August 28, 2019
News organisations have moved on from colonial-era language, but entertainment shows are still rooted firmly in the past
Racist African stereotypes are as prevalent as ever on TV | Afua Hirsch
I have an idea for a British TV series. It involves finding an African society with a history of regarding Europeans as a profoundly inferior race – tricky, admittedly. Then find a small-town family, from County Durham, say, to perform stereotypically “English” culture to entertain them. Describe this as an “exchange” – it sounds more equal – but make sure the African characters are equipped with various gadgets and a familiar value system. We’ll follow their love lives, clothing preferences and personality quirks in minute detail on social media. By contrast, the County Durham people can just be lumped into one collective personality, a series of bland traits that cover not just them, but their entire ethnic group.
Let’s call it “reverse anthropology”, the opposite of the tired old narrative with which you are already familiar. You know, the one we have seen so many times on TV – what anthropologists call the “tits and spear complex”, where Britons gawp at bare-breasted nomadic Africans with spears and marvel at how “traditional” (for which, read primitive) they are.
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