Raise your hand if you remember The Famous Jett Jackson. It was a Disney show from 1998 about a kid who… never mind, the plot is pretty irrelevant. I’ve been thinking about Jett Jackson today because I have the dubious privilege of being the featured photo on my college’s alumni weekend site.
The photo reminds me of the phenomenon I’m calling “girl, white guy, non-white guy” frequently used in promo materials and a Hollywood mainstay. Jett Jackson was the first time I remember noticing it, and I’ve been spotting it ever since. It works like this: when there’s a group of friends or coworkers with more than three members, the producers choose one girl, one non-white guy, and the rest of the group is rounded out by white dudes.
Why? If there were more girls it would become a girly show because, you know, ladies together will start talking all girly like. And if the non-white people outnumber the white people, then it becomes a show that white people won’t watch (see The Game). These are generalizations, to be sure, but here are some examples:
There are exceptions, of course. Grey’s Anatomy stands out, largely, I imagine, due to the influence of creator Shonda Rhimes (who is black) and her color-blind casting. The Wire also breaks the mold with content that requires using predominantly non-white actors. And there are whiter, less-diverse shows too (HIMYM, Friends, etc.)
So, back to my alumni photo. I chuckled when I saw it, imagining the delighted alumni committee getting all excited when they spotted this snapshot, “It’s the ideal balance! We couldn’t have planned it better!” I wouldn’t be surprised if it shows up on other promotional materials, and not because of my extremely photogenic visage.
Related Post: Remember when I did a more systematic analysis of gender in Golden Globes nominations?
Related Post: Vanity Fair’s list of Hollywood’s biggest earners, and it’s not surprising.