Interracial couples in TV

Elisabetta Pulcini discusses the importance of interracial relationship representations

Elisabetta Pulcini
22nd March 2020
Credit: BBC
With the surge of representation in TV shows, interracial couples are becoming increasingly common. Yet, not many shows are able to accurately strike the balance between entertaining difficult conversations, while still portraying the couple realistically.

Noughts and Crosses is definitely a show that should be admired for its attempt, yet sometimes still falls short. The premise is not subtle. Despite this, the attention to detail and the compelling visuals succeed in creating an immersive world, which plausibly reflects realities of our own. Though some aspects will be sadly reminiscent of current-day Britain, the world mostly mirrors the Apartheid in South Africa, the Jim Crows laws of the US, and Britain’s past of brutal colonisation. Taking real-life conflicts to the extreme is typical of young adult novels, and works best when it still allows for some more subtle commentary. In this case, some carefully constructed elements, such as the architecture and fashion, expose the significance of living in a society not built around you to those who do not experience it today.

As brilliantly constructed as the world of Noughts and Crosses is, it does not feel like our own.

Some of the moments are powerful and relevant, due to being able to expose the different faces of racism. However, this should not be the only type of representation available for interracial couples. In fact, it is important to also see them in a more realistic setting. As brilliantly constructed as the world of Noughts and Crosses is, it does not feel like our own. Mostly because of its lack of subtlety, both in characters and themes. The romance at the heart of it is at times forced, and others straight-up problematic. In the first episode, for instance, Sephy using a racial slur against the Noughts, and still ending up kissing Callum the same night, comes off as rushed and superficial. In real life, slurs are not something solved with a simple excuse: in this case, the show missed an opportunity to reveal the true impact of such behaviour. Details like these make it harder for the message to come across as powerfully as the creator would have liked.

Credit: IMDb, NBC/Ron Batzdorff/NBC - © 2016 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

At the same time, however, having only interracial couples without ever approaching the themes that a normal couple might discuss is also problematic. Couples like Chidi and Eleanor from The Good Place are essential, and appropriate for the world they inhabit. Racial barriers may not be relevant in an existence after death, since cultural differences are not much of a focus: yet they are important in portraying happy and unproblematic interracial couples. Just like LGBTQ+ storylines, while affronting the harsher realities is needed, only having those kinds of stories is not healthy for the people who seek to identify in them. The best couples will both comment on the challenges and nuances of being in an interracial couple, while still being able to overcome it, or even embrace those differences. For example, Kevin and Holt in Brooklyn 99: these characters being soulmates is what defines them as a couple, not them being interracial.

It would be problematic for these couples to always be expected to be an example of progressiveness and love

Because representation is about variety and accuracy, it is important to show the variety of interracial couples as much as we do with other couples. In fact, we need to be aware of not setting unfairly high standards: relationships like that of Kelly and Ryan in The Office (US) are still relevant. The element of cultural differences comes up but is not the focus of the relationship: rather, their toxicity is. It would be problematic for these couples to always be expected to be an example of progressiveness and love: dysfunctional relationships are a reality of life.

Portraying interracial couples whose only story beats are related to race might make sense in the world of Noughts and Crosses, but is not necessarily representative of real relationships. From the first episode, though the chemistry between the two is present, their connection does not go beyond socio-political conversations. Though when employed correctly such storylines can deepen the connection between two on-screen characters, making that the purpose of the entire relationship can feel forced.

Credit: BBC, Youtube
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AUTHOR: Elisabetta Pulcini
Film Editor 19/20 and Law (LLB) graduate. An Italian passionate about journalism and the law: always up for a debate. @ElisabettaPul

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  1. very tired of seing Interracial couples just because even when it doesn’t belong in the stories.
    Il all for having all etchnicities amd mix but please it has to make sense with the stories, otherwise the story because unbelievable and crappy!
    Seems like creating something good theses days becomes secondary as long as we meet the quotes of political correctness.

  2. Each day when I go walking the dog how many interracial couples do l meet?
    Sort these snowflake bullshit adverts out.

    1. I have officially found male Karen. Interracial relationships are normal and VERY much real. 😒 Just because you don’t see it on your mornings strolls doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, or they that don’t deserve to be shown in media. Whether or not tv relationships should be interracial is not up for discussion.

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