We’re living through a time when it could be the first time most Americans are exposed to the dating and partner selections for Gay and Lesbian couples—both on TV, and in real life. The new Love Connection Television TV show took a huge step forward, at the front of the tidal wave of having mixed race and gender dating contestants on national television. This racial and gender diversity was unthinkable on TV shows 10-years ago.
It may still offend more conservative people. The enthusiastic, young, in-studio empowerment of TV shows using a Quick Tally Audience Response System, also known as ARS, Clickers and Electronic voting, had no trouble with the TV audience anonymously participating in selecting dating partners from amongst such diverse groups that would never been possible before. It signals an attitudinal change that has become acceptable by the younger generation that “grew-up” on more diverse TV and in my opinion is working its way up through the generations.
Generations have now grown up on racially diverse TV shows such as Sesame Street in which minority characters were featured. Is that because society has become more liberal, or because of the influence of TV, or both?
I grew up only seeing minorities in the movies and dramatic TV shows as servants and villains. The difference is that today’s children not only see a diverse universe of characters but also that these characters have diverse characteristics. It’s okay for characters (good and bad) to have non-American accents or different color skin than the viewer.
The heroes can be male and female, and non-white characters don’t have to be the sidekick: The Cisco Kid and his jovial partner Pancho, Lone Ranger and his stoic Indian partner Tonto, etc. Minorities can assume leading roles in creating expectations that anyone can unsurprisingly be anything.
TV has had its share of influence upon that change and the change circled back upon programming. I remember watching sitcoms that always had to depict married couples in bed with one foot on the ground. It might not have been clearly visible, however, that was the rule. The recent reincarnation of the Love Connection TV Show is an example of the change in attitude as well as methodology in their studio audience voting.
The original show had interactivity with the audience selecting a winner by clapping. That was way back when Quick Tally Interactive Systems (my company) began replacing applause meters on TV shows such as the pioneering game show format of America’s Funniest Home Videos using electronic polling voting devices for instantaneous compilation and display of quantifiable results.
The winner, as originally determined by applause meter, was the contestant that received the loudest noise from the television audience. Results were measured by decibels, not votes. It was wildly inaccurate however it was the only way to instantly determine a winner via group polling.
At about that same time, Quick Tally pioneered real-time, accurate, verifiable audience voting. It was used for the first time on TV on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Audience Response Voting Systems have since become a generic staple at meetings and on TV. Quick Tally Interactive Systems is honored to have been part of this groundbreaking program, supplying accurate instantaneous voting results.
Audience response also known as Electronic Keypad Voting, or Clickers, or ARS are also a powerful tool to empower diverse groups to anonymously voice their opinions on TV Specials dealing with issues such as the nationally televised R.A.C.E, for which Quick Tally Interactive provided the group voting keypad technology. It marked the beginning of the recognition by television producers of the power of anonymity in gaining truthful TV audience polling.
The landmark R.A.C.E – Racial Attitudes and Consciousness Exam was a two-part NBC-TV Nationally Televised program, measuring viewer’s opinions/reactions to various racial scenarios presented. It was ground-breaking (not only in the subject matter) but also technically linking together live interactive voting audiences and individuals across the country.
The Live Quick Tally Audience Polling System technology showed overall individual truthful group polling and analytic results as well as geographic comparison. Often individuals are oblivious to their prejudices. Audience response clickers provided the ability to anonymously discover attitudes of both the individuals and that of the group shown in graphic feedback. Diversity became a major mover and shaker in TV and in the use of electronic keypad (Clicker) polling systems.
History of interracial couples on TV
- Captain Kirk (William Shatner) kissed Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) on Star Trek, which is arguably the first interracial kiss on television.
- I Love Lucy as strange as it seems now, was the first interracial couple, which was made in opposition to the networks having Dezi Arnaz play himself.
- The Jefferson’s had an interracial “black/white” couple as friends of the central characters
- True Colors was about an interracial and their relationships
- The Gilmore Girls
- Six Feet Under about homosexual as well as interracially gay couples
- Scrubs about an interracial couple
- A few more recent examples: Zoe And Wash From Firefly, The L Word (2004), Heroes 2006, Parks and Recreation 2009, Crosby And Jasmine From Parenthood (2010), Happy Endings (2011), and a long list of new shows.
But why are all the TV commercials jumping on the diversity bandwagon? They are also increasingly more representative of the world we’re living in today. They help to attract the broad base of customers and TV audiences whose values align with those portrayed through ads with inclusion and diversity. It’s become good business and in addition, it works towards propagating more diversity in our society.
The change came quickly in advertising. In 1994, Ikea Home Furnishings came out with a trailblazing commercial. Ikea had the first national television ad featuring a gay couple. When it aired, Ikea immediately got negative calls and boycotts. When I wrote to Quick Tally’s clients pointing out interesting change, carefully not making any endorsement, several of them immediately opted out.
In the past few years, companies like travel website Expedia, Amazon and credit card company MasterCard all have ads featuring gay couples. Today it looks like the majority of ads feature multi-racial families. Some producers say that as much as 75% of the product they produce for TV is multi-racial.
In 2015, the Pew Research Center reported at least one in six newlyweds is married to person who is a
different race. The Gallup Poll's results in 2017 showed at least one in 10 Americans are wed to
someone of the same sex.
The Pepperdine Journal of Communication Research 2017 paper Young Adults’ Acceptance of Interracial Relationships on Television
The consequences of television shows depicting minorities and the relationships between them in negative ways as well as the benefits of television positively representing interracial relationships are explained by two theories-social cognitive theory and cultivation theory. According to both theories, the cross-racial interactions viewers observe on television could predispose them to engage in similar types of behaviors in real-life.
Cultivation theory explains how viewers internalize messages as a result of exposure to television and are more likely to accept portrayals as real when television is watched frequently (Potter, 2014). Bandura’s social cognitive theory revolves primarily around the functions and processes of observational learning (Bandura, 1986, 2002). That is, by viewing behaviors, including those of media figures, one may develop rules to guide subsequent actions and/or be prompted to engage in previously learned behaviors. (Bandura, 1994). Thus, for people with limited contact with ethnic groups, television could become a method in which they form subsequent opinions and models. 10 Pepperdine Journal of Communication Research for interaction (Tan, Fujioka, & Lucht, 1997)
Although TV shows such as the New Dating Game are no longer on the air, many of the new TV audience participation shows for which Quick Tally provides the TV studio audience voting (Clicker Polling Technology) now reflect diversity.
- America’s Funniest Home Videos now has a black host Alfonso Ribeiro. He replaced Bob Saget, Daisy Fuentes, John Fugelsang took over as hosts. In 2001, Tom Bergeron replaced the two hosts and left in 2015, making Alfonso Ribeiro the new face of the show.
- Dancing with the Stars Juniors was co-hosted by Jordan Fisher and Frankie Muniz
- Dancing with the Stars was co-hosted by two diverse people: Tom Bergeron and Lisa Channing
- Masked Singer, the run-away hit of 2019, has an African American host Nick Cannon