I recently started binge-watching an iconic American tv show from the late 90’s, and I noticed something. First, there are no characters of color. Every once in a while one will pop up in some exoticized fashion, but will never stay for more than an episode. Second, there is only one recurring homosexual character, and he is so minor, he doesn’t even have a plotline. Finally, in one episode a group of transgender women are verbally harassed and called “trannies” and made a spectacle of. And I keep thinking, “How did they get away with this?”
Then I thought about the history class I’m taking this semester. We had a discussion about Christopher Columbus and the horrible genocide he committed and all the atrocities he brought to this land in the name of discovery. My class got into a bit of a heated discussion about whether or not Columbus knew what he was doing was wrong. Slavery was acceptable and normal in those days. And racism wasn’t even a term it was just the brown natives who weren’t really “people.” But we read an account of someone who saw what Columbus was doing and said it was horrific. So arguably, Columbus was capable of seeing his actions as what they were- horrible.
I compare the two events because I want to talk about hindsight. We look back at the past and say “Wow slavery was awful,” and “Man Columbus was a terrible man.” While both of these statements are true, very few people would have agreed with us in 1492. And now watching this 90’s TV show I think, “So whitewashed,” “Ugh so transphobic,” when in reality the creators likely didn’t know any better. The race thing, I mean, they did know better, but it wasn’t as big of a talked-about issue back then. Of course, that doesn’t make it okay, but to my knowledge Viola Davis wasn’t a household name back then.
Either way, my point is: change takes time. I have seen posts on tumblr and places about how terrible 90’s television was because it was homophobic and all white cast. And while I’ll agree it sucks Danny Tanner never made it out of the closet, it was a different time. We should have known better, but we didn’t. We do now. It’s getting better in some areas- TV casting at least a little bit.
Today’s society is changing every minute. It feels like every second there’s a new gender identity I have to recognize or a new social justice issue I have to be sensitive to. I’m not complaining, I just want the victims to know that I’m trying. I can’t speak for everyone because I know there are and always will be people who aren’t willing to change. But for those of us that are trying, give us a break, and help us to learn. I’m gonna make mistakes, I already have. But correct me, and help me learn from it and I’ll know better next time. Acceptance is a learning process, not a permanent engraving on the brain. For those of you not willing to change, try it out. You might like what you find.