Friday, May 11, 2012


I'm a devoted fan of Shelf Awareness as regular readers of this blog know. Their daily email is a must-read start to the morning and I follow Marilyn Dahl's book recommendations devotedly. They've run promotional pieces on my clients and I've met many of their contributors in person.

I've never seen anything there, before today, that made me pause and think "huh?"

But today I did, and here's what I saw:

This new TV show stars Ving Rhames. Mr. Rhames is African-American. It also stars Alfred Molina. Mr. Molina is Spanish/Italian and often mistaken for Hispanic.

Both actors are well known, recognizable faces.

So why is the photo with this news item that of two white-white-white actors?

I don't ascribe this to racism because I know and respect he people at Shelf Awareness. If I were to guess I'd say the press release had this photo with it and they ran it. I don't know how that happened to be the one chosen for the press release, and I don't want to start throwing around "it must have beens" or "I'm sure it was" cause I'm not and no one is.

But, I noticed. It felt jarring to me that a press release with two recognizable names did not use their photo.

And I have a feeling that when people of color talk about being invisible, this is the the kind of thing they point to.

But I don't want to start a blame game here. We all have enough of that to go around. What I simply want to do is say "I noticed" and by posting this, ask you to notice too.

And if we all start noticing, maybe the world will change. One still photo at a time.


Anonymous said...

I'm grateful for your vision.

Unknown said...

I'm the one who added that photo to the article written by one of our editors. The simple answer is that I'd been watching Battlestar Galactica reruns, and I have a crush on Jamie Bamber. No disrespect to any of the other fine actors in the show. (also, didn't have a press release w/ pix--our article was a pickup from Deadline Hollywood; link in the article) --Robin Lenz, managing editor, Shelf Awareness

Christine said...

That IS interesting... coincidentally, it's the same photograph that our local news (in Portland) used with their article that announced the show. (Could be a press release...) I must confess the photo was so bland it didn't entice me to read the actual article -- until I saw your post this morning.

Thanks for noticing!

Kristine Croto said...

I noticed, I reposted.

Lynne Connolly said...

Because the white actor in question is Jamie Bamber?
Jamie Bamber the gorgeous, British actor (is British an ethnicity? No, probably not. HIs father is American, but his mother brought him up).
BTW, Alfred Molina is primarily British, whatever his ethnic origins. I never really considered his ethnicity before.
I tend to dislike when the ethnicity of a character is considered important, whatever that ethnicity is.

Dale Bishop said...

It's not about race. It's about our sex/beauty oriented culture. The guy in the photo is hotter than the two you mentioned in the post. I googled their photos just to make sure. They are marketing this show with the hottest guy they have. I would bet that if Blair Underwood were on that show he would have been in the photo. Blair is hotter than the white dude; everyone is attracted to him and he can draw attention.

Do I agree with this? No. But it is what it is and when it comes to promotion the best looking get top billing in our culture.

Kelly Washington said...

I think you're reading too much into it.

HK said...

Actually, as I read the article, I got to Ving Rhames and Alfred Molina and my eyes automatically flipped to the picture and I went, "Huh? Where are they?" rolled my eyes and kept reading to see what you were talking about.

I noticed.

I happen to love both those actors and tend to watch anything with them in it. (Alfred plays such a good bad-guy). I have no idea who either of the people pictured are. (Even after reading the other comments.)

I don't tend to watch dramas of this sort, but I'd be tempted if they pictured Ving Rhames and Alfred Molina.

(having trouble with google - I hope this doesn't go through multiple times. If so, sorry!)

Geekamicus said...

So, great, now we're going to have riots and boycotting because Robin thought Jamie Bamber was hot. If poor Robin had had a crush on Alfred Molina, there wouldn't be a problem.

It's not racism, it's hormones.

Yes, there is racism out there and it's ugly and stupid and it's time for it to end and see people for who they are, not what they look like. But we need to stop seeing zebras. Sometimes the hoof beats in the distance really are just from a horse.

Yvonne Osborne said...

It's the million little injustices that create a mountain of resentment. Thanks for pointing it out

Sheila JG said...

It sounds like the show has a pretty diverse cast, so yay for that - black, hispanic, asian, indian, and clown (if that's the same Bill Irwin I have loved since I saw Fool Moon a long while back). If you want to see some bigotry, try walking in clown shoes for a day. Some people just do not like clowns.

Steven J. Wangsness said...

No more medical shows! Bring back "Gilligan's Island." You can cast Jamie Bamber as the Professor, if you want. As long as Katie Sackhoff gets to be Maryanne.

Stephsco said...

I recognized Jamie Bamber being a BSG fan, but I do agree it's strange to show a pic of the cast who are listed under "also starring" rather than having nothing from the leads. I write about TV for a site where I'm asked to find correlating screenshots. It does require effort to make sure the photos balance both the theme of the article and the show itself. In this case it sounds like not many photos were available. Still seems strange no press photos were available of the leads. Interesting. I always notice these things. Whether people think it's overthinking, I support raising the question. People do notice.

Also - cool that TNT is putting together a show with Ving Rhames. The Finder show on FOX was pretty lame.

Adele said...

At the risk of spending the rest of my life on the Sharkly Sh*tlist:

Seems to me that if you want a society where people don't judge by skin color, you have to stop judging by skin color.

DeadlyAccurate said...

"It's the million little injustices that create a mountain of resentment. Thanks for pointing it out."

This +1.

Privilege is not noticing these issues, thinking it's not a big deal, thinking it doesn't matter. Privilege is being able to write it off because it doesn't affect you personally.

Wry Wryter said...

Ha...I noticed. I thought, where's Rhames and Molina?
Thanks Janet, I'm glad I'm not the only one and I'm Polish, who would have thought?

Kelly Barnes said...

I sensed the disconnect between the text and the picture. It annoyed me. neither one was Ving Rhames, and only one of them looks anything like an Alfred.

I also noted the disconnect when it came to race. Like you, I don't think it's cause to cry racism.

I have to wonder however, if we're not so very far beyond racism that a certain level racial sensitivity isn't in order.

80s Queen said...

Ving Rhames is one of my guilty pleasures and I am white white white as they get. That voice, oh baby!

Cynthia Ivers said...

Could it be neither Ving nor Alfred has filmed any scenes yet? Just considering all possibilities.

Elissa M said...

Well, I noticed the actors pictured were not the actors mentioned, but racism never crossed my mind. I just thought it was one of the many, many times I've seen pictures that didn't properly illustrate the article. Maybe the photo should have been of David E. Kelley and Sanjay Gupta...


Kay Camden said...

I think it says a lot about our society that we might see something like this and jump to the most provocative explanation (racism) when it's actually very simple (the writer's celebrity crush).

I often wonder if our sensitivity to racism is part of racism itself.

Bonnee Crawford said...

That is so odd indeed that they wouldn't use the photo of the well-known actors. Hmmm :/