The View from the front, The View from the back.

by 伊凌 yi ling

On Thursday September 4th, ABC Television Network announced that Rosie Perez (and Nicolle Wallace) would be new hosts on the 18th season of The View.  This means that the View’s host lineup will have 4 co-hosts, Whoopi, Rosie O., Nicolle and Rosie P. In sum, the View has 2 white women, 1 Black woman, 1 Latina woman as the face of their season 18 lineup.  The show will look diverse, but behind the camera ABC still has an all white leadership in production and direction.  ABC has hired Bill Wolff as the new Executive Producer to replace Bill Geddy, as well as Brian Balthazar as co-EP, Ashley S. Gorman as director and Kathleen Rajsp as senior supervising producer.  For a show that markets itself as a multi-generational, multi-racial, multi-politically representative, its writing, directing or producing teams certainly fail to reflect this purported value.

Seeing the new lineup, I’m reminded of the time I interned at The View in the summer of 2011. It was my first internship where I felt really out of place professionally as an Asian American woman. Senior producers would “ching chong” in mockery of Chinese actresses appearing on the show, audience members asked me to bring them fried rice, and a senior staff member told me I’d be better off being an entertainment lawyer instead, because surely, my parents disagreed with my aspirations in television production. Even as I filed papers, staff wondered out loud what an Economics/Philosophy double major from Wellesley (who started the school TV station) was doing there. And this racial disparity was most stark in the staff representation.  In production, there was only one Black women who was the only non-white producer, an Asian guy and a Black man who spent most of their hours in the graphics room.  Our intern coordinator was a Dominican woman who managed the front desk and the guy who managed the warehouse was a Black man.  I was the only intern of color.  Other than those folks, it was a white team making a multi-racial presenting show.

A quintessential moment of the white power dynamic happened near the end of August.  A consultant from Frank N. Magid Associates was brought in to advise the team on how best to proceed with capturing new demographics.  As this white man in his pink Polo button down went through powerpoint slide after powerpoint slide before the entire team in the conference room (I think it was telling that at this consultation meeting, the one Black producer wasn’t present.), he paused on a slide detailing the viewing habits of white women versus Black women.  Black women were “the next and most important now to capture.”  At this, a senior white male writer stood up slowly and bellowed,

“Now I just want to know where the Orientals and the Latinos are.”

I sucked my breath in sharply from the back of the room.  “Oriental” is a deeply degrading and exotifying term appropriate perhaps only to describe rugs.  It stung with anti-Asian menace.

He glanced at me, causing half the room to glance too.

“Oh I’m sorry, should I have said Asian?”

I felt my face flush with anger and shame as my intern name tag seemed to suddenly weight 10 pounds down my neck.  I looked down, unable to say anything back.  The consultant casually piped up from the front,

“Oh, they’re the same as white women so we just put them under there.”

With a cursory comment, he continued on with the presentation.  He also simplified Latina and Asian American Pacific Islander women into a single footnote to whiteness.  This glosses over a whole slew of differences, such as how many Latina women are bilingual and thus responded better to advertisements in Spanish. Nielsen pointed out in an article posted on 6/24/14 how Latin@s and Millenials, especially Latin@ Millenials are the fastest growing population.  According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth report in 2012, Latin@s have $1.2 trillion in spending power and are 52 million strong.  To gloss over some of the most viable American consumers seemed like an incredibly bad business practice.  These populations are often ambassadors to even larger audiences in South America and Asia.  I know in the Asian communities, moms will keep up with the latest Korean/Chinese/Japanese dramas to chat about with their families back in Asia.  I imagine there are the same practices with Spanish speaking dramas.

I really hope that Rosie Perez’s hosting stint with the view allows her to bring to light issues that the Latin@ people face in this country and beyond.  Representation is a small, hard won step towards a truly equal and representative media.  And it’s a better business practice.  Seeing Rosie Perez’s selection gives me hope that people behind the scenes have begun to ask “Who are we representing?  How are we representing them?  Are we intentional about giving folks a voice of their own, a platform of their own? What impact do we want to make?”  This is only a beginning though.  What about Middle Eastern women?  Or South East Asian women? East Asian women? Gender non conforming folks? Queer folks?  Trans women of color?  And more Latin@s!  Who ever said 1 is enough?

We’ll have to tune in on the 15th to find out.  Or perhaps tune into Latin@ front-lining shows like Cristela and Jane the Virgin.  Plus there’s Fresh Off the Boat, Black-ish, How to Get Away With Murder, and many more people of color led shows.  Let’s give approval with our attention, the most valuable currency of our information age.