All Articles Tagged "Jessica St. Clair"
In a few weeks NBC will debut a new sitcom titled “Best Friends Forever.” The comedy is the brainchild of real-life best friends Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham, and it follows the story of Jess moving back in with her BFF Lennon and her boyfriend, after her husband files for divorce. Despite the fact that the trailer for the show is pretty funny, this isn’t a sitcom I normally would’ve paid attention to if it wasn’t for its sole black character, a 9-year-old girl named Queenetta.
If the name alone doesn’t tell you enough about who this little girl is, allow me. She’s the too grown for her age, neck- and eye-rolling, keep white people in check, sassy black neighbor of the friends—essentially every stereotype we hate about black women rolled into one cute little underage girl. And despite the fact that the show hasn’t even debuted yet, people are already going in pretty hard on Daija Owens’ character, the show’s creators, NBC, and even Daija’s mom for letting her portray this role.
Now I won’t lie, I laughed pretty hard at the trailer when Quenetta quoted a line from Drake’s “Oh you fancy huh” with Lennon outside of their apartment building, but then I stopped. For one, I don’t like sassy, smart-mouthed little kids in any shade. But I also know the thought process that went into the development of this character, because after all, how could we grow up to be angry black women if we weren’t hand-on-the-hip-holding, tell-it-like-it-is little black girls first?
Shamika Sanders of Hello Beautiful literally asked, WTF is Wrong with NBC, as she wrote:
“All this show does is prove that there can’t be a central character in a major production without he or she falling subject to a company’s lack of sensitivity and limited scope of black people.”
Rebecca Theodore-Vachon of The Urban Daily noted that black characters have pretty much been dead on NBC since the Cosby’s, writing:
“While it is commendable that the show is giving work to an obviously adorable little girl, there’s no denying the stereotypical eye rolling and ‘sass’ factor on display here.”
Amongst the slew of backlash the character is already receiving, there is one aspect people have to keep in mind, and that’s the fact that this show is a comedy. Characters are exaggerated, stereotypes are harped upon, and prejudices are exposed for the sake of laughter. It’s clear that’s what’s going on when you name a little girl Queenetta, but it’s also unfortunate that that’s still the only type of character sitcoms think to write for a black actress. I can picture the writers in a brainstorming session thinking, “wouldn’t it be so funny to get a little black girl with an attitude to smack her lips and be like ‘uh huh girl, you know,’ and say all that stuff that’s not funny when white women do it but is hilarious when it comes from a black girl?” What’s interesting is that from interviews I’ve seen of Daija, her real personality seems nothing like the character in the show, which is typically the case and always makes me wonder, why when there are countless examples of black girls who don’t fit the angry, ghetto stereotype do we still get reduced to these roles?
I think the success and depth of backlash against the show will depend on just how exaggerated they choose to make this little girl and whether they introduce any other black characters to balance our representation on the network. Like where is this little girl’s mother and why is she always with her neighbors? Of course, that’s nowhere near the focus of the network, especially for a non-primary black character, so what we see now is most likely what we’ll get all throughout the season. Let’s see how this goes.
Check out Queenetta’s character in the trailer below. Do you think her role will be problematic or is this just for laughs?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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