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Minority Show Ghetto

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"Some of you may know me from my films like Madea's Family Reunion and Why Did I Get Married?, or you may know my sitcoms, like Meet the Browns and House of Payne. Or you may be white."

Similar to the Girl-Show Ghetto, but with racial minorities instead of females. This is the idea that fiction centered on a racial minority cannot entertain or otherwise appeal to people outside of that race. Marketers might fear that a work starring a racial minority will be focused on issues of race and culture, driving away audiences who are not interested in such movies. They might also fear that white audiences won't be able to relate to a minority in the lead, or worse, find the movies preachy and/or guilt-inducing simply because of who is in them.

The result of this belief is that works starring people of a racial minority in the work's place of origin are rare compared to works starring a member of a racial majority. If a Western work of fiction wishes to have a diverse cast or deal with issues of race, it will likely star a white person with minorities as supporting actors. See Mighty Whitey, White Man's Burden, White Male Lead, Token White, and Pop-Culture Isolation. Adaptions and anything Based on a True Story fearing this might go for a race lift to get around it, making any minorities in the original work white instead. Alternatively, they might find a white person who had a minor role in the original story and focus on them.

It is not uncommon for works featuring non-white leads to become popular when advertising hides or downplays the presence of non-white characters. This is especially true in written works, where advertising does not require visual representations of the characters. Sometimes these works see no drop in popularity when the lead is shown to be a person of color, suggesting that readers will enjoy a good story once they get over their initial reluctance from seeing a person of color on the cover, or that the reluctance doesn't exist in the first place.

Note that this trope is often a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. Marketeers are afraid that majority people might not be interested in a minority-centric work since it might deal with hard-to-relate themes. This can cause filmmakers to make their movies about those themes since they may be relatable to only minorities to begin with and thus implement themes they feel are important, causing many such movies to in fact feature such themes, thus usually keeping majority people away... and so on. So please be discerning when adding or editing examples.

See also Watched It for the Representation, where people turn out to see a work because it has minorities.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Hirohiko Araki mentioned in an interview that he believes one of the reasons the first two parts of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure didn't make as much of a splash as the third, which starred the half-Japanese, half-American Jotaro Kujo, was because they featured wholly European protagonists during a time when Japanese audiences were heavily against such characters. Since then, with the exception of Steel Ball Run every protagonist in the series has some measure of Japanese heritage in order to avert this trope.

    Comic Books 
  • Dwayne McDuffie, a late great pioneer in the comic book industry, had suffered through this his whole life when being a writer for a comic book series. He called it the rule of three: Where if three or more black characters are in a comic book series, it's considered a "black product" and thus many white readers, who are the overwhelming majority of comic book buyers, ignore it. He also noted a double standard in the industry: where he got flack from readers for writing a Justice League of America run with a largely non-white cast, a white writer would not get the same criticism for writing a book with an all-white cast.
  • At New York Comic-Con, writer Don McGregor mentioned how his Black Panther run came under criticism from white readers over the lack of white characters. His solution? Have the Panther fight the Ku Klux Klan.
  • This is a major reason why Christopher Priest took a decade-long hiatus from writing for Marvel or DC. Despite the fact that he previously had a lengthy career writing titles as varied as Deadpool, Hawkman, Justice League Task Force, and Green Lantern, his tenures on titles like Steel and his historic Black Panther run thoroughly pigeonholed him as a "black" writer. He has mentioned that it became difficult to find work on any non-minority titles, and that being offered a Falcon solo book was ultimately the straw that broke the camel's back.
    • He also invoked this trope while discussing The Crew, a short-lived book he wrote featuring War Machine and several other minority heroes. He initially tried to get characters like Gambit and Justice added to the cast precisely because he didn't want The Crew to be seen as a "black" comic, but when this fell through, he ended up with an entirely-minority cast. He claims the lack of white characters is one of the things that helped kill the book, as retailers didn't feel like ordering a series without any recognizable white superheroes.
    • Priest finally returned to mainstream comics in 2016 with Deathstroke for the DC Rebirth relaunch. He claims he initially turned down an offer to do a Cyborg series for the reasons mentioned above, and only agreed to write Deathstroke after the editors assured him the character hadn't been Race Lifted into a black guy.
  • All four attempts to star the Jaime Reyes version of the Blue Beetle have ended with the series being cancelled, none having lasted longer than two and a half years. Some have cited the issue being that he's a Latino superhero, starring a prominently Latino cast, and set in El Paso, Texas, taking up the mantle of a B-lister (in fact, that's the reason Jaime was allowed to be created, because it was believed no one would care about the Blue Beetle). All of this despite being a well-liked character and possibly the most iconic version to modern audiencesnote . In fact, he's been cited as an example of how an Affirmative-Action Legacy character can be done right.

    Films — Animation 
  • One of the theories as to why The Princess and the Frog wasn't as successful as it was expected would have been because of the protagonist's ethnicity. However, other factors from lack of advertising, to being released at the same time as Avatar, to the use of traditional animation have also been blamed. Mind you, the movie was still successful as far as animated movies go. Still, it would take seven years for the Walt Disney Animation Studios to release another musical about a royal of color — the predominantly-CGI Moananote , which fortunately turned a larger gross.
  • Turning Red was denied a wide theatrical release ostensibly because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. However, many fans suspect that it was due to this given that the protagonist and the vast majority of the characters are minorities.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Good Earth was a bestselling and critically acclaimed novel about the lives of Chinese farmers. A film adaptation was greenlit, and the original author and the filmmakers themselves wanted an all Asian cast. Sadly this was Hollywood in the 1930s and most of the parts went to white actors in Yellowface. Anna May Wong, leading Chinese-American movie star, wanted desperately to play the female lead - but the Hays Code prevented her from playing the wife of a white man (even if he was made up to look Chinese).
  • Silent movie star Anna May Wong would frequently encounter these problems in Hollywood. The good parts went to white actresses wearing Yellowface, while she was only offered roles as a Dragon Lady or Beautiful Slave Girl.
  • Imitation of Life (1959) broke out of the ghetto but the marketing heavily focused on the Love Triangle between Lana Turner, John Gavin and Sandra Dee - almost in an attempt to sucker audiences who might be alienated by what the director viewed as the true story of the film; Lana Turner's black housekeeper trying to raise her fair-skinned daughter.
  • Danny Glover has tried to raise funds for a film on the Haitian Revolution. However, he keeps getting rejected because the story lacks white heroes.
  • Similarly, the Jamie Chung film Abduction of Eden struggled to find funding because it starred an Asian-American lead. Chung has said in interviews that the execs wanted to include a heroic White Male Lead who would eventually save Eden, something the producers were adamant about avoiding since the film is based on a true story.
  • Justin Lin had a hard time raising money for his first movie, Better Luck Tomorrow, because very few people wanted to fund a movie with an entirely Asian-American cast. One potential investor said he'd donate a million dollars to the budget if Lin would agree to cast Macaulay Culkin as the lead...despite the fact that the movie was based on a true story about an Asian-American teen.
  • Tyler Perry's movies are not very popular outside the Black community, though there is controversy on whether it's because white people don't want to see movies with all-Black casts or because the movies are of poor quality.
  • Spike Lee gets hit with this, too. His Miracle at St. Anna didn't get the best reviews (33% at Rotten Tomatoes) but that alone doesn't explain its incredibly low box office numbers (a little over US$9 million with a budget of US$45 million).
  • Even Halle Berry has stated that this belief makes it hard for her to find roles.
  • Thandiwe Newton has likewise said "I love the UK but I just can't work there", saying that the majority of television that gets produced is period pieces or "stuff about the Royal Family" - meaning they feature majority white casts.
  • The Wiz was a black-led musical version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The film version released in 1978 was a box office failure that greatly damaged the perceived financial viability of all-black films.
  • Red Tails was in development hell for over 20 years because the idea of an all-black cast wasn't appealing enough for a movie studio to fund it, so producer George Lucas funded the film entirely out of his own pocket and it finally saw the light of day in 2012. It got a 40% on Rotten Tomatoes and didn't make back its budget at the box office. Like many other examples, it's unclear if this is because of the all-black cast, valid criticisms of the film, or simply for having George Lucas's name on it. The film was quite successful for an independently-produced project and Lucas is trying to get a sequel made.
  • In Hitch, Will Smith was paired with Latina Eva Mendes to avoid risking audiences dismissing it as a "black film."
  • A Wrinkle in Time (2018) received lots of publicity for the fact that it was a big budget fantasy film with minority leads - the Murrays receive a Race Lift from the book to become a mixed race family. The film's lukewarm critical and commercial reception prompted The Mary Sue to publish an article about this very subject.
  • Irene Bedard was given a lot of hype in the mid-90s as a Native American actress who had potential to become a star - after a Golden Globe nominated performance in Lakota Woman and becoming the voice of Disney's Pocahontas. Yet despite critically acclaimed work, she fell headlong into the ghetto and to this day campaigns for better representation for Native Americans in film.


    Live-Action TV 
  • My Brother and Me, a Nickelodeon sitcom with a mostly Black cast, only lasted 13 episodes, though strangely, re-runs would be kept in rotation for a good decade. My Brother and Me can be attributed to Creative Differences.
  • The Real McCoy, an all-Black comedy sketch show on The BBC, bombed.
  • The TV series Kung Fu (1972) was originally meant to star Bruce Lee. However, executives feared that a show starring an Asian man would be rejected by viewers and cast the white David Carradine as the half-Chinese Caine.
  • The Twilight Zone (2002) suffered from this. It aired on UPN, a station known for its minority shows, and it ended up being forced to reflect that (plots such as a racist white man waking up black, Forest Whitaker as the host, etc). It only lasted one season, presumably because the changes scared away some white viewers but weren't enough to attract UPN's usual demographic.
    • UPN in general faced this problem for its entire existence. While its Black-led sitcoms were always popular with black audiences, none of them ever managed to break out of the ghetto. When UPN was merged with The WB in 2006 to form The CW, most of UPN's black-led shows wound up getting left behind and the new network aimed for The WB's white middle-class audience. Despite this, many shows on UPN still have their fans to this day, and even after ditching these shows, the "middle-class" CW would still struggle in the ratings.
    • Ironically The WB itself started off similarly to UPN and had the same problem with its black sitcoms. Likewise Fox in the early '90s.
  • All-American Girl (1994), starring Margaret Cho, only lasted one season. The show initially centered on Margaret Kim and her family. During its run, the producers shifted focus away from Margaret's family, which resulted in most of the Asian actors being fired.
  • The Earthsea novels had explicitly non-white main characters, though taking place in a fantasy world, so the books themselves are actually a pretty good example of an aversion (fantasy being a very white-dominated genre); its covers, however, have not always lived up to this, with some making the main character white. In addition, the TV miniseries adaptation gave everyone a Caucasian race lift save for the main character's mentor who remained black, and the anime Tales from Earthsea, due to the way Japanese animation portrays ethnicity in general, made everyone look Caucasian.
  • Outsourced (the TV adaptation) had a majority cast of Americans, Canadians, and British of subcontinental descent. This—combined with the subject matter of outsourcing hitting a nerve with Americans and its multicultural humor that Americans who'd never lived outside their country would not understand—led to the show's cancellation.
  • In The Real Husbands of Hollywood, J.B. Smoove eventually leaves the show to join the cast of The Millers, and jokingly brags about how much more he's getting paid now that he's on a "white show" rather than a BET production. He's also seen wearing a shirt that reads "White people love me." In an earlier episode, Chris Rock guest-stars and explains to Kevin Hart the difference between being "black famous" and "actually famous," essentially invoking this trope in all but name.
  • Undercovers is a spy series starring two African-American actors and with several actors of color between the secondary roles, however it was canceled in the middle of its first season. Though most seem to agree that the cancellation was mostly related to its boring, mediocre plots.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Invoked in the episode "The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award". The main characters want to revitalize their bar to win an award (the allegory being that the "bar" is their TV show, competing against other shows for critical praise). They discuss getting some minorities in, but stress that they can't have more than three, because then it would turn into a "black bar".
    Dennis: Black bars don't win awards. I don't know why, but they don't.

  • This article, while mainly about beauty standards among women, notes that this trope (or the inverse) may be why Adele and Bruno Mars were put in the "pop" category at the Grammys despite the fact that their music is usually described as R&B/soul/pop. The author also notes that Cee Lo Green is not counted as pop, despite being just as successful in the mainstream as Adele and Bruno Mars.
  • Rockism refers to the belief by critics that rock music is more "authentic" than other genres. Among other things, it is criticized for being the reason why critics often dismiss genres such as disco, R&B, and Hip-Hop, genres that are mostly dominated by African-Americans. While rock was largely invented by African-Americans, by The '70s the genre was more or less dominated by white artists.
  • Jazz suffered this too at the hands of music critics when it first arose, and mostly due to racism and antisemitism; it stemmed from Black musical traditions, and most of the genre's biggest acts were Black and/or Jewish. One advertisement for a "Degenerate Music" exhibition in Nazi Germany even depicted a Blackface-Style Caricature with a Star of David lapel pin playing a saxophone. However, after World War II led to many experienced musicians being drafted, the new wave of younger musicians shifted towards a more complex, improvisational style. This plus the rise of traditional pop and Rock & Roll as the new dominant forms of popular music resulted in jazz eventually breaking out of the ghetto, and in the 21st century, it's even taught in schools alongside Classical Music.
  • New Edition suffered from this, having a mostly black audience. This led to their contemporaries, New Kids on the Block, being credited for creating the modern Boy Band archetype, despite New Edition being the originators. In fact, NKOTB was explicitly created to be their white counterpart.
  • A big part of why disco viciously fell out of style for decades in the United States is that it was never able to fully escape this despite the explosion of its mainstream popularity. It had its roots in the Black, Latino, Italian, and gay nightclubs of New York City and Philadelphia, roots that it never shook even as people from those scenes accused the genre's biggest artists of selling out, and so for many (especially in Middle America) who didn't come from that background, disco came to be indelibly associated with hedonistic effetes and city slickers bringing their lifestyles into the heartland. Music historians often see the backlash against disco as intertwined with the broader conservative backlash of the late '70s and early '80s that eventually put Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office.
  • FKA twigs says that her racial background is why she is considered Alternative R&B, even though she believes her music has more in common with punk and doesn't consider herself to be R&B at all.
    "It's just because I'm mixed race. When I first released music and no one knew what I looked like, I would read comments like: 'I've never heard anything like this before, it's not in a genre.' And then my picture came out six months later, now she's an R&B singer."
  • James Brown averted this at first, but after releasing the Black empowerment anthem "Say It Loud - I'm Black And I'm Proud" as a single, he admitted that he lost most of his crossover audience for the rest of his career, effectively forcing him in the ghetto.
  • While Hip-Hop is enormously popular all over the world, only the artists who cross over to Pop Rap become household names with general audiences, and the genre still gets minimal support on mainstream radio and television. Additionally, many of the artists who do cross over are white, with Black artists (who founded and comprise the majority of acts in the genre) having a much harder time breaking through.

  • Discussed by Cracked in "5 Old-Timey Prejudices That Still Show Up in Every Movie." Three of them, including the top two, address elements of this trope. #2 says that movies always star a white person (or Will Smith) and #1 discusses how white audiences don't care about history not involving white people.
  • Although their movies averted the trope, it's suspiciously alive and well in the Disney Princess merchandise. Mulan and Pocahontas are often featured less than the white princesses - possibly due to their lack of Pimped Out Dresses and coming from cultures that wouldn't allow for the Western-style gowns the princesses are often depicted in. Jasmine, an Arab princess, is likewise sometimes depicted in a western style gown. A 2014 study showed that Tiana and Jasmine's merchandise sold considerably less than the white princesses'. A redesign in 2013 controversially lightened the skin tones of all the princesses of colour too.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Pointed out that WWE has rarely had a woman of color pushed as a top Face - management favouring Caucasian blondes and light-skinned Latinas. Black women tend to get pushed as heels and there has rarely been more than one Asian female in the company at a time. Further exacerbating matters after the article was published was Sasha Banks getting such short Women's Championship reigns - despite her clear popularity. All the women she lost her titles to were blonde and white by the way. Later on however, the advent, popularity and long title reigns of Bianca Belair have worked to avoid this, including a WrestleMania headline match against Sasha.

    Web Original 
  • Issa Rae, the creator of Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, discusses this in this interview. She says that the show couldn't exist without the Internet because TV has a very strict notion of how a black character should act, which is why ABG's network TV adaptation was in Development Hell for so long. A Spiritual Successor of sorts, Insecure was released on HBO in 2016 (which could also reflect this trope, since HBO is likely the only network that would take a risk on a show with a majority black cast).
    "In one meeting, during the first ten seconds, this guy said, "The show is pretty funny. This is about a typical black woman with her black women problems." And then said big names were necessary to make it to television."

    Western Animation 
  • Onyx Equinox, the third Crunchyroll original production to be released after Tower of God and The God of High School was also the least successful of the released originals up to that point. After a few weeks of releasing the episodes weekly, Crunchyroll eventually released the entire series the day after Christmas 2020 to burn off what remained.
  • Seis Manos was Powerhouse Animation's first original series following the very well-received Castlevania (2017). However, unlike Castlevania, Seis Manos drew on Mexican culture and a Mexican setting for its series. Also unlike Castlevania, the show suffered from very low viewership and conversations with the showrunners (particularly during a 2020 New York Comic Con panel) seem to indicate that the one season is all that will be made.
  • Static Shock reportedly had a lot of issues with obtaining merchandising deals, which was what led to its cancellation (albeit only after a respectable four-season run). This was despite the fact that it got incredibly good ratings throughout that run—at its height, only Pokémon: The Series was beating it out in its block.