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  • Writer's picturemparikian

Robert Zane is Black?


Image from GQ

The NBC show, Suits, is an American drama series that focuses on the lives of New York based corporate lawyers. One of the lead characters, Harvey Specter is a senior partner of the firm who boasts his undefeated record as one the best lawyers in Manhattan. Jessica Pearson, the name and managing partner of the firm sits as the head of the office, playing a large leadership role. A large majority of the cases discussed in the show revolve around white collar crimes that occur throughout the city of New York, highlighting stories of blackmail, betrayal, and hostile corporate takeovers. Race plays a large role in the portrayal of characters and stereotypes throughout the show, as a large portion of the cast are played by white men and women. Many of the figures of authority in the firm are played by white men, who seem to dominate the space. It is great to see Jessica Pearson, the highest ranking attorney at the firm, to be played by a black woman, seemingly breaking the racial stereotype of white men in charge. Jessica's role is vital as she not only plays a very smart and strategic attorney, but she is also well respected by her peers, demonstrating herself as a person not to be reckoned with.

Despite Jessica's role seemingly breaking the racial stereotypes behind black women, Season 2, Episode 13: “Zane vs. Zane” seems to create other racial stereotypes. In a conversation between Rachel Zane, a half-black woman, and Mike Ross, a white attorney at the firm, a dialogue creates a very confusing interaction that seems to reinforce some racial stereotypes. During the conversation between Mike and Rachel, Mike states ““Robert Zane is your dad?” “Is it so hard to believe my father is black?” “Robert Zane is black?”. For some context, Robert Zane is one of the head attorneys at their rival firm Rand, Kaldor & Zane, known to be a very powerful and dangerous attorney. Throughout the episode, Zane is constantly viewed as a threat, which is a positive reaction to a rival, as it shows they are really good at what they do, yet it feels very weird for Mike Ross to be so surprised to learn Robert Zane is black. The episode itself is based on a sexual harassment case, in which Harvey represents the plaintiff and Rober Zane represents the defendant. The grudge match between the two gets very personal as Harvey goes to new extremes and uses Robert's daughter, Rachel, against him. As the episode continues and the case between Harvey Spector and Robert Zane concludes, it is ultimately Robert who drops the case as Harvey uses Rachel to create internal conflicts between the two.

It comes to no surprise that the show concludes with Harvey as the victor of the conflict, as the show seems to emphasize the power white attorneys have. Despite some racial stereotypes being broken, the show is quick to enforce others creating a very unusual environment. I liked to see black characters play such strong roles, especially in a corporate environment, yet it seems at every corner they lose to a white competitor.


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