Can We Stop Glorifying Struggle Love Storylines On TV?
I love Mara Brock and Salim Akil. Truly I do. When I heard they had a new show coming out, I was fully committed to tuning in. I just knew they had something good for me because they have a solid track record. They are behind some of my favorite shows (including Girlfriends and Black Lightning), but I might officially be done with Love Is___. I just can’t continue to watch the mess that is 1997 Nuri and Yassir. They are just the latest couple to portray the struggle love narrative, and I don’t think I’ll be along for the ride with them on season 2. I’m tired of the longsuffering Black woman storyline being presented to us as if there is anything at all that’s romantic about this idea.
In all fairness, Love Is___ was an interesting watch, if for no other reason than its fantastic throwback soundtrack, but Nuri and Yassir in their heyday were insufferable. Throw these same characters as they are into 2018, and they would undoubtedly be that one couple who shares every detail of their relationship with the hashtags #MyKing, #MyQueen, or #MenAreTrash depending on the day (or the flavor of the drama).
Their story is actually worse than that because it’s one we’ve seen time and time again in Black romantic movies and TV shows. The narrative that shows Black women being as supportive and accommodating as possible and Black men taking full advantage of that by being as childish and demanding as they can be — all this while not actually bringing anything of substance to the relationship.
Black women are expected to put up with any and every flaw a man can throw at us and stand by him with unquestioned loyalty despite whatever foolishness he may bring into our lives. He’s unemployed? No problem. We’ll pay for all the dates and slide him a few dollars, too. Commitment issues? We’ll love him through it. He’s violent? We can handle it. He’s got a chauvinistic attitude? He’s a man, so we’ll submit to him. He’s got a Rolodex of women he DMs? We’ll just act like we don’t know. No flaw is too big for us to nurture a man through.
It is admittedly unfair to expect that anyone be perfect because no one can live up to perfection. Still, we shouldn’t let that be a free pass to excuse serious shortcomings in a potential partner. There is no medal to win for sticking by someone that is not good for you. There’s not any special honor in risking your own mental and emotional health for someone who is not contributing to the relationship on the same level that you are, or in loving someone who is nothing but a drain to you.
In the 90s, struggle love was an alluring storyline about loving against all the odds. It’s a storyline that made Black women heroes in relationships. The struggle love trope may have worked in the past when most of our favorite shows all had their problematic elements, but we know better now. We know that it is an unhealthy pattern, and it’s not fair to us that we be expected to accept literally anything. We’re not emotional rehab or life coaches for men who just do not have their lives in order, and I need more shows to reflect that.
I would honestly love to see more shows with couples in happy and healthy relationships dealing with the challenges of life together. But if that is too much to ask for, I need to see more of our shows and films depicting Black women loving themselves enough to walk away from bad relationships instead of trying to power our way through it.