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maryann johanson | takeaway only

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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