"If these companies truly want to create lasting change and not just virtue signal in a moment of turmoil, then they need to support new talent," @boneybrooke speaks out on streaming services removing content that contain racist depictions. #9Today pic.twitter.com/d232RCdDzt
— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) June 10, 2020
Gamilaroi and Gomeroi journalist Brooke Boney has offered a rousing speech on this morning's Today Show about the current trend of removing TV shows and movies from streaming services based on their racist depictions of Black people.
Brooke argued that the solution to problematic, and even downright racist, depictions of people of colour was not to scrub them from history, but instead to make change in the present — to hire POC in writers' rooms and focus on inclusive and responsible storytelling.
Chris Lilley's We Can Be Heroes, Summer Heights High, Angry Boys and Jonah From Tonga were each removed from Netflix, while HBO Max in the US reportedly dropped Gone With the Wind from the platform, and, in the UK, shows like Little Britain and The Mighty Boosh have been taken offline.
"There is a problem with representation of people of colour on our screens — we know that," Brooke began. "We also now know that blackface is inappropriate, there's no question about that either.
"Does going back through the archives and tearing down art that's been made in the past really help us move forward? If I have children, I don't want them to see and to think that that is how they fit into the world, but I'd also like to be able to show them how poorly our people were thought of and treated in the past."
She stressed that one of the issues with these portrayals was the way they "punch down" at people "on the bottom rung of society", but that it's not worthwhile to excise cultural products that are "inappropriate by modern standards", or whose creators have behaved shamefully.
Brooke drew attention to examples like movies produced by Harvey Weinstein, and music by Michael Jackson, but there are truly too many to count, from the films of Woody Allen to Picasso's paintings.
Instead, Brooke pointed the way to "lasting change". "[Companies] need to support new talent, they need to open doors that have been closed to people of colour before," she said.
"If they truly want to make a difference in the way that we tell stories about who we are as a society, then we don't do that by deleting things we've done in the past. We do it by making sure that we don't do it again in the future, and being more inclusive and more responsible with our storytelling. So if you're gonna do change, make it meaningful."
Sharing the clip to Instagram, Brooke added: "If responsible and thoughtful storytelling matters to these big companies then they need to put their money where their mouths are and foster new, diverse talent . . . not just delete shows with problematic representations of POC."
She makes a point worth taking on board — if we simply delete cultural works that don't live up to our current standards, then we can put it out of mind, and pretend that the problem is fixed. By genuinely grappling with our discomfort and our racist past, we can learn from mistakes and attempt to create a more equitable and diverse film and TV industry, and larger society.
We're glad to have Brooke as an example of that meaningful change!