March 23, 2017 - Issue 691: Will “Shots Fired” Reach Beyond Black
Audiences? - The Invisible Woman - By Sharon Kyle, JD, BC Editorial
March 23, 2017 - Issue 691
Will “Shots Fired”
Reach Beyond Black Audiences?
"'Shots Fired' is set in a small town in
North Carolina, explores the criminal justice
system from several vantage points.
Beginning with a familiar scene—the police
shooting of an unarmed young man—the
series pivots and navigates through the
back story of a diverse set of characters."
an active volunteer member of the ACLU provides me with lots of
opportunities to serve my community. Aside from the reward of knowing
that standing with the ACLU means you’re standing on the right
side of justice, I occasionally get an extra perk. Being invited to
attend an early screening of “Shots
with a few hundred others at the Pacific Design Center was one such
Fired” is a 10-hour series slated to air on Fox beginning March
22nd. The brainchild of husband/wife team Reggie Rock Bythewood and
Gina Prince-Bythewood, the series, which is set in a small town in
North Carolina, explores the criminal justice system from several
vantage points. Beginning with a familiar scene—the police
shooting of an unarmed young man—the series pivots and
navigates through the back story of a diverse set of characters.
familiar? I thought so, too. For a minute, I contemplated passing on
the invitation, but these past few weeks have been so hectic I felt I
needed an evening out. So I took off with my brother and we headed
west to the Pacific Design Center.
at the venue, the first thing I noticed was a sea of black faces. The
ACLU, which deserves big kudos for leading the pack in the fight
against the attack on our civil liberties by the Trump
administration, was a co-sponsor of the evening. After ten years of
active involvement in this awe inspiring organization, one of the
things I have regretfully gotten used to whenever I attend a big ACLU
co-sponsored event is finding myself in a sea of white. But not this
night. So began the departure from the expected.
screening opened with a monologue by Reggie Rock Bythewood. Seemingly
unscripted, Bythewood, a black man, talks about the impact of the
George Zimmerman verdict on his unconsolable 12-year-old son Cassius.
Bythewood and his wife felt moved to do something more than just wrap
their arms around their child and so began the idea for “Shots
Fired”. I’m not sure this monologue will be part of the
series when it airs but I hope so. It grabbed my attention and sets a
tone that prepares the audience to be more than entertained.
won’t give away any of the plot but I will say that the
creators of “Shots Fired” attempt to do more than serve
up the typical mind-numbingly predictable “grabbed from the
headlines” police drama fare that’s dominated network
television for the past decade. In many ways they succeed.
only saw the first episode but the writers laced it with enough hints
of what is yet to come that I left the screening wanting more.
the screening, the creators, producers and several of the actors
talked to the audience about the behind the scenes experiences of
this racially diverse crew who were filming while at the same time
watching real-life headlines flash before them. The stories
dominating the news at the time were multiple police killings of
black men including the killing of Philando Castile and Walter Scott.
an hour or so at the post-screening reception, the artists and
attendees ate finger foods and sipped wine while sharing how the film
evoked their common feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, and
brother and I were among them as was one of my fellow ACLU board
members. We chatted a bit about the film. Then our conversation
shifted to the demographics of the audience – an audience that
appeared to be 95% black. My thoughts wondered back to the contrast
between this audience and those attending most ACLU events.
on a CNN Media piece attributing the success of several recent TV
series to a high percentage of black viewers, it’s likely the
demographics of the screening audience might be a harbinger of what
20th Century FOX Television, the producer of the series, is
expecting. African-Americans have propelled primetime ratings for the
network with TV hits like ‘Empire’. Speaking of broadcast
television, CNN called 2015 the Year of the African-American Viewer.
the big downer for me is that in order for this country to transcend
our racist roots, these kinds of stories have to appeal to the
broader American audience—otherwise it’ll just be more
preaching to the choir.
jaded self looks at who did not turn up for the screening and thinks
this very well done series will be widely seen but primarily by
blacks. I hope I’m wrong. But the proof will be in the Neilsen
evening’s moderator encouraged everyone to use social media to
spread the word. I echo his words, “Share, share, share”.
In this pivotal time—a time like no other—let’s
help to expand and broaden the base that will see this much needed
series. Not only should we not build walls, we should also tear down
invisible walls—walls that keep our communities so separate
from each other.
Fired premiers on March 22, 2017 on Fox. It stars Sanaa Lathan,
Stephan James, Stephen Moyer, Will Patton, Mak Wilds, Aisha Hinds,
Clare-Hope Ashitey, Conor Leslie, DeWanda Wise and Richard Dreyfuss.
Guest stars include Helen Hunt, Jill Hennessy and Dennis Haysbert. I
applaud Gina Prince-Bythewood, Reggie Rock Bythewood, and everyone
associated with the making of “Shots Fired.” They’ve
done their part in moving this message forward, now let’s do
BlackCommentator.comEditorial Board member and Columnist,Sharon Kyle, JD, is the Co-Founder and Publisher of theLA Progressivean
online social justice magazine. With her husband Dick, she publishes
several other print and online newsletters on political and social
justice issues. In addition to her work with the LA Progressive, Ms.
Kyle holds aJurisDoctorate,
is an adjunct professor at Peoples College of Law in Los Angeles, and
sits on the board of the ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Chapter and the
Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party.Clickhereto contact the LA Progressive and Ms. Kyle.