Channel 4’s diversity policy won’t work

Channel 4 have produced new diversity guidelines, and get your martini glasses ready because they’ll likely make the rich cis straight white abled men media class start sobbing. Women, PoC, LGBT and disabled people must now be given leading roles in new shows, and characters must also reflect this diversity.

It sounds good on paper, but it won’t fucking change much. The big problem here is that Channel 4 haven’t hit the issue where it matters: the showrunners. The thing about rich cis straight white abled men is they’re not very good at writing diverse characters. They write tokens rather than rounded characters. They write fucking rubbish, because they can’t step outside of their own very limited life experience. Without a change to who is running shows, we’re not likely to see much interesting new content, just a rehash of the same old tired tropes that happen when characters are viewed through the eyes of the rich cis straight white abled man. Channel 4 could have attacked this problem at the very root, and drastically cut the quantity of shows commissioned that are run by this demographic so it reflects population level.

Saying that, even if they did that, I expect what we’d see was a sudden rise in shows run by rich cis gay white abled men.

There’s also a lot of bullshit which falls into compliance with Channel 4’s self-imposed guidelines which won’t help anything. Take, for example, Dr Christian’s pharmacopoeia of nastiness: he’s a gay man (TICK!) and he’s making shows which feature disabled people (TICK!). The fact that these shows generally take the tone of “HEY LOOK AT THIS FREAK WANNA FIND OUT HOW SHE FUCKS?” doesn’t factor into these diversity guidelines. Representation is representation is representation. It doesn’t matter how people are represented, just that they are there.

On the character side of things, I anticipate a little bit of change, maybe. I expect to see less queer-coding villains and more overtly queer, deviant villains. I foresee an enormous rise in racist tropes, with magical negroes leading the white heroes on their quests while at least getting to be in the opening credits for once. And oh! So much naughty, after hours shows with physical comedy about rimming because everybody knows gays can’t go on before the watershed. But worst of all, I predict a rise of the freak show formula. It’s done Channel 4 well so far, and it’ll only serve it better.

Channel 4 has taken a step, but it’s a pretty useless step. I only hope the amount of discomfort it causes the rich cis straight white abled men media class outweighs the negatives.


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