Hollywood's Band-Aids
Quick, get me a good-looking Hispanic transsexual!

Location: A tony agency in Hollywood.
Cast: Hervé, a top-tier agent.
Leonora, NBC casting director.

See also...
... by Jenn Shreve
... in the Dirt section
... from October 20, 1999

A phone rings. Hervé answers. "Hello?"

"Hervé, we have a situation!"

"Oh god, Leonora. Not again! What is it this time?"

"It seems the National Association for the Integration of Transsexual Office Workers is about to launch a national campaign against our fall lineup."

"The who?"

"It doesn't matter who, Hervé. The fact of the matter is, we've gotten so much bad press over the lack of minorities -- another protest would ruin us!"

"So what do you want me to do about it?"

"I need you to find me some good-looking Transsexual actors -- preferably some who look good in Gap khakis and aren't too, um, offensive to conservatives, if you know what I mean."

"No, I don't know what you mean."

"Well, you know, give them a transsexual, but make sure she... he... oh fuck it! Make sure he or she's kind of dumb in a funny way so people won't take him too seriously or want to emulate his lifestyle, that sort of thing. Remember John Lithgow in The World According to Garp?"

"Is Lithgow available?"

"We already tried, Hervé. He's apparently renounced comedy and is working on the latest Oliver Stone movie about Alexander the Great. Apparently the guy was a real freak, obsessed with his image."

"Gross. Listen. Frankly, I'm running out of minorities and oddballs. As it is, I've already found you a dozen Asian-American burn victims for ER, a streetwise African-American love interest for Frasier's dad, a midget from Guam to be Joey's new roommate on Friends, a long-lost flaming gay brother to show up on Providence, and, the coup d'etat, an Argentine bicycling team to make regular guest appearances on Suddenly Susan. Shit, Leonora, I even found you white people to be on Moesha. And now you want attractive, non-offensive transsexuals? Maybe you need to scour nightclubs, instead of calling me."

"But, Hervé!, dahling, you're the best agent in town!"

"Best agent for providing Band-Aids to cover your whitey-ass shows."

"Hervé, you know that's simply not fair!"

"Isn't it, Leonora? Isn't it?"

"No! We television people are only reflecting what's out there in the real world. Black people, white people, they don't hang out together; they certainly don't marry all that often. Sure, everyone has a token friend or two of another race. But integration? Doesn't exist! And white people want to see shows about white people. With black people, it's the same thing. It makes them happy. It certainly makes our advertisers happy to have their demographic so neatly summed up for them. Black and white people buy different products, you know."

"I suppose they shop at different supermarkets, too, Leonora. God, you're such an Orange County Republican. Besides, if you're right, you don't need me. So white people watch white shows; blacks watch blacks. Then I don't need to supply any transsexual midget Latinos with speech impediments. Hire a PR firm to tell the angry, PC mobs to get over it."

"Oh, but that's where you're wrong, Hervé! On the one hand, TV is a mirror for viewers to look in, see themselves and have a good chuckle, or a good cry, whatever. With white and black shows segregated -- not to mention whole stations devoted to Spanish speakers, Asians, and so on -- we're showing people a prettified version of their own world, their society. On the other hand, TV is a fantasyland where the world is what people want it to be, not what it is. And at the moment, people want the world to be racially integrated -- happy little white people with happy little minority friends and friendly gay neighbors."

"But it's so damn fake to just slap in a black character and call it a solution. Television viewers aren't the dupes they once were, you know."

"I know, but it's not like these organizations are calling for real equality or racial balance on the TV or off. People just want to turn on a show and feel good about themselves when they watch it. Having a smiling person from another race or sexual preference achieves that nicely. Please, Hervé? I'll take you to Spaaaaagoooo's."

"Lunch or dinner?"

"You find me a transsexual and it's dinner for sure!"

"Table next to Paul Newman?"

"Whatever you want Hervé! I'm desperate."

"Does Corky do drag?"


"You know -- Corky. Down's syndrome. Had a feel-good show back in the '80s."

"He's not a transsexual, Hervé. Is he?"

"I don't know. Just thinking we could kill a couple birds with one stone."

"You're sick, Hervé. So do we have a deal?"

"OK. But I have another idea. What if we take a minor male character and have him decide to get his sex changed the third or fourth week of the season? Then it's an ongoing plot line -- funny, raises awareness. And if we're lucky, I don't even have to drag out a new actor. You could just threaten someone's career -- tell the press they're gay for real -- if they don't comply."

"Ohhhh, Hervé, I love it! I can see it now. You could start the guy out wearing tacky dresses or heels with his business suit and then progress from there. His parents could come to visit, find his women's panties and -- well, it'd be a real tearjerker! And the press, think of the great press! Bigger than Ellen, I bet."

Jenn Shreve is a freelance writer in San Francisco and a media columnist for Salon.com.

Jenn's column runs every other Wednesday on GettingIt.