Stephen Levitt of Freakanomics talks today about the difference in viewing habits between blacks and whites in modern day America. There is some subtext in the entry that needs to be discussed:
If this one week of data is a good indicator (and I think it is), there has been a remarkable convergence in television viewing habits. A few years ago almost all the top black shows featured predominately black characters and most were not even on the big four networks. Now, there is almost a perfect match between what blacks and whites are watching and while many of these shows have black characters, none feature a predominately black cast.
He mentions previously that, while Seinfeld was very popular among white viewers, it never hit the top 50 for blacks. What does this homogenization of viewing habits mean?
To make an analogy, it had long been theorized in capoeira, a Brazilian martial art I practice founded in the culture of African slavery, that certain deviations, notably capoeira regional, were no longer truly African in their movements. They incorporated Asian martial arts movements in the 1930s, making the game more outwardly aggressive, with ‘squarer’ attacks in order to ‘whiten’ the art, and therefore attract more middle-class Brazilians to the game (who tended to be paler in skin tone). Guess what? It worked out great. Capoeira is now practiced almost exclusively by white people, and most of those who practice it practice the ‘white’ form of the art.
The same could perhaps be said of hip hop. Do we feel that hip hop is becoming whiter by appealing to the majority of their audience (aka, white people)? Hip hop has changed a great deal since the 70s. What happened? Does 50 Cent appeal to white listeners, or black ones?