I’ve been dwelling a lot in this blog on racial issues - and again, if there is another issue you’d like me to explore pertaining to cultural appropriation or just something you find offensive, please let me know - but race is an issue that is of personal interest and concern to me.
On that note, I want to talk about the representation of black people in the media, particularly the portrayal of black women. This is kind of a follow-up to the post I did on black women in the fashion industry, where they are often seen, or at least portrayed, as exotic novelty items, but not a representation of the beauty norm.
I often find myself uncomfortable with the representation of black women on TV show and movies I watch. It may be a well-acted show or film with a well constructed plot, but it always makes me cringe when the stereotypical Sassy Black Woman character appears onscreen.
You may be familiar with the Sassy Black women. She’s usually a friend and/or coworker of the (often) white main character who dispenses earthy wisdom with a sassy snap of her fingers and a “Honey Child, you listen here!” It’s an outdated and extremely awkward trope, in my mind, especially since these portrayals are not balanced by black women in main character roles. And, for the record, I don’t count Tyler Perry movies or shows that appear on BET. I’m talking about main characters in mainstream TV shows and films.
It’s not just the sassy black female trope that bothers me either. There’s a distinct lack of black female characters cast as romantic leads, or if they are, they’re always paired with someone of their own race. How limited! And not at all a reflection of reality as we all know.
Which is why my heart rejoices in shows like ABC’s Scandal. FINALLY! A show where the main character is a strong, stylish, intelligent female who just happens to be black. In fact, hardly a mention is made of the fact that she’s black, not even where her relationship with a white man is concerned. To me this is progress - we need more shows like this!
Still, that’s only one. Maybe you’re aware of other examples and if you are please let me know, but think about it for a minute: how many black actresses are you aware of?
There’s a reason why I posted this along with a picture of Mammy, a character from Gone With The Wind. Now, I have to admit, I love this movie. I find the character of Scarlett very interesting and the love story between her and Rhett fascinating, but the one thing that sticks in my throat every time I watch it is the portrayal of the black characters in the story.
We have to ask ourselves, have we really come that far from the days when characters like the shrill-voiced Prissy or the gruff Mammy were the cinematic norm?