In her article for Jezebel.com, Angela Hunt insists that there is an oasis of racially diverse television right under the public’s great big schnozz.
As a black sociology nerd and mother of two “bi-racial tweens,” Hunt is pissed about the lack of melanin on the HBO series Girls and cites the current lineup of color-coated programming on Disney and Nickelodeon as evidence that the world is a better place.
Personally, when I was a young Afro-headed half-Jew, if my mom had referred to me as a bi-racial tween, I think I would have been plenty creeped out. But whatever, kids like to see themselves on TV. My real objection to Hunt’s list of children’s programs isn’t that they’re all so racey, it’s that they all look like they would suck to watch. Victorious, Ant Farm, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody…the brief synopsis provided for each makes me wonder how kids can enjoy this shit. So far as I can tell, even Hunt seems to think that at least half of these shows feature terrible acting and basically no coherent story line.
So, why, then, does she consider this a positive trend in children’s television? Is it just because most of these kids’ shows feature racially diverse casting? Because back in my day, we had shows like that which were actually worth watching!
When I was a small person in the early 90s, kids with cable television loved diversity. I mean, we were basically force-fed that shit, but it tasted good! Nickelodeon, in particular, really raised the roof on many a white suburban household and dumped a melting pot of multiculturalism on America’s munchkins.
I don’t know what to say about this show other than it was all that, yo. A mainstay on Nick’s classic Saturday night SNICK programming, my progressive liberal family would sit around and hee-haw at these nappy-headed nine- to twelve-year-olds. Basically a sketch comedy program in the vein of Saturday Night Live, this variety show was a racially mixed bag of kids who loved to entertain you. I guess there were some white people on the show, but aside from Amanda Bynes, I don’t remember who any of them were. It was more about the Super Dude.
Super Dude was portrayed by Fat Albert-esque Kenan Thompson (who eventually found SNL fame). He also had a sidekick, the slightly crack head-ish Kel Mitchell (who eventually found Jesus). These two were quite a pairing, and their collaboration led to a number of side projects, namely the not as funny Nick series Kenan and Kel (which featured the two brothas living together as brothers) and the movie Good Burger. As a sketch on All That, Good Burger was OK, but extended to movie length it was about as awkward as Night at The Roxbury and other SNL movie failures.
Another really unique aspect of All That were the musical guests. With rap music icons like Coolio and Da Brat in my living room, I was forcibly bused into a Kiddie Compton of race awareness. These people are really black, I remember thinking to myself..These people are all that.
Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Think Tales From The Crypt around a campfire with a bunch of awkward, pre-teen storytellers and you have the concept for Are You Afraid of the Dark?, by far the greatest Nick show that ever existed. Here’s the intro from the show which was definitely nightmare-worthy.
Each episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? began in the middle of the woods, where Gary (a white guy) would gather with his fellow members of The Midnight Society. However, what always puzzled me about The Midnight Society was that there weren’t too many members who looked like Gary.
For instance there was Betty Ann, a cute, shy Latina girl who liked to talk about aliens.
Or the spunky tomboy mulatto named Kiki, who often told stories featuring black characters. Go figure…
Or Frank, the hard-ass tough guy of the group, who seemed to be of Asian descent.
I always wondered what kind of neighborhood all these kids lived in which allowed them to keep their club so neatly diversified. It must have been the same place that the Power Rangers were from.
In any case, while Are You Afraid of the Dark? episodes such as “The Dangerous Soup” taught me all about the nature of true fear, the show also discouraged me from fearing any sort of dark person.
Never in the history of network television has there been a more politically correct animated series than Doug. This show was so diverse, the characters don’t even adhere to normal racial categories. Doug’s best friend Skeeter, for example, is a fucking blue guy. Watch him beat box.
Salute Your Shorts
This series revolved around a bunch of kids at sleep away camp, and while Camp Anawana certainly featured a cast of multi-racial campers, it’s really Budnick (portrayed by Oklahoma native, Danny Cooksey) who sells me on the show’s diversity.
Budnick was a ginger kid with juvenile-delinquency issues. He’s a bully, but deep down, you can tell that he’s a sensitive dude. I think everyone has known a kid like that at some point or another. While these angry, glue-sniffing youth exist in the margins of society, their stories also deserve to be told.
Another favorite character of mine from Salute Your Shorts is Donkey Lips. It might surprise you to know that Donkey Lips was not a black character. He was just a pale lisping fat kid, as pictured below with President Reagan.
Where’s Donkey Lips today, you ask? I’m not sure but it looks like maybe he’s going through kind of a rough patch.
I’m sure there’s a reality show he could be on, provided they still need some more white people. Have to keep things diverse, after all.