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by maryann johanson, liberal movie person

question of the day: Why does British TV (and film) seem so much more comfortable depicting interracial couples than American TV?

Noel Clarke Billie Piper Doctor Who

Today’s question comes from reader Rebecca, who writes:

I live in the States, but I also watch a bit of UK television, and I’ve noticed that there seem to be more mixed race couples on film and TV in the UK than there are here in the US. I thought I would ask you, since you are an expert of sorts of film and TV. I know I’m a little sensitive on this issue, as I am half Korean married to a white guy. I think everyone *thinks* they’re ok with it, but if that were true, people wouldn’t be so surprised that my husband is white instead of Asian. Which is pretty silly, considering the fact that if I were to actually go to Korea, they’d think I was white. Or at least a foreigner. My cousin said it this way, “At school, I’m Asian. If I go 5 miles into Garden Grove, (a largely Korean city), I’m white.”

I’m not sure what question I’d put to your other readers, maybe “Is the US (or US film industry) *really* ok with mixed race couples? Actually, now that I think about it, there seem to be more gay couples on TV than mixed race. And we were legalized first! But I sure would like your ideas on the subject, since you used to live here, and now you’re in the UK.

First thing I’d note right off that is that I’ve seen far more mixed-race couples with their mixed-race children in London than I ever saw in New York. I can’t speak for the rest of the U.K. — or the rest of the U.S., for that matter — but that is absolutely reflected on British TV: interracial familes are far more prominent, and treated far more casually, than on American TV. (That generally extends to film, too.) I’m sure there are many and complicated reasons for the differences — racism in the U.K. does not have the posionous legacy of slavery and the institutional dehumanization that went along with that, for one — but it’s still worth talking about here. So:
Why does British TV (and film) seem so much more comfortable depicting interracial couples than American TV?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • England is older, America is more new. And you may think that America is worse at dealing with race, but you’re just ignorant of the reality. America is actually better at dealing with race than Europe. Just because more interracial couples show up on UK TV doesn’t mean they’re more welcoming. It could, in fact, mean they’re compensating for longer periods of their colonialism throughout history, including of America. But of course, just pretend TV depicts how a country is, that totally makes sense… Educate yourself :)

  • Who is the “you” you are addressing? Who should be educating themselves, and about what? Who is the “they” who haven’t dealt with interracial or gay relationships yet? What’s “a lot faster” than the UK? What is the “reality” that that undefined “you” is ignorant of?

    Give us some context for your comments. What is your racial background? In which country do you live? Upon what are you basing your comments?

    Since you seem to disagree with the basic contention here that UK TV tends to depict interracial relationships better than US TV does, perhaps you could explain how this is wrong.

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