Can We Stop Glorifying Struggle Love Storylines On TV?

October 5, 2018  |  

 

Struggle Love Storylines

Getty

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.

Yassir, for example, is an unemployed writer, sleeping on the couch of a woman he’s kinda sorta with. From what we see, he doesn’t contribute much to the household even though they moved to L.A. together. Yassir literally reintroduces himself to Nuri while he’s walking around the streets of Los Angeles in his underpants. Then, after one date and some fairly cheap words, he is expecting to be a priority in her life. He gets upset with Nuri due to a mixup at her job. He then holds her personally responsible when a bouncer won’t bend the rules of a professional production for him so that he can take his seat even though he’s late. He and Nuri get into so many fights over the course of their first week together that its tough to figure out exactly how long they have been with one another.
Mind you, all of this is before we find out he has a kid somewhere. This man left home to follow his dream, leaving a whole child behind to be raised by his ex and his parents. We didn’t even know that Yassir had a kid until a couple of episodes into the show. It’s like the kid is not a priority to him until the boy’s mom wants to switch up the routine so that it is easier for her to raise him as a single mother. And Nuri goes with him for a last-minute visit to play step-mommy for a weekend at his parent’s house. So let’s add meeting the parents with a sprinkle of family drama and a drizzle of tired baby mama to the hot, steaming bowl of mess he’s bringing to the table in Nuri’s life. His level of entitlement is for garnish. And had Nuri done anything less than swallow a big spoonful with a big smile, she would have been accused of having impossible standards–or worse, not being loyal. Realistically, it’s not Nuri’s responsibility to ride with him through all of his ups and downs while he gets his life together.
I can see married couples expecting this kind of commitment to the for better or worse of it all, but a lot of guys are jumping out here with the audacity to expect this devotion after a few weeks of dating. As fine as Yassir is, it does not make up for the fact that his life is a mess and he has no clue what he’s doing with it. The man is utterly lost, and he fully expects Nuri to ride with him through all of his craziness. Most women with any sense would be able to clock this mess and run the other way, but Nuri is all in. She’s kind of a mess, too, but he needs a few sessions with Iyanla. Nuri completely abandons her standards for him; thankfully for them, this all works out in the end. However, this narrative is all the way played out.

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.

Trending on MadameNoire

Comment Disclaimer: Comments that contain profane or derogatory language, video links or exceed 200 words will require approval by a moderator before appearing in the comment section. XOXO-MN