Is Gabourey Sidibe’s ‘Queenie’ The Worst Black Character On Television Right Now?

64 comments
December 27, 2013 ‐ By Charing Ball

Queenie American Horror Story

Honestly, I’m starting to think that to watch television or film as a person of color, particularly a black person, it requires a bit of intentional cognitive dissonance to be able to enjoy most of it. I’m talking about the reality shows, the films and even down to the commercials – everything is extremely problematic. And yet, I like watching television shows and film. Why? Because I like watching stories. And some of them, in spite of all their black people problems, are really good and entertaining. What is a conscious black person to do?

My newest quagmire is American Horror Story: Coven. This is the third anthology of the series, which this season takes place in both antebellum and contemporary New Orleans. While this season has thus far impressed many critics for its boldness in broaching the seemingly taboo subjects of racism and gender oppression, particularly through its story lines on slavery, racial segregation and the Salem witch trials, the show also has by far the most stereotypical and borderline offensive portrayal of a black woman I have ever seen on television. And yes, I’m talking about “Queenie.

The role, which is played by Oscar-nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe, could have been a transformative role. Her character’s wiki describes her an obese girl who shows “no signs of a defeated attitude and carries herself confidently.”  But instead, the writers and creators of the series felt it necessary to make her into a caricature of what we always tend to associate with being a heavy-set, dark-skinned woman. I’m not talking about the fact that she is often seen as angry and yes, even sassy. I am a firm believer that black women should be allowed to encompass all the range of emotions granted upon all other human beings – screw whoever has a problem with that! But I’m talking about the fact that her name is “Queenie” and she is from Detroit. And she used to work in a fried chicken shack. And that unlike her other white witch counterparts, her witchery is rooted in voodoo (which on the show is portrayed as “dark magic” as opposed to birthright witchcraft like the rest of the Coven). And her magic power is being a cot-damn human pin cushion doll. That’s right, week after week of this series we got to watch Queenie graphically mutilate herself as a way to defend against those, who sought to do her personal harm.

[SPOILER]

Besides her shady biography, questionable powers of self-mutilation and the overall distortion of the Vodun tradition (Seriously? Voodoo dolls?), it’s the things that Queenie does that are most troublesome. This includes threatening to eat one of the witches during an argument (it’s supposed to be funny because she’s fat); attempting to educate a decapitated Delphine LaLaurie, a slave-murdering mistress played by Kathy Bates, by making her watch Roots and B.A.P.S; and in the latest episode, putting a bullet through her own head as a way of killing an enemy. However, all of that seems pretty innocuous when compared to what went down in episode three, entitled, The Replacements.

Delphine LaLaurie, who through a long sorted fantastical story has been appointed to work as Queenie’s personal maid, has just finished concern-trolling Queenie about her weight, more specifically, telling her to lay off the sandwiches if she hopes to get a man, when a black minotaur appears at the door. It’s there to kill Delphine LaLaurie for her past crimes against the enslaved, including changing a slave into a half-black man/half-beast. Okay. Cool, I’m feeling this. But then the story goes awry when Queenie not only pulls a magical Negro moment and saves the white slave-torturing mistress from her rightful fate but then tries to seduce the minotaur into sex. Yes, you read that right. In the midst of this bull-headed man with huge horns chasing her around, she stops, lifts up her skirt and begins to masturbate while saying the following:

“You just wanted love, and that makes you a beast. They called me that too. But that’s not who we are. We both deserve love like everybody else. Don’t you want to love me?”

Here is a short list of all the WTF questions and thoughts that came to my head at the time of watching that scene:

  1. Why is she comparing herself to a beast?
  2. Big girls – even a big as Queenie – have sex all the time without even having to go through any of that desperate luring. There is no reason for her to have to beg a man for sex, let alone sex from a minotaur.
  3. Matter of fact, why is he a minotaur? No, I get how he became minotaur, but seriously, we can’t portray black love and love making on screen without reducing us down to animals and bestiality?
  4. Ewww…

Even worse than the visual imprint of Queenie attempting to lose her virginity to an animal during that scene, it was hard to say for sure if it was even consensual. As Queenie is touching herselfwith one hand and luring the minotaur towards her with the other hand, it grabs her by the neck, turns her around and then we go to commercial. When we return, the minotaur is gone and Queenie is laying on the ground bleeding from her abdomen, or maybe her vag*na, but honestly, it was hard to tell in that scene. However, what was certain was the minotaur’s total disregard for Queenie, and quite frankly, maybe the writers of that scene were disregarding her as well.

I know, it’s only mid-season. And why am I expecting realism in a story about witches, immortal slave mistresses and big black minotaurs with vag-ripping  man-parts? I don’t. Like the rest of the characters in the story, I expect her to be a multi-faceted and fluid character, just like the rest of her witchy white counterparts. But can we achieve that without being a clusterf**k of tired cliches and racial tropes? Is that too much to expect from white folks in Hollywood?

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  • Cheryle Herman-Perez

    Charing Ball, I thought you article had some interest until I reached the end and I found that you never did say anything about the pro-Black comments of both of the Black witches. When you said this I understood why you would hold a Black to the same standards as Whites: ” Is that too much to expect from white folks in Hollywood?” Do you see how that’s racist and puerile? You make a distinction between Black actors and “White folks in Hollywood.” What you really meant to say but didn’t want to open all of Pandora’s box is that “White racists are in control of Hollywood.” How would you explain Marie Laveau having so much more social power than Queenie?
    But, what they have in common is that both are Black Supremacists, and against non-Blacks; they’re oppositional and antagonistic to Whites.
    I’ve met both types in my life. Both do exist in real society. To deny Queenie’s type is to ignore the Queenie “witness” at the Trayvon trial.
    You can’t deal with that type until you deal with the racism in it.

  • HOUSE OF KIMAANI

    Girl based on article you wrote you are very toxic for the african community and a serious need of psychic help or be put and a institution and check up seriously its urgent to sick .. may the sprit of our ancestors heal you .. you need it

  • HOUSE OF KIMAANI

    Girl based on artile you wrote you are very toxic for the african community and a seroius need of psychic help or be put and a instutution and check up seriously its urgent to sick

  • me

    If she was not big and dark, we would not even be having this convo. People have complained about everything this girl has done. If this was Zoe Saldana or Rasheeda Jones, nobody would say a word.

  • shelly

    IMO, the fact that you like stories is not a good excuse to defend why you support the trash that is on television. If you like stories, read a book. I’m not trying to be smart, I’m serious. That’s what I do, I mostly just read. I only watch 2 shows, and I honestly need to wean myself off of those. When we watch this stuff, we are basically saying that how they portray us is okay.

  • Hello

    Did anyone watch Gabby in The Big C? The series ended May or June of this year. She did a good job. I think people get oversensitive about her roles because she is dark skin and overweight. Deep down many blacks think her physical attributes are an embarrassment. So they’re protective of Gabby’s image in the media (if they’re not picking on her in an attempt to distance themselves). They want to see the actress in roles that do not go over the edge ( for lack of better words). Kind of like people who want to see fat women in clothing that flatters their shapes instead of an overweight female exposing her midriff. Our society tells big women that they must be fat and conservative or fat and bubbly cute. You cant be fat and ugly or sexual. That’s one of the big reason’s Gabby’s part on American Horror Story makes some African American’s cringe.

  • Hello

    I’ve never seen the show. From what the author has described, it reads like the series was just ridiculous to begin with.

  • Rochelle Hall

    Okay, I’ve been watching AHS since season one. I don’t think there has been a scene on any season that didn’t make me unconformable. Thats what I love about the show! you don’t know what to expect. Now as for GS portraying Black folks in a bad light? have you all watched the show before this? If you have, then you know your gonna get scared, mad, disgusted,shocked, tickled and some more stuff. Cause I for one am very entertained. But if you don’t like it, then turn the channel..Ijs

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  • Jacquelyn

    i honestly love the new season on coven but this article pointed all the “hmm”moments that i saw and was thinking to myself maybe im just being overly sensitive since its just a show about witch craft and monsters but to see i wasnt the only one kind of makes you want to throw a flag on the play…not a “lets call al sharpton moment” but just throw a flag this article is the first flafg thrown…maybe since the writers are majority white they didnt see a problem with all the “hmm ” moments noticed but if they did and didnt correct them or for gabbie to at least question them when she read the script is another sad moment in network history for black characters…it also makes you question are there really no strong positive roles for up and coming black actors in hollywood?

  • FromUR2UB

    “Is that too much to expect from white folks in Hollywood?”

    Apparently, YES. Many white people still think of black people as something strange and foreign. There are still white people who exists in pockets of populations where they rarely see black people in the flesh. I think they’re the ones who stare at us in public places. As for the ones in Hollywood, they don’t care about our images…our humanity. Do we not get that yet?? We continue to beg white Hollywood to represent us differently, in the ways that we want to see ourselves instead of the ways they want to see us. Not gonna happen…at least, not very soon. The only thing we can do is not support these projects. That shouldn’t be hard for people who find them offensive.
    I haven’t seen the show, so not sure if I’m missing some reference / information that would cause the author to be cool with the representation of the ex-slave black man as half beast…”feeling it”, in fact. My first thought was, why is THAT ok? It sounded like that image conveyed some indisputable truth while the rest of what was shown is problematic. See? This disloyalty and division among us…this is what makes us vulnerable to attacks and mistreatment. So, until we decide to be right to one another, let’s stopped expecting the rest of the world to treat us better than we treat each other.

  • MM82

    I believe Gabby will always be looked down on and blamed for playing a demeaning part solely based on her looks. Because she’s big and black it will always make some people feel uncomfortable because they don’t wanna see that on TV. If a cute little black chic was playing the part I don’t think it would be such an issue. Gabby looks like the stereotype black woman that many want to act like doesn’t exist .

  • JamRock Tara Brown

    I think you an everyone else who is agreeing with you are just god damned bored and want something to rant about … AHS is portraying EVERYTHING , from racism ,to self hate , taboo , beastiality , incest ..EVERY DAMN THING. .BLACK PEOPLE STOP PLAYING VICTIM WTF WE ARE NOT WEAK.. YOU ALL COMPLAINING ABOUT HOW THE PRODUCERS SHOW QUEENIE , AND THEY ARE noT WRONG , Her character is what it is .. shes a black , obese, angry , sexually frustrated young black woman , whos a voodoo princess, stop making everything about US ..wtf AHS is portraying Everyone ,stop trying to make Queenie stand out …

  • khamilah

    I was thinking the same thing…Angela Bassett’s character makes sense but Gabby’s is disturbing to say the least. Ryan Murphy has much to answer for…

  • Gabie Aldrich

    Please have a seat and really watch this show!! (with open eyes) Voodoo was not being represented as the evil side of the witches matter of fact the voodoo’s and the Salem’s made peace in the late 60′s and the truce wasn’t broken until Fiona Bought back MD.& if you really watched the show you will know that the truce is back on due to the witch hunters attack on voodoo’s..Yes everything with the plot is a bit silly but it’s TV If you don’t like it write your own show..It took YEARS for Ryan Murphy to actually get a show on past 3 episodes..Happy New Year.

  • floydwebb

    These shows have teams of writers few of whom are black most likely. And if there are one or two writers, their good counsel will often be ignored.

    Why do we keep expecting them to do right after 120 years of cinema??? Do for Self.

  • to0ber

    I’ve never seen the show, but since you mentioned it. I’ll check it out. I like the fact that Gabby has a starring role in it. I’m sure most black actresses would love this role over being a out of work actress. Power to ya Gabby, make that money lady.

  • http://www.rishona.net/blog/ Shona

    Agreed; I love both Gabby/Queenie & the show!

  • Keara

    I loooved that she threatened to eat someone during an argument. That, to me, was way more in line with her being unapologetic and confident. She is using her size, which others look down on her for and make snide remarks about, and turning it around to deliberately make them more uncomfortable by using a phrase they’d probably try to tease her with to shut them up. That made perfect sense to me as something a real person would do as a defense mechanism. Like, “I’ll say it before they can.”

    The minotaur thing was extremely uncomfortable to watch and so unnecessary to the storyline. Even leaving in that she was trying to safe Delphine Lalaurie, they could have just written in her being hurt without all the bizarreness of that scene.

  • Javipaxville

    I agree 100%. Except why is vagina a bad word that needs an asterisk? It’s not a curse word. Would you have written “pen*s”?

    • xxdiscoxxheaven

      I think it is the site. It censors many words

  • kiki j

    I get your point but it’s not about being sensitive. But the movies you named are biographies about the life of black people that were actually about opression (not the butler). Not to mention you can only name 3 and there really aren’t many more sadly. Black movies ALWAYS fall into stereotypes (slavery, opression, drugs etc). Especially when it’s a mixed race show the black character always falls into a negative stereotype. Its no secret black actors have to “sellout” for a role so they can make it in Hollywood. I mean she worked at a fried chicken shack seriously?

  • Caydence James

    Wow. I will NOT be watching this.

    • Trisha_B

      Don’t make the authors one sided opinion push away from watching this show. It’s actually really good. Each season is a different story. I loved the 1st season, didn’t really like the 2nd season, & i’m loving this season. Watching the show is like watching a horror movie, just in segments lol. All the characters have issues. But they are slowly telling the back story of each of the characters to see why they are that way.

      The scene w/ Queenie & the beast was really gross, but so was the scene of the white mom having an incest moment w/ her son.

      If you’re not a fan of horror/gory movies, then this show might not be for you. But if you are, check it out & come up w/ your own opinions about the show. If you don’t like this season, check out the other 2 seasons to see if you like those story lines better. Reason i love this show!

  • http://mylavaland.tumblr.com/ Nana Quaison Sackey

    There are also Black witches that aren’t into the “dark arts” and it is their birthright to be witches but it isn’t portrayed in this show. The show has many facets of white witches but only voodoo priestesses & dolls for the black characters. Queenie is one big exaggerated depiction of a black witch. Fried Chicken, Angry, Obese, Sassy, Voodoo doll, from Motowncity Detroit.

    … And yes, it would be useful to have more positive depictions of black women in film/television. I’ll even take the not-so-normal black girls- Black girls can be the dumb party girls whose only goal in life is to get high and sleep with boys but we rarely see that presented in a pretty package. There is no room for the black dumb, party girls, they were saved and slotted only for reality television. Black females have more to offer than just the caricatures that we often see.

  • Just saying!!

    I’ve never even heard of this show, but my goodness I am terrified. Every time I thought it was it its worst moment it got even worse! *runs and hides*

  • v

    I love the show. But queenie sucks in her role on this show. I understand that she probably prides herself on being big but it is painful to watch her act especially compared to Angela Basset. as long as gabby is her size and has to take five deep breaths in between each line she will be playing the role of a sad troubled black woman. The young witches are terrible actresses the whole lot of them. The older actresses are carrying the show.

  • Benita Marie Hannah

    Damn, I’m glad I don’t watch tv all that much anymore. This sounds like…like, I don’t even know! Just reading it was disturbing.

  • Treacle234

    Give it a rest please. No need to over analyse Gabby’s role. Her character is a vodoo doll. Madison is a white party girl who sleeps around, isn’t that a stereotype also. I like Gabby in the show, her chemistry with Kathy bates is great. I hope she didn’t die though.

    • Gabie Aldrich

      Exactly! The real head scratchers are the twisted mothers and sons relationships storylines.

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  • kim

    Am I the only one who wants to point out that this was a movie and not television?

    • xxdiscoxxheaven

      Huh?

      • kim

        This was a movie, not a TV show. Am I wrong?

        • xxdiscoxxheaven

          No its a tv series on fx. This is its 3rd season. Each season is a different theme.

          • kim

            woops. i will shut up now…:)

  • Shonda Gray

    Wow she tried to screw the minotaur, the main white girl screwed two revived corpses one who was put together using several parts of his different friends, was dumb as a door knob and who’s past included him being screwed by his mother throughout the majority of his life and afterlife. Another character’s mother killed his father because he wanted to leave her, hid behind her bible for years and used cruel and unusual means of punishment when he did something she didn’t like as in douching his anal cavity with bathroom cleaner. Everyone in this show has problems, big insane problems. The head witch of the house is insecure, was never married and is currently engaging in sexual activity with the revived soul of a serial killer with pedophilic tendencies. Everyone in the show is screwed up. No more no less. Seek and you shall find.

    • Trisha_B

      Agree! It’s like the author watched this show ready to complain, ignoring all the other characters & their problems/issues smh

  • MyBiz

    Imo she’s not that great of an actress, but I love Ms Bassett, hence the reason I watch, plus I like Kathy Bates. She plays a human voodoo doll which I think is cool, but I’d like to see maybe Keke Palmer or someone else with more acting skills play her role.

  • Leslie Juanita

    just an FYI, queenie’s character IS descended from “Salem Witches” she breaks it down in episode 2 or 3. she’s not related to the voodoo coven, but she joins them after feeling ostracized by the other girls & being manipulated a bit by bassett’s character. so yea, the black= voodoo mistress thing you got wrong.

    • BishPlease

      She is of Tituba, who taught the Salem witches all that they know. She was African and Arawak Angela mentioned that. Additionally this article ignores that Angela alone was more powerful than their entire school (I’m not sure that the school has all remaining members of their coven ). That the supreme and her daughter both went to Marie (AB) for help concerning her powers and abilities. Also, though Queenie had a part time at a fried chicken shack she had a 4.0 and is gifted in Math. This was also included in the show. AHS is all about shock value and Gabby is clearly shocking the s*** out of all of you. Lol I love the show!

  • gemine

    I was really ready to like this show and then I watched. It made me sick to my stomach….It’s just another Hollywood attempt to degrade black women!

  • KahkiNC

    Maybe if the show had a black writer or two……… share these opinions with the show on their blog

  • mamazulu

    in that show lillyhammer. the only black men they have on the show are gay black men out of 2 season 2 black men both gay ..no other. they don’t even have a black woman on the show.the world is getting browner ..white supremacy cant stop that but it will do what they do best and distort our images and our legacy..all of this portal of black women and men is through fear..i wish we would start a movement against this.. we need positive programming, we need positive characters and images and we deserve it

    • shelly

      I agree. I can’t stand when people constantly give excuses for the stereotypical entertainment that they watch, just so that they will still be able to be entertained and not have to feel guilty about it. This writer was very right when she mentioned that you have to engage in cognitive dissonance to watch tv or movies these days. Instead of choosing to be unconscious, lets just break ourselves away from the garbage, as hard and uncomfortable as it might be. In the long run, we will be doing ourselves a favor.

  • JuJu

    You hit the nail right on the head!! Agree 100%!

  • QueensNY134

    She rocks, she’s funny, entertaining and plays the hell outta this role.. Do your thing Gabby!

  • Tanycha

    I gave up TV three years ago , but had some interest in watching Coven because of Angela
    Bassett. This review reminds me why I turned away from the tube in the first place.

  • Betty

    Get on somewhere. Emma Watson’s character is a one dimensional privileged sl*t. Thats tv shows with too many story lines and plots. It was like this last season too. Everything isnt a perpetuation of stereotypes and limited tropes.

    • Ashlee Lalor

      Her name is Emma Roberts
      -_-

    • shadyboots

      white people are not under represented on television so …if they have a one dimensional character is ok …they will always have a plethora of other characters (white) with depth IE EVERY OTHER WHITE CHICK ON THE SHOW…have several seats….smh

  • tcopes

    The writers of the show also have gone into detail about the history/family life of the other characters prior to entering the school…not so much for Queenie. Is she supposed to be comic relief because if so I’m not laughing.

    • Boosker

      I don’t think this is really true. We don’t get backstory on Madison or Nan, and the only background we get on Zoe is when she is taken from her parents’ home. The characters we get background information on are the older characters: Fiona, Madame LaLaurie, Cordelia, Myrtle, and Marie LaVeau.

  • Awa

    I never watched the show before. I spend very little time watching tv every week and when I do I want to see people who look like me and I want to see them playing non stereotypical roles. But thanks for the heads up, def good to know.

  • JuJu

    First let me say this. I was so happy to see Sidibe in something after not seeing her for awhile. I think she is a talented actress but is often placed inside a box due to her physical appearance (which is unfortunate). I’m kind of torn on how AHS portrays Queenie. Idk. I feel like yeah, there are certain stereotypes her character consists of/participates in, and some things they have her do I think is ridiculous, but at the same time in my opinion, she has one of the most unique power out of all the witches and she’s a very strong character on the series (We don’t know if she’s officially’dead’ yet). I do have to admit that the whole scene with Queenie and the Minotaur was pretty disturbing. But there are plenty disturbing/embarrassing scenes involving almost every character throughout this whole season. Thats the beauty of AHS. Shock Value….
    This is my first season on AHS, and I really do hope they keep Sidibe on for season 4! I love her and I especially love the show!

    • Ashlee Lalor

      I agree with you 100% I have watched AHS since the beginning and this show is for shock value- they up the ante every year. Gabby’s character is a bit stereotypical BUT if you actually watch the show she has the best powers (imo). One of the other witches kills dudes by having sex with em (uhh eww) and one constantly hears dead people (annoying). This article is trying to find something negative to say -_- but did not bring up Angela Basset’s character. A strong black woman dealing in voodoo that is suppose to be the villain but you can’t help but freakin love and root for.

      Try again Charing Ball

      • Desiquai Atchison

        AGREED!

      • Trisha_B

        Agree! I was reading this waiting for them to talk about Angela’s character. Like they said Queenie was a stereotypical character, but acts like there isn’t another black character that is different than Queenie….I love American Horror Story!

  • http://www.yourtango.com/users/cheekee-baby cheekee baby

    Umm the f*ck? I won’t be watching this anytime soon.

  • Rachel Stewart

    my issue is she isnt a good actress, but even the best actress couldnt pull off this ridiculous character.

  • KIR12

    That’s how white boys view obese black women. Look at how they treat their own fat women.

    • Hello

      True, in a way. Although fat white boys will date fat white girls.

  • http://www.latoyahankins.com/ Toya

    I too was so disturbed with how she has been portrayed and I think the whole magic Negro save the oppressor was a bit too far. It seemed no one, not even Angela Bassett’s character treated her with respect. I especially didn’t like the scene when Jessica Lange physically wiped her hands off after assuring her she could be the next Supreme. No respect indeed

  • SANDRA

    Thank God, I am not the only who thinks that way about that show. Queenie is associated with all of the negative stereotypes surrounding black women.
    I don’t even get mad when I see this type of stuff on TV because I am used to it sadly …

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