Mathew Klickstein is the author of a new history of Nickelodeon, Slimed: An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age. And he recently explained that a big reason why that "golden age" ended is because the shows became too racially diverse. Really?
In an extensive interview with Pilot Viruet at Flavorpill, Klickstein explained why the 1990s show Pete & Pete was so fantastic — and why Sanjay and Craig isn't, even though many of the same people work on it:
Sanjay and Craig ... is awkward because there's actually no reason for that character to be Indian — except for the fact that [Nickelodeon President] Cyma Zarghami and the women who run Nickelodeon now are very obsessed with diversity. Which is fine — do what you're gotta do, and Dora [the Explorer] was certainly something of a success, but there's no reason for [Sanjay] to be Indian at all. No one working on that show is Indian. They're all white. It's all the white people from Bob's Burgers and Will and Chris.
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 bestshows. They happen to be white, that's a shame. They happen to be all guys, that's a shame ...
Viruet replies by saying, "Sanjay and Craig: Yes, the main character is Indian and it would still be a good show if he were white. But this provides something to relate to; if an Indian kid is watching and sees himself on screen, that's great."
And Klickstein responds by doing a weird about-face on his earlier assertion that white people shouldn't be allowed to make a show about an Indian kid. Now, he argues that anyone should be able to make a show about anyone. And that's why Indian kids don't need to see images of themselves on TV:
That's true, that's fine, but why can't he relate to a white guy too? I was talking with the guy who wrote for DC, and he made a really good point: 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. That's ultimately what it comes down to: They will connect with the character no matter what. That's why so many young people, Hispanic or not, connect with Dora. It doesn't matter. They're connecting with the character because she's saying something to them. She's doing something and she's making an adventure that they can connect with! It doesn't matter that she's Hispanic or not. The people who are watching that might be Asian, or Afro-American, or whatever.
The mind boggles. This guy is an expert on Nickelodeon, but he seems to hate every show they've aired other than Pete & Pete and Ren and Stimpy. Also, he apparently didn't realize that Clarissa Explains It All was an enormous hit (of course, he also characterizes international phenomenon Dora the Explorer as "something of a success").
Why is Nickelodeon allowing this guy to represent them? Webcomic ShortPacked! asked the same question:
And Comic-Con responded by canceling Klickstein's appearance.