so must the writers struggle with their character development. Heroes, it is because I think you are so awesome that I hold you to such a high standard. Please…get it together, NBC, for the sake of your viewers.

P.S. - since you’re dealing with the realm of comic books, find a way to bring D.L. back to life. D.C. did it for Superman, Marvel did it for…well, almost everyone; surely you can do it for D.L.

Sincerely,

The wide-eyed inner child inside your fan.

1 comment:

Ms. Feasance said...

I agree with most of your points, except the one about Monica. Damon (the other boy in New Orleans) isn't Monica's son; he's her nephew.

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