11/18/2014 11:18 am ET Updated Nov 18, 2014

TV's Forgotten Continent: Why Television Refuses To Depict The Real Africa

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If you only learned about the continent of Africa through television, you would be forgiven for thinking it was a dangerous, uncharted and possibly fictional land — along the lines of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Mordor or DC’s Gotham City. It’s not just how little it’s depicted — though that is precious little — but more how it’s talked about. Africa is where white American characters go to find themselves, as in “ER” and “The Newsroom”; it’s where outbreaks of epidemics come from, as depicted on the nightly news; it’s where Americans and Brits go to dismantle terror networks, as happens in “Strike Back” and “24.” And that’s if it’s mentioned at all; Africa is otherwise a vast continent with extraordinarily little said about it except what can fit in hushed, warning tones. As Mike Vago pointed out to me on Twitter, “Even ‘The Amazing Race’ doesn’t spend much time there.”

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