All Articles Tagged "girls"
ABOUT THIS EPISODE
In this episode of Mommy in Chief, we are discussing how to build your child’s self esteem. It is very important as a mother to build your child’s self esteem from birth. We also have a special treat for you at the end of the segment. You don’t want to miss the cutest little kids expressing how confident and beautiful they are!
Iris L. Johnson, LCSW, PC, is a graduate of Hunter College School of Social Work, Ackerman Institute Externship and Hunter College’s Adoption Therapy Programs. Ms. Johnson has served in leadership positions at several New York City social service agencies and has extensive experience working with young children, adolescents, and families who have experienced trauma and socioeconomic oppression. She has presented nationally on issues that impact women and children, especially families of African descent.
She is a mother of two-one biological and one foster care/adoption.
Ms. Johnson maintains a private practice in New York City and Brooklyn, working with individuals, couples, families, and groups.
Want More Mommy In Chief? Watch these episodes:
- Episode 1: Mommy-To-Be: Pregnancy In 3 Stages
- Episode 2: The Truth About Breastfeeding
- Episode 3: Delivery Debate: Natural Birth Vs. C-Section
- Episode 4: The Perfect Mother’s Day Gift
- Episode 5: Actress Kym Whitley Talks New Baby & Food Allergies for Kids
- Episode 6: Keeping Your Child Entertained This Summer Without TV
- Episode 7: Ask a Black Father | Mommy in Chief Father’s Day Special
- Episode 8: Building Your Child’s Self Esteem
- Episode 1: Are You A Good Enough Mother?
- Episode 2: New Motherhood and Balancing A Busy Work Life
- Episode 3: How to Decorate an Eco-Friendly Baby Nursery
- Episode 4: Foodie, Nicole Friday on Kids and Career
- Episode 5: Melissa Beck, From Hollywood to Stay At Home Mom
- Episode 6: Single Mom in The City
- Episode 7: Mommy Mogul and Marketing Wiz Monique Jackson at Home With Her Boys
- Episode 8: Beauty Maven Jodie Patterson Talks Four-Day Work Week for Moms
- Episode 9: Tonya Lewis Lee on Motherhood and the Importance of Women’s Health
- Episode 1: Back 2 School
- Episode 2: Happy Halloween
- Episode 3: Socially Responsible Kids
- Episode 4: Money Talks
- Episode 5: Keeping Families Healthy
- Episode 6: Thanksgiving Madness
- Episode 7: Highlights and Best Moments
- Episode 8: Stylish Moms
- Episode 9: Best Apps for Moms
- Episode 10: Socialite Kids
- Episode 11: Hair Talk with AfroBella
- Episode 12: Happy New Year!
Only One Real Carrie: Sarah Jessica Parker Speaks On Why The “Carrie Diaries” Is “Odd” To Her, And SATC Paving The Way For “Girls”
Fashion and television icon Sarah Jessica Parker sat down with Net-A-Porter’s The Edit magazine to speak about more than just personal style, and she decided to open up about the road Sex and the City paved for Girls, and how she really feels about the CW bringing you a whole different version of Carrie Bradshaw via The Carrie Diaries (are you even watching?).
While The Carrie Diaries is a cute show, it doesn’t seem that Sarah Jessica Parker is a big fan of it. She didn’t outright tell the magazine that she didn’t like it, because she’s a fan of the young lady who plays a young Bradshaw, AnnaSophia Rob, but it’s definitely not what SJP was expecting. When asked how she felt about the new portrayal of her iconic character, Parker says, “I’m not so sure.”
“You know, I think it’s one of those tests of your generosity,” Parker continued. “[Robb] is a lovely girl and I want her to feel good about it, but it’s… odd.”
Just as a reminder to all though, The Carrie Diaries is of course from the book of the same name by Sex and the City writer Candace Bushnell, so it’s definitely not a random out of the blue concept (and in fact, the book is pretty good–bought it for my diehard SATC stan sister). Therefore, Parker just might be creeped out by watching another person embody the character she brought to life. As for the legacy of Sex and the City, Parker says she’s hesitant to say it gave a voice to a generation of women, but it definitely let the stories of many women be told in a more frank manner.
“I think it certainly encouraged women to share more candidly,” she said. “I don’t know if it empowered women. I hesitate to say whether we were the pioneers or whether we gave voice to something that was there, but I recognize there was a connection.”
And this candid way of doing things definitely influenced Lena Dunham and the whole Girls series (and honestly, it probably also did so for shows like Girlfriends, movies like Bridesmaids and more). SJP says the influence is specifically around women playing a larger role in production of these stories on these shows, like Parker having a behind-the-scenes role outside of just being Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City. It definitely allowed other women to do more than just be a small-screen star.
“HBO was very encouraging of the beyond-camera role I played, and I feel that had we not done it, I don’t know that would have existed for ‘Girls.” It’s a such a different way of thinking and it’s not conventional. I also think Dunham came along understanding her voice and with the support of a producing partner Judd Apatow experienced enough to say she is capable of this, she needs to be in charge of the story as it’s her voice. I do feel ‘Sex & The City’s’ success made that possible, and it would have been different otherwise.”
She definitely has a point. But what do you think? And what do you think about the prequel to SATC, The Carrie Diaries?
Girls is a perfect example of how complicated television viewing can be for black folks.
I will admit to liking the show. In fact, I have watched it faithfully since giving in to my curiosity, somewhere through the first season. It’s a good show, one I almost missed by feeding in exclusively to all the criticism. This is not to suggest that the critics aren’t right: calling itself the voice of a new generation is basically challenge-accepted from the blogosphere to find out ways in which it is not. And anyone with a Netflix account and a modest knowledge of Sex and the City, Golden Girls, Designing Women, Girlfriends and a whole host of shows largely centered on the intimate lives of four women, will already cite that this “voice” has long been inter-generational. But at least it is set in Brooklyn – Oh wait, so was Living Single…
Although Girls’ overworked concept is as fresh as day-old orange juice and bagels, the show is not without its charming originality. First and foremost, Hannah, the title character played by the show’s own writer/producer Lena Dunham, is short, frumpy, has a double chin and has more gut than butt. These television anomalies not only challenge how we define Hollywood beauty, but also make Hannah in some ways, a pioneering figure. In addition to being the atypical protagonist of a show centered around the dating and sex lives of women, Dunham takes it to another magnitude by filming her uncharacteristic television body in the buff, appearing, at the very least, topless in just about every episode I’ve seen. When asked in an interview why she filmed so often without any clothing on, Dunham poignantly said that she wanted the world to, “Look at us until you see us.”
But despite Dunham’s aim to expand the range of women on television, one troupe which she, and the other members of the creative team behind Girls perpetuate, is this whitewashed and insular world where race doesn’t exist – even in Brooklyn. This is not in the sense of the common criticism about the lack of characters of color, which has been levied upon the show. While I understand how frustrating it is to have countless television shows centered around the lives of white folks’ ratchetness be labeled as revolutionary, and more specifically voices of a new generation, a story doesn’t necessarily have to have a central character of color to have some value. And while not the epitome-voice of the new generation, like it has been marketed, I think the clever writing and story lines does, in my opinion, warrant it being listed as one of many interesting and atypical contemporary voices.
Despite not being the sole onus of either the contemporary voice or television’s diversity problem, I still find it quite interesting how cued in the show’s creators are in wanting to challenging one-ism while being totally tone-deaf to the desire to see equal representation on the screen. For me, those two concepts go hand and hand. However I am a black woman. And Dunham is not.
In the second season opener, we see Hannah straddling Sandy, her new black Republican lover, topless and having at it. Sandy, who is played by Donald Glover. This is what you wanted, this is what you get? While clearly a middle-finger to her critics, it is not all that daring a nod to the race discussion she might have been hoping for. At this point in television history, what’s so shocking about a white girl having sex with a black dude? Miranda did it for an entire season on Sex and the City. One could mistakenly interpret this scene as an attempt, albeit lame, to be both dismissive and antagonistic to the critics. However, in the second episode, we are treated to more interactions with Sandy, some of which occurs outside of the bedroom. During one such occasion, Sandy and Hannah are discussing an essay of hers she had asked him to read. Sandy didn’t like it; Hannah is upset, but instead of coming at him for his dislike of her essay, she goes in on him about how irresponsible it is for him to be a black Republican, especially considering that “two out of three people on death row are black men.” The end of the scene involves the two breaking up and Hannah walking away from Sandy. This is the last time we see Sandy, and I suspect, the “race” issue.
Through this exchange, we see Dunham take a much more poetic response to critics, presenting to us the difficulties and awkwardness, which some folks, particularly white folks, might feel when race is interjected into the conversation. On one hand we have Sandy, whom outside of knowing his name and that he is black and republican, we really don’t know much about. However, that might be the point. Perhaps Hannah is so clueless and self-absorbed that she honestly doesn’t know that using statistics about the incarceration rate of black men as a weapon in an argument is just a tad bit racist. In a sense, Hannah could be one of those white girls who just doesn’t “get it.” And despite how irksome the real life Hannahs are, there is something very honest about seeing her (their) portrayals on television.
Or as Judy Berman, editor of FlavorPill, who penned this piece for the Atlantic, writes:
“What Dunham’s latest well-intentioned disappointment makes clear is that it will never be enough for white writers to simply try harder in their depictions of non-white characters. Some may produce keenly observed, authentic-feeling portrayals, but even those who have spent their whole lives surrounded by people of diverse backgrounds will never know first-hand what it’s like to be a person of color in America. They will never respond to Django Unchained in quite the same way as Haitian-American writer Roxane Gay. Those who don’t get it will, for the most part, continue to not get it. The truth, distasteful as it may be to those who imagine that we live in a “post-racial” era or believe it’s small-minded to apply identity politics to art, is that we still haven’t reached a point in our history at which the discrepancies between the way people of different races (or genders or religions or sexual orientations) experience life are negligible.”
But while Hannah may not “get it,” I’m not sure that I can say the same for Dunham. Sometimes some folks are keenly aware of what they do and say and are just really sophistic in caring about the effect that it has on people. Some folks, in fact, are very comfortable in their privilege, which doesn’t require them to answer or even be responsive specifically to race, gender or where they might intersect. For instance, in an interview with Alec Baldwin on his podcast, Dunham criticized Rihanna for her relationship with Chris Brown and smoking weed, and then said that she is not a good role model for young women. According to US Weekly, Dunham also says that she “had to become more conscious about what I say and what I promote, not in a way that stifles me, but just in a way where I realize now that there are 17-year-old girls who come up to me and tell me that the show means a lot to them.”
In the matter of a season and half of Girls, I have seen a character accidentally smoke crack; intentionally sleep with a gay dude; almost have a threesome; do coke for the sheer experience of writing about it; and affectionately be peed on in the shower by a boyfriend. It’s hard to play the role model card when your entire representation of a new generation hinges on women, who are one bad decision away from being crack w***es. Likewise, I find it highly unlikely that Dunham cannot recognize, or even find some commonality with, Rihanna’s own growing pains, and that experienced by characters of her hit television series, which is said to be based upon her life and the lives of friends in her social circle. On television, fictional Hannah deserves our empathy or at least understanding. In real life, Rihanna does not. That’s why it is almost laughable when Dunham speaks of looking, “…at us until you see us.” Like, what version of “us” does she truly believe the television viewing audience has yet to accept and acknowledge?
You might have noticed by now that we here at Madame Noire are fans of the HBO series “Girls.” We frequently discuss plot, character development, relatability and predictions with fervor. We agree that even though the show lacks– or lacked– any characters of color, that it is a great show. (Our own friendship circles lack diversity as well.) Our assistant editor even asked for the first season for Christmas. We friggin love it. What makes it so genius is that after college, in our early to mid twenties (essentially the life I’m living now), there is so much uncertainty. So many mistakes made, friendships tested and minor or major freak outs along the way. We can see all of that in Hannah’s story. We see ourselves, even though she’s not black like we.
In last week’s episode, Hannah had an interaction with her new boo thang Sandy, played by the much beloved Donald Glover. In that particular one, Lena Dunham held up a mirror and I saw my reflection oh so clearly. If you’re a fan of the show and you haven’t seen this episode, you’ll want to stop reading now. Because it’s about to be spoiler city.
In the episode, Hannah decides to ask Sandy to read one of her pieces. A few days go by and he hasn’t said anything about it. When Hannah tells her friend this, she says quite frankly, If he hasn’t read it, he doesn’t care enough about you to read it.
But it’s the realness only a really good friend can deliver, so Hannah goes to Sandy and asks him why he hasn’t read her piece. He sighs before telling her that he did read it…he just didn’t like it. He kept reiterating that he thought it was very well written but it just wasn’t his thing. Even though Hannah and Sandy seemed to have little else in common. (Sandy’s a Republican. Who actually prefers to acknowledge his blackness instead of “play colorblind” like Hannah.) The fact that he didn’t like her writing was the straw that broke the camel’s back. She walked out on him and the D she was expecting to get that night.
I watched the episode, almost cringing. The situation was just too [painfully] familiar. So when my sister’s boyfriend, who was watching the episode with us, wondered why Hannah was so upset, I might have overreacted and been crunker than necessary in explaining
my Hannah’s feelings.
Me: Naw, if he doesn’t like her work then they’re not going to work out.
Him: So, if a man doesn’t like something you’ve written then you can’t continue to date him?
Me: It’s not that he didn’t like it. If a man has constructive criticism for my work, I might not like it, but I’ll appreciate it. He didn’t have any suggestions to make it better. He said it was well written. It was that he didn’t like what she was writing about. If she’s going to write about something then that means she’s passionate about it. And if he doesn’t like what she’s passionate about, then it’s not going to work.
Whew Jesus. I had to remember this wasn’t my life or my work that I was defending. It just felt like it. It wasn’t that long ago when I was sitting in a similar situation. It wasn’t that my “Sandy” didn’t like what I wrote or even the way I wrote it. It was that it would take him forever to read it. I’d send it, a day or two would go by, and I’d ask if he’d read it. “No…not yet.” A week… the same response. Every time I sent something, and I’d get that response, my faith in the relationship would decline. In his defense, he would eventually read it, it just took too long, sometimes a month. I’d often wonder if I was overreacting, if I was being impatient. I’m still not entirely sure; but today, I’m leaning more towards no. I mean dang. Writing is what I’ve decided to do with my life. It’s a skill I’ve honed since childhood. It’s the form in which I express myself the most clearly and authentically. It’s my mind, my ideas… me on paper…or a computer screen. If you cared about me, why wouldn’t you read it as soon as you got a little free time? It particularly bothered me because I know, though I wasn’t perfect, that I at least supported and encouraged his dreams and aspirations, anytime he wanted to talk about them. I was always there to lend an ear when he needed it. I didn’t say, “Can we talk about this later?” or zone out while he was speaking about his goals. Why couldn’t I get an eye for an ear? A little reciprocity?
Hell if I’ll ever know. But I do understand why Hannah had to be out.
Have you ever had a man who you felt didn’t support your dreams or talent? Were you able to work through it or did it eventually cause you to leave?
There’s a pleasant surprise in store for fans of HBO’s hit series “Girls.” After complaints that the series didn’t feature any people of color, creator and star Lena Dunham is addressing the issue, just like she said she would. She’s tapped “Community” cast member and rapper (known as Childish Gambino), Donald Glover to play as Hannah’s (Lena Dunham) new love interest, Sandy.
Aww I guess it’s official Adam is completely out of there, just as he started acting like he had some sense. Smh.
Aah well. It’ll be interesting to see what Donald Glover brings to the table, especially since, as Hollywood Reporter noted in their review of the new season that Sandy, a Republican, will serve Hannah a bit of a wake up call when it comes to her thoughts on race.
“When Sandy calls out Hannah’s knowledge of race and its ramifications, she goes on a self-righteous, defensive rant, and Sandy says, “You just said a Missy Elliott lyric.”
While I’ll definitely be glad to see Donald Glover on this show, because I do think he’ll be an asset, I’m not entirely sure if the series really needed people of color. But now that he’s here, let’s hope that the show is able to authentically deal with this new character, the way its dealt with other issues that came in the first season.
What do you think about this new character of color? Are you glad that Lena Dunham added Glover or did you think the show was fine the way it was?
It’s Fashion Week in New York City and the cast and crew of Basketball Wives LA are in town filming. But there isn’t a camera crew in sight in the space behind Salon 804 in Harlem. There, under the city’s iconic fire escapes, a makeshift classroom has been fashioned and Jackie Christie is teacher for the day. A dozen girls grill the reality star on her rise to fame.
Christie talks about her life story, taking care to smooth over any negative behavior they might have seen on her show. “I don’t take mess from nobody. That’s what you see on the show [with the other girls]” she told her attentive audience. “I always feel bad after. But, I’m a fighter and I have passion.”
It was a passionate, fighting spirit that led Rochelle Mosley, a celebrity stylist from Richmond, VA now based in Harlem, to start Project Girl. The program is meant to take the stigma off of living in public housing and channel the hustle it takes to survive that environment into something positive and entrepreneurial. Friday’s event with Christie is one of a series of workshops that covers an array of topics impacting girls’ lives.
Mosley started the program when she realized that many of the girls interning in her salon did not have the information they needed to prepare for the future. “This summer I took notice of how much they didn’t know,” she said. “My 17-year-old intern didn’t know how to address an envelope… I want to help them get where they need to be so they can live like Jackie, like the people they see on TV. She’s not living a lie, it’s real for her, and she can show the girls how to make it real for them.”
Project Girl workshops feature women from all walks of life. Last month a dentist came in to discuss hygiene and a life coach visited to assist the girls in working through their problems. At the request of parents in the community, Mosley opened up the sessions to girls age between the ages of 12 and 18.
The workshops are not only an opportunity for the girls to hear women share their experiences, but to support each other’s growth. The girls don’t leave Mosley’s influence once the sessions end. She uses her network to help the girls with any problem they bring to her. “I get emails all the time,” she said. “I got an email last night from a young lady who is in 11th grade and she’s in a school where there is one college counselor to 200 kids. She said she feels like time is running out and she doesn’t have the support for college.” Mosley connected her with scholarship and test prep experts.
Empowerment is the goal here. Mosley believes that fear is what holds many women back from pursuing their dreams. For her, fear was a motivator. “I’m just thinking about not being like my mother,” she said. “That’s not derogatory. I grew up a certain way. My mother never owned anything or went on vacations. I grew up like these kids. I want to tell them just because your mother isn’t talking about it, doesn’t mean it’s not possible. I’m the first entrepreneur in my family.”
Christie was brought in to impart wisdom on juggling a busy life in the entertainment industry. Although mostly known as a polarizing character on Vh1’s raucous reality show circuit, Christie has a myriad of projects going on at any given moment, including self-help books (she just released her latest, Proud to Be a Colored Girl) and a fashion line. Her advice to girls and women is to follow their dreams. “Google, Google, Google. You can never get enough education and information,” said Christie. “That’s how I learned to be a self-published author. And now I’m five books in, with three best sellers.”
If the girls are starstruck by Christie, they don’t show it. They ask everything from updates on her co-stars’ whereabouts to advice on launching entertainment careers of their own. That fearlessness makes it apparent that this small circle of girls in Harlem is the perfect foundation to forge a new crop of first-generation entrepreneurs.
This time last year, Franchesca “Chescaleigh” Ramsey, a 28-year-old graphic designer by trade, was working in the visual merchandising department at Ann Taylor’s corporate office by day and vlogging on YouTube by night. She’d been working as a freelance graphic designer since graduating from school.
A few months later she discovered the popular “Sh!t…Says” meme and decided to shoot a response video covering a topic she knew a lot about having grown up in a predominantly white neighborhood in West Palm Beach. Thus, the “Sh!t White Girls Say…to Black Girls” video was born.
Ramsey posted the video at 8 a.m. right before she left out for work and by noon it had racked up more than one million views, instantly catapulting her from the vast black hole of video bloggers and into the spotlight.
Once the video started trending, people were quick to label Ramsey an overnight success. However, she’d been a YouTube partner for more than four years and had been diligently honing her brand and aesthetic and preparing for her breakout moment. But even she couldn’t have imagined the amount of exposure and opportunities that would appear in the months to come.
We recently caught up with Franchesca to chat about the success of the “Sh!t White Girls Say…to Black Girls” video (which is still averaging about 200,000 views per month), how she built her online audience and what’s next for the rising Internet star.
MN: How would you describe what you do to someone who is meeting you for the first time and hasn’t seen your work?
FR: I’m an actress/comedian and graphic designer/blogger that makes a living doing freelance design work and making comedy and hair/beauty videos on YouTube!
MN: It’s been about eight months since you posted the “Sh!t White Girls Say…to Black Girls” (SWGSTBG) video that put you on everyone’s radar. How has your life changed since then?
FR: My life is completely different these days. I was able to quit my day job as a graphic designer solely based on the success of “Sh!t White Girls Say….” I got an amazing agent and manager, have been working on a few television projects, speaking at colleges and conferences and going on regular TV and film auditions.
MN: A lot of people think you’re an overnight success, but you were doing YouTube videos for a few years before SWGSTBG came out, right?
FR: I started making videos in 2007 and became a YouTube partner in 2008. But I started blogging in 1998, when I was in the 8th grade.
No, not underage women, the HBO show. In an interview in People magazine, the hardcore rapper admitted that the show is his secret obsession, saying:
“I don’t know where this girl Lena Dunham came from, but she’s amazing!”
Who would’ve thought?
A lot of people share Nas’ sentiment on the show that’s been pegged as the next coming of “Sex & the City,” although the new series is not without controversy for it’s lack of color. Nassir clearly doesn’t mind.
Check out more of Nas’ revelations from his interview in the clip below he posted on his Tumblr. Do you share Nas’ “Girls” obsession?
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You know how Netflix has the “10 ten suggestion for you,” option, which is suppose to find films and television shows that cater to your specific taste but never seems to actually get it right? Well one of those “suggestions for you” just so happened to be Masterpiece Theatre: Downton Abbey.
The first time I heard of “Downton Abbey” was earlier this year when Gawker ran an article called Why Everyone in the Universe Should Watch Downton Abbey. I read it, and despite its somewhat reasonable arguments, I brushed it off. It’s not because it was British, because I love British television shows. In fact, I grew up on a healthy dose of British tomfoolery such as Are You Being Served?, Keeping Up Appearances, Blackadder, Fawlty Towers and a ton of other shows. Nor was it because it was one of those old period pieces, I rather enjoys those too. It’s simply because I don’t have a television in my house, so I don’t always get to see the stuff that folks are watching. Plus, I have become so disillusioned by Netflix and its suggestions that another faulty selection just might have pushed me over the edge. Sob. It’s like it doesn’t even know me.
But I decided to give the algorithmic system another chance. So I crashed on my couch, under the fan and got my old lady on with some Masterpiece Theatre. Three episodes later, I was sipping on green tea, eating some toast (the closest thing to tea and crumpets I had) and was fully engrossed in the first season of Downton Abbey. And if that wasn’t enough, at work the next day, all I could think about was how I couldn’t wait to go home and watch the remainder of the first season. It truly is just that good. And suddenly my faith in Netflix’s top suggestions has been redeemed. Let the church say Amen.
The show, which is about an aristocratic British family at the turn of the century, has everything you want in a 1-hour drama: romance, sex, war, sibling rivalry, comedy and a whole bunch of social commentary. One of the major reasons why I like the show is because it does such a good job of exploring the issues of class and wealth, through not only the Lords and the Ladies of the estate, but also the various staff and servants who keep the estate in order. Downton Abbey is not only beautifully cast but also well written, and should probably be on everyone’s top ten list of shows to watch – if it isn’t already.
After I finished the first season, I called one of the girlfriends, who is always game to talk smack about a show’s plot points, and told her about my new prime time fix. I said to her, “Girl, you know what you should be watching? Downton Abbey.” Her response? “Nuh-uh. I’m not watching that. That show is for white people.”
Scooby Doo “Rhuh?”
This is not the first time I heard such a proclamation come out of her mouth. Last year, after I discovered the joys of Don Draper and the rest of the gang on Mad Men, I pleaded with her then to begin watching the show with me so that we could gossip. I got back virtually the same answer. “I’m not watching any show with no Black people on it,” she said.
Well that’s just silly. Besides, there are a number of shows with not a single black face on them that became must-see television in many black households. That list includes shows like Wonder Years, Married with Children, Full House, Friends, Three’s Company, Frasier, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Cheers and of course, the ever popular Seinfeld. I mean, those shows might have had guest starred a black person in an episode or two but for the most part they failed to consistently weave in any real diversity and mostly remained pretty homogenous. Yet we, particularly my girlfriend, still counts many of these black-less shows in our top ten. So what’s the fuss now?
“Well that was different. Times have changed,” she said.
ABC announced that it would renew Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal after initially ordering only seven episodes of the series. Last week, the series’ season finale finished number one in its slot for the 6th consecutive week among women ages 18-49, proving that the project, written by and starring a Black woman, has found an audience.
Perhaps the success of Scandal will instill more confidence among network executives in projects featuring atypical portrayals of African-American women. The ABC series was the first network TV drama with a Black female lead in 38 years. Cable television has a kinder history thanks to short-lived series like Hawthorne and No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.
Scandal stands in contrast to its predecessor. The 1974 series Get Christie Love! was a Blaxploitation crime series best known for the catchphrase “You’re under arrest, sugar.” However, ethnicity is not the focus of Scandal’s lead character Olivia Pope’s story. In fact, the show never mentions it.
2012 was shaping up to be a year of more of the same televised images of Black women. The most hotly debated topics surrounding the issue dealt with the well-worn storylines of Black women being used to reinforce stereotypes or ignored altogether.
HBO premiered a series with the all encompassing title Girls as a show poised to be the voice of a generation. Critics were taken aback when the show, set in Brooklyn, New York, did not feature any non-white characters. Girls’ creator Lena Dunham responded thoughtfully to the criticism, telling NPR:
I am a half-Jew, half-WASP, and I wrote two Jews and two WASPs. Something I wanted to avoid was tokenism in casting. If I had one of the four girls, if, for example, she was African-American, I feel like — not that the experience of an African-American girl and a white girl are drastically different, but there has to be specificity to that experience [that] I wasn’t able to speak to.
Had Black women become so desperate for representation on television that they would demand a woman who knows nothing about the Black experience to represent it?
It is not surprising considering the images available at the time. Vh1 ignored Shaunie O’Neal’s repeated expression of disappointment in the direction the network had taken her project Basketball Wives. They seemed resolute in upping the ante, determined to see how low they could go with negative images of Black women. It wasn’t until a recent onslaught of criticism, complete with a Star Jones-endorsed petition calling for a boycott of the show and advertisers like Summer’s Eve pulling their endorsement, that the network and production company agreed to a “no excessive physical confrontations” policy on the series moving forward.
Despite Basketball Wives nearing ridiculous levels of juvenile, stereotypical behavior, the show probably would not have received as much backlash if Black women had a more diverse catalog of images presented on television. There is no longer a shortage of Black characters. The deficiency lies in quality and diversity. If Black women aren’t playing into aggressive stereotypes on reality television, they’re regulated to the best friend or sidekick role on ensemble sitcoms.
Scandal offers a breath of fresh air. The show’s success demonstrates that a Black woman can be accepted playing a universal role, and a show with a Black lead doesn’t have to be about being Black. Hopefully, this time the entertainment industry’s strategy of recycling successful projects will work in favor of the positive portrayal of Black women. Maybe in coming seasons we will see shows that satisfy our craving for junk television alongside ones that offer sophisticated, graceful roles. That’s all Black women have ever asked for in the first place.