Douchebag Decree: TV Guide Declares Taraji P. Henson Not a “Person of Interest”

"ye olde douchebag decree" in blue letters with a light blue hand-drawn douchebag in the background, and "BITCH HEREBY DECLARES THE FOLLOWING PERSON A TOTAL DOUCHEBAG" in small letters in red underneath.

Oscar-nominated actor Taraji P. Henson stars in the new CBS drama Person of Interest, but you wouldn’t know that if you asked TV Guide. According to Henson, the why-are-they-still-a-magazine magazine was planning a cover story on her new show, but the resulting photos featured her two white male costars… and not her. From her Facebook page yesterday:

WOW!!!! TV Guide is NOT including me on the cover with my cast members……. I am the female lead of a 3 member cast and I’m not included on the cover!!!!! Do you see the shit I have to deal with in this business….. I cram to understand!!!!

Cramming to understand aside (I don’t know what it means either), leaving Henson off of the cover is pretty douche-y. As blogger Eden Hansom put it: “I’m REALLY not trying to make this a race issue but the proof is in the puddin’.”

promo photo for Person of Interest. Two white guys in the front and Taraji in the back
Hey, at least Taraji is IN this promotional photo.

TV Guide has a different version of the story. Editor-in-Chief Debra Birnbaum claims that she, “made an editorial decision to do a story about the relationship between the two male characters on Person of Interest and that’s who [she] was going to put on the cover,” and that Henson misunderstood the situation. She went on to say that she doesn’t “make decisions on who is put and not put on the cover based on race or gender.”

Now I’m not a TV Guide subscriber and therefore couldn’t wrangle up a bunch of back issues to see what past covers have looked like, but a Google image search for “TV Guide cover” produced this screen shot (I had to just take a section of it—click on the link for the full thing):

a gallery of TV Guide covers, most of which feature white men
What? Patrick Dempsey transcends race and gender.

As you can see, Google images turned up 12 covers that feature… zero people of color on them, men or women. Patrick Dempsey is in there twice though!

Regardless of Birnbaum’s intentions, Henson felt left out for a good reason: she is. Women of color are not promoted by mainstream publications like TV Guide at the same rate that their white and male counterparts are. Not even close. And instead of getting defensive and saying that she meant to feature Person of Interest’s white, male leads all along (snooze), why didn’t Birnbaum take this opportunity to put a woman of color on the cover of the magazine? After all, apparently Person of Interest received the highest test ratings of any drama pilot in 15 years, so it wouldn’t exactly be a reach to consider the show’s female lead for a cover story.

TV Guide’s solution? Scrap the Person of Interest cover story altogether. Next week’s issue will instead feature the cast of the new Charlie’s Angels, further driving home the message that women, especially women of color, are punished for calling bullshit on Hollywood’s status quo. While the decision to feature the Angels does indeed put a woman of color on the cover of TV Guide (Annie Ilonzeh), it doesn’t excuse TV Guide’s douchebag behavior.

Previously: Billy Corgan Decides Transphobia is the Only Way to Get Attention, Michele Bachmann and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad HPV Vaccine

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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6 Comments Have Been Posted

Agree that the Taraji Henson

Agree that the Taraji Henson thing is out of order, but my google image search turned up a ton of people of color on TV guide covers - 90210, House, Michael Jackson, Law & Order, and Heroes among them. The problem perhaps is more with TV itself showing few people of color/women rather than TV guide's covers, which seem so immaterial. Who reads TV guide, anyway? Come on. There are serious issues out there. Troy Davis, Jamey Rodemeyer. You guys make those of us working for real change seem like whiney idiots.

this is serious to some of us

While I understand that there are dire issues out there this is serious to a group of people that have been ignored in the media for decades. Regardless of how loving a family or environment is for a young girl of color if she sees that mainstream society doesn't count her she can develop major self esteem issues. It's not ok for such an influential entity as Hollywood to continue to slight people who are not the "right" color/race/sex/gender.

Taraji P.Henson has won SAG Awards, BET, MTV, Washington Critic's Association and tons of other awards not to mention the years that she's put into the business. So to blatantly ignore her the way that they have is more than just an insignificant magazine's goof. It's once again proof that no matter what we do in this country if you're not a rich, white, upperclass man then you don't matter.

Emmy & Academy Award nominated Actresss not interesting?!

Right she's won SAG awards, been nominated for Emmy awards, Academy awards not to mention the countless other awards shown in in this link ( but to be the wrong color and the wrong sex obviously makes her uninteresting for the cover of this magazine. I agree with Bitch's assessment on the matter. How do you blatantly exclude the only female/person of color from the cover when it's obvious that there are 3 major stars. Maybe if there were four or five they could have gotten away with it but this is so blatantly obvious that it's insulting to all of our intelligence to try to claim otherwise.

I've been seeing ads for this

I've been seeing ads for this show Person of Interest for weeks. I don't have a television but I see them on the sides of buses, at my subway station, etc. I never would have known Taraji P. Henson was in this show if it weren't for this article. She is featured in NONE of those ads. So in addition to the cover of the TV Guide, which was only looking to feature her two male castmates, every single ad I've seen has also left her off completely. That's really unfortunate.

I was about to say the same thing

I couldn't believe this.

I couldn't believe this. Taraji is an amazing actor and deserves some credit for a star where she is the lead. Why would TV Guide decide to do the article about two white guy's relationship in the first place? They easily made the decision to leave her out. how many shows in the fall line up is about two white guys? Too many to count. they could have changed the article or at least gave a freakin picture since you's her show. I feel for her and it's a shame that not even in the 'progressive' 2011 we we see stuff like this happen.

Silly Outrage

I remember reading these articles when they came out. After catching up on the series her outrage is ridiculous. She's in these episodes for all of 5 minutes each week I'd barely call her a supporting character.

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