Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The series that put mixed girls on TV

11 years ago today, the TV show "24" made its debut. The ways that it challenged stereotypes seemed to predict the future: it showed a Black president 6 years before Obama's election, yet another Black president 2 years before the election, and it showed a White/Caucasian female Islamic terrorist 3 years before Muriel Degauque's suicide bombing.

In November 2008, the same month Barack was elected, the show portrayed the inauguration of a woman president---yet another prediction. Coincidentally, today is Election Day.

Some people think the series stereotypes Arabs, Middle Easterners, and Muslims as terrorists, but they apparently haven't seen many episodes. More than half of the villains on the show are neither Arab, nor Middle Eastern, nor Islamic. Not only that but the show often addresses the prejudice against these groups. In season 7 for example, White/Caucasian domestic terrorists try to frame an innocent man for a bombing; they think they'll get away with it because the man is Pakistani American and a practicing Muslim.

Another way that "24" was groundbreaking was by casting an unusually high number of mixed-race women. If you consider that...

1. the entertainment industry has always been White/Caucasian-dominated 
2. the media and pop culture have always ignored mixed heritage 

...then it's unprecedented to see this many mixed-race people in a major network TV series. 

This show holds the record for the most multiracial actresses in a TV series. This isn't an official record but it's hard to imagine another TV series with even more mixed actresses than this. If I'm wrong and there's another series with more, then that's great because it means there's more mixed people on TV than I thought. 

I invite/challenge you to make a list like this for a series that beats this record. Meanwhile, this is my list of mixed girls on "24"...

Marisol Nichols

Even though her character, Nadia Yassir, is Middle Eastern, she's really Mexican, Hungarian, Spanish, and Romanian.

Reiko Aylesworth

Her role as Michelle Dessler gives her more appearances on the show than anybody on this list. 
Her first name is a hint of her quarter-Japanese heritage, which also includes Welsh and Dutch.

Megalyn Echikunwoke

She plays the daughter of Senator Palmer in season 1. Her mother is White/Caucasian and her father is Nigerian.

Chuti Tiu

Her character is the personal assistant of the villain in season 2. She was born and raised in Wisconsin and is Chinese and Filipino.

Lourdes Benedicto

Her role is computer programmer Carrie Turner in season 2. She's Filipino and Dominican.

Christina Chang

She portrays Dr. Sunny Macer in seasons 3 and 7. She was born and raised in Taiwan to a Chinese-Filipino dad and a White/Caucasian mom.

Gina Torres

Her character is Julia Milliken in season 3. Both of her parents are multiracial Cubans; Gina, her mom, and her dad are all mixed Latino/Black.

Kamala Lopez

She plays the wife of a federal agent in season 3. Her dad is Venezuelan and her mom is Indian (South Asian, not Native American). She was born in New York City and grew up in Venezuela.

Lana Parilla

Her character is computer expert Sarah Gavin in season 4. Her mom is Italian and her dad is Puerto Rican, and she was born and raised in New York City.

Merle Dandridge

She appears in one episode of season 8 playing an attorney. Her mother is Japanese/Korean and her dad is Black. She was born in Okinawa, Japan and grew up in Nebraska.

Neisha Folkes

Her role is a temporary babysitter at CTU Los Angeles in season 3. Her page on a casting website confirms she's mixed race, though it doesn't say her specific ethnicities.

Jacqueline Piñol

She's in one episode in season 7, playing a woman taken hostage in her house. Her heritage is mixed French Latin American. She was born in New York City and grew up in Los Angeles.

Sandrine Holt

She plays the First Lady's assistant in season 5, and also the mother of a girl who's played by the next actress on this list. Sandrine was born in England and grew up in Canada. Her birth surname is Ho, which is from her Chinese father, and her mother is White/Caucasian.

Skylar Roberge

Her character is a kidnapped girl in season 5 and the previous actress on this list portrays her mom. Apparently the producers were aware of mixed heritage when they cast these two parts. Skylar was born in Hawaii, which is the US state with the highest percentage of mixed people.

Talin Silva

Her page on a casting website confirms she's mixed but doesn't say her specific background. Whether or not she has any Middle Eastern heritage, she plays a little girl from the fictional Mideast country of Kamistan, in one episode of season 8.


These actresses on "24" might be multiracial but I couldn't find anything on their ethnicities. 

Clockwise from top-left, along with their roles in the series:

1. Tamara Tunie: CTU director Alberta Green in season 1
2. Pia Artesona: the secretary of one of the bad guys in season 5
3. Lissa Pallo Strong: a woman at a hotel bar in season 5
4. Jolene Kim: the assistant to the US president in season 6
5. Tania Verafield: a woman on the other end of a phone call in season 8
6. Sarah Hollis: an aide at the White House in season 8

Alexandra Lydon

She plays the daughter of the villain in season 3. Unlike the "unconfirmed" actresses above, I did find info on her ethnicity...

...and she isn't multiracial, she's Irish. She shouldn't be on this list but I included her for 2 reasons:

1. She is mixed nationality because she's a dual citizen (Ireland and USA), and I'd like to take this opportunity to mention that nationality isn't the same thing as race. 90% of the time, when somebody says "nationality", they really mean race/ethnicity. I'm always correcting people. Nationality means citizenship; it's a legal status that has nothing to do with racial/ethnic background. The nationalities of most of these actresses is American.

2. In my opinion, her physical appearance could pass as some type of mixed heritage, which means she could portray a mixed character, which means she could influence media representations of multiracials if she ever played one, even if she might not be one in real life. Marisol Nichols, the first actress on this list, isn't a Middle Easterner but she played one; she therefore had an influence on how that group is represented.


Lisa said...

I'm surprised with the amount of Filipino people on "24" even though I'm also Filipino but Spanish, White American, and Chinese. I know in one episode there was a Filipino guy.

bunnybuntales said...

Sandrine Holt is so gorgeous

Anonymous said...

I thought I read somewhere that in the Science of genetics, there isn't really such a thing as "race". Our concept of race is purely what we visually perceive and assume based on what the predominant features are in groups of people from different areas of the world.

Genes can express themselves in many different ways and twins who are the so called "same race"can have very different features. Geneticists have proven how diverse the genetic mix is. We should be celebrating the complexities of our make-up, celebrating the fact that our identity is far more complex and deeper than we can ever know. Our features are not an allegiance or expression of a particular "race" or even "several races", but an expression of our uniqueness as Human Beings. We have always been way too obsessed with how we look on the outside, what a better world it would be if we focused andworked on our Hearts, Minds and Spiritual growth.