author: amaya lucyk | contributor
The announcement (and almost immediate cancellation) of Generation KKK, a TV series by A&E documenting the lives of KKK members, raises more than a few questions, mostly surrounding the nature of the immediate cancellation. It has been reported, mainly in the New Yorker, that while backlash did play a role in its cancellation, it was also the fact that the show-runners decided to pay the subjects to act out scripted scenes in what would be portrayed as a reality TV show/documentary that ended the TV show before it began.
It is the first reason for the show’s early demise that ought to draw the most attention. The show, for all intents and purposes, appears to have been as far from “KKK propaganda” as possible, which makes the outcry stating that it would normalise racism that much more worrying. The people who called for the show to be cancelled had no knowledge that portions of it would be scripted; therefore meaning that they were worried that real-world racism would be the subject matter of a show. It is honestly baffling that we are at the point where the mere depiction of racism is found to be so overtly offensive that we ought to shut it down. It’s not just the implied belief that there are severe limits on our freedom of speech when it comes to subject matter that is deeply troubling, it’s the misguided belief that by trying to erase any racist depictions in media, we will somehow become less racist as a people that has me deeply worried. Normalisation is what happens when acts and views become normal. Normalisation is not when acts and views are visible to the public. Like it or not, there will be bigotry as long as there are people that are different, and by trying to erase any depiction of that bigotry, all we will do is create a grandiose taboo that does nothing to stop the problem.
It is the second reason for the cancellation that truly hits home, and shows just how far removed we are becoming from real-life bigotry. The show-runners wanted to script events so that the KKK would seem even more obviously racist than they are in reality; therefore, what we have, and what the show-runners are emblematic of, is far too many people who have this warped view that all bigots are cartoonishly overt bigots. The unfortunate thing about humanity is that, rather than being the simplistic beings we want to be, we are entirely comprised of subtlety. What the show-runners and, worryingly, most people want is for bigots to be villains rather than people. They want so badly for there to be villains both easily identifiable and quantifiable in the world where there rarely are any. Unfortunately, if one wants to face down bigotry, they have to deal with greater amounts of nuance than they might like.
What is troubling about the whole ordeal is that it seems as though far too many people want nothing more than to have bigots be a far off moral threat that they can cast out of proper society to feel morally superior. Sadly, there’s no easy fix when it comes to bigotry and, to be frank, attempting to erase depictions of it is merely cowardice. It’s honestly disappointing how cowardly those who claim to fight for social justice have gotten. It’s cowardly to tilt at windmills and to create straw men so that they don’t have to face the real thing. It’s cowardly to try to create a bubble away from the realities of the world, and frankly I’d much prefer it if we all stopped being so damned cowardly and faced our real demons head on.