Is The Bold and the Beautiful Talking Around Race With Thomas and Dayzee?


Race and racism are issues we still don’t talk about openly. It makes people uncomfortable, so we end up ignoring or talking around it. The controversy last year over whether or not racist language should be redacted from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn perfectly illustrated this. Rather than dealing with our complicated, racist past, some people decided to erase references to that past. But erasing will not change the fact that it happened, nor will it solve anything in the present.

On The Bold and the Beautiful, race rarely came into play until Eric's (John McCook) wife Donna (Jennifer Gareis) was reunited with the child she had given up for adoption as a teenager. It turned out her son Marcus (Texas Battle) was the product of a biracial union and he simply looked black. When he first appeared, Donna was conflicted about telling Eric and worried that it might end their marriage…only her reaction had nothing to do with race. Or so the show would have us believe.

 

B&B had an opportunity to really talk about race, but they retreated and instead opted for coded language. Donna gave her baby up for adoption, kept the pregnancy a secret and never even told the father, but only because she didn't want to ruin his life, not because the father was black. Eric might react badly, you see, because she had kept her history a secret, not because the secret involved a black son. It was interesting to watch the show talk around the issue. They were able to reap the drama of race conflict without ever actually dealing with race. In fact no one ever brought up the fact that Marcus was black. And Marcus himself never wondered if it was an issue. He was quickly accepted, and even calling Eric "dad" in no time!

B&B sketched a completely color-blind society—one we don't live in— and it was dishonest for the show to not have race enter the conversation at all. It was even more dishonest when they had characters act the way one would expect them to act in this situation, except it was always about something other than race. B&B wanted to have its cake and eat it too, to push the buttons on a hot topic without actually dealing with the hot topic.

And they’re doing it again in the current storyline with Dayzee (Kristolyn Lloyd) and Thomas (Adam Gregory). Dayzee is black and used to be homeless. Thomas is white and rich. Their budding relationship is approved by everyone except Thomas’ sister Steffy (Jacqueline Macinnes Woods). I actually give the show major credit for daring to write a legacy character as snobby and unlikable as Steffy, but once again, they’re dancing around the race issue. Steffy bemoans the fact that Daizee isn't beautiful, educated or sophisticated enough for her brother.

Now…what is that if not code for racism? Steffy could easily be saying that she wants her brother to date a white girl and the conflict would be the same. But the show is too timid to go there so instead, they obscure race and cloak it in class conflict. And no one else calls Steffy on it or even suggests that race might be the issue, which is even more absurd. The show wants you to get it (wink wink) without actually acknowledging race and racism.

Here’s the thing that B&B should keep in mind. Yes race is a sensitive topic, but it's one that needs to be dealt with. It’s more complicated than white person = bad, black person = good, and even a racist character or someone who harbors some bigotry can have other redeeming qualities. They're afraid that allowing a bigoted character will turn the audience against that character forever. But so what? They should be concerned only with writing real world drama and race issues are just that. Steffy is already unlikable to many viewers and if you write it in an intelligent, nuanced way, you could tell a good story about her struggling with her bigotry.

Remember, a show isn’t racist just because it has a racist character. This is the boy-cry-wolf response that some well-meaning anti-discrimination groups fall victim to. Depicting bigotry is merely depicting real life. What matters is not whether a character is racist, sexist or homophobic, but rather where the show’s sensibilities lie. If Steffy is the villain against the supercouple of Thomas and Dayzee, then the show’s sensibilities on racism would be clear and noble. Instead, the show thinks it is doing the right thing by acting as if race doesn’t exist, all of its characters are color-blind, and the issue never comes up at all.

But this isn’t noble, it’s just false. Race and racism exist and when characters talk around it, we intuit the falseness. Imagine if Huck and Jim had gone on all those capers and Jim’s status as a slave never once came up, if the only issue was their shared poverty. Would the novel have endured as an American classic? Would anyone even believe it? You can’t make it better by pretending it doesn’t exist. When it comes to race, it’s not that black and white.

 

22 Responses

  1. Avatar of josser
    josser

    Y&R avoided the same kinds of questions with Lily and her lovers/husbands. All have been white but no one says anything. Although I recall Neil once saying something when Kevin gave Lily and STD.

    I think AMC, ATWT, and OLTL dealt with race in similar situations better. When AMC’s Angie Hubbard dated Cliff Warner race was discussed just as it was on ATWT when Jessica began dating Duncan. OLTL still mentions race.

    It’s a shame that real world conversations are avoided.

  2. Avatar of soapjunkie88
    soapjunkie88

    You would believe that B&B could make a great story about racism here, specially because they do have the set up to do it. But they avoid it…

    Yeah it’s a shame that soaps (Y&R included) can’t deal with those topics.

  3. Avatar of GLTURNS70
    GLTURNS70

    With all due respect Akash, I’m proud of Brad simply because, this love story is not about interacial romance. I think it has more to do with the social economic differnces and I think the actors and writers are playing it the same way. I could see you point if this was A Soap Set in the Mid West or South, Where the people find themselves trying to step past the racial lines. IN LA I think that race is really a cold topic not really important just, subliminal.

  4. Avatar of SoapSlut
    SoapSlut

    great article akash. I admittedly haven’t been watching BNB since before this storyline started, but I knew that it would be handled in this light way.
    It is interesting that Steffy is their main protagonist, and if they would have made it be about race they could have played the beat of Steffy’s relationship with Marcus. Tough I get Bold isn’t really a show about nuance, they have showed steps in recent years of trying to give their show more heart. I would have loved to see it done in a way that everyone reacted differently to it, for some of the Forresters it could be about race, for some class, for some both, and then there could be people that were completely fine with it. That’s real. I think this is where soaps main problems lie, they want new veiwership and publicity, yet they are afraid to tell new stories in interesting ground breaking ways.

  5. Avatar of keanna
    keanna

    I am with you GLTURNS70, if B&B was set in the South or even the Midwest, then I can see your point, Akash.

    ButI am glad Brad’s going with economic differences instead of racial differences, because too many soaps decide to mention race (the few times) when they’ve had interacial romances. I mean isn’t love suppose to be “color blind.”

    Personally I am all for more interacial romances, do what B&B is doing and throw caution to the wind.

  6. Avatar of josser
    josser

    Forgot to mention that Steffy motivation of snobbery does make sense. Because Steffy dated Marcus, I doubt that she would be racist against Dayzee.

  7. Avatar of alstonboy4315
    alstonboy4315

    Josstheguy–

    NOTHING for me about “Malibu Barbie” makes even a lick of sense to me!!! She’s like a gnat with expensive lip gloss on that needs to be swatted.

    :D :D :D :D :D :D :D

  8. Avatar of Akash Nikolas
    Akash Nikolas

    Josstheguy, GLTURNS70 and Keanna raise some good points. However, I think it's dishonest of B&B to bring up stories involving interracial romances and long-lost biracial children without EVER acknowledging race. It doesn't necessarily have to be a "Steffy is racist" angle, but pretending that race and racism don't exist has never helped anyone. It merely perpetuates the notion that we live in a post-race world, and we don't.

    Plus the show is clearly trying to have it both ways with coded language — "Eric will be upset if he finds out about Marcus/Thomas should be dating someone more appropriate" — i.e. mining the drama of race conflict without dealing with race.

  9. Avatar of SoapFan75
    SoapFan75

    Yes I agree with the others that it would not make sense for Steffy to have an issue with race since she dated Marcus. I think they are going to play the rich boy/poor girl or class (I dislike that word) angle instead. My race related problem with this is I do not want them to make Dayzee all sweetness and nice. They introduced this character as a young woman who has lived on the streets and been exposed to alot of horrible things in her life. Yes a sweet romance is fine but when we get to the stage of big, bad Steffy voicing her displeasure with this “homeless girl” dating her brother I do not want Dayzee to back down for fear of showing the black person as a mean person. Yes, I know that Justin was revealed as the one who played the tape of Steffy exposing Brooke and Oliver at the fashion show and shockingly making the black guy the villian. But I want them to make Dayzee a well rounded character. I think Kristolyn has alot of potential and would love to see all that she can do. This was always my problem with Evangeline on OLTL. Her post OLTL career has cast her in multidimensional roles, I am most intrigued by her recurring role on The Good Wife but Evangeline was too sweetness and nice and frankly boring for me to like. But back to Akash’s viewpoint, I thought if they touched on a family member having an issue it would be the overprotective Taylor but again I figured it would be about a nice but homeless girl not being good enough for her precious son. A little surprised it is Steffy but I am willing to see how this plays out.

  10. Avatar of Smitty
    Smitty

    Interesting piece Akash.

    I get what you are saying but isn’t Madison or whatever the girls name is Asian? I think you are right to not want to beat around the bush with race but I just couldn’t by Steffy being upset at the race factor considering she dated Marcus. Now this is a soap and a character being a hyprocrite wouldn’t be the first time so she could play the race card but I don’t think it’s a beat that needs to be played. Well scratch that. I do think it’s a beat that needs to be played, but with someone different. Maybe Thomas’ father Ridge could object…or Stephanie or Eric. It would see to ring more true for me if one of them objected.

    I do agree that the way the handled the topic with Marcus wasn’t good, but the case of Thomas/Dayzee I just see it as a poor girl dating a rich guy. I think more conflict is best this way instead of handling the race issue.

  11. Avatar of Akash Nikolas
    Akash Nikolas

    I don't want to get too general, but as a South Asian person trust me: Asian is very different from Black or White (and treated differently by particular members of different groups depending on the context).

     

    And I repeat: the storyline doesn't necessarily have to be about Steffy being racist. But not acknowledging race AT ALL in these storylines is dishonest (and a disservice).

  12. Avatar of Cyberologist
    Cyberologist

    Akiash great viewpoint and I get your drift — YES

    Its “very apparent” in Steffy’s scenes she was being an elitist
    even-though Madisen is Asian and beautiful and she adores and once dated Marcus so its hard to say she’s against Daisy because she’s black.

    But Steffy is a stuck-up arrogant entitled rich girl. Her stance re: Stephanie helping the homeless she resents her buying the shop and being wrapped up in “this waitress.” But this is the drama the angst so I’m good with it. I’m a Steffy fan actually she’s like this with Hope as well. She’s written as the beoch.

    But I think it would cause a bigger whoo whoop-de-doo if he went there. Already on CBS.com comment/forums the racists are out and about, I’m reading how Thomas shouldn’t be with her because she’s black and they are from different worlds. However, they do have a lot of support.

    Would I have written Steffy to say because she’s not beautiful (ugly), uneducated (illiterate), homeless (poor), without a career omitting an obvious reason?

    ‘she’s black and poor you’re rich and white.’ Boom that’s it because it says it all…but what would the audience response be to something like this?

    I like the storyline (of course I would write it differently); I think the Cinderella theme is cute. And Ridge is right
    about women like being swept off their feet. But is Thomas just “impressed” with Daisy or does he really have “feelings” for her or what is his story?

    Does he just want to have fun with her because he’s said repeatedly he doesn’t want to get serious. (Like Daisy told him) when the novelty wears off?

    The scene w/Steffy w/her parents was funny when she said, “What are you smoking?” They should have brought in race…in this conversation IMO…

    Also, in numerous conversations it was screaming to be said, e.g. Ridge/Thomas, Brooke/Ridge when they discovered who Thomas was having dinner with. Stephanie isn’t bringing it up either..its like everybody loves Daisy.

    Thomas does mention how rich (privileged) he is and all that but at least Daisy/Thomas should “talk about the fact he’s a rich white playboy.” Instead of this “she’s making a difference in the world, she’s not impressed by superficial things” which every character is chanting its coming off like she’s Sojourner Truth or Harriet Tubman.

    I think Aaron Spears (Justin) did a fine job acting wise in his storyline with Donna. Marcus and Thomas are competing is what I’m also getting out of this. I want someone to say Daisy is black though because Thomas is acting like he doesn’t know that. Just as they handled the Marcus/Justis storyline. It just occurred to me after reading your article you’re right…no one ever says it..Hey you’re black..

    Also laughed when Daisy said I’ll roll by in the food truck…Thomas goes “Ah no they may need the food truck”

  13. Avatar of Cyberologist
    Cyberologist

    Akash I never knew this about Asians being treated differently. I learn something new everyday and I did use “the wrong word” in my previous post so I changed it LoL didn’t mean to say racist meant to say “elitist”

  14. Avatar of Angie Lucy
    Angie Lucy

    I’ve lived in both the South and in Southern California. LA doesn’t get a pass, sorry. It may not be as overt in the West, but racism is alive and well. My friend’s mother objected to her dating a Black guy. She also objected to her dating my cousin (also Black, as am I); however, she was willing to put up with it because he was light-skinned (as am I). That’s simply one of many stories I could share.

  15. Avatar of GHfan-4now
    GHfan-4now

    I agree with Angie Lucy that racism is everywhere. It may not be as prominent in other places and perhaps even a lot more subtle and not so overt, but it does exist. Many people who have been subjected to it know it when they see it, and no matter if you’re living in New York or LA, or in my very own backyard of Oklahoma City, folks experience it in various ways. Just last December, a man in my city created a snow man topped with a carrot stick, pipe… white hood and a hanging noose. He also painted a swastika on his front door, just to let us little “colored folk” know what was what. It may be 2011, but, sigh, idiots and bigots are still abound everywhere. Don’t let a change of location fool you.

    In regards to Evangeline, I still miss her on OLTL. :sad:

  16. Avatar of dwood37
    dwood37

    Excellent point petitejolie. You know, Thorne made reference to the possibility that Thomas could be gay to Ridge a while back. I actually think having Thomas gay would have been a helluva lot more interesting than having him with Dayzee. ( I personally think they have ZERO chemistry and this has NOTHING to do with her being black). I mean, Forrester Creations and Jackie M must be the only 2 fashion houses in the WORLD with absolutely NO GAY people working in them. If Thomas was gay, it would have introduced SO MUCH more by way of story, particularly since everyone thinks he’s so much like Ridge. Can you imagine how ground breaking this could have been if he WAS interested in a black guy? So, I’ll sleep through the Dayzee/Thomas thing. ZZZzzzzZZZZzzzZZZZZ

  17. Avatar of Smitty
    Smitty

    Akash I had a change of heart. Ok so I thought somemore about this piece last night and I thought this is par for the course for B&B. B&B doesn’t even acknowledge the incestual behavior of it’s characters so should we really expect them to talk about race?

    Akash you are absolutely right. Asian race relations are much different than the black vs white race issues. There is such a deep, dark, and nasty history with race relations betweent blacks and whites that I think many tv shows try and not address them. Many of us would like to think that America has come very far from this but race issues should be just as prevalent (sp?) today than they were 40 and 80 years ago. Brad Bell has never been one to really deal with race on his show. Which we shouldn’t give him a free pass because I think back to Y&R. We all have been mentioning how Lily Winters only dates white boys but no one mentions it. I think we all need to hold all these soaps to the same standards as we do other ones. If this piece was about Y&R and Lily I honestly think my response would have been different. Which is wrong.

    Akash you are right they are truly doing a disservice by not addressing the race issue.

  18. Avatar of Restless Vixen
    Restless Vixen

    [quote]I am with you GLTURNS70, if B&B was set in the South or even the Midwest, then I can see your point, Akash.[/quote]
    Why would it make any difference if the show was based in the South or the Midwest? Far too often those regions get scapegoated for racism when issues of race are largely an American problem across the map. Does anyone really believe that the Northeast and West Coast are void of racism? Personally, I think the greater LA area is one of the most racially segregated places in the US.

    And there’s another issue that’s being ignored. It’s not just the interracial nature of the Thomas/Dayzee pairing. It’s the fact that the female in the relationship is a Black woman. In terms of interracial dating, I think that’s like the last taboo. I don’t think too many people bat an eyelash anymore if they see a white woman with a black man or an Asian woman (of any part of Asia) with a white man or pretty much any combination (with maybe a couple of other exceptions). Y&R is another soap that really dropped the ball with this (with Lily 3 times! Kevin was her first, and she married Daniel and later Cane)

    Great article, Akash. I agree that ignoring the issue is not the right approach. I don’t want the show to turn this into a preachy afterschool special, but pretending like no one noticed Dayzee is black is just dishonest. Like Akash said, Steffy doesn’t have to necessarily be racist, but to pretend like everything is raceless is insulting, especially to those of us who know better from personal experience.

  19. Avatar of AHeart4Fiction
    AHeart4Fiction

    I’m a new B&B viewer so I did’t see the Marcus s/l. But from the way it sounds the s/l didn’t go as well as people would have liked. But I do agree with Akash, race should at least be mentioned. I would like to see a bit of realism.

    Also I thought Evangeline Williamson was a great character of course I’m a little biased. But she stood up for herself, mainly against Blair, had a career and wasn’t dependent on a man.

    Edit: I agree with Akash and just wanted to add that Brad Bell is flirting with the race topic. Because this past week, Dayzee told Thomas she didn’t want to be his “walk on the wild side” and that struck me as odd at first. Then it hit as Dayzee telling Thomas she didn’t want to be an experiment or project. That statement only made me want Brad to explore the topic further b/c I wanted Thomas and Dayzee to talk about her comment more.

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