“Wheel of Fortune”, everyone’s favorite puzzle-solving game show, found itself in some hot water this week, after an image used in the background appeared to show two African American women in front of an plantation-era mansion. The backdrop, used as part of the show’s “Southern Charm Week”, showed the women in slave garb, and quickly drew the ire of viewers and people across the internet.
— Joshua Itiola (@joshitiola) June 16, 2017
The tweet quickly gained traction, prompting “Wheel of Fortune” executive producer Harry Friedman to issue a statement and apologize for the use of the problematic image. Friedman told the New York Daily News, “We regret the use of this background image, and we will be replacing it moving forward on any rebroadcast.” Oak Alley Plantation, the location where the picture was taken by producers of the show in 2005, also issued it’s own statement in the wake of the controversy.
Spokeswoman Hillary Loeber tells NY Daily News that the plantation employs tour guides who wear the period clothing featured in the picture, but does not hire actors to portray slaves.
The apology issued by Friedman did little to quell the outrage over the inclusion of the picture. One Twitter user wondered whether or not there are any POC on staff at the game show who would’ve, presumably, had a whole lot to say about the image.
The Wheel of Fortune staff must have no POC on it or they'd never have permitted a backdrop as part of Southern Charm week w/SLAVES in it⁉️
The use of an image of a plantation during “Southern Charm Week” highlights the problems surrounding the romanticizing of a brutal era of this country’s history. Plantations were symbolic of steep class divisions in the South, and their survival and prosperity came on the backs of slave labor. Setting aside the obvious problems with using a picture featuring black women in slave dress, the association of a plantation with anything “charming” should’ve raised some serious eyebrows during the planning of the show, and one has to wonder how many eyes and ears at “Wheel of Fortune” this idea went through on it’s way to being aired.
(Image: Wheel of Fortume)