Entertainment June 26, 2018
We need more diverse representation.
Black media representation in America is typecast to thugs, slaves, impoverished, or a civil rights leader. While all of these are aspects of a Black experience in America, it’s not the sole experience.
Filmmaker Ava Duvernay tackled this concern with her hit show “Queen Sugar” airing on OWN. The show has a 100 percent score for its previous season on Rotten Tomatoes. It depicts the lives of the fictional estranged Bordelon siblings. Set in Louisiana, the show follows the characters as they fight to maintain their families’ legacy- a non-race issue.
This show is important, as a Vulture review stated. It gets at Duvernay’s ongoing question of, “Why don’t we see African-Americans on screen just being?” An essential question to ask.
Films such as “Detroit,” “Fruitvale Station” and “Hidden Figures” depict influential black figures, events and the challenges that many black people experience as important for their culture. Black representation should not just be stories of struggle and painful history. Black representation should embody all that a black person is- both the struggle and the success story.
Media representation must show black people as multidimensional characters within a story. Although, ignoring the Black experience isn’t an option. There needs to be television and film that showcases carefree black characters and black portrayals of roles traditionally reserved for white people. There’s only a handful of films where Hollywood attempted to do such.
Here’s a list of successful media examples where Black people are just people.
The 2017 romantic drama follows a young girl, played by Amandla Stenberg, who has an immunodeficiency that’s forced her to stay inside of her highly-sterilized house. She doesn’t stray from her living quarters and everyday routine, until she catches the eye of the boy next door, played by Nick Robinson. This film is important because it shows a young black girl as a character where her blackness is a non-factor. Stenberg even describes it as a movie that shows a “carefree black girl [infiltrating] mainstream media” and one that “normalizes blackness.” Also, to add to this movies’ awesomeness, black women wrote and directed the film.
The Freeform spinoff of ABC’s “Blackish” follows Zoey Johnson as she navigates her way through her college experience. The show definitely tackles black experiences and issues. It also depicts the black characters as multifaceted and a part of a college culture where there’s an exclusion of black youth.
The series, which aired in the early 2000s, depicted the life of a black family. It provided representation for middle-class black families that struggled with everyday problems. This representation is important because, often times, black families aren’t often shown as nuclear families. Instead, we see most black characters come but coming from broken homes. Reminder the viewer that there is black success and happiness reassures the black audience with confidence.
The 1990s series is a classic show that also depicts a nuclear black family. The program not only shows a wealthy black family that’s highly regarded in their community, it also portrays the variation of black experiences based on class. Furthermore, every single character is different. They’re at different points in their lives and have great diverse personalities. This oldie is one that truly highlights how multifaceted black experiences can be.
The 2017 smash hit is a film about four college friends reunited for a girls trip to Essence Festival, a self-described “party with a purpose” that celebrates the Black women’s magazine. Each of these women are successful in their own profession and bring a different vibe and personality to the table. Each character in this film is relatable. The women are independent, successful and still overcoming certain struggles. This movie is carefree, has black girl magic and much more!
These are just a few media examples of multifaceted black characters and media. Some other honorable mentions include “Insecure,” “Girlfriends,” “Sister, Sister” and “Living Single,” just to name a few. We need more. Black media representation shouldn’t be controlled by a monolith of the black experience.
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