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Soap Operas Are Not a Land of Diversity February 22, 2011

Posted by Skippy in Popular Culture, Racism, Rants.
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I am in a car dealership getting my oil changed. As I sit in the waiting room, the television is tuned to the local ABC affiliate and I, for the first time ever, am watching an episode of “General Hospital.” And so far, I’ve seen all of ONE African American on the show…and I think her name is “Epiphany.” She is portrayed by a dark-skinned African American woman of some size, and in her only scene so far, functioned only to console some white woman about her kid’s paternity or some such. Here is her character’s description:

Strong, tell-it-like-it-is Epiphany Johnson is a well-known zaftig figure around General Hospital. As a head nurse at General Hospital, everyone receives the same treatment from her – blunt. No doctor, nurse, surgeon or patient or visitor is immune from being taken to task by Epiphany if he or she is doing something wrong.

The great joy of Epiphany’s life was her son, Stanford, whom everyone called Stan. Stan worked for Sonny Corinthos, and not only did Epiphany not approve, but she felt he was wasting his electrical and technical talents. However, she never gave up on her boy. Stan died in 2007, the result of a mob hit as Epiphany was speaking with him on the telephone.

As a result, Epiphany suffered a heart attack in the hospital locker room area shortly after she received her son’s ashes. Today she is fully recovered and as feisty as always.

Frak me sideways. I don’t even know where to begin with this character. Oh, wait. I do.


Fig. 1: What us gon’ do, Sonny Corinthos?

Look, I realize that soap operas are not in any way accurate representations of the real world—I mean, I watch “Young and the Restless,” and if Genoa City were real, there would be some basic problems with the structure of the known universe. That’s a town where you can get from a coffeehouse to a ranch in 2.5 seconds on some days, and on other days it takes a whole episode. Oh, and you can run a multinational conglomerate with a high school education. And people come back from the dead with such regularity, Jesus could roll into town and everyone would say, “Meh. What else you got?”

So, yeah, I get it. These are purely romantic fantasies aimed squarely at women. But damn, really? We’re still trotting out the Mammy stereotype? In frakkin’ 2011? We’re squarely in the 21st century and we’ve still got tired 19th century stereotypes like Mammy, Jezebel and the Black Brute running through popular culture? Oh, have we got a long way to go.

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Comments»

1. Tessie - March 30, 2011

Amen, and amen. Regardless, today’s soaps are steadily being flushed down the drain. One by one.


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