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Deggans PunditWatch: The Bechdel rule becomes the Deggans rule



National Public Radio pop culture reporter Neda Ulaby came to me a few weeks ago with an intriguing question:

What did I think of the Bechdel Rule?Nprbechdelrulecartoon

The Rule comes from a 1985 cartoon by illustrator Alison Bechdel (click on the cartoon to enlarge), who depicts a character telling her female friend she won't go see another movie unless it features more than one woman as a primary character and those two women talk about something other than men.

So Ulaby asked if I could articulate any TV shows which might fit the Deggans rule: more than one black or minority character talking about something other than race, culture or white people. And she put my answers on NPR's afternoon news show, All Things Considered.

Turns out, there are some shows that fit that mold: ER, Lost, Grey's Anatomy and TNT's the Closer, for example. But what struck me was the difficulty I had coming up with new shows featuring more than one character of color, period.

What I've noticed mostly this season is that, like seasons past, network TV is diversifying shows after they've been picked up for series. But, unlike years past, they're doing it by adding well-known minority 90210tristan actors as supporting characters -- Alfre Woodard on My Own Worst Enemy, Angela Bassett and her husband Courtney Vance on ER, Laurence Fishburne on CSI, Lucy Liu on Dirty Sexy Money, 

Even the highly anticipated 90210 reboot has just one minority character, a kid adopted by the central show's white family. Interesting as this twist is, it also ensures that Tristan Wild's Dixon will not be connected to other characters of color -- which is odd in a city a diverse as Los Angeles.

The only feedback I've gotten so far is two e-mails from people criticizing my observation that I felt as if I was learning a bit about Italian-American culture from watching The Sopranos.

So what do you think of the Bechdel and Deggans rules?


[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:51pm]


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