Response to Julia article

September 30, 2009

Please write a 4-5 sentence response to the article comparing black, white and anonymous responses to Julia. Please post by 9am Thursday, so we can discuss the responses in class.

See you Thursday.

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18 Responses to “Response to Julia article”

  1. Tanner Senter Says:

    It really isn’t hard to tell the difference between some of the comments written by anonymous white and black people. The white anonymous writers simply, did not like the fact that black people were on TV and for some strange reason was being forced to watch them, instead of just changing the channel like most people do when they don’t want to see something. Instead, some start making threats like; they won’t buy certain products that support the show and saying “color is being shoved down their throats.” While some of the black anonymous writers claim that the show has no knowledge of real black people. The show to them is unrealistic and is catered towards white audiences. Another major reason to both groups not liking the show or wants a better representation of the show is with all the controversial media going on in the black community is showing on TV. All the riots, protests and news that are happening during this time period is making a lot of people upset. That being said, both sides clearly dislike or are upset with the show. The white writers for the reason, too much “color” is being seen on television and black writers, the misinterpretation that black people are getting viewed as by TV.

  2. Brittany Fisher Says:

    Aniko Bodroghkozy’s article, Is This What You Meant by Color TV? on the early 1950s NBC show, Julia, does a very good job in balancing the anonymous comments and critiques submitted by viewers. Given the controversial time period in which the show (focusing on black lifestyle, starring black actors and black writers) was aired, the diversity between American’s opinions of the show were exceptionally broad. Whites and blacks alike had both positive and negative feedback about Julia, though much of the comments had a similar theme of Julia being “too white”. A white woman wrote, “I hope this program helps all of us to understand each other,” while a black woman said, “Your show is geared to the white audience with no knowledge of the realness of normal Negro people. Your work is good for an all white program, but something is missing from your character – Julia is unreal.”

  3. Tatiana Galli Says:

    For the show “Julia,” there were many letters written to the producer, Hal Kanter, by audience members. These letters expressed the audiences’ various reactions/opinions toward the show. A common trend found in the letters written by white individuals was that each individual would make an important point to state that they were white. From this, one can see that there was strong self-consciousness about racial self-identification among the white letter writers. As for the anonymous viewer, who were complaining to the producer about how the show portrays a unrealistic representation of black, it is quite obvious to say that the majority of this viewers were black individuals. This can be said because it is very natural for individuals, of whose race is being represented, to become upset or offended if this representation is unrealistic or incorrect. This is true also for the white viewers. Many white housewives made complaints of how, in the show, Julia’s white neighbor, Mrs. Waggedorn, is portrayed as dumb, stupid, and sloppy. These people found great offense to this because they believe it is a very inaccurate representation of the white housewife/mother. Also, one can say that the majority of the letter writers, who complained about the presence of blacks on television, were white. Because most comments that were written to Hal were so harsh and vulgar, (i.e. “Is this what you mean by color T.V. ugh. Click!!,”) it is quite clear that they would be written by a white viewer. In general, there is a significant distinction from the white and black letter writers. The black writers seemed to show “a great participatory quality in their engagement with the program.” Unlike the write writers who seem to only complain and criticize the show, the black writers seem to want to help change and improve the show. They did this by offering to play parts (specific actors) and write new episodes for the show. As for the anonymous writers, it was very easy to determine who (whether a white/black individual) wrote the letter based on what was said.

  4. Gwen Baldwin Says:

    The letters written to the producer of “Julia” show the extreme tension of the time. It seems as though no matter what the producer did with the role of Julia, no one was happy. One letter describes how it was unfair to make the African American woman look better by making the white neighbor look worse. Whereas, if he had made the African American woman look worse than the white woman, he would have angry viewers over that as well. Either way it seems that through these letters Hal Kanter cannot make everyone happy. Although the letters might be negative on both ends, it caused people to write letters and stand up to what they didn’t want to see, rather than sitting back and letting it go.

  5. Ari Lifschutz Says:

    Aniko Bodroghkozy’s article goes into the different views of the sitcom “Julia” and how both black, whites, and anonymous viewers of the show reacted to it. From each cultural view there were some very controversial yet intriguing comments that caught my eye. After reading Montana’s post I fully agree with him that it is quite shocking regardless of how Julia is portrayed that African Americans at the time would not be proud of having their first star in a sitcom since 1948 with Amus and Andy. It’s mind boggling to me that the black people at this time didn’t see Julia as an inspiration. They make some very good points as well as certain critics as this not being any bit “Negros” with no ghetto life but why can’t we step out of the boundaries and have a success story.
    When it came to the white viewers in the first couple pages, I was amazed about how great they were being considering the circumstances surrounding them. The one mother from Ohio with the young boys and how she thought the show would teach her boys not to grow up prejudice really showed how this show could of helped the racial boundary. However, at the same time these people showed how society thought back then when the called themselves “everyone else”(whites) and considered blacks “just people”. Furthermore with the white comments I was shocked to read about how some white housemothers were so outraged by the white neighbor not being so bright and the black mother as one person describes her as being “mother of the year.” Why couldn’t they see the good in this show and not find reasons to complain.
    The anonymous viewers had many different views and if you recognized the time frame I am not shocked by many of them. The one viewer wrote a letter saying you better find a big black boy to put on the show because he was outraged at the fact that there was even a hint of interracial sexuality. As well most of the anonymous viewers were even mad “Negros” were on TV, which show people’s true colors at this time.

  6. seychelle Says:

    The show Julia brought racial tensions of the time to mainstream television. Julia generated various negative and positive reactions. Many white viewers liked the show, believing that, although tamed, the issues presented in the show could help them understand the black race. Some liked the sensitivity given to the political and social concerns. Contradictory to this, some white women believed they were portraying the white mother in the show as dumb, sloppy, and disrespectful. Other viewers, both black and white refused to see Julia as a realistic character. Many critics saw Julia in this light. The ‘ghetto experience,’ which is perhaps stereotypical of African Americans, was not represented on television. Blacks had two overriding viewpoints of the show. Some could relate to specific characters in Julia, which they loved. Other blacks were offended by the show, also believing that it was unrealistic.

  7. Heather Putman Says:

    Whites and blacks posed varying responses to the show “Julia”, yet the white viewers seemed more urgently outspoken on the issue of racism than the black viewers, who concentrated on blacks’ contributions to the production of the show. White viewers, many “typical” housewives, wrote in, expressing their displeasure at seeing a white woman in a mockingly comedic role while Julia could be, as one woman described, “Mother of the Year.” Bodroghkozy explains, “They saw a reverse discrimination” (48). He maintains that while the critics’ preferable “tell it like it is” mentality, placing Julia in conditions more suited to her race and therefore social station, may have attracted more black viewers, this mentality affirmed the “unconsciously racist notion that the black experience was essentially a ghetto experience.” Indeed, some blacks did not feel they could relate to Julia in her upper-middle class home and stable occupation. They wrote in to suggest plot devices, new characters, and even offered to act in the show or help write it. The author sees this as positive: “By acting in and writing for the show, [blacks] became producers of meaning, rather than mere recipients of meaning construed by whites.” This conscious portrayal of race on television, by the race being portrayed, served to heighten awareness of one race’s general circumstances. The letters of viewers proclaim vastly different opinions, but everyone, black and white, to some degree, deemed Julia and her lifestyle unrealistic.


  8. What really grabbed my attention in the article was the almost complete ignorance of white TV executives, writers and citizens during the early 1960s. It is quite obvious that the African American population was outraged by the poor representation of black people in the show Julia. The article concludes with a final quote from a black woman in Los Angeles who says, “Your show is geared to a white audience with no knowledge of the realness of normal Negro people…To repeat again – Julia is no Negro woman I know. & I’m Negro with many friends in situations such as hers.” This is only one of many opinions from blacks around the country basically stating the same thing. Julia did a poor job of accurately depicting black culture and lifestyle.

    However, TV executives and writers continued to produce the show for three years, despite the fact that it was out of touch with true reality. The African-American population had many complaints against the show (151 letters and postcards, to be exact) and hoped for the chance to actually demonstrate how the “typical” or “average” black American lived in the 60s. I think that feedback from white fans of the show further indicates that black people had been extremely misrepresented for a long time. Though what the white Ohio mother has to say about the program is not intended to negatively target African Americans- “Being a white person I hope this program helps us all to understand each other. Maybe if my children watch this program they will also see the good side of Negro people [rather] than all the bad side they see on the news programs,” it is clear that she is unaware that black people did not, in fact, live like those in the TV show. Without accurate representation how could her boys ever really hope to understand the “good side of Negro people” if they never saw a true “side of Negro people?”

  9. Kaitlyn Says:

    Part of the entertaining factor in television is to allow the fantasy world come alive. In the late 1960’s when it was a far fetch concept for a black widow to live in a magnificent complex with her son television was the only outlet to let a colored person’s dream come true. However, white people enjoyed watching Julia. “Our whole family from great grandmother down to my five year old love it, we just happen to be Caucasian.” Not every person who was white in the late 1960’s discriminated against the blacks, it was just out of context for any white person to admire the life of an affluent black person. It seems so unfair but that was the reality back in the sixties. Julia lets the audience erase the discrimination that the world holds so tightly against black people for a matter of a minutes based per episode.

  10. Katie Cato Says:

    The response of the white population varied greatly from appreciation to outright hatred. It was interesting that some of them were able to appreciate the show because it showed black people as being “just people” even though the representation of Julia was seen, by many, as too white; this suggests that the mind set of a great deal of the white population was that white characteristics were what was normal and were what made the black population less threatening.
    The responses of the black population, while although they were somewhat critical of the show lacking reality, they were more willing to open up a dialogue with the show, offering suggestions to change the show in order to improve it. Because television was seriously lacking shows that dealt with black families and Julia help to fill that void, the black population was probably grateful for the show and therefore did not outright criticize the show as more of the white population did. They recognized that the show had its problems, but gave solutions to its problems in order to improve the image that was being portrayed on television; they wanted to encourage and foster the showing of black people on television, not condemn it.
    White people were able to criticize the show because they had nothing to loose–they already had control of the majority of the shows on television; however the black population had so few shows filling the vast void of shows dealing with black people, that many of them might have felt that they needed to cushion their criticism with solutions in order to encourage the expansion of black television.

  11. Eunice Heredia Says:

    The article “Is this what you mean by color TV?” viewed as a joke of a series, to those who are black. They believe she is one of the few shown of the race, yet she is not glorified by viewers. Yes, different ethnicities can identify with the show “Julia”, yet at the beginning of when the show was airing they believed it was not going to be successful. Therefore doubts were created on how African Americans should be portrayed and not seen on television. Though the show had success and gave NBC a run for the money they were putting in the show. There were some negative comments on how the show was not portraying an actual African American in a ghetto, but a successful single mother. They wanted to see the negative side of Julia (i.e. the stereotype that had been presented by the media). Others believed they connected with the character, which made the viewers believed there is someone who understands their background.

  12. Erica May Says:

    The program known as Julia was able to make strides in overcoming the divide among the perception and portrayal of blacks and whites during American culture in the 60’s. Although the show was not expected to be successful, it ended up causing controversy and prompted viewers to speak out, resulting in high ratings. The mixture of comments agreeing and disagreeing with the show were revealed through the opinions of both black and white viewers. Some found the positive portrayal of the characters to be the “good side of Negro people” rather than the bad side seen on other forms of media such as the news. Others did not agree with the portrayal of the family because the show was not “telling it like it is.” As a result, there is a struggle of how the truth or reality should be shown to the public. By making the family act more “white”, does that necessarily make a positive image? Is this realistic? Is this strictly for entertainment?
    Although this show caused so much controversy, I think it was a good way to bring black people on the home screen and put these issues out in the open. The presence of black actors on television was becoming more prominent, and it was important to show how both white and black audiences could relate to the characters on the show. If there was common ground among all viewers, the gap of racial tension could slowly come to a close.

  13. Irene Ruiz Dacal Says:

    One of the most interesting aspects explored by Bodroghkozy’s “Is This What You Mean by Color TV?”, in my opinion, is the need for white letter writers to identify themselves racially (415) in their texts. This fact brought me straight back to the idea of social construction. How much of whiteness is constructed in opposition to blackness, and vice versa? How much of our identity is created in reaction to others’? It was also interesting to see how black letter writers seemed disappointed with the whiteness of the show and its deviation from black “reality” (417). I think this also goes back to the idea of racial construction and, specifically, to the media’s role in creating it. The black writers, similarly to the white, asserted their own race in direct opposition to an “other”. The black letter writers’ aversion to the show because of its white characteristics furthers the idea of social construction by contraposition. Finally, in the anonymous letter writers, we see a “full-blown fear” of racial interaction (419). Their texts further the idea of “otherness”: the viewer is terrified of interaction and seeks to sustain the hierarchy that maintains races differentiated. I think the idea of social construction through dialectic means pervades these letters, and helps to exemplify how race is built on ideas held by opposing groups of each other.

  14. Emily Sadler Says:

    In the article by Bodroghkozy, the ways that black and white viewers responded and “made sense” of the program were in very different ways (414). White responses showed that they saw the the program as showing the “good side” of black people and that it would help everyone understand one another. Others had problems with the program showing a false reality and that it was “unwilling to allow the program to be “black” (417). The view of the show was vastly different across races and showed in the letters. Bodroghkozy writes: “Such letters show the ideological extremes vieweres could go to in their meaning-making endeavors. “Julia” as a text certainly did not encourage these interpretations.But since meanings are neither entirely determined nor controlled by the text and since viewers are active agents in the process of constructing their own meanings, we can see how disturbing the process can be” (419). Overall there were very different views on how the show was created and what it should have done to portray a realistic portrait of a black family.

  15. Kelly Glenn Says:

    In reading the inserted comments about television show, Julia, in the article it surprised me. Never having seen the show myself, I was forced to go off what the article discusses about the show and it appears that the “whites” seem to be more accepting about the show rather than blacks. In addition, it seems that whites were more positive about the experience and encouraged it, whereas blacks found it to “not be telling it like it is” which was the point of the show. Blacks seemed to be more concerned about about what blacks were giving back to the show where as whites seemed to view it as a reverse discrimination that was offensive to the whites. I also think that these responses help demonstrate what the audiences were feeling about the show at the time and the author says it perfectly that “what is most compelling about the letters iw they way the reveal the remarkably conflicted, diverse,a nd contradictory response among audience members” (415). I think that while it was very clear in the difference between whites and blacks, the anonymous responses were also pretty clear about which race they were coming from based on the large contrast in opinions overall in the article. The only thing that both races seemed to agree on was that Julia seemed to be unrealistic, just for two different reasons.

  16. Michelle Everst Says:

    I found the denial of difference that white people applauded was very interesting. Most black people who responded to this article were upset at the fact that the blacks in the show were basically portrayed as white, the only difference was skin color. It’s especially interesting given the time period that this show came out. At that point in American history, blacks were attempting to find their place in society but I doubt that they were trying to pass as whites with dark skin. I feel like thats the only viewpoint that white people saw as acceptable, thus they praised when black people were shown just like them. Obviously there are cultural differences, personal mannerisms, clothing, decor, etc… that surely could have been brought into the show while still maintaining the premise of a wealthy black family. This is what I felt the black people who commented were trying to get across in their responses. I also wonder if the producers did take up any of the offers from people to help out with the show or if they were considered then disregarded.

  17. Alicia Fischer Says:

    Many of the responses contradicted each other. Some were excited about the television shows because they symbolized the gradual elimination of racism. Other people argued that the shows should be removed from the air because they confirmed stereotypes about black people, they were offensive, and they further divided races. One woman wrote the network staying that she was white and was glad her children could “ see the good side of Negro people rather than the bad side they (the children) always see on the news” (415). She hoped that this exposure would help her kids have open minds and not discriminate against black people or people of other races. This letter was one of the many supporting the idea that “black centered programs brought up questions regarding unexamined definitions of racial identity and diversity” (415). This surfaced the debate of whether there were good blacks and bad blacks (415). It also brought up the question, “what does it mean to be white?” (415).Other people wrote in arguing that the black actors of these new shows were “acting white” (417). They argued that black actors should “act black”, which I inferred as being themselves- no acting or pretending to be someone else (417). Another viewer wrote in stating that she was completely supportive of “improving the image of the Negro woman but the show should not do it at the expense of the white woman” (418). I completely agreed with this perspective. I have trouble grasping why both cannot coexist as successful, well rounded, diverse people. Why must one top the other?

  18. Amy Slay Says:

    The white, black and anonymous responses to Julia struck very different chords. A white woman proclaimed her positive views of the show, stating that it taught her children “the good side of the negro people”. On the other hand, black viewers did not think the show was black enough, saying that the casting was “so white oriented that everyone has a white mentality”. These two conflicting sentiments indicate that the show attempted to show the “good side” of blacks by giving them as much white appeal as possible. The anonymous viewers offered the harshest criticism, stating that black people “used to be really fine people until the T.V. set came out & ruined the whole world.”


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