TheGrio Daily

Woke Mermaids Pt. 1

Episode 49

“The movie companies and the TV companies know that they are more likely to have a bigger audience if the cast is diverse, but for some reason, they won’t do it.” Despite Disney diversifying its iconic Little Mermaid character, mainstream media still has a long way to go before content even comes close to representing its audience accurately. theGrio Daily is an original podcast by theGrio Black Podcast Network. #BlackCultureAmplified


[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. Black Culture Amplified. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:05] My name is Michael Harriot and first, I don’t know what platform you’re watching or listening to this on. I know it kind of has to come through the Internet, but I don’t know if you you know, you on the white Internet or the Black internet, because if you are the white Internet, then I’m sure you’ve heard about this. And if you on the Black internet, then you probably saw this. 

[00:00:44] (Kids reacting to Little Mermaid)

Michael Harriot [00:00:46] Yes. So I don’t know which internet you’re on, but whatever internet you are on, I’m sure you’re happy that Disney has decided to become more diverse, more inclusive, to reflect the society in which we live by making The Little Mermaid Black. So welcome to theGrio Daily, the only podcast that is willing to give you the true Hollywood story of the woke mermaid. I’m Michael Harriot, world famous wypipologiest and this is theGrio Daily. Yeah, yeah, I know. Everybody’s saying that, you know, Disney is becoming woke. People on both sides, white people on the white side, which, you know, for this specific podcast will admit that this is not most white people. These are just white weirdos who are mad that there’s going to be a Black mermaid. In the remake of the live action remake of Disney’s 1989 hit The Little Mermaid. And for some reason, that drove white people crazy, which we’ll get to. But again, not all white people, just a few weirdos. 

Michael Harriot [00:02:00] And again, it made a lot of white people happy because we all were going to see ourselves. And it’s a sign that Hollywood is becoming more diverse and inclusive. Except, again, that’s not is exactly what happened. So the first thing you got to know is that like, I don’t know which platform you’re watching this on, but whatever platform you’re watching it on or listening to it on, whether it’s theGrio app, whether it’s, you know, your favorite podcast platform, even if you watched it on YouTube, right? You’re probably not consuming it on one of the Big Six. What’s the Big Six? You’re probably wondering. So the Big Six is 90% of all media consumed in the US is consumed by one of six companies. These six companies and. You’re probably not on one of those because Apple is not owned by them. Facebook or Google, which owns YouTube or I guess they’re now alphabet. You know why they would be changing their names. White companies. 

Michael Harriot [00:03:06] But. 90% of all media you see on TV, the music you buy, even the movies you attend, even though they are produced by different movie studios, all of those companies fall under one of six media conglomerates. Right. And you probably don’t know that you’re watching a huge corporation’s output, for instance, like Comcast owns NBC. And you think, well, Comcast is the cable company, right? Exactly right. They put the cable into your home, they give you Internet and then you if you cut the cord, you still got to consume their products over the air. Or you can stream their products on Peacock, all owned by the same company. And like Disney, for instance, why you say I’ll even own Disney plus? Well, do you watch ESPN? You watching Disney? Do you watch ABC? You watch Disney. Right. So, again, 90% of the media. That we consume in the US is owned by six major corporations. And for the longest time. These six corporations were only concerned with what we call blockbusters. They had a little, few small efforts. Why? But because they controlled all the media. They wanted the biggest hits, which meant that they put Black people on TV. 

Michael Harriot [00:04:28] That’s because the people who run these companies, if you look at the data, 90% of the CEO’s, 90% of the senior executives at these companies are white. Not only are they white, they lean conservative. About 67% of them donate to conservative causes. Right. So, you know, I know you like to hear about liberal Hollywood, but Hollywood ain’t that liberal. Hollywood is just the six corporations that run your media and they’re not liberal and they basically control what you consume. And for the longest, this was just white content. Right. I know you probably think you grew up watching, you know, stuff like The Cosby Show and Fresh Prince of Bel Air. But in any given year, there’s about a hundred primetime network TV shows, and there’s never been a year where even 10% of those had a nonwhite lead actor. Right. As a matter of fact, even though right now white people make up 60% of the U.S. population and Black people make up about 13%, white people make up about 68% of the lead characters on television shows. Now, supposedly, the last time they really checked, it was 72% of the lead characters on broadcast television. And even more, a large percent, about 74% of the leads in movies. 

Michael Harriot [00:06:01] And of course, you wondering why this is? Well, there’s also data. There’s people do studies about this, and there are studies that show that white people don’t like to consume media with non Black leads or majority Black casts. Right. And not only do studies show that, but it shows that even when they do, then they are not able to feel empathetic towards the lead character if they’re not of. The same race. Why shouldn’t say of the same race? Because those studies show that the opposite is natural. So Black and Hispanic viewers, they watch white TV shows, white led TV shows, as a matter of fact. If you look at like the top ten TV shows for Black audiences, it’s usually like a couple of Black shows. And then the rest are the same as the white. The top ten white shows versus the white shows. There’s never a Black led show on that. So we know that white people don’t consume media when it has a majority Black cast or a Black lead character. And the movie companies know this, too. 

Michael Harriot [00:07:17] Those studies that I was just citing, those studies, most of them were produced by either Hollywood companies or industry companies. Right. So it’s not like this data is also known. But here’s a interesting fact. Those same studies also show that TV shows and movies with diverse casts. Get more audiences. They get more viewers. They make the movies with the first casts, actually make more money. And it seems like I’m saying two opposite things, but not really. See. When a show has a majority Black cast. All of the Black people are going to watch it and some of the Black white people are going to watch it. So, you know, they know the movie companies and the TV companies know that they are more likely to have a bigger audience if the cast is diverse, but for some reason, they won’t do it. And you might ask yourself why they won’t, because they’re not trying to get a top 30 show. They’re not trying to get a top 20. So they’re swinging for the fences. These media executives want a blockbuster movie or a top ten hit show or a number one show. So instead of saying no, I could get a reliable audience. If I just make a Black show, they want a show. That is going to be out of the box. And because, again, most of the executives are white. And they’re making shows that they just have a gut feeling that people will like. Remember, the studies show that white people don’t think or don’t like or can’t empathize with characters who are Black. We’ll continue this conversation next time on theGrio Daily. 

[00:09:29] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. Black Culture Amplified. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:09:34] You’re watching the Blackest Questions podcast with Cristina Greer and this podcast. We ask our guests. Five of the Blackest questions. So we can learn a little bit more about them and have some fun while we’re doing it. 

[00:09:46] Okay. So this is a trick question. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:09:48] We’re also going to learn a lot about Black history, past and present. 

[00:09:51] Beautiful. I learned a wonderful fact today. Great. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:09:54] So here’s how it works. We have five rounds of questions about Black history, the whole diaspora, current events, you name it. With each round, the questions get a little tougher. 

[00:10:04] Oh, you got me. You got me. Let me see, let me see. 

[00:10:07] I have no idea. 

[00:10:09] I knew you were going to go there Dr. Greer. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:10:10] Subscribe to the show wherever you listen to your podcast and share it with everyone you know.