February 21

Week 7-

Before 2/21 see Julia online


This is part 1, you will find parts 2 and 3 on the right hand side of the youtube page. Enjoy!

Historical Scholarship and the traces of Blackface

Screening: Part of Color Adjustment (Marlon Riggs, 1992)

Discussion on historiography and lecture on Blackface

READ: Is This What You Mean By Color TVby Bodroghkozy

RJ: Please write a 4-5 sentence response to the article comparing black, white and anonymous responses to Julia. Then include a sentence or two of your own response to conclude.

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17 Responses to February 21

  1. Candice Kosanke says:

    Many of the white people who wrote letters in response to “Julia” seemed overly optimistic about the impact the show would have. One woman said that watching the program would help her children be less prejudiced, and several other people said that the program was good because it showed that blacks were just like everyone else. But even that sentiment has a trace of racism in it, because saying, in effect, that ‘blacks are just like normal people’ implies that blacks are not normal to begin with; it depicts them as an “Other” who must be compared to whites. Black letter-writers, on the other hand, seemed to think that “Julia” did not address race as well as it could or should. Those who criticized the show, however, seemed to identify with Julia, and they offered to give advice to the producers about how they could improve the show, portray Julia more realistically, and show “what the white person really needs to see” about blacks (Bodroghkozy 421). From the episode of “Julia” that we watched, I agree with the people who wrote that the show glossed over racial issues and made Julia seem very white. If Julia’s skin color had been changed to white, the episode’s plot and themes would not really have been affected at all. Racism and prejudice—and even the concept of race in general—are not mentioned at all, except when Julia’s boss jokingly calls her a bigot for going to a black man’s car dealership. The show never even hints at the prejudice that black women might have faced from neighbors, coworkers, or bosses during the 1960s.

  2. Kate Schreiber says:

    Julia was a very controversial show, surprising most by lasting three years on the air. In Is This What You Mean by Color TV,” Bodroghkozy does a phenomenal job of investigating and explaining the varied reactions and feelings many viewers felt in regard to the depiction of race within the show and among the characters. While most critics criticized Julia for being very out of touch with the realities of African American life in the late 1960s, the show did contain several politically charged meanings – this inevitably led to much debate and disagreement over the idea of whether or not this show was beneficial to Blacks or quite the opposite (Bodroghkozy 415). In examining 151 pieces of mail from an assortment of viewers (different ethnicities, races, backgrounds) it was found that a majority of these letters had been sent by married women – it goes without saying that simply because the majority of these letters were from this demographic, does not mean that they are a representative sample of the shows average viewer. It was found that among the white viewers who sent in letters to the show that there was a “marked self-consciousness about racial self-identification” (Bodroghkozy 416) and “an attempt to grapple with racial difference” (Bodroghkozy 416). Another way these viewers thought about race in relation to the show was the idea of “denying difference” in an attempt to reduce racial anxiety… claiming things like “blacks are just people, like everyone else” – of course by everyone else they meant white. As Bodroghkozy says “white was the norm from which the other deviated” (Bodroghkozy 416). Finally, some white viewers took issue merely due to the presence of Black actors on the television. Overall, it would appear that the white viewers gave much criticism about the show whereas the Black viewers, surprisingly, wanted to assist the show in any way possible in an attempt to take advantage of the opportunity of having a show with a Black lead actress – they wanted to essentially make the show better and more authentic. They had what Bodroghkozy refers to as a “participatory relationship” to the show. After viewing the show for myself, I spotted several instances in several different scenes that I felt were discriminatory – not only towards Blacks but towards women in general. While I did not live in the late 1960s, I do feel as if the show emphasized the power whites possess over Blacks and the power men possess over women. There were small, subtle lines and aspects of each scene that, in my opinion, seemed a bit racist. For example, the whole car purchase and sale demonstrated that the white doctor practically controlled both Barron (the car dealer) as well as Julia. Hopefully we will have a chance to elaborate and analyze this more in class.

  3. Becky Esrock says:

    A post from a white woman shows her anger by the imposition of negative views of the white housewife, while the black housewife is shown in a positive perspective. The white woman making this claim felt threatened in a way by the image of blacks on the show. This same feeling is seen in an anonymous post regarding the show as selecting characters that were too white in characteristic despite their phenotype. He felt that the show was not giving an accurate perception of reality. In particular, I found a post by a young black boy quite interesting; he felt he could relate completely to Cory in the show. Therefore, he looks to the show as a sort of reality and this proves that the show has validity despite the views of many critics. I thought Julia portrayed an image of a self-empowered educated black woman. In my opinion, Julia’s depiction in the show is in a positive light and defies many common stereotypes of blacks. Not all black women might fit this description, but the same is true for whites and their portrayal on TV shows as well.

  4. Lisa Sorensen says:

    I thought that the article did a great job of combining the different views and interpretations of Julia. Throughout the article, people give their different views on the show, some saying that they loved it while others the complete opposite. One women says that she did not understand why they had to make the white Housewife seem lower then the blacks. Another women said, “Being a white person I hope this program helps all of us to understand each other. Maybe if my children watch this program they will also see the good side of Negro people [rather] than all the bad side they see on the news programs…”(415). It really stuck out to me when one women said that she thought the show was improving the image of the negro women at the expense of the white housewife (418). This stuck out to me because while watching Julia, I did not view it to be a lowering of white women.

  5. Kenneth Clady-Mason says:

    The majority of the Black people responses were intended to improve the show, while the White responses criticized the show for portraying a distorted image of Black culture. Blacks wanted to be involved in the show; they asked to write scripts, add characters, and continue to create a positive image for Black people. The White public refused to accept the portrayed life of Julia and demanded that the directors apply her reality within the show to their perceived reality of Black people. This is another example of culture and race shaping the perceptions of media.

  6. Jessica Steele says:

    In response to the 1968 television show Julia, the white and black audiences hadresponses that were very different, and the Bodreghkozy article examines both sides. It seemed that the white writers expressed fairly extreme views and positions in their letters. Some saw it as a positive show and believed that it encouraged peaceful relations between the races in America. Then there were the other extremes, where the writers were extremely upset and angry about the fact that there was a colored presence on television, calling for the removal of the show from air. Anonymous writers tended to take those extreme views. The black writers took a different perspective, taking, in general, a “participatory relationship” to the show, offering to write for the show and asking for roles (421). It was as though they took it to be an engaging show. Julia provided a new view of black life in America in that time. It was a contrasting image, compared to what was being shown on news. Race, though, is hardly an issue in the show. In the episode “The Wheel Deal,” the only mention of race is when Julia says that she is shopping at a car dealership because it is owned by a black man. There is no debate or conflict about it; it is simply stated. The show is suggesting that race is not an issue, but in fact, it really is. So, Julia does not rightfully portray what many African Americans were facing at the time, possibly putting an incorrect image into the white mind.

  7. Linnea Zrioka says:

    White viewers who wrote letters expressed their self-consciousness about racial identification, they were white but they enjoyed watching the show (415). Through their letters they also denied that blacks “historically had not fit the constructed norm of the white middle-class social formation” (416). They denied this through saying that blacks were “just people,” however they were “just people” as long as they conformed to the white norm of representation (416). Viewers also expressed the issue that everyone in the show has a “white mentality” in that no one was cast who’s “expressions and manners are unquestionably black” (417). Through this is presented the “white negro.” Anonymous viewers expressed the concern with increasing appearances of African Americans on television, and their presence bothered people. Black viewers displayed a more “participatory” engagement with the show by offering to write episodes and offering to play new parts. They offered assistance to improve the show to make it more meaningful. From what I have seen of the show, it seemed a little unrealistic: everyone was too unbelievably nice to each other, and Julia’s housing and living situation seemed rather well off, however she needed a really good deal on a car in order to afford it.

  8. Merissa Acosta says:

    In “Is This What You Mean By Color TV?”, Aniko Bodroghikozy is comparing the responses of the television series called Julia. These responses were racially compared between Black, White, and anonymous audiences. This article is showing how different races reacted differently to the show that shows racial representation. The television series shows a black woman in a positive light, which was strongly praised by the “self conscious” letters that were written by white women, who felt it necessary to obviously state that they were white before continuing with what they had to say. The show was shown in a positive light towards white people because they were happy to see something that proves that blacks can be just like white people. The negative comments were mostly from people that were categorizes as anonymous. These were the most racist comments with phrases like, “Is this what you mean by color TV ugh. Click.” The black responses were very different. They were mostly positive but what is different is that most of them offered help in writing or help in fixing representations of people. One women says, “ Your work is good for an all white program – but something is much missing from your character – Julia is unreal”. From reading all of these comments, I feel that this show can be negative and positive. It is true that the character of Julia is fake, but also true that this show was good for blacks in that era to be seen in a more positive light and out of their stereotypes.

  9. João Pedro says:

    “Julia” depicted African-Americans in non-stereotypical roles for the first time in the American TV. The show was successful, running 86 episodes from 1968 to 1971 on NBC. “Julia” was a very controversial program, leading to a variety of responses. Both Black and White audiences praised and criticized the show. A Black child from Bronx wrote to NBC, “Your show really tells how an average Black…person lives” (421). A White female added, “it’s finally a pleasure to turn on the TV and see contemporary issues treated with honesty, humor and sensitivity” (415). Others criticized the show for being “extraordinarily out of touch with the realities of African-American life” (414). The anxiety and discomfort of White viewers emerged as the series challenged White supremacy. As an anonymous viewer noted, “I believe I can speak for millions of real Americans…. I am tired of niggers in my living room” (420). This hostile comment demonstrates the innate racism of a White society; the simple presence of African-Americans on TV was troublesome.

    “Julia” proves the power of media to defy social norms, encouraging a socio-political change. “The Wheel Deal” is a pleasure to watch and to notice the integration between Whites and Blacks: for instance, children play together in the playground, despite their races. The show disrupts racism and prejudice, by introducing a powerful, non-stereotypical protagonist.

  10. Sara Watson says:

    The television show Julia became a very controversial program despite its overall success during the 1960’s. The controversy arose among whites and blacks and the struggle of what it meant to be black and what it meant to be white at the end of the 1960’s and resulted in many viewers writing letters to the program producers. On one hand white viewers approved of the show and had high hopes of what the show could do for society. One white viewer wrote “I hope this program helps all of us to understand each other…I know this program will help my two sons so when they grow up they won’t be so prejudice”. However, the black viewers had a very different interpretation to the show and argued that the show was not “telling it like it is” and being “out of touch with and silent on the realities of African American life in the the late 1960’s”. In viewing the episode “Wheel Deal” it did portray a single mother living in a nice, suburban neighborhood free of crime and violence with enough cash to purchase another used vehicle with the secret help of her white boss getting her a discount. I can understand the controversy surrounding this program however, I did notice many accurate portrayals also showing white domination. The most relevant was that she was black and could not afford a sturdy car and was being ridiculed by her white superiors for not being able to afford a dependable car to be on time to work (white privilege) and in the beginning she wanted to tell the truth about why she was late and the white co-workers told her to lie and she was stupid for telling the truth to her boss (white domination – control).

  11. Donald Duncan says:

    During a time of political and civil struggle among the African-American community, Julia was suppose to be a simple comedy during the 1960s that could ease the tension. However, according to critics and viewer of the show, Julia seemed to create more harm than good because it lacked representation of what are the norms in society. With many topics surrounding the show, one in particular was viewers of Julia establishing that African Americans are “just people and like everyone else defined everyone else as White” with the belief that “blacks historically had not fit the constucted norm of the white social class formation” (416). Also, other viewers and critics believed Julia lacks the representation African American struggles during the 1960s because Julia lived in a middle class neighborhood, not in a ghetto which “castigated the program turning a blind eye to the realities of black life in the ghetto” (417).
    From viewing the program before reading the article, Julia was enjoying to watch because it was the first of its kind with African Americans living in a middle-class community and maintaining giving back to lower class communities (Julia volunteering at the free clinic). Even though the show does not exhibit signs of the realities during the 1960s, it was meant to show that African Americans trying to improve themselves without forgetting to culture they came from or represent.

  12. Courtney King says:

    The article shows how the persepction of Julia differed between black and white audience. Many whites thought that the show finally showed blacks in a positive light. There was a group of whites who disliked the show simply because it was “bringing black into their living room”(419). Many blacks felt that it should blacks in a positive light but that it was also very unrealistic. They also wanted to give advice and scenarios that would make the show seem more real. Personally I think that as a first show where the main charcter is a black woman it is not that bad. There is a slight lack of realism for the time that it was produced. Julia talks, dresses, and acts like a white woman with a very dark tan.

  13. Diana says:

    While reading “TV By Night,” I start to understand the the expectations and conceptions white black have towards black white, and vice versa. The black perspective of the world is seen as white, where Julia tries to immerse herself in a white culture that she does not belong to. Julia plays a role that questions the reality of being black; for example, her position as a black nurse living in a middle-class neighborhood does not align with the poverty, crime-ridden, and violence prone world black people live in (417). This article reinforces the idea that “latinidad” where Julia creates this fantasy that black people can succeed in a white supremacy society. The program tells its black audience that Julia is a relatable character due to her skin color; black viewers see that there is a lack of black mannerisms while white viewers see a whole different side of black people – there exists “good black people.” Because of the lack of blackness in Julia, white people became self-conscious about their identity; Julia carried a leading role when black people were rarely seen on television. This image threatens white identification because it leads white people to think about the future notions such as the increasing numbers of blacks on t.v., having an unbalanced racial hierarchy, and interracial sexuality (419). Being white meant being in a position in power such as the doctor, living in middle or upper-class environment, and distinguishing themselves from the “other” (blackness). It is interesting to note that some white people favored Julia because it promoted blacks as human beings who share the same feelings as white people do (416). The way I see Julia is that for a white audience they were able to recognize her as a black person who reconstructed herself as a white negro in order to fit in. For a black audience, blacks wanted Julia to represent the black experience, black culture, or the struggles black persons faced during 1960s. This article reminds me of Dave Chapel’s episode where he asked, “How can black people rise up and overcome?” and one contestant said “can they?” and the answer was correct. This implies that black people recognize and accept their position of being incapable of rising up in a white society. When blacks do “rise up” and have access to t.v. representation, people start to fear social change within blacks and whites and blame T.V. for the undesirable change; this is expressed from the anonymous viewer from Houston, Texas where he writes: “Living in Texas all my life I have always lived around the negroes and they used to be really fine people until the T.V. set came out & ruined the whole world!”

  14. Brittany Sheehan says:

    Aniko Bodroghkozy’s article examines various responses from viewers of the 1960s show Julia. The responses were listed as being from a Black, White, or Anonymous viewer voicing opinions about the show. After watching the clip, I have to agree with the author that the show is missing some key element and that it is out of touch with the realities of African American life in the late 1960s (414). The responses from White viewers suggest that the show portrayed African Americans in a positive light and that Julia allowed people to see the good side of African Americans, not just the bad side seen on the news (415). The comments from Black viewers also suggest that Julia was a show that had a positive representation of African Americans; however, the main concern was that Julia seemed “unreal” and many comments offered suggestions about how to fix the writing of the show. Lastly are the comments that were Anonymous, which were by far the most racist and judgmental. I agree that the show was a positive representation of an African American woman, but it would have been more relatable to a wider audience had the main character been given more realistic traits. I did find her son, Corey, to be a very interesting character because he seemed to be the one with stereotypical characteristics, which seems odd because in the show he doesn’t live in a neighborhood that reinforces these negative stereotypical images. Since this was one of the first times a show had used an African American as the lead role, I think the networks and producers did a good job. Julia was a building block and many networks and producers learned from this show and what to do for future projects.

  15. stephanie morales says:

    RJ: Please write a 4-5 sentence response to the article comparing black, white and anonymous responses to Julia. Then include a sentence or two of your own response to conclude.

    In the article when comparing black and white viewers to the responses to Julia it is very interesting to see the dramatic differences in their opinions. Black viewers found it to be offensive and not truly represent the black lifestyle at all and the white viewers found to see it as a new appealing show. It is just that Julia was created in this “unreal” state where she didn’t truly represent what the Blacks were probably expecting to see on television. I feel this almost goes back to white investment where even though Julia is black she is “white” in the since that she is trying to assimulate to the White society of having a job, child in school, working with Whites who have power over her. The problem is that Julia does not represent the Black culture, which is what audiences wanted but since there is the two sides to approach this show, people would just have to settle to this. There was a lot of controversy for the previous black show and you can maybe see this as a step of taking things slow for the television networks. I personally felt that the show was funny in the sense that people would most likely disapprove of this show because of the gender issues that come up in the show. Overall, i think Julia is a clever, funny, and well typical old “tv land” like show that people would see at night just to be entertained.

  16. Jacob Heaps says:

    After reading the responses to Julia, a trend is seen between various responses from white, black, and anonymous viewers. White viewers seem to find the show showing blacks in a positive light. By portraying Julia in the way they did, the negative stereotypes about blacks were forgotten by the white viewers. The black viewers who responded seemed to show a slightly different point of view. While they seem to enjoy watching the show, there is a definite resentment to the fact that the character is “unreal” and can’t be related to by many African Americans at the time the show was aired. The anonymous viewers use their hidden identity to express their disgust with the show, being judgmental and often times negative. From my perspective I found the show to be funny. No TV show will appeal to all audiences, but I believe the humor the show incorporated made it enjoyable for a large audience, both black and white. Racial stereotypes were present, but not to the point where they dominated the show, which appealed to me personally.

  17. Whitney Davis says:

    There were mixed opinions about Julia from the public. Some of the white viewers were really pleased with Julia because they felt like it was an honest portrayal. This is seen in the following comment, “As a white middle class Jewish teacher, may I say that it is finally a pleasure to turn on the T.V. and see contemporary issues treated with honesty, humor, and sensitivity” (pg 415). Other white people were thankful for the show because they thought it would make their children less prejudice. This is seen when a white mother writes, “Being a white person I hope this program helps all of us understand each other. Maybe if my children watch this program they will also see the good side of the Negro people [rather] than all the bad side they see on the news programs such as riots, sit ins’, ext. I know this program will help my two sons so when they grow up they won’t be so prejudice” (pg 415). This comment also gives on insight on the black image the news programs had created. The news had helped viewers create a black image that clashed against the black image Julia projected. Based on the comment above, it is suggested that the news only showed the negative criminal behavior that some black people got into. Since the black people in Julia did not project that image, it may explain why other white people did not think it was an accurate portrayal of black people. For example, some white people believed that the cast of black people in Julia acted white instead of black. This is seen in the following comment, “…What I do object to is selecting the black cast of people from (black people) who are so white oriented that everyone has a white mentality, that is, their expressions are all that of white people. Choose some people whose expressions and manners are unquestionably black. The baby-sitter was, for example so, white cultured that you would have thought she was Caucasian except for the color of her skin” (pg 417). Expressing that the black cast projected the white image, shows that people had a fixed image about how black people should act in contrary to white people. The news shows to be responsible for creating a black stereotype which in return made it difficult for white people to associate the cast’s mentality with that of black people as well.

    Although there were mixed opinions among the white community, the black community mainly expressed their willingness to help out with the show. For example, “An eleven-year-old boy from the Bronx wrote: I am a Negro and I am almost in the same position as Corey… Your show really tells how an average black or Negro person lives. I like your show so much that if you ever have a part to fill I would be glad to fill it for you” (pg 421). Most of the comments that were sent in from black people expressed this same attitude. Their approval and their wish to participate in the show demonstrate that the black cast was not deviating from an accurate representation of black people. This highlights the negative effect of stereotypes. Although the stereotypical image may represent some people within the group correctly, stereotypes show to lead the masses into stubborn ignorance. The black cast in Julia did not fit into the black stereotype that the news had created, and therefore people were closed off to the idea that the behavior of black people could deviate from that stereotype. Julia helps challenge the black stereotype by demonstrating to the masses that a fixed image should not be placed on a race.

    Based on the episode of Julia that I watched, I did not see and racist ideology. The only situation one could possibly twist into an argument for racism would be the power which the doctor has. Since the doctor is white and is able to convince the black salesman into lowering the price for Julia, one could argue that the network is projecting racist views. This is because it shows a white man having power over a black man. However, Julia does shows not to have intended the situation to reflect racism. It is clear in the episode that the black car salesman was indebted to the white doctor because of their job title and not because of their skin color. The salesman was indebted to the doctor because he removed the son’s tonsils without payment. To return the favor the doctor asked the salesman to lower the price for Julia. If the doctor was a black man and the salesman a white man the salesman would still be indebted to the doctor. Therefore the hierarchy is defined by job titles and not by skin color. The only negative view which I saw reflected in the episode was sexism. This is seen when the doctor expresses that Julia will not be able to find a good car on her own because she is a woman. This is seen at the beginning and towards the end of the episode. By choosing to add this into the episode, it helps reinforce the stereotype that women do not know anything about cars.

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