#ThrowbackThursday: Viola Davis Wins an Emmy, 2015

Viola Davis, Emmys 2015 (Betches)

Viola Davis, Emmys 2015 (Betches)

At the Emmys this past weekend, actress Viola Davis was nominated for Best Actress in a  Drama Series for her lead role in ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder.” Though she didn’t win on Sunday night, she won the award in 2015, and made history in the process. Davis became the first Black woman to win the Best Actress award.

Crazy that seemingly simple milestones are still only now being surpassed.

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Channing Dungey is the First Black Woman to Run ABC

Channing Dungey and ABC logo (Variety)

Channing Dungey and ABC logo (Variety)

Big news on the entertainment/broadcast networks front: Channing Dungey was named President of ABC Entertainment last week. She’s the first Black woman to run a broadcast network’s entertainment division.

Dungey replaces outgoing president Paul Lee.

Before her new role, Dungey ran development of ABC’s shows. She’s worked with the “Thank God It’s Thursday” (TGIT)-block of “Scandal,” “How to Get Away With Murder,” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” earning her nickname of “the Shonda Rhimes whisperer.”

I’m eager to see how ABC’s programming will change as a result of Dungey’s promotion. Based on her glowing history with show runners, it sounds like viewers are in for a treat.

 

Elle’s Women in TV List Is Most Diverse Ever

Priyanka Chopra, %22Elle%22 (Tribune)

Priyanka Chopra, “Elle” (The Express Tribune)

Fashion magazine “Elle” doesn’t exactly have the best track record in terms of showcasing diverse women. Over the years, they’ve lightened Gabourey Sidibe’s skin, and photographed Mindy Kaling in close-up. (Incidentally, Kaling was photographed for a cover of the Women in TV list for 2014.) But it looks like they’re finally getting it: The magazine’s 2016 Women in TV list is its most diverse yet, and three of its five cover stars are women of color.

Taraji P. Henson (from FOX’s “Empire”), Viola Davis (ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder”), and Priyanka Chopra (ABC’s “Quantico”) each received their own special cover. And none are in closeup or otherwise “hidden.”

This is heartening step forward for non-white women to see themselves represented and recognized in mainstream fashion magazines. I certainly hope it lasts and grows from here.

Viola Davis is the First African-American Woman to Win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress

Emmy-winning actress Viola Davis (NY Daily News)

Emmy-winning actress Viola Davis (NY Daily News)

Acclaimed actress Viola Davis made history last night when she became the first African-American actress to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Davis plays lawyer and law professor Annalise Keating in ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder,” now in its second season.

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is finally beginning to recognize more diverse talent. Davis was up against Taraji P. Henson for “Empire,” which was the first time two Black women were nominated in the same category. Davis acknowledged Henson and 2013 and 2014 nominee Kerry Washington in her acceptance speech.

Some context for this win and occasion: The category has been awarded since 1953. Debbie Allen was the first Black woman nominated in the category in 1982. It begs the question: what took so long?!

Trends: Interracial Couples on Broadcast TV, 2010-2015, Part 1

Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) in 'Scandal' (EW.com)

Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) in ‘Scandal’ (EW.com)

Fall TV is back! Ready for your favorite shows to return? Some of the cable companies have already begun to premiere new seasons of their fall shows, and now it’s time for the Big Four networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox) to follow suit.

The primetime premieres of shows new and old start this week, and it’s always interesting to see how much diversity makes it onto our screens. I was curious to see if the incidence of interracial couples on the Big Four networks had risen over the past five years (since trends are a bit slower to infiltrate there). I looked at incoming shows (i.e. those that started with pilots), and didn’t count returning ones. I was mainly looking for romantic couples, but noted platonic ones and love interests as well.

Part 1 explores the findings, and Part 2 (which will be published tomorrow) will show change-over-time trends with tables and graphs.

And now to the findings:

2010-2011:

Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.) and Jane (Eliza Coupe) in 'Happy Endings' (Oh No They Didn't)

Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.) and Jane (Eliza Coupe) in ‘Happy Endings’ (Oh No They Didn’t)

ABC: 3 shows/4 couples

  • Happy Endings: African-American man Brad Williams (Damon Wayans Jr.) is married to white woman Jane Kerkovich-Williams (Eliza Coupe).
  • My Generation: White guy Steven Foster (Michael Stahl-David) had a one-night-stand with Caroline Chung (Annie Son) in high school, which resulted in a child. Also, African-American Rolly Marks (Mehcad Brooks) is married to Dawn Barbuso (Kelli Garner), who’s white.
  • Off The Map: African-American man Dr. Otis Cole (Jason Winston George) has a relationship with Latina Zee Toledo Alvarez (Valeria Cruz).

CBS: 0 shows

For shame, CBS.

Fox: 1 show/0 couples

  • Breaking In: Melanie Garcia (Odette Annable) was the love interest to white guy Cameron Price (Bret Harrison).

NBC: 1 show/0 couples

  • Outsourced: The show implied a future between white Todd Dempsy (Ben Rappaport) and Indian woman Asha (Rebecca Hazlewood).

 

2011-2012:

President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) and Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) in 'Scandal' (New York Post)

President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) and Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) in ‘Scandal’ (New York Post)

ABC: 1 shows/1 couple

  • Scandal: Washington fixer Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) starts/continues (spoiler?) a relationship with President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn).

CBS: 1 show/1 couple

  • Rob: White guy (Rob Schneider) marries Maggie (Claudia Bassols), and gets to know her Mexican-American family. (Incidentally, Schneider isn’t completely white, but is of partial Filipino descent.)

Fox: 2 shows/1 couple

  • I Hate My Teenage Daughter: White woman Nikki Miller (Kate Finneran) raises her biracial daughter Mackenzie (Aisha Dee), with help from her ex-husband Gary (Chad L. Coleman).
  • Touch: Kiefer Sutherland and British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s characters’ relationship was strictly platonic.

NBC: 0 shows

This was the second season in a row that the network had no shows with interracial couples.

 

2012-2013:

Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) and Casey (Anders Holm) in 'The Mindy Project' (Fox)

Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) and Casey (Anders Holm) in ‘The Mindy Project’ (Fox)

ABC: 2 shows/4 couples

  • Mistresses: White woman Savi (Alyssa Milano) sleeps with her African-American coworker Dominic (Jason George). Asian-American Dr. Karen Kim (Yunjin Kim) sleeps with her patient, Thomas Grey (John Schneider). Latina single mom April (Rochelle Aytes) dates white man Richard (Cameron Bender).
  • The Neighbors: African-American woman Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Toks Olagundoye) is in a couple with white man/fellow alien Larry Bird (Simon Templeman).

CBS: 2 shows/2 couples

  • Elementary: Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) is white, and Dr. Joan Watson is Asian (Lucy Liu).
  • Golden Boy: Latino detective Christian Arroyo (Kevin Alejandro) has an affair with white fellow detective Deb McKenzie (Bonnie Somerville)

Fox: 1 show/9 couples

  • The Mindy Project: Indian OB-GYN Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) dates all the white guys: Dennis (Ed Helms), Matt (Seth Meyers), Josh (Tommy Dewey), Brendan (Mark Duplass), Jamie (B.J. Novak), Sam (Seth Rogen), Adam (Josh Meyers), and Casey (Anders Holm). She also flirts heavily with co-worker Danny (Chris Messina).

NBC: 1 show/0 couples

  • Do No Harm: Dr. Lena Solis (Alana de la Garza) was the love interest of Dr. Jason Cole (Steven Pasquale).

 

2013-2014:

Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) in 'Sleepy Hollow' (The Chiefly)

Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) in ‘Sleepy Hollow’ (The Chiefly)

ABC: 0 shows/0 couples

A rare no-show for interracial couples this season from ABC.

CBS: 1 show/1 couple

  • Extant: Astronaut Molly Woods (Halle Berry) is married to Dr. John Woods (Goran Visnjic).

Fox: 3 shows/3 couples

  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) crushes on his Cuban-American partner Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero).
  • Gang Related: Vee Dotsen (Inbar Levi) and Tae Kim (Sung Kang) are a couple.
  • Sleepy Hollow: Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) and Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) work together to protect their town.

NBC: 1 show/1 couple

  • Welcome to the Family: A white girl (Ella Rae Peck) and her Latino boyfriend (Joey Haro) get pregnant right out of high school.

 

2014-2015:

Rebecca Sutter (Katie Findlay) and Wes Gibbins (Alfred Enoch) in 'How to Get Away with Murder' (World News)

Rebecca Sutter (Katie Findlay) and Wes Gibbins (Alfred Enoch) in ‘How to Get Away with Murder’ (World News)

ABC: 4 shows/7 couples

  • Black-ish: African-American advertising executive Andre Johnson (Anthony Anderson) is married to Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross), a mixed-race surgeon.
  • Cristela: A Latina attorney (Cristela Alonzo) spars with her white co-worker (Andrew Leeds).
  • How to Get Away with Murder: Too many to count! Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) is married to Sam Keating (Tom Verica). Law student Connor Walsh dates Oliver Ricamora (Jack Falahee). Law student Laurel Castillo (Karla Souza) dates Kan (Arjun Gupta). And main character/audience-surrogate Wes Gibbins (Alfred Enoch) sleeps with Rebecca Sutter (Katie Findlay).
  • Selfie: Marketing guru Henry Higgs (John Cho) tries to reform Eliza Dooley (Karen Gillan).

CBS: 0 shows/0 couples

No interracial couples from this network this year.

Fox: 0 shows/0 couples

Same as CBS.

NBC: 1 show/1 couple

  • The Slap: Hector Apostolou (Peter Sarsgaard) is in an interracial marriage with Aisha (Thandie Newton).

 

Looks like a lot, right? Check back tomorrow for Part 2 where I’ll look at the actual numbers!

Obscenity Tests via Federal Standards: By The Numbers

Kim Kardashian in 'Playboy,' 2007 (The Trent)

Kim Kardashian in ‘Playboy,’ 2007 (The Trent)

I’ve never wanted to go into law (except when I watch “How to Get Away with Murder”), but if I did, there are two areas of the field that I’ve always found fascinating: intellectual property and obscenity laws. The first topic doesn’t apply here, but the second topic has all the business in the world of being covered here.

There are so many facets of obscenity, but today we’re looking at how federal standards define the term, as the First Amendment of free speech doesn’t extend to protect obscenity. A few different tests have been put in place from time to time to establish a baseline of what’s obscene and what isn’t.

Here’s how that’s changed over the years:

Number of obscenity tests: 3

The Hicklin Test, 1879 

This one was adapted from an 1860s British case. It became standard stateside when it was used in 1879 to prosecute D.M. Bennett, who was charged with obscenity when he tried to send out free-love information through the mail (this also upheld the Comstock Act).

The Hicklin test defined obscenity as material designed to corrupt impressionable minds (whether they were young or not).

– The Roth Test, 1957

This test overturned the Hicklin test, and set a new standard: Material would be considered obscene if the nature of the work deviated from a conventional norm and turned into “a prurient interest.” (Nerdy side note: in statistics terms, would that be two or three deviations from the mean? Would it be 95% or 97%? Would the prurient interests exist in the remaining 5% and/or the 2%?)

But exactly what a “prurient interest” was was never defined further.

Years later, this one was also responsible for Justice Potter Stewart’s now-famous quote on obscenity: “I’ll know it when I see it.”

– The Miller Test, 1973

Here, the Supreme Court Justices got slightly more specific as they struggled to define obscenity. Here are the three main points:

(a) whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards” would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest

(b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law

(c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value

In layman’s terms, this would be:

a) Is it creepy, disgusting and/or explicit (according to your vanilla friends and neighbors)?

b) Does it run afoul of state law?

c) Is it worth anything to the greater good/society?

 

I love how all of these descriptions are so vague. Seriously, no one can define obscenity. What’s “prurient” to one person may be perfectly standard to another. But then, studies have shown that there’s not really such a “normal” fantasy, but there are varying degrees along the spectrum. And I’m willing to bet it’s the same with defining obscenity.

 

Sex & Stats’ 2014 Year in Review

Beyonce's 'Flawless' performance at the 2014 MTV Video Music Award

Beyoncé’s ‘Flawless’ performance at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards

We’re almost done with 2014, so let’s take a look back at some important movements in the world of sexuality.

Trans Issues:

After a long time, the trans community has come into the spotlight.

It started back in early March, when Jared Leto took home the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing trans woman Rayon in “Dallas Buyers Club.” This was the first time an actor won an Oscar for a trans role, and the second time an actor playing a trans character had been nominated for an Academy Award. (The first time was when Felicity Huffman played a trans woman in 2005’s “Transamerica,” and garnered a Best Actress nomination.) The film also sparked a dialogue about cisgendered actors playing trans roles.

The community has been making strides on a local level as well. This fall, a Texas high school elected its first trans homecoming king.

 

Anal Play:

“We’ve been experimenting with the butt,” a good friend of mine said recently. Though she was referring to what she and her partner were getting up to, this statement also applies to our culture’s newfound fascination with anal play.

Ever since a stripper alleged that Drake enjoyed having his salad tossed, it seems like anal play and rappers  are having a major intersectionality moment. Nicki Minaj has proven this most frequently with her singles “Anaconda” and “Only,” positing herself in the power position of receiving, and greatly enjoying, having her asshole eaten out.

Anal sex also appeared on our broadcast TV screens in mainstream American homes this fall. The “How To Get Away With Murder” pilot and an episode of “The Mindy Project” both featured the formerly taboo act (the former more explicitly than the latter). Bonus points for both featuring interracial couples as well.

 

Feminism:

This is technically a holdover from 2013, but feminism continued to stake its claim in culture this year.

“Harry Potter” actress Emma Watson gave an inspiring speech to the United Nations launching the HeForShe campaign, mobilizing men to do their part for feminism. Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld ended his spring 2015 runway show with models holding up signs painted with feminist slogans. Singer John Legend declared that society would be better if all men were be feminists.

Of course, Beyoncé also had a hand in this. (No surprise there, as her 2013 self-titled album sampled Chiamanda Ngozi Adichie’s now-famous TED talk on feminism.) She started it off strong in January authoring an essay on workplace inequality for “The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back From the Brink.”

But that was small compared to what was to come: During the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards, Beyoncé performed “***Flawless” in front of a giant lit marquee, branding herself as a FEMINIST. IN ALL CAPS. It certainly raised consciousness for many people, because Google searches for “feminist” and “beyonce feminist” majorly spiked that week.

 

2014 has been very eventful, and let’s hope society keeps making sex-positive strides forward in 2015. See you next year!