clock menu more-arrow no yes

5 crazy quotes from a television expert who doesn't believe in diversity

Nickelodeon show Pete & Pete
Nickelodeon show Pete & Pete
screencap

Mathew Klickstein, the author of SLIMED! An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age, did an interview with Flavorwire to discuss his upcoming event "New York Super Week," a festival celebrating late '80s and early '90s Nickelodeon nostalgia.

The interview starts out as a fairly typical publicity chat, but midway through,  Klickstien's comments take a turn for the worse — to put it mildly. After being asked a question about whether or not a white upper-middle class show like Pete & Pete could succeed today, he responded with more than 1000 words of explanation (in the presumably edited-down transcript, no less) that essentially proved how little understanding he has about the importance of diversity on television. Here are five telling excerpts from the interview:

  1. "Pete & Pete is an amazing show; who cares that it was made by white people and is about white people? That's not important. What's important is, how good is it? Some of these other shows — My Brother and Me, Diego, and Legend of Korra — it's great that they're bringing diversity into it now. Fantastic. But you know those shows are not nearly as good as Ren and Stimpy, which was made by all white people!"
  2. "Why does someone who’s making something about a black person need to be black? Why does someone making a show about an Indian person need to be Indian? Why does someone making a show about women need to be a woman? If you’re making something about an alien, you don’t need to be an alien to do it."
  3. "If I were Indian or Jewish, for example, and watched something where the characters are Jewish or supposed to be, and if it’s not specific to that, then I start to wonder, 'Why are they doing this?' It becomes blackface."
  4. "To just shove it in there because, 'Uh-oh, we need diversity,' is silly and a little disgusting. It needs to be the best people working on the best shows. They happen to be white, that's a shame. They happen to be all guys, that's a shame. No one says this about sports — they do sometimes, the owners — but sorry, that most basketball, football players happen to be black."
  5. "My agent: woman. My editor: woman. My publicist: woman. The most successful genre is young adult novels — 85% of which are written by women. That discussion doesn’t really come up when it’s the other way around. It is 2014 now. It’s not 1995. Political correctness needs to change."
Does political correctness need to change? Uncertain, but we can state with certainty that Klickstein's view of political correctness needs to change. Despite Klickstein's thoughts to the contrary, the entertainment industry is still dominated by white men. They make most of the content, and they make most of the decisions about what content gets made, too. The television industry lacks diversity of race, sexual preference, and gender both on and behind the screen. So does the comics industry, the science fiction genre, and also every industry that pays people. It seems like straight white guys are really the only group that doesn't need a Hollywood spokesperson, particularly Klickstein.

Update: Klickstein was supposed to head an event titled "Nite of Nickelodeon Nostalgia Nonsense!" at the Hammerstein Ballroom on Thursday. This event has since been canceled in the wake of Klickstein's comments to Flavorwire, according to the event's Facebook page saying "No statements can be made at this time. We worked very hard to make this an extremely special event, but the decision has been made."

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for The Weeds

Get our essential policy newsletter delivered Fridays.