It has been more than a week since George Floyd died at the hands of a Minneapolis Police Department officer and in the days since, protests and demonstrations have developed around the world, as hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in both sprawling metropolitan areas and smaller burgs to decry institutionalized racism and police brutality, and again assert that Black Lives Matter.
Even as clashes between police — and now National Guard troops — and protesters continue, with political actors offering little but empty words and/or escalation, a global pandemic continues to percolate, fueling astronomical unemployment rates and a global economic depression.
With all of those unthinkable travesties unfolding simultaneously, it becomes difficult to find the wherewithal to talk about television at any length.
But that’s also short-sighted and selling the medium short. TV, film, music, and the arts in general have always been a powerful tool in fueling conversations around difficult topics, including the 1970’s sitcoms of Norman Lear, the oeuvre of Spike Lee, and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton.”
It’s with the unifying, educational, and healing elements of pop culture in mind, along with the eye-opening, radicalizing, and infuriating aspects, the team at IndieWire’s TV podcast “Millions of Screens” have curated a short list of series and films to seek out to offer comfort and insight, to amplify the stories of Black artists and creators, as well as shedding light on unsavory realities of American history, too often scrubbed from history books.
For those individuals looking for asylum from the news of the day without blinding themselves to the issues at hand, seek out the work of Justin Simien, whose 2014 film “Dear White People” (available to stream on Prime Video) spawned an eponymous Netflix series which centers on a group of students of color trying to navigate the demands and expectations of life at a predominantly white Ivy League college.
Similarly, seek out Jerrod Carmichael’s “The Carmichael Show” (streaming on Hulu), which during its three seasons on NBC created a Lear-esque environment which leaned into our preconceived notions of multi-cam sitcoms, complete with a live studio audience, and created a space safe enough to discuss pressing and controversial issues, including gun control and mental illness, while also remaining ridiculously funny.
For those seeking more historical context than distraction, it’s difficult to go wrong with the Netflix original content as created by Ava DuVernay. “When They See Us” is DuVernay’s searing limited series illustrating the miscarriage of justice that saw five innocent young men wrongly incarcerated in the 1989 Central Park jogger case.
DuVernay’s documentary “13th” focuses on the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, the prison-industrial complex, and how America’s history disproportionately punishes people of color and then profits off the backs of their labor.
And for those individuals looking for something in-between fact and fiction, HBO’s recent “Watchmen” limited series might be just the ticket. Overseen by Damon Lindelof, in conjunction with many Black artists, including director Stephen Williams, writers Cord Jefferson and Stacy Osei-Kuffour, and star Regina King (among others), “Watchmen” is an alternate history tale which picks up long after Alan Moore’s comic left off. But despite being an alternate history, the limited series delves into the very real history of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, the proliferation of white supremacists within United States institutions, including the government and police, and depicts a reality where both heroes and villains wear masks.
These are just a few of the brilliant pieces of art available for audiences to stream, as lockdown and protests persist and, honestly, whenever you get the chance. For all our recommendations, listen to this week’s episode of “Millions of Screens” with TV Awards Editor Libby Hill, TV Deputy Editor Ben Travers, and Creative Producer Leo Garcia.
Also, join us for discussion of the Color of Change study that revealed the disorienting effect TV depictions of police officers have on audiences, as well as a movement by actors who have played police officers donating generous amounts to #BlackLivesMatters organizations in recognition of the deleterious effect they may have played in the moment at hand.
For more ways to help: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/
“Millions of Screens” is available on Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. You can subscribe here or via RSS. Share your feedback with the crew on Twitter or sound off in the comments. Review the show on iTunes and be sure to let us know if you’d like to hear the gang address specific issues in upcoming editions of “Millions of Screens.” Check out the rest of IndieWire’s podcasts on iTunes right here.
This episode of “Millions of Screens” was produced by Leonardo Adrian Garcia.