American professor: “White crime dramas” are a sign of racism. So are black and Hispanic crime dramas

I really should stop looking at HuffPo, as it’s simply the Left’s version of Breitbart: a tendentious and often ridiculously slanted look at politics. Both sites anger me. If you know what subject a HuffPo article is about, you already know what it’s going to say. Or, at least, you know what line they’re going to take, as the article below surprised even me with its stupid thesis. Click on the screenshot if you must see the carnage:

This article is not written by a gung-ho Leftist college student but—and I guess it’s no surprise—by a gung-ho Leftist academic: Jessie Daniels, a sociology professor at Hunter College and the City University of New York.

Her thesis is clear, and amounts to a lot of virtue signaling by the good professor, as she simply has no solution for the “problematic” issue she raises. Her claim is that our fascination with “white crime dramas” like “Ozark”, “Weeds,” or “Breaking Bad” reflects racism. How? Because, as racists, we don’t expect white families to be engaged in crime, so our attention to these kinds of television shows reflects the overturning of our expectations. Of course, black and Hispanic “crime dramas” are also racist, as they fulfill our expectations of the criminality of people of color. In other words, you can’t win, for every crime drama is racist, no matter who it portrays.

Her thesis:

a.) White crime dramas are popular because they overturn racist expectations of how white people should behave. I quote:

In all of these shows, part of the drama and the comedy and the surprise depends on these families being white. Their whiteness is largely not discussed. But the juxtaposition between what audiences expect from these moms and dads and kids ― innocence and stability ― and what we see characters doing ― committing crimes and trying not to fall apart ― is intrinsic to the programs’ appeal.

White crime family dramas actually rest on the subversion of two expectations. The first is the widely held belief (at least among white people) about the inherent wholesomeness of white families, and the second is the false notion (again most popular among white people) that criminals are almost always individuals of some color other than white. [JAC: That last sentence is pure bullshit, I must say.]

Is there any truth in this? Well, I’ll admit that, for some, part of the suspense of a show could be the juxtaposition of a “normal” family with their life of crime. But that might not have anything to do with the families being white; it might have more to do with their middle-class status jarring with what they do on the side. It would also startle us if there was a “double” television show (à la Hannah Montana) in which Bill Cosby’s television family did the comedy show on one side but then dealt drugs on the other. (Bill Cosby isn’t white, of course.) Or perhaps 5% of our interest could come from the expectation that Daniels notes. But what is the evidence? There is none, just anecdote and assertion. I don’t watch much t.v., but I’m sure readers can produce counter-anecdotes.

After all, there’s a whole history of crime dramas that I find it impossible to characterize as subverting expectations that white people shouldn’t do crime. Take The Godfather trilogy, for example. Did anybody like it, or watch it, partly because they thought, “Jesus, the Corleone family is white! How odd that they’re in the Mafia.”?

I’m somewhat handicapped here because I don’t watch television except for the nightly news and “60 Minutes”, and don’t get cable. But I remember plenty of crime dramas in the old days, like Hill Street Blues, in which whites and nonwhites both committed crimes, and my absorption was with the story, not with the race of the criminal. And, of course, although racism was more pervasive before the Sixties, the crime dramas before then, like Dragnet, were popular not because they subverted expectations, but because of the story. There were almost no black people on television then, and I can’t imagine that Dragnet was popular because it overturned our expectations about whites. (One can also think of the popularity of the Bogart crime dramas, which had white offenders.)

I’m sure I have a lot of readers with cable who watch crime dramas, so please weigh in below.

b.) Some of the racism that motivates our watching these dramas is their concern with the family. I quote Dr. Daniels:

Together, Wendy and Marty are clear about what motivates their life of crime: It is always “for the family.” When Wendy tells Marty she bought a house so they can launder money through construction costs, she says she feels good about it because she “did it for our family.”

Then, she asks Marty, “What’d you do today ― for our family?”

“Bought a strip club,” he replies.

In “Ozark,” as in other white crime family dramas, the characters manage to justify every horrendous deed ― even murder ― because it was done “for the family.” These are anti-heroes, to be sure, but their moral and ethical dilemmas are meant to be sympathetic, because who among us wouldn’t do everything possible for our family? If the audience wants to think these felons-in-the-making are not as bad as the “real criminals,” the show gives them some room to do so.

Again, I doubt it is the case—though The Godfather involves “the family” a lot, but not in the way described above—that white crime dramas invariably involve families, and that’s to make them more sympathetic. Perhaps this is true to some degree, but Daniels doesn’t make the case that this involves racism and whiteness. She merely quotes anecdotes because, in the end, this is not about fixing racism (Daniels has no solution), but about the author showing how virtuous she is.

c.) Even showing white families engaged in crime somehow buttresses racism. This part of the article escapes me, but I think what Daniels is saying is that these dramas gives a false picture of crime because they portray the white criminals as more “wholesome” than blacks or Hispanics. That, at least, is what I glean from this bit.

The reality is that white families are no more or less wholesome than any other families. A majority of most violent crimes against white people are committed by other white people, and white people are far more likely to commit white collar crime.

Well, I’ll accept Daniel’s data here, but what she doesn’t point out—surely deliberately—is that blacks commit violent crimes far more often, compared to their proportion in the population, than do whites. This is well known, and I’m not for a minute imputing it to anything inherent in being black. In fact, I think it represents the residuum of racism, with blacks being put into living situations, including dire poverty, that can promote criminal behavior. But it can’t be denied that there’s a disproportionality. As one website notes,

It’s true that around 13 per cent of Americans are black, according to the latest estimates from the US Census Bureau.

And yes, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, black offenders committed 52 per cent of homicides recorded in the data between 1980 and 2008. Only 45 per cent of the offenders were white. Homicide is a broader category than “murder” but let’s not split hairs.

. . . What about violent crime more generally? FBI arrest rates are one way into this. Over the last three years of data – 2011 to 2013 – 38.5 per cent of people arrested for murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault were black.

Clearly, these figures are problematic. We’re talking about arrests not convictions, and high black arrest rates could be taken as evidence that the police are racist.

But academics have noted that the proportion of black suspects arrested by the police tends to match closely the proportion of offenders identified as black by victims in the National Crime Victimization Survey.

This doesn’t support the idea that the police are unfairly discriminating against the black population when they make arrests.

I don’t think that this means that black families are less wholesome than any other families. The crime could, for example, reflect the higher proportion of black families that have just one parent. I simply point out that the tendentious Daniels is being very selective in citing her statistics.

What is to be done? If the popularity of white crime dramas reflects racism, and the popularity of black crime dramas also reflects racism, as Daniels suggests below, what can we do? It’s not to show more crime dramas involving people of color:

One could argue that we need racial and ethnic diversity in the representation of crime families. Writing more criminals who are black, Latinx or Asian would only reinforce existing stereotypes about race and crime, and we have plenty of shows doing that already.

The stories we tell ourselves matter, even when they come in the form of middling shows like “Ozark.” When stories about white crime families rest on ideas about the supposed goodness of white people, they reinforce a whole apparatus of assumptions, benefits of the doubt and second chances afforded to white people who cheat, steal, rape or kill someone.

You can’t show more black crime dramas, and you can’t eliminate white crime dramas, as that would suggest that white people don’t do crime. Nor should we show more white crime dramas, as those dramas simply reinforce racism. Are we then supposed to eliminate all crime dramas? Daniels doesn’t say. I suppose one could suggest we show white crime dramas that don’t show seemingly wholesome white people, but I don’t think that would work, either, as The Godfather attests.

In the end, Daniel’s misguided essay does nothing to eliminate the problem of racism. But, as I said, that’s not why she wrote it. She wrote it to signal her virtue by crying that racism is everywhere. Well, fine, but where is her solution?

Oh, and at the end of her essay, Daniels can’t resist taking a wholly gratuitous lick at Donald Trump and his family. This has nothing to do with her essay; it’s just another flag she runs up to show her virtue. I quote:

Those set of assumptions that animate “Ozark” are also the same ones that have enabled the white crime family that’s currently installed in the White House.

I don’t think so. And neither do a lot of commenters on the piece, who say stuff like this:

 

There’s hope for America yet.

111 Comments

  1. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    As someone who absolutely loved Breaking Bad and is now watching its spin off Better Call Saul, wtf?!

    Walter White as a character (his last name is even white) was someone who was put into extreme circumstances (dying of cancer and having no money as a teacher to support his family) that brought out deeply repressed skills (sociopathic crime). And as superficial as that description is, if we expected him not to turn to crime (we didn’t because it was the whole reason for the show), it was because he was so removed from the criminal world as a chemistry teacher not as a white guy.

    • Mike
      Posted October 2, 2018 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      sub

    • BJ
      Posted October 2, 2018 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      And his last name White was to imply not some purity or wholesomeness, but a blandness and pathetic lack of anything noticeably unique or intriguing. Notice that, in most scenes in the first season, Walter wears shirts and colors that match the wallpaper behind him, camouflaging him from people as those who are more successful, charismatic, and interesting (Hank, Elliot) walk by, his existence barely registering on those around him or the world at large. He is barely even there, unnoticed, his existence itself almost nonexistent, because he and his life are so boring and, ultimately, sad.

      • Posted October 2, 2018 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        And his surname early on is contrasted with his former collaborator’s, Black, who made a fortune of their joint work and formed Grey Matter, Inc.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted October 2, 2018 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

          I think they just reverse engineered the character names because the company name was so neat.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 2, 2018 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        He was very bland at the beginning and they he is distinctive as the Heisenberg character with the hat. He becomes the “one who knocks”.

    • Posted October 2, 2018 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      And every teacher who ever watched it secretly thought, “Hey, maybe I could turn my skills to brew drugs and then use my knowledge of explosives, poisons, and acids, to remove my enemies and dispose of the bodies…rather than teach 4G”

      • Posted October 2, 2018 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

        I teach in biology, and I can claim that everyone working in chemistry and biology has thought ‘hey, I could murder someone with this odorless, colorless compound’.
        I think it is perfectly normal to think that…

        • Posted October 3, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink

          My father (pharmaceutical chemist) and others have told me that virtually all street drugs could be synthesized by someone with 2 semesters of organic chemistry. Since that’s the usual medical school prereq or there abouts (and for many other fields like biology often) that’s a *lot* of people who *could* be drug dealers ….

        • Posted October 27, 2018 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

          I once read in Science magazine about some researchers poisoned with acrylamide, presumably by a co-worker.

  2. Posted October 2, 2018 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Having been white all of my life, I can attest to the complete stupidity of the notion about “the inherent wholesomeness of white families.” As an attorney for over 40 years, the idea “that criminals are almost always individuals of some color other than white” is belied by my experience. The ability to write such trash takes a special kind of ignorance.

  3. Mike
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Doesn’t anyone watch these shows for their entertainment value any more.? I watched Ozark and thoroughly enjoyed it, it didn’t concern me that it portrayed a white familu caught up in organized crime, iut was damn good entertainment, I think some academics sometimes try to look to deeply into the story and find things that really arent there.

    • Mike
      Posted October 2, 2018 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      For familu read family and iut ,it.lol

    • Posted October 2, 2018 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      I expect almost everybody watches these shows for their entertainment family. You probably have to be a journalist looking for an idea for your next column to see racism in them.

  4. Posted October 2, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Her thesis rests on the misapplication of pretty well-established theories of human perception. The short version: Humans cannot possibly attend to everything in their environment. We evolved cognitive mechanisms for preferentially selecting that which is most salient at the moment. Among those things we find salient are: Sensory stimulus, needs & interests; and expectations & the unexpected. These things do lead us to attend to things but not in the perpetual, ongoing way she suggests. Once we’ve seen what we expected to see, or alternatively, seen the unexpected, our attention moves on.

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    I don’t need to watch any of that stuff to get my white racism fix. I have Trump. All those Russians are pretty white too.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted October 2, 2018 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      +1

  6. Posted October 2, 2018 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    I tell myself that, in a country of over 300 million people, there are bound to be at least a few kooky professors. Sadly, a disproportionate number of them are given a megaphone.

    • Christopher
      Posted October 2, 2018 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      And unsurprisingly, a disproportionate number of them are in the Humanities.

  7. Terry Sheldon
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Gee, I’m not sure what I should be thinking…I thought I enjoyed “Ozark” because it’s a well written, suspenseful series with some good plot twists. As an aging white male, I now see the error of my ways…I actually watch it because I’m a closet racist. But I’m not sure how that fits in with the fact that I also like “Orange Is The New Black”, which is one of the most racially diverse shows I’ve ever seen. Go figure!

  8. Jon Gallant
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    One of the commentors writes that he is surprised Daniels is an academic. The chap hasn’t been watching Academia lately. Hunter College’s website reveals that Prof. Daniels has published “dozens of peer-reviewed articles in journals such as New Media & Society, Gender & Society, American Journal of Public Health, and Women’s Studies Quarterly.” Her latest bloviation in “peer-reviewed” HuffPo will doubtless be listed in her CV.

    • Robert Bray
      Posted October 2, 2018 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      ‘[D]ozens’ of articles merely? Gosh, I wonder who wrote this blurb, which is worthy of the back cover of a paperback. Couldn’t have been the prof. herself, do you suppose? And how many dozen of such does it take to achieve tenure in sociology at Hunter?

  9. Robert Bray
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    One-and-a-half cheers for C. S. Lewis? In his sci-fi allegory ‘That Hideous Strength,’ Lewis puts his protagonist, a callow sociologist, into a discussion with a quite donnish professor of chemistry. When the young academic prefaces one of his self-important pronouncements with the phrase, ‘In sciences like sociology. . . ‘ the chemist cuts him off: ‘there are no sciences like sociology.’

  10. Posted October 2, 2018 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    When one is a hammer…

    • Posted October 2, 2018 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      Exactly. The article could alternatively be titled:

      Academic expects to see white racism in crime drama…and does! (Unexpectedly!)

      • Posted October 27, 2018 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        I can muse how it happened. At a hard day’s night, the good professor had her dinner in front of TV and indulged in watching a crime drama. Suddenly, she remembered: “Oh dear! I promised to write an article about racism in popular culture, and the deadline is tomorrow – no, it’s already today!” She hastily wrote the text using her fresh impressions, then sent a copy to PuffHo.

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    You’re right; much of the surprise (and some of the comedy and drama) of shows like Weeds and Breaking Bad sprung not so much from the lead characters’ being white, as from their being embedded in a recognizably suburban, middle-class milieu.

    I don’t think anyone’s surprised when a show depicts white criminal-types coming from the lumpenprole demimonde.

    Part of the appeal of a show like The Sopranos was that it layered a traditional mafia drama over the suburban angst of sending kids off to college, putting parents in nursing homes, real-estate buying, etc.

  12. Merilee
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Sub

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    I suppose one could suggest we show white crime dramas that don’t show seemingly wholesome white people, but I don’t think that would work, either, as The Godfather attests.

    I think what these shows demonstrate is that, however unwholesome (or downright loathsome) the people depicted may be, the audience will forgive them their sins as long as they are compelling characters.

    Shows like Breaking Bad and The Sopranos succeeded initially by subverting expectations about criminals — and then, in their later seasons, by subverting the subversion itself by depicting just how dark and nasty had become their lead characters and the world the lead characters had created for themselves. Coppola did something similar in the closing shot of Godfather Part II, showing that once he had rid himself of all his many enemies — from Hyman Roth to Frankie Pantangeli, from Sen. Geary to his wife Kay and brother Fredo — just how empty and alone Michael Corleone’s life had become.

    • Posted October 2, 2018 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      “The audience will forgive them their sins as long as they are compelling characters.”

      I grok and agree with what you’re saying here, Ken (especially the part about “subverting the subversion”), but I’d fine tune it a bit. I don’t think “compelling” alone does the trick. Gary Oldman in “The Professional” is a totally compelling character; we’re fascinated by him, but we don’t for a moment forgive him his sins.

      I’d put it this way: if the writers and actors can get us to see the crimes from the point of view of the criminals (which they do in part, as in “The Sopranos,” by surrounding the baddies with people who are even badder), then in spite of ourselves we’re going to identify with and root for the criminals, whatever their race. Because, determinism aside, criminals don’t choose evil as evil but as a perceived good—that is, what serves their self-interest.

      So as long as the evil is perceived as evil from the outside, we are repulsed by and condemn it; it’s only when, through empathy, the writer can get us inside the head of the character that we can forgive it. This is the distinguishing genius of the truly great writers, most notably Shakespeare (think “Richard the Third”) and Tolstoy.

      Hope that’s not too pedantic. 😊

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 2, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        Not at all; I agree wholeheartedly, Gary.

        (Except for maybe the part about Oldman in The Professional; he was simply trying to establish a little order and honor among thieves. 🙂 )

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted October 2, 2018 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

        My mum, who has never done so much as break the speed limit in her life, gradually fell in love with Tony Soprano. At all times she was aware that he was a repellent human being, but she rooted for him in spite of all that.

        I’m not entirely sure you can watch a character drama and enjoy it without liking the protagonist in some way, even if that way is complicated and difficult to explain.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 2, 2018 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      “the audience will forgive them their sins as long as they are compelling characters.”

      I absolutely agree. I could think of innumerable TV shows where the villain has been more interesting than the hero. All it needs is an actor with charisma and a writer who can give them good lines.

      I believe this is a common theme among actors too – that the villain is often easier to act and more satisfying than the hero who can’t do anything ‘interesting’.

      cr

      • Merilee
        Posted October 2, 2018 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

        I love laconic “Mike” from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted October 2, 2018 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

          Yes Mike is a great character but I’ve always loved Jimmy. He’s a good lawyer and he’s smart even though he’s crooked.

          • Merilee
            Posted October 2, 2018 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, Jimmy/Saul’s pretty good ( also Chicken Man Gus Fring and Walter White’s bro-in-law, Hank?). For some reason I don’t particularly like any of the women characters in either BB or Saul. I find them mainly annoying: Schuyler(sp?), Marie, Kim.
            This is not the case for me in most series.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted October 2, 2018 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

              Oh I love Kim. I am scared shitless of Fring. Jesus, he tortured an animal for days for eating the fruit from his tree. But god he’s bad ass. How he cut short the treatment for the evil Salamanca (sp) just to make him suffer. That’s scary and awesome at the same time. Yes, I have a bad attraction to bad guys like that.

              • Merilee
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

                Yes, Fring is very scary, and yet can act like a Boy Scout (or Eddie Haskell, was it?)

              • BJ
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

                I don’t dislike the idea of Kim and I like Rhea Seehorn, but man did she ruin much of seasons one and two for me. I actually stopped watching BCS a couple of episodes into season two because half of each episode boiled down to “here is what Kim is doing in her law career! Look, Kim is reading documents! Hey, Kim has a tough case! Wow, Kim is finally climbing the HHM ladder!” The character’s story was so damn boring to me.

                Thankfully, I went back and watched what I missed after season three ended and someone told me that it was getting into the prequel-to-Breaking-Bad territory. And Kim’s story isn’t nearly as boring now, though that’s almost exclusively because it’s become intertwined with Jimmy’s adventures.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

                I actually almost stopped watching Breaking Bad because Walter White was so pathetic I couldn’t stand watching.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted October 2, 2018 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

              I liked the serious, ambitious film student/actress girl – full of hope who wore the “I’m a serious artist” beret. HERE SHE IS kitted out with the “seriously – WE’RE FILMING HERE!” utility belt. Much more could have been made of her role & her two sidekicks. But, then they’d probably die so maybe not.

              • Merilee
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

                Yeah, I’d forgotten about her. That trio wasn’t on very long. They filmed all those ridiculous ads and billboards?

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

                Jimmy/Saul at his finest – selling ‘the dream’ to suckers. Some nice little scenes that didn’t have to be in the plot ~ such as the music store pratfall genius moment HERE

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

                Slippin’ Jimmy.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

                A nice callback to his little cons in that bar with his buddy – the rare coin stunt & the unconscious guy in alley with bulging billfold.

              • Merilee
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

                I vaguely remember the music store but somehow don’t remember the pratfall😬

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

                They made another appearance answering phones last week.

              • Merilee
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

                Yeah, you’re right! Pretending to live in that backwater in Louisiana, and praisin’ da lawd.

                I just thought of two OK female characters in BB: Saul’s secretary in his semi-circular office with the columns, and that badass German(?) chick who worked for Pollos Hermanos. I also liked Saul’s huge black “muscle” at that office.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted October 2, 2018 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

              I know most people absolutely HATED her, and maybe it reveals something untoward about my own psyche, but I found Walter’s wife Skyler kinda hawt in BB. Maybe she caught me at a vulnerable moment that one time she did the impression of Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday, Mister President.” 🙂

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

                You just like being dominated by a spiky heeled, buxom woman Ken. Tied up & thrashed to a paroxysm [or similar word] of heaving, red lassitude**.
                It goes with the lawyer territory
                It’s why you’re hiding out in Miami

                ** I don’t know how the dog got into the sketch.

              • BJ
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

                Actually, Ken’s hiding in Honduras. He’s a desperate man. Send…

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

                What I get for going home with a waitress, the way I always do.

          • BJ
            Posted October 2, 2018 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

            Mike is an amazing character because he’s not a bad person. He does terrible things for terrible people, but it’s because (1) it’s what he’s good at, and (2) it’s to support his daughter-in-law and granddaughter. Before Mike started working “security,” he was scraping by as a parking lot attendant, unable to offer help to his dead son’s family.

            Mike is the antithesis of Walter: a genuinely good person who hates the bad things he has to do, and truly does do them only for his family. Not only does Mike receive no reward for what he does, but he actively despises it and it eats at his soul. His only happy moments are with his family.

            • Merilee
              Posted October 2, 2018 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

              Good description of Mike.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted October 2, 2018 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

              I felt that way about Jesse. That he was the hero and the good guy and Walter was the bad guy. Nacho is a similar sad character who is stuck in a life he doesn’t want. All the characters are stuck like that save the lady that runs the nail salon.

              • BJ
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

                I don’t quite agree. Jesse was already cooking when we were introduced to him, and doing so for his benefit and enjoyment. Nacho is stuck in a life he doesn’t want, but we don’t know that because it’s clear he wants more power and is still doing it for himself and the money he makes. I can’t think of a single character like Mike, whose motives are pure and who doesn’t enjoy even a moment of his work.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

                Remember though Mike admitted to being a crooked cop. Jesse was cooking but he was still good. Gaukelt also was crooked but good and did crooked things “for the science”. They could all be seen as doing things for themselves but was Walter? He is a victim of circumstance that awakens to his true nature.

              • BJ
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

                I meant to write “Nacho may be stuck in a life he doesn’t want…”

              • BJ
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

                Well, Walter is different from all of them not because cancer awakened his true nature, but because it changed his nature. When Hank is recovering from his gunfight with the twins, Marie says to Skyler, “facing death…it has to change a man, right?” Walt’s true nature before he faced death wasn’t a megalomaniac who would become a criminal and graduate to killer if only he was given the chance. In the few instances where people talk about what Walter was like in the years before lung cancer, we hear about how he was a great teacher who cared for his students and was good to everyone he knew.

                And, regarding Mike, I just think that, of all the characters, he is the purest in his motives and the one who never even for a moment gets any pleasure out of committing bad deeds. Jesse loved cooking until it became dangerous to him. Gale (I assume that’ who you meant to type with “Gaukelt”…?) did it for the science and the money (don’t forget his libertarian monologue), but he did indeed love what he did, and we also get the impression that Gus paid for his schooling before Gale started cooking for him.

                Mike may have been a dirty cop, but we know he’s making tons of cash working for Fring, and we also see how he lives. Every cent he makes he either gives directly to his family or stashes away for his granddaughter. He often tries to make up for what he does at his job by doing good elsewhere. He clearly regrets what he did as a cop (remember his speech about how he wished he could have lived up to his son’s expectations?), and while he may have done that for himself at the time, he’s not that man when we see him.

              • Merilee
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

                Anyone know/remember what happened to Mike’s wife?

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 3, 2018 at 7:11 am | Permalink

                I disagree that cancer changed Walter. That may be what his wife wants to believe but Walter simply didn’t have the fortitude to stick up for himself and take risks because he thought he had something to lose. Now that he’s going to die anyway, he doesn’t care. I’ve seen this happen lots of time with people with cancer. My friend, who died in January, quit her job with gusto like no one would ever want to because of the fear of burning bridges. And Walter doesn’t worry his family will be harmed because he knows he can protect them because he’s the one who knocks.

                Mike may be more pure but Kim is pretty pure as well. She may get a thrill out of her bad side with Jimmy but she limits it to doing good. This is why she’s doomed. Any character with any morality cannot survive and they need some badness to get by like Mike being a crooked cop or Kim bending the rules. Mike’s son tried to be 100% honest and it didn’t work out for him.

                You could actually argue Gus Fring is pure for the criminal element. Sure he’s a raging sociopath but he lives simply, works a day job as a fast food restaurant owner and puts all his efforts into revenge for his brother. Pure motives just sociopathic.

              • BJ
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

                Oh, and when Jesse was cut out of the Walt-Gus relationship at the beginning, he started up his own rival operation, even going so far as to sell to people at NA meetings. And we see him get a lot of enjoyment out of being at the top of the pyramid. One gets the sense that Mike doesn’t want anything to do with that kind of power, or anything even related to the world in which he works. Jesse had many opportunities to get out with plenty of cash in his pockets, but he kept coming back anyway. He’s not a bad person, but he’s very far from a really good person like Mike.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 3, 2018 at 7:12 am | Permalink

                I see Jesse as good but stupid. It’s why he’s Walter a a Gus’s pawn. I think it’s how many can relate to Jesse.

              • Merilee
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

                I loved Jesse as well. And the lady who runs the nail salon is a kick.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 3, 2018 at 7:14 am | Permalink

                Also the woman who runs all the logistics for shipping product. That woman is shrewd but not shrewd enough to defeat Walter.

              • BJ
                Posted October 3, 2018 at 9:17 am | Permalink

                I see how your description of Walt might be true. I can dig it.

                I was only talking about the characters in BB, but Kim can’t really be part of this discussion anyway. She’s doing a couple of criminal things here and there, but it’s nothing on the scale of what the other character are doing, and not things that hurt and kill people (at least not yet…?).

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 3, 2018 at 9:20 am | Permalink

                And that’s why Kim is doomed. She needs to be much more of a criminal to survive. You either aren’t part of the criminal world or you are full in even if you remain a good person. Kim is dabbling on the edges so I think she’s in trouble.

  14. DrBrydon
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    But if you do want a black, crime drama, check out seasons one and two of Luke Cage. Although it is ostensibly a superhero show, the main villains are from a plain, old, crazy family, with no special powers. Alfre Woodard’s performance is hair-raising.

  15. KD33
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Yep, what a dumb article. I’ve enjoyed Ozark, and one thing to point out is how much humor the show purveys. The strip club dialog is a small example. Every week come a few new plot twists that Wendy and Marty have to surmount in order to keep their family alive. The plotting is creative, and stays just out of reach of being ridiculous in its circuitousness – you only need a little suspension of disbelief to join their world. On the SJW front, I actually think the show should get some kudos for breaking stereotypes. Pretty much every character behaves in a way that deviates from the norm. Just a small example: the “redneck” family has strong characters and some of the smartest people in the show. And most of the strongest people in the show turn out to be women. Where’s the article about that??

  16. Posted October 2, 2018 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    My wife and I love Ozark. It’s a great show. We’re even thinking of laundering money to see if we like it. Is that wrong?

    • Merilee
      Posted October 2, 2018 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      As long as you don’t start cooking meth in a trailer in the desert in your BVDs. (Do BVDs still exist??)

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted October 2, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        Warren Buffett has his hand in BVDs [so to speak] when his outfit bought Fruit Of The Loom. But I thought BVDs were boxer shorts & not the famed Cranston Y-Fronts. Am I wrong?

        • Posted October 2, 2018 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

          I thought they were “union suits” or “long johns”.

          • Merilee
            Posted October 2, 2018 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

            According to google, you’re right that BVDs are boxers. I always thought they were Jockeys or tightie whities or y-fronts, as you Brits would have it. I remember a high school friend singing some silly bluesy song about :She wears ‘em, she wears ‘em, she wears a pair of BVDs (without a backflap)🎶
            so Rowena may also be right about the union suit. I remember MUCH more than Brett K about my high school days, and sans calendar. Just don’t ask me about last week…

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted October 2, 2018 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

              The best word for Y-fronts in Britspeak is skivvies, which I picked up from Scousers, but looking it up it seems to be of US origin – perhaps something else the Yanks left behind in 1945.

              • Merilee
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

                Are you saying the Yanks lost their pants in ‘45??

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

                Overpaid & over here as they say. They left their progeny behind, but also the black troops left the blues/jazz records [not talking about the whitey Glenn Miller Big Band thing] ~ more than a fair deal. I know Liverpool was invigorated by the music coming in on every US merchant marine ship up until the very early 60s. No WWII, no Beatles.

              • Merilee
                Posted October 3, 2018 at 8:50 am | Permalink

                Not to mention no Stones…

              • Posted October 3, 2018 at 9:41 am | Permalink

                I always thought “skivvies” was just generic for all underwear rather than a particular style. As in, “He came to the front door in his skivvies.”

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 2, 2018 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      It would sure be nice to have enough money to need to launder it 🙂

      cr

  17. Michael Fisher
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    The WHITE US AMERICAN Jessie Daniels talking out of her arse – drawing grand conclusions based on four US AMERICAN 21st century TV crime drama series: “Ozark”, “Breaking Bad,” “Bloodline” & “Weeds.” Should she examine the bubble of her own WHITE US AMERICAN assumptions? I know she’s only writing for the non-paying HuffPo, but hasn’t she got an ounce of professorial academic pride?

    Where’s the historical context?
    Where’s the discussion of why she’s restricted herself to US AMERICAN PRODUCT?
    Where’s the argument about race versus class?

    The Holy Ceiling Cat knows these things need to be mentioned – must be diffrunt for duckless “studies” type profs

    And what was the point of this unexamined bollix?:

    Those set of assumptions that animate “Ozark” are also the same ones that have enabled the white crime family that’s currently installed in the White House.

    • Merilee
      Posted October 2, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      Not to mention “those set…”

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted October 2, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        Dear Merilee Grammar Hawkeye. Oh my – I didn’t notice that, I have crap radar for that sort of thing.

  18. paablo
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    The author misinterprets the meaning of “did it for our family.” In Ozark at least, they do those things to keep their family members from being horribly murdered or tortured, not to benefit the family. It’s survival, not opportunism, and I think the distinction is important.

  19. Michael Fisher
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Daniels is co-originator of the RACISM REVIEW blurg. Go & have a butchers – just like the HuffPo article it runs on 100% pure assertion, but dressed up in the peculiarly empty jargon of the “studies” humanities academic community. Sample:

    Intersection of Race and Gender

    As the mainstream media remains central to the perpetuation of this gendered-racist framing (Feagin, p. 105) intersectionality is a powerful analytic tool that can be used to better understand and deconstruct said power relations and interlocking systems of oppression imposed upon women of color. Moreover, it allows us to shed light on the similar, yet, distinct ways in which both, Williams and Osaka, were victimized by the framing of this emotion-laden caricature. Here we see a dichotomy of hyper-visibility and invisibility reflective of society at large. In regards to the former, one cannot ignore the “re”presentation of Williams front and center.

  20. Michael Fisher
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Ranking Shakespeare’s Plays
    as Crime Fiction. Domestic Suspense, Hardboiled, Spy Thrillers: The Bard Did It All SOURCE

    1. Macbeth: Outlaw Noir
    2. Hamlet: Private Eye
    3. Othello: Domestic Suspense
    4. Taming of the Shrew: Gothic Noir
    5. Measure for Measure: Legal Thriller
    6. Julius Caesar: Espionage Thriller
    7. The Merchant of Venice: Classic Noir
    8. Midsummer Night’s Dream: Psychological Thriller
    9. Romeo and Juliet: Gritty Urban Crime
    10. Henry IV Part One: Coming-of-Age Caper
    11. The Tempest: Vengeance Epic
    12. King Lear: The Long Con

    Which three of the Bard’s works would push the most alarm buttons among the academics of Daniels stamp? Taming & Merchant would have to be up near the top.

    • Merilee
      Posted October 2, 2018 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      +1

    • Posted October 2, 2018 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

      Another great British author, John Milton,
      created a fantastic Lucifer in Paradise Lost.
      Far more attractive than the other side.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted October 2, 2018 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

        Good point. The ‘other side’ being led by a deranged, invulnerable, immortal superbeing. The bit I remember [we ‘did’ chunks at school was a three day battle & then the superbeing beats all the fallen angels on his lonesome. The fix was in. I want my money back!

  21. Posted October 2, 2018 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    It seems pretty simple to me.
    a) People want to be entertained with crime dramas b/c crime is interesting. We care about good vs evil, etc. So producers make these sorts of shows and advertisers place ads in it bc people are watching. Crime sells.
    b) Crime dramas involving racial minorities would definitively be seen as racist. Most people would refuse to watch. So advertisers won’t go for it.
    c) The solution is to prominently depict white people in crime dramas. Everyone is happy.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted October 2, 2018 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      That’s a good point. The way finger-wagging illiberal-leftists like the author behave probably puts off a big chunk of writers from even entertaining the idea of a criminal family that’s not white. Add to that the threat of being tarred with the old cultural appropriation brush and there’s surely a selection effect going on here.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 2, 2018 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      You do really that approach totally marginalises black criminals?

      Black criminals have rights too!

      cr

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 3, 2018 at 12:19 am | Permalink

        really -> realise

        Can’t even blame that on autocorrect 😦

        cr

      • Posted October 27, 2018 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        Also:
        – Black actors need roles, too;
        – Black viewers may at some moment be bored by the string of white criminals with whom they are unable to identify.

  22. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    I think that of ALL the HuffPo pieces that PCC/JAC has posted about here, this is easily the most ridiculous of them all.
    As German fans of “Happy Days” would say: “Sie haben den Hai gesprungen”.

    Not only is it a clear cut case of what psychologists would call “projection”, but it’s a classic no-win
    “Heads I win, tails you lose”
    logic.
    It’s pretty much like the Calvinist understanding of original sin, although at least JnCln thought it effected everyone.

    (HuffPo thankfully has a few pieces here and there on the sane side (including a vigorous defense of “To Kill a Mockingbird” a few years ago).)

    • Merilee
      Posted October 2, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      Wow, somehow I had never come across Hai/shark before auf deutsch. Probably not a lot of sharks in Germany. I did recently learn that Tiburon, lovely town in SF Bay Area, means shark en español. Fyi🤓

  23. Posted October 2, 2018 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Criminal behaviour is a colour?
    I thought it emanated from the brain.
    Although i have heard of a colour called “beaver”.
    What sort of criminal is a beaver?
    Do they yell” this is a stick up”!
    like to whittle?
    are they likely to be hairy? … What?

  24. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Not having heard of Ozark before, I would never have watched it. (I would have dismissed it as a Waltons-like yokel barf-fest. Aren’t my prejudices showing?)

    Now, if it comes on TV, I might spare it a look. Thanks to Daniels’ ludicrous piece.

    (Goes back to watching ‘Allo ‘Allo. Stereotypes – what are they?)

    cr

    • Posted October 2, 2018 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

      It’s on Netflix. Lots of interesting, quirky characters. And Laura Linney is always good.

      • Merilee
        Posted October 2, 2018 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

        You convinced me with Laura Linney. I’ve liked her ever since she played Abigail Adams!

        • Posted October 3, 2018 at 9:50 am | Permalink

          Even John Oliver is impressed by Laura Linney. He called her “F’ing Laura Linney!” in one show but in a nice way.

          • Merilee
            Posted October 3, 2018 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

            🤓

  25. Terry Lynne Pedersen
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Hasn’t she heard of Bonnie Parker & Clyde,
    plus a raft of other “white” criminals.

  26. eric
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Does this mean that if I’m not interested or “fascinated” by them and haven’t watched any of them, I’m not racist?
    🙂

    Though just based on the reviews of Breaking Bad, I think the proper response to that claim is the Freud. Sometimes a kick butt storyline and good acting is just a kick but storyline and good acting.

  27. Kirbmarc
    Posted October 3, 2018 at 2:10 am | Permalink

    This article was written by someone who has never seen The Wire.

    • Kirbmarc
      Posted October 3, 2018 at 2:19 am | Permalink

      Or Oz. Or Orange is the New Black. Or Luke Cage.

      There are plenty of successful shows with sympathetic or compelling non-white anti-heroes/criminals.

  28. Posted October 3, 2018 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    I haven’t watched the shows, but it seems: this is armchair sociology – where is the data? Aren’t sociologists supposed to do interviews or “participant observation” or something to get data?

  29. kelskye
    Posted October 4, 2018 at 3:13 am | Permalink

    The appeal of crime dramas, both television serials and films, is for me that I’m transported into a world with different moral rules. The protagonists and antagonists aren’t playing to society’s conventions, but living in parallel to them, thus creating an extra dimension of drama.

    Take the two greatest shows from the Golden Age of Television: The Wire and The Sopranos. On the former, the criminals were predominantly (though not exclusively black), while in the latter they were predominantly (thigh not exclusively) white. Both of the shows tried to show insights into the minds and circumstances of the criminals, so when they break society’s rules, we understand why they did what they do. On both shows, there’s no moral ambiguity about the crime, and certainly not about crime when it came to race. But it is fascinating, and refreshing from a long history of goodies vs baddies type crime shows that do nothing to understand the psychology or sociology of crime.


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