Published on January 21st, 2012 | by thevyne


I’ve Had it with ‘Black’ Movies and TV

By Bethany Gardner, Vyne Contributor

I have had it with “black” movies and TV. If I see one more trailer for a so-called romantic “comedy” with a bunch of black leads and a plot I’ve figured out (boy meets girl cute, boy/girl introduces other to family, drama ensues, boy/girl breakup then make up, wedding) by the end of the commercial, I think I might just lose it completely. Viewing a movie with a range of quite funny to mediocre black comedians dredging up some stereotype of black culture to give the same derivative spin on (family drama, black dating, thug life) has me reaching for the Excedrin.  Add to this a crop of “reality shows” featuring spoiled, black wanna-be celebrities, and I am on my knees: please Lord, not again. In the words of the divine and ever relevant Marvin Gaye, it all makes me want to holla!

I find that as soon as I see a movie or TV show with a predominantly black cast, I immediately dismiss it, my eyes glazing over and mind shutting down within the first few lines, the way it’s inclined to when it’s seen the same old thing repeated endlessly with almost no variation or originality. It’s like eating plain oatmeal, every meal of every day, every week for the rest of your life. The sheer monotony alone is enough to make a hunger strike seem enticing.

I’m even eschewing the historical pieces. Not because they aren’t important, and that they aren’t a part of our shared history that we should acknowledge and revere (I’m speaking to you, Civil Rights Movement), but aren’t there more stories to tell as well? Aren’t black people more their shared past? Aren’t we creating a new present and future every day in a way that needs to be addressed, discussed, and pondered over? Who is telling the story of the highly educated, upwardly mobile, debt-burdened black upper class in a way that isn’t completely superficial (we’re not just doctors and lawyers, and we care just as much about our 401Ks as we do about having a date on Friday night) or patronizing (loud “house wives” or poor single women)? What about the black artists, or struggling working families, or striving entrepreneurs? What about black immigrants from the diaspora, and the ways that they are redefining “blackness” for all of us here in the good old US? Or why does a show or movie have to be about blackness at all? We are what we are- just living our lives testifies to the richness of our experiences. So why do we limit our sensory experiences to the bland sameness of a fast food French fry when we are surrounded by the richest of cultural cuisines?

One of the more interesting things I’ve discovered lately is that I am really starting to enjoy black actors and actresses with roles on multi-ethnic shows. Mya Rudolph in Bridesmaids is a treat. I am personally advocating for Retta Sirleaf (who stars as Donna on the NBC show Parks and Recreation) to get her own spin-off- I could watch her straight-faced sarcasm all day long. These roles aren’t always perfect, but at the same time they’re not rote, either. The characters aren’t playing black roles- they’re just playing people who happen to be black. In the way that we all are.

I get that we can always go to the theater if we want to see more original black casting and roles. I tend to seek out independent films when I want to see something more original and more chocolate than what Hollywood, cable, and broadcast TV offer. But oftentimes there isn’t much else out there that’s really worth seeing. So I speak to you, both consumers and creators of content for the black masses- please, please, don’t give us what you think we want to see, based on what’s already been seen and viewed before. If anything, think back on your own experiences as a person of color- or don’t. Be the next Love Jones and not the next Guess Who. Heck, even include a few Asian/ Latino/ or Caucasian cast members in a way that’s natural and not forced (back away from the racial stereotypes). Who knows, you might just create the first really great (I’d even settle for unique) “black” movie of the 21st century.

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3 Responses to I’ve Had it with ‘Black’ Movies and TV

  1. Cheryl says:

    Bethany, you make some very good points with your insightful observations. As long as we “Black folks” support the “same ole, same ole” they will continue. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on “Red Tails”, the story of the Tuskegee Airmen. Thanks.

  2. NikkiB says:

    Bethany, I hear you and find myself ‘tired’ of the same old stories about us. I do think that unfortunately there are messages that some of our people keep ‘missing’ and that is why folks like Tyler Perry create those films: ‘love and respect black women’, ”stop killing each other’, ‘know your history’, ‘respect our elders’ etc, etc. There is usually a message and I am a big believer that you need to meet people where they are. I would, however, encourage everyone to see Redtails. It was a great quality film.

  3. Retha says:

    On point! WE need to create our own content. I’m writing my own TV show because I too am fed up! Thanks for the post.

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