First off, let me put this out there ... I love white people. Half my family (the half that isn't, by the numbers, even more Filipino than it is Hispanic) is white.
I'm also not the type to go around being all bitter that "da man" is trying to keep me down. But sometimes it sorta, kinda feels like maybe... .
Here's what gets me: Roger Ebert and Rich Roeper walked away from At the Movies and were replaced by ... drum roll please ... two pasty white guys.
Fine, upstanding, eminently qualified guys, perhaps funny and--to some tastes--attractive guys. But ... well ... white guys!
It's 2008 and some black dude is running for president, but the movie review show based in Chicago - which has one of the largest black and Latino populations in America--couldn't find one single movie writer, reviewer, or blogger "of color," as the kids like to say, to fill one of the seats? Give me a break!
Back when the world was young and movies were no longer the sort of place you got dressed up to go to, Roger Ebert revolutionized the newspaper beat of movie critic. And God bless him for doing so, he took what could have been a fluffy opinion column and created serious scholarly discourse on an important American art form.
In 1982, Rog, along with Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune brought movie criticism into the mainstream with their inimitable TV show Sneak Previews which went onto become At the Movies. About a year after Gene died in 1999, Roger's fellow Sun-Times columnist became his new balcony-mate. I was thrilled!
Never mind that Rich was totally cool, an awesome writer on many things including--but not limited to--movies; he and Roger had great chemistry. But not only that, Roeper was the final pick after a slew of male, female, and diverse "guest hosts" auditioned for over a year. He was the best, no problem--merit-based success is really the only kind that should exist.
I'll take a side note here to say I'm sure the show's producers had a really hard time finding such a diverse array of talent to fill that guest slot. There are very, very few popular minority media people, much less those with cushy entertainment beats. Editors generally send black reporters to the South Side, and Latino ones to the local factories to investigate immigration raids. (Yes, that is a true statement.) Let's face it, people who aren't white have had a tough time cracking into such elite white-collar positions as "movie critic."
Don't get me wrong, I'm not just crushing sour grapes here; it's not like I sent an audition tape, but last week when I read about Ben Mankiewicz and Ben Lyons' new gigs in Sun-Times columnist Robert Feder's piece "ABC 7 ready to raise curtain on new 'At the Movies'", what could I do but just shake my weary head?
I've got nothing against Ben and Ben. Feder called them "both scions of famed show-biz families; Mankiewicz was a host for Turner Classic Movies and Sirius Satellite Radio, and Lyons reported for E! Entertainment," so clearly they're qualified. But c'mon, only white people get to give their take on talkies?
What about George Singleton? What about some talented blogger? Hey, how's this: how about a woman? Any color is fine.
Yep, it's 2008 and women and blacks are not only allowed to vote but they get to do so for someone who looks like them. Good times, in perspective.
But though I don't think there's some anti-minority media bias, sadly, there seems to be a terrible confluence of managerial blind spots and lack of imagination and--even worse--a lack of opportunity for reporters who aren't white.