TheGrio Daily

Woke Mermaids Pt. 2

Episode 50

“If you just want to get a good sturdy foot hold in the media landscape all you gotta do is just put something that’s good and black on TV.” In part two of this conversation, Michael Harriot analyzes why only a select few of the top media companies in the world are scrambling to diversify.

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

The Little Mermaid [00:00:05] Wish I could be, part of that world.  

Michael Harriot [00:00:21] Welcome back to theGrio Daily as we continue this conversation about mermaids and that whole controversy that on the last episode, we talked about the fact that despite the evidence that shows that movies and TV shows with diverse cast actually make more money and get higher ratings. Hollywood and the media industry continues to pump out this all white content. I’m Michael Harriot, world famous wypipologiest. And this is theGrio Daily. So what does this have to do with The Little Mermaid? Or, like, let’s even expanded right. Like, you know, people are mad about the Amazon Prime series of Rings of Power. You know, I thought that was a Beyoncé song. The follow up to, you know, if you like it, then you ought to put a ring on it. But apparently is not. It’s apparently people are mad because there’s Black hobbits. And, you know, I watch the sequel to Game of Thrones House of Dragons or, you know, as it’s colloquially called, Hot D. And people are mad because a character in that show is Black because they say is not faithful to the book, even though like in the book, the dude, his name is Corlys. In the book, they don’t describe him. As being white or Black, right. They just say he has blond hair. But for some reason, in this whole fantastical universe where there’s dragons and direwolves and witches, they can’t imagine a Black dude with blond hair. 

Michael Harriot [00:01:59] But again. It’s because white people are used to consuming media for the history of American media that is mostly white. They’re not really used to seeing Black people on TV and in movies. So what happened? Well. Along came some new players. Now, when I say along came some new players, it sounds like some good. It might sound like some good upstart. You know, players came to upset the apple cart. But no, what I’m saying is there are some new players with money that it is just as much money as the big six with just as much power, with just as many resources. Netflix, one of the most lucrative stocks. In the country. Right. One of the obvious is a huge corporation. You know, Apple TV, for instance, like Apple is literally the most profitable company in the world. And so when they got into the TV game, it’s not like they were upstart and Amazon. Right. The richest man in the world owns Amazon. So when he got into the TV game or what we call the streaming game, like, it’s not like he was playing second fiddle to ABC or Disney or Comcast. 

Michael Harriot [00:03:12] But here’s what happened. Those companies. They’ve seen those studies that we just mentioned. So they know that us they’re more likely to have a hit show if the cast is diverse. They know that white audiences might be the majority of the country, but they are fickle. Right. And they know that, like, if you just want to get a good, steady foothold in the media landscape, all you got to do is just put something that’s good and Black on TV. Like like we would have never heard of, like, Top Boy, a British show with a “Hello governor. I’m going to sell you some drugs right now,” like I have a terrible British accent, but we never heard about that. If it wasn’t for Netflix, of Netflix wasn’t just, you know, casting its lot with a Black show from overseas. Right? We would have never seen that. But because it was available, Black people said, I want to see someone on TV that looks like me. And it became a hit show, right? Like, look at Insecure. Like, you know, you didn’t have HBO until Insecure started streaming. And that’s why people have HBO, Max. And that’s why, you know, Southside, the show Southside had a whole season where it was on just like regular cable TV, but when it was on a streaming platform where people could watch it at any time they wanted, it became like a cult hit. 

Michael Harriot [00:04:45] And even lucky. Even the big shows like like take Black-ish, for instance, Black-ish like a top ten hit. But even though Black people make up 13% of the population, like we made up 20% of Black ish viewers, a show like Scandal we’re like 40% of Scandal’s viewers. Insecure. Most of Insecure’s viewers are Black. Atlanta the show on FX most 60% of of Atlanta’s viewers are Black. Right. Those are hit shows. They are winning prizes and and awards. But they exist because, you know, these people in the new media landscape knew that Black audiences and diverse audiences were reliable. And the old guard, those big six, were sitting back watching Netflix and Apple TV take their territory. So what did they do? Me. We’ve got to figure out something. I mean, all of our stuff. And what? Like we did, like in the 1990s, Disney made a whole movie called Tarzan about a white dude in Africa. And the whole movie was about animals and people and a white dude in Africa swinging through the African jungle. Literally, no one in the cast was Black. And the same people who were controlled then still controlled Disney. And they decided, man, like we used to run things. How are we going to get control back? Well, I mean, we ain’t going to get no new ideas. All our old ideas, all white. I mean, people know them. So that’s a plus on our side. 

Michael Harriot [00:06:33] Wait, wait. What if we just, like, take all those old white ideas that people loved for 50, 75 years and just put Black faces on them? And it’s not because they want it to be more diverse or more inclusive. It’s because they were losing. Because they were losing territory and audience and interest to companies like Netflix and Apple TV and Amazon, who, again, they didn’t care about Black people either, but they knew the data, they knew the facts, and they knew that they could get a toehold in media. By just making shows that look like the multicultural society that we live in. So. Here comes 100 year old Disney. And what did they do? We just slap a Black face on area, which drives white people insane. But here’s the thing. You got to understand why they’re mad. Imagine if you lived in a world that catered to you. Imagine. In fact, if all of your tastes, your preferences, and all of the stuff you’d like to see on TV was protected by six big old giant dudes who bigger and stronger and everybody else and nothing else could exist. Without those six guys letting it through. And all six guys knew that everything, even the most fantastical thing that you can imagine, had to be something that made you comfortable. The people had to look like you. They had to talk like you. They had to hold the values that you hold dear, like everything that you believe they had to believe. 

Michael Harriot [00:08:35] If you thought something was good, then it was good. The evil characters were evil because of your definition of evil. And then all of a sudden. You see a Black mermaid? It might not make you mad, but it might be disorienting. Like like like for white people, this is like seeing a Black single human being with, like, a foot coming out of their shoulder and arms coming out of their waist. Right. Like it might be a little bit scary. It might be a little bit upsetting. And the only way to express it. Is through emotion. Like, what the hell is going on? Well, what’s going on is not that Disney is “woke” as they contend. It’s not, you know, CRT. You know, Caucasian Race Theory. It’s not that, you know, Black mermaids are going to swim in their house. And the crazy thing is. Nobody like Disney ain’t going to erase all the VHS copies of the original Little Mermaid. It’s not like they’re going to come to your house and make you watch the Africanized mermaid or the Black dude. There’s riding dragons or, you know, they’re going to hold your face to the TV’s and say look at this Negro hobbit. Look at it. Nah. You just can choose to watch it or not. Like Black people have been doing for years without complaining, without whining, without saying, we’re going to boycott this white Jesus or this, you know, like they had pharaohs that were white. Disney did. Black people watched it. 

Michael Harriot [00:10:23] But when the tables are turned. White people are like, eww, how did it get here? It must be wokeness. It must be CRT. It must be that. Gosh darn. Diversity. Why would you be saying got Toronto? But that’s not what it is at all. Like there was this television executive years ago. Who someone was asking him about, you know, the changes at at Monday Night Football. This is when Monday Night Football was on ABC. You are too young to remember that like cable really didn’t exist in the world. Only three channels. But he could have explained to them the demographics or you know, how the landscape was changing. Was that like they have these new cameras where they can swing or that people want to see and hear more voices that sound like them? But instead he told them, and this is what Don his name was, Don Ohlmeyer. Don Ohlmeyer explained it in just one simple sentence. The answer to all of your questions is money. And that’s how we got a woke Negro mermaid. Thank you for listening to theGrio daily. Don’t forget to subscribe. Don’t forget to download theGrio app. Don’t forget to tell your friends about us. We’re going to be here every day right now and you can watch us on theGrio streaming service that is available everywhere like we in the game now. And I know Disney going to be mad. They’re probably going to have, you know, like the white people daily on Disney now. But regardless. Remember. If them folks can’t swimzim, they bound to drizown. We’ll see you next time on theGrio Daily. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download the app. Subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at the 

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Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:37] You’re watching the Blackest Questions Podcast with Christina Greer. In 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. 

[00:12:49] Okay, so this is a trick question. 

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[00:12:55] Beautiful. I learned a wonderful fact today. Great. 

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[00:13:08] Oh, you got me. You got me. Let me see. Let me see. 

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[00:13:12] I knew you were going to go there, Dr. Greer. 

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