Spies and the World

My daughter often despairs of me because I’m so tickled pink when non-whites are leading a t.v. show or movie. It’s not that this never happened when I was growing up, but it was a big deal then and it’s increasingly not a big deal now, as my daughter, rolling her eyes, reminds me about her generation. Of course, my daughter is white, and for her non-white friends there is still a lot of white out there in entertainment land, not to mention dealing with things in the world at large, and it is probably a bigger deal for them when people who look like them get to take the point position. But for all the kids in general, multicultural casts and non-white lead characters are, well, normal.

But for me, it always causes a little jolt, a recognition of time changing, if slowly, of a more honest reflection of the world, of a shift about how that world is viewed, especially by the young. And there was that jolt again, for both me and my husband, when word came out of J.J. Abrams’ new spy show, Undercovers, for NBC, about a couple who get dragged back into that world, and the couple is black, played by Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Just ten, fifteen years ago, it is highly unlikely that the couple would be black in a big tentpole series, and if they were, it would have been a big story in the media. Instead, all the talk was about how much the show might be like and if it will be as good as Abrams’ former spy show, Alias.

Somewhere I have to think that Bill Cosby — who risked life and limb playing a lead spy in the ground-breaking t.v. series I Spy — is smiling that smile of his at that. But my daughter will just roll her eyes at me if I mention it, and that’s as it should be.

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