Why the interracial family in the new ‘Bewitched’ reboot matters to me
Being biracial sets you apart from a well established binary, and it’s hard to come to terms with this when you’re young.
by Andrew Keahey
As a kid, I watched a lot of TV. Like a lot of TV. My brother and I had our asses parked in front of that magical light box night and day, our eyes slowing becoming permanently damaged, and our hearts filling with ever-expanding love for pop culture.
Our parents would try desperately to get us to go and experience the world outside, and while they sometimes found success by banning the television outright, we knew that eventually we would be making our way back; losing ourselves in an endless array of fantasy worlds which, we felt, were a lot more interesting than our own.
On the shows we watched, anything could happen. Four turtles could crawl through toxic waste and then learn martial arts from a wise old rat. Decomposing corpses read comic books and made horrible puns. People coexisted with puppets and cartoon characters without blinking an eye. Television was a window to a world of infinite possibilities, and a guide through a larger world that we were still too small to experience.
It’s important to know that we watched television all the time, because in our many years of viewing, we would rarely see a family that looked like ours. I don’t think it really bothered us much at the time, but it was something we noticed.
See, my brother and I are biracial. Our mother is white and our father is Black. I had friends that had parents of different races, but they were few and far between, so to not see them in real life or on TV felt strange. It made our family seem odd. I didn’t feel like my family was bad or wrong, just different. Definitely not normal.
I would see shows, both older and taking place in modern day, and all I would see were people pairing off and having families with people that were the same color they were. If there were two Black characters, they’d be getting together at the end of the movie. An Asian man and woman? They’d be paired off halfway through the season. The white people? Well, yeah, but they had to pair off with other white people since they wouldn’t let anyone of color on their shows. Someone who looked like my mom didn’t get married to someone like my dad. At least not on television.
Recently, it was announced that a reboot of the classic TV show Bewitched is in the works at ABC. I acknowledge the very viable arguments that we have plenty of creators out there who want to tell original stories, and that reboots are just nostalgia cash grabs (Hell, Bewitched was already rebooted once in 2005), but I still appreciate that this will be something we don’t see very often, because it will feature an interracial family at the center of the story.
Bewitched is about a human man who falls in love with a witch and then has to reconcile his normal, uninteresting existence with that of his magical partner and the magical shenanigans that she and her witch family end up causing by wiggling their noses. It was an okay show. It was basically the same as I Dream of Jeannie, but with different costumes. It had it’s good episodes and bad, and I’m sure there are people out there that remember it fondly. I only caught a few episodes here and there, and I only stuck around for the whole thing if there was nothing else on. To me, it honestly didn’t feel like anything special, but it would have been with an interracial couple as the leads.
Growing up biracial is hard. Your identity fluctuates wildly as you try to please the people around you, because in order to fit in, you have to prove yourself to be more Black or more white, respectively, than the monoracial kids. I grew up hearing things like, “I’m Blacker than you are” from white people, and “You talk white” from Black people, and I still hear those things to this day.
Being biracial sets you apart from a well established binary, and it’s hard to come to terms with this when you’re young. So, you already feel like an outsider because of your lighter or darker color, the way you talk, and because your family doesn’t look like your friends’ families, and then even that extends into all the media you see.
Everyone stays color coordinated, and in their zone. They hang out around people that talk and dress like they do, and rarely does anyone different from them make an appearance, let alone speak. Pair that with the absolute outrage from commenters online whenever an interracial family is featured in anything. Cheerios put out a commercial for their cereal featuring an interracial couple and their biracial child a few years ago and people reacted like the damn world was ending. There was panic in the streets! People were going to war with cereal because that cereal showed them that families come in different colors.
Bewitched isn’t something that meant a lot to me. It wasn’t a show that I watched very much, and it certainly wasn’t a show I related to. With the nature of reboots being what they are, the new show may not even be very good. Kenya Barris, creator of Black-ish will pen the pilot, and while I’m not crazy about that show, it is very successful.
My hope is that this will bring some mainstream visibility to interracial families. Biracial kids are having to deal with a lot more than people realize, in terms of their racial identity. At the very least, they should be able to sit on the couch with their parents, turn on the television, see the people on the screen and say, “This looks familiar.”
Andrew Keahey is a horror enthusiast and writer currently based in Austin, Texas. He’s been watching horror movies since he was far too young, and primarily writes essays, short fiction, and poetry