Diversity in television is the “New Normal”: The upcoming TV season is spicing it up with controversial topics and laughs

Steven Krainin and Sydney Mott

Up until recently, the only diversity seen on television was whether characters were white or Simpsons-yellow.  In the past five years, however, television has evolved along with our culture, airing more diverse programs and adding controversial topics to the airwaves.  From homosexual couples marrying and starting families to heated conversations about race and religion, television writers have certainly proven that they have something to say.

Two of the more notable examples of diverse television shows are the youth-oriented (or rather, shows that are geared towards high school students) Degrassi and Glee.  Both shows feature an ensemble of characters of different races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses.

Glee is well known for its portrayal of LGBT youths in a positive light.  With two of its student couples in committed same-sex relationships, the show’s writers make a point about the variety of relationships in American high schools.  Glee also includes characters with disabilities such as down syndrome, which is not seen on many other television shows.

Degrassi: The Next Generation features many minority characters and the challenges they have to face in the everyday world.  With characters like Adam, a transgender student, and Eli, who not only faces the struggles of being a teenager, but also those of bipolar disorder and manic depression, Degrassi strives to relate to an exceedingly wide variety of teenagers while shedding light on issues that will not be featured anywhere else on television.

“I guess television has become more diverse, but the change has come more subtly than anything else,” said senior Rebecca Herz.

Shows like Glee and Degrassi are only the tip of the iceberg.  One does not have to go further than network television to see the country’s diversity reflected back from a TV screen.  FOX’s newest show, The Mindy Project, features Mindy Kaling of Office fame. Not only does The Mindy Project feature Kaling as a strong female doctor, but it is also one of few examples of an Indian American main character in television.

Comedy Central, which is known for airing racier material, has put their newest comic duo to the test in Key and Peele. African-American comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele showcase their comedic commentaries on race, popular culture, and politics in America.

As our culture evolves, so does the definition of “family.”  Ryan Murphy’s new show, The New Normal, is about an atypical family that includes a surrogate mother, her young daughter, and two expecting fathers. It is a sign of the times that The New Normal is no longer considered a cutting edge show despite its novel plot.

The hit comedy Modern Family is yet another example of how shows like I Love Lucy and Leave it to Beaver are far behind us.  Modern Family  has three radically different couples, all of whom celebrate the differences in their families and face the same fundamental issues.

While women have always had roles on TV shows, they have only recently taken leading roles.  Shows like 30 Rock, New Girl, Parks and Recreation, and Girls have strong female leads who are able to succeed in their personal lives as well as their working environments.  These shows succeed in featuring female characters without exclusively “female” humor, allowing the shows to appeal to a wide audience.

“I think that TV’s attempt to be diverse is genuine, and it is great to see that people are comfortable with a wide scope of topics in their favorite shows,” said senior Benny Scheckner.

Modern day television shows have encapsulated the changing sentiments in American society. With so many new shows, groups that were underrepresented on TV are seen more frequently. While the future of television may be uncertain, it is clear that the entertainment industry will continue to evolve to reflect our culture’s changing values.