The Glass Teat, Oct. 11, 1968
Saturday is Friday at Carvel! *
Anyway, in the main this column discusses the beginnings of the entertainment media's process of turning minorities into spokesmen for the Establishment, specifically in the context of having black actors speak and act in ways Ellison felt totally incongruous, given what was going on at the time.
Some context: This was just a couple weeks after the disastrous 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago where protestors had been assaulted by police, six months after the assassination of Martin Luther King, and during the beginnings of both the massive student actions against the Vietnam War and the civil rights "riots" in major American cities.
Just a few weeks after this column "Star Trek" would show the first interracial kiss on national TV and thereby earn the wrath of TV stations in the South who refused to broadcast the episode. So it shouldn't be suprising that Ellison mentions the case of an episode of a show called "The Outcasts" in which (white) actor Don Murray "gets the girl" while (black) co-star Otis Young gets to sit and cool his heels. Young couldn't, after all, have been expected to "further the plot" with the young lady, as Ellison phrases it. It wouldn't do.
Similarly Ellison objects to a speech in "Mod Squad" in which one of the show's protagonists encourages a girl, with much "hip" slang and inspiring talk about Robert Kennedy, to stay in school.
"Did I mention that Mr. Williams and Judy Pace, the actress who played the girl friend, were black? I didn't? Perhaps it was because they didn't sound like any blacks I ever heard. They sounded like The System, and The System is white, so there must have been something wrong with my set's color control."
Thank god TV's so more enlighted these days.
*(You may only get this joke if you're from the NY/NJ/CT area.)