The End of the Magical Negro On TV?

Buried deep in the FT story on how Sony is abandoning the US-First model for TV production, is the remarkable fact that international sales have gone from 50% of a typical drama’s revenues to over 70%. In other words, international sales are driving the TV market, not domestic TV sales. With the growth of Amazon Prime Video and Netflix this was perhaps inevitable. But it certainly has profound implications on how TV series are made, cast, produced, and written. Since most of the buyers will be foreigners, with the biggest TV markets unlikely to be avid consumers of the Magical Negro, Evil White Guy, and other TV tropes.

This is why Sony is partnering with foreign production teams first, to develop series for the foreign market first, not the domestic US market. Featured in the story is the series "Houdini and Doyle" made in partnership with ITV, and Channel 4 in the UK and Shaw Productions in Canada. David Schwimmer apparently has a new TV series coming out from a similar deal (I blame the French for that one).

Certainly the UK and Canada are PC-driven marketplaces. But the size of the marketplace in each country pales with the big markets: Japan, China, Russia, Continental Europe. None of which save perhaps part of Continental Europe are big on PC, White self-loathing, and Magical Negroes and Muslims. Indeed I can just now see a meeting with say, the head of CCTV (China’s state broadcaster) or Poland’s or Japan’s, on just how the new series will stick it to White people (and Asians) with leading magical Negroes and Muslims. Hey just like the wildly successful "Minority Report" series, the one without Tom Cruise or any strong leading White male character, with various Black and sassy females and vibrant types (Wilmer Valderama) bossing around the hapless precognitive White guy with the backbone of a jellyfish and a submissive attitude. Oh no wait … the series was cut from 13 episodes to 10, and all but canceled formally.

Most of the PC idiocy has been manufactured from television. Television production accounts for the bulk of studio revenues and profits; hit movies may come, flops may leave, but day to day TV production to feed the voracious appetite for networks and cable channels and now streaming services pays the bills and produces the predictable, and straightforward revenue that allows studios to make big bets with "John Carter" or "Avengers: Age of Ultron." The Oscars generate all the hype, but the day to day business of Hollywood is television not movies. Television employs most of the actors, producers, writers, directors, and other people in Hollywood, and a hit TV drama can generate almost $2 billion in profit over ten years.

With the growth of digital subnets in broadcast TV, even long-gone shows like "Gunsmoke" and "Bonanza" continue to generate revenue. Not perhaps, a great deal. But enough to restore and broadcast the old Black-And-White episodes of Gunsmoke on digital subnet network ME-TV. TV series can always make money if they hit enough episodes.

So what are the likely changes to the TV landscape given the importance of foreign markets and the longing of studios like Sony to crack the lucrative Chinese and Japanese and Russian foreign TV markets? Well, for one thing you can kiss goodbye most Black actors and certainly actresses. The agitation of the Black Lives Matter crowd, Spike Lee, and Will Smith over not "enough" (read: all) Blacks in acting roles in movies and TV will run right up against the desire for foreign buyers to not have Black people on their screens.

Little known outside China, there is considerable tension between visiting African exchange students and Chinese students. The African students are bigger, stronger, with the typical African swagger and soon attract the very limited Chinese female students. Recall that selective sex abortion has left most younger Chinese men with a very limited amount of women to compete for; there are estimated 50 million Chinese men who will never have a girlfriend or marry. Typically the Africans will push things too far, given the contempt they have for the smaller, more self-effacing Chinese men. Until say, an aggrieved Chinese male texts 100 of his closest friends and they toss said visiting African students off a building. Or beseige the foreign student housing.

This happens quite often, and the authorities are not eager to stir up more trouble. So there is little appetite for heroic Black characters in China. Remember the redone Star Wars Force Awakens poster? Where the Black actor was shrunk to Yoda-like dimensions?

Russia? Little appetite there either. Or Japan. And none of these nations is exactly on the noble Muslim movement.

Yes it is true that TV will become less "American," in that you will see fewer series set in an American city featuring a male detective, usually unorthodox, with a straight laced female partner. [Off the top of my head, the series Lucifer, Elementary, Limitless, Life, Sleepy Hollow, Minority Report, and Scorpion all meet that criteria.] Also not likely to stick around much longer are the procedural teams of heroic US law enforcement, either NCIS or CSI or Cybermind or what have you. Anything that is very American will be out.

What you will see is superhero shows, science fiction shows, shows set in the distant past, fantasy shows, and things like that. Disney if they are smart (they are not) would mine Marvel’s characters to produce lots of shows for the foreign market, spanning the TV/Film boundary (i.e. characters from TV shows would show up in the movies and vice-versa, on a regular basis). Warners would do the same (they are also, not smart so they won’t).

Things are clearly changing for TV production studios. They have had a long run on a protected (US) market without much competition. ABC/CBS/NBC/FOX have not bought series from China, Russia, or say, India. At the most a few reality and scripted shows have been adapted to US audiences. But they have not been purchased wholesale from foreign studios and dubbed into English.

Now Studios have to go to places like Russia, and China, and Japan, and sell their series, BEFORE as the FT story says, US production begins. Which means the whole grab bag of social status signaling and virtue signaling are going to die very quickly. Since they simply don’t apply to those foreign nations. And given the tremendous amount of money to be made on the one hand, and the huge pressure on the other (declining revenue from cable and satellite operators as more and more cord-cutting continues from hard-pressed consumers); some studios will fail and/or be purchased by the few that succeed. It is not as if the networks, and cable channels are seeing money increasing in their coffers from consumers either via advertising as they spend more, or cable carriage fees filtering down. Heck Dish Network is notorious for dropping channels if they get too expensive and the CEO has said publicly he does not think there is a long term future for Dish Network due to cord-cutting.

A lot of cultural damage has been done to the US and the world from the protected domestic TV marketplace enabling the status-games of Hollywood insiders. It would be ironic indeed if that changed due to the same Hollywood insiders having to remake their game to suit the tastes of Russian and Japanese and Chinese consumers and executives. Or lose their jobs and status and oh so importantly, the money.

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About whiskeysplace

Conservative blogger focusing on culture, business, technology, and how they intersect.
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9 Responses to The End of the Magical Negro On TV?

  1. Interesting comments, but I think Disney and the other studios are smarter than you’re giving them credit for in developing movies for the foreign market. They kind of hit upon the formula with Terminator, which was wildly successful on the overseas market, as is the Fast & Furious moves, which feature an ethnically ambiguous cast.

    Pacific Rim, which seemed a terrible, formulaic movie when I saw it, was one that was successful overseas. They are doing a sequel based on the overseas success of the movie, since domestically it just did so so business for a big budget blockbuster type. But boy, those Asians sure love their giant robots…

    You may not be wrong about the demise of the “magic negro” vanishing from film (no Bagger Vance 2: This Time it’s Personal?), but there are some Black actors who have international appeal, like Idris Elba. But I agree that the opportunities will be more limited for them in the future. Asians don’t seem to feel the need to decorate each team or squad on film with a sprinkling of diversity.

    • How about Denzel in Flight? Are we finished with that model? There are no Black pilots. There are no Black engineers along the lines of Miles Dyson in T-2 and Miles was 30 years ago. We know the truth, there are no Blacks like these. And so where do we go in China, Japan and the United States to further support these mythical characters? The reality is Chris Rock, bitching about being with a Black wife.

      How do you support the Black community when there are so few worthy of support?

      • Flight wasn’t much of hit, either domestically or internationally. It grossed 93 million domestic and 68 million foreign. So it’s appeal internationally was less than in the US. I think these type of vanity project movies will continue to be made, because Hollywood has shown itself vulnerable to any sort of racial criticism (#oscarssowhite), but I think they are willing to invest in projects that make themselves feel good even if they know they won’t make money on them, such as all the anti war movies they pumped out during Iraq. For every American Sniper, which made money, they are willing to pump out 3 or 4 Stop-Loss, which didn’t.

  2. YIH says:

    So you’re saying they wouldn’t dig Bella and The Bulldogs, got it.

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  4. IA says:

    Remember the Harvard guy Gates’ meltdown, and then the beer summit lo those many years ago in the halcyon days of hope and change? Bliss it was that dawn to be alive.

    Well, he’d just walked in the famous door from a trip to China, probably researching the DNA show. I would imagine the Chinese did not treat Gates in a manner he is accustomed to. Stepping outside his privileged bubble he would have been shocked and then angered by the staring, giggling, rudeness. But, in order to maintain the appearance of racial solidarity and the shakedown of non-Trump whites Gates couldn’t rail against the Chinese. Instead, he scapegoated the white US cop in an apoplectic fit, no longer able to control his affirmative action induced, volcanic rage. I wonder if a Chinese DNA show ever happened?

  5. billrow says:

    The Japanese use big black sports stars in their commercials like they would trained dogs. Hopefully their women know better than to get mixed up with them.

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