various makeups: Black.White.

Various other makeups: factual entertainment – Black.White. & spin-offs

Black. White. was a reality television show shown in 2006. The series followed two families as over six weeks they traded races and ‘experienced what life is like in the other family’s shoes’. Through prosthetic makeup the white Wurgels were transformed into a black family and the black Sparks became white.

With the credentials of RJ Cutler and Ice Cube behind it this show should have lived up to their claims that it would be provocative and insightful. However, I was less than impressed to discover that two of the Wurgel family were in ‘the business’: Bruno Wurgel, described as a teacher on the show, appears on IMDb as Bruno Marcotulli with an acting resume running from 1987 to 2002; Rose Wurgel also as an IMDb entry, as Rose Bloomfield, with a couple of entries; Carmen Wurgel a photographer’s location scout heard about the show ‘from a friend who had a friend who was working on the show’.

A year later a French version, Dans la peau d’un noir, was screened based on the same concept but focusing on the issues of racism as experienced in France. But again, at least one of the participants, Laurent Richier, was an actor; not only that but he subsequently sued the producers for payment for interpreting a role in manipulated scenarios (ie for acting).

Anyone with a brain questions just how ‘real’ is reality TV: these casting choices were, for me, immensely damaging to the concept’s ‘face validity’.