Media, TV critics equate “cavemen” to black people

In case you haven’t heard about it, there is an upcoming new ABC series “Cavemen” – which is a spinoff of the cute caveman GEICO commercials that we see on TV all the time. The AP had a story about the show today that I found rather curious, in which it asked about a possible ‘racial angle’ to the show:

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) – The producers of ABC’s new “Cavemen” said Wednesday the comedy is much more than the insurance company commercials that inspired it, but isn’t designed to be an ambitious allegory about race.

Geico’s TV spots show highly evolved but shaggy-looking cavemen chafing at misconceptions about their sophistication and intelligence. The series, debuting Oct. 2, follows another trio of Cro-Magnons facing prejudice as they try to fit in contemporary society.

“If the show works, it will work because people care about these three guys under a lot of makeup and … can relate to their problems and find them charming,” producer Mike Schiff told the Television Critics Association’s summer meeting.

Just why would the producers have to play down any talk of any alleged symbolism between cavemen and black people? Well, because of media questions about it (emphasis added):

Schiff and fellow producers responded to reporters’ questions about the series, many of them focusing on parallels between the cavemen and black stereotypes and the pitfalls of turning an ad into a series.

Funny how we never saw these parallels being made between black stereotypes and gay stereotypes when shows like Will and Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy were first broadcast.

The Miami Herald’s Glenn Garvin wrote as well about the panel discussion the producers of the show were involved in and said that the race angle was the dominant theme of the discussion (emphasis added):

But as the show’s pilot episode began circulating in Hollywood, so did a new round of criticism: that Cavemen trafficked in the very racial caricatures it was supposed to be lampooning. By depicting the Cro-Magnons as good dancers, great athletes and grand sexual partners, the show’s detractors argued, Cavemen was using black stereotypes for cheap racist laughs. ”We finally get to laugh at all the stereotypes in the world directed at cavemen, without feeling guilty,” wrote one Hollywood blogger. ABC’s decision to reshoot the pilot didn’t exactly help. [Note: Sounds like Hollywood is into equating the cavemen with black people, too, hmmm? –ST]

Wednesday’s panel discussion here was the first time Cavemen producers have discussed the show in public, and they said people are reading too much into what they called a ”fish out of water” story.

”Unfortunately, in our society, if you pick an offensive stereotype of any kind, it’s going to bump into some ethnic group,” said Mike Schiff, one of the executive producers. “Is the show about race relations? No. Is that a background to the show? Yes, of course.”

Lawson, who wrote the original Geico commercials as well as the pilot, said that if the Cro-Magnons are an allegorical stand-in for anybody, it’s not black people but outsiders.

”As human beings, we all have that need to fit in,” he said. “It’s really a show about acclimation more than anything, and that’s something that everybody deals with, doesn’t matter if you’re a minority or not.”

The subconciously racist mediots in the room weren’t satisfied with that answer:

Not everybody — in fact, almost nobody — in the room was buying it, partly because some of the Cavemen story lines the producers offered as evidence the show isn’t about race (for instance, one of the cavemen concealing the fact that he’s dating a Homo Sapiens woman, for fear his Cro Magnon friends won’t like it) sounded like race was exactly what they were about.

The cavemen are ”known for their athletic prowess, their sexual prowess, their dancing,” complained one critic, to which director Josh Gordon deadpanned: “They’re Jewish.”

So many questions were about hot-button racial topics that the producers actually seemed relieved when anybody circled back to the subject of commercialism. When one critic sarcastically asked if the gecko lizard who stars in another group of Geico commercials would be making a guest appearance on Cavemen, Gordon replied that it “depends on how ratings are.”

Scott Collins at the LAT blog has more:

This explanation was not well-received among the TV critics and reporters, however, one of whom noted that all eight of “Cavemen” panelists were white men. (In their defense, the producers said that ethnic minorities and women are among the show’s writers and directors).

The atmosphere grew so tense that actor Nick Kroll, who plays the sardonic caveman Nick, aimed for something between comic relief and gallows humor.

“I was told there was gonna be a laugh track here,” Kroll told the mostly stone-faced press tour crowd, “but I guess that’s not the case.”

Isn’t this something? The mediots are so obsessed with ‘racial fairness’ that they have to imagine a racial angle to a story where none exists … by equating cavemen to black people.

James Taranto’s “Spot the Racists” title to his write-up about it is especially fitting.

Showing your inner racist: So easy a journalist can do it.

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