Can Someone Please Bring Our 20-Something Black Women Characters Back To TV?
Not long after Olivia Pope boomeranged her way back to President Fitz – for the millionth time post-Homeland-style kidnapping, that is – I’d officially nixed my weekly Thursday allegiance to Scandal. You see, I’m barely out of my mid-20s, and while relating to some of the rollercoaster relationship issues primetime television’s leading black women face comes with relative ease, the entirety of the storyline is extremely narrow, and, at times, unrealistic. And frankly, it’s not created for women my age.
There. I said it.
Now, of course, scripted TV dramas are created in an attempt to catapult audiences into an escape from real-life problems and into, sometimes, aspirational fantasies. Noted. However, with shows like BET’s Being Mary Jane, it’s written, to my knowledge, to highlight your everyday, well-educated black professional woman living and loving in a major city (read also: The Misadventures and Multiple Overly-Dramatic Misfires with Fine A** David of Mary Jane Paul). Yes, that’s essentially me. Still, I’ve yet to witness a black woman lead on television, in the last decade or so, really capable of speaking to my current lifestyle.
HBO’s hit series Girls has been garnering side-eyes for years for being anything but racially colorful. Hannah and her gaggle of girlfriends are set against some unlikely all-white backdrop that only depicts how white girls, who are trying to find their footing, live in NYC’s most hipster-centric ‘hoods. But you know what? For a young black writer wrestling for her spot in the high-level media ranks (not unlike Hannah’s experience at GQ…#journoproblems) and whose romantic interests switch bi-monthly, Girls is the closest thing on TV to the trials and triumphs my own homegirls and I actually live through on a regular basis.
I constantly find myself flipping through a handful of YouTube’s best black web series to find scripted versions of my age group’s stories, rather than reaching for the TV remote. I don’t mind nestling up next to my laptop (or iPad) to binge-watch An African City, That Guy, or roomieloverfriends, but is it too much to ask for a twentysomething black queen to get some primetime attention? To have a young black woman character garner nationwide media attention who is layered, dealing with the complicated emotions of finding a boo without wetting the bed (see Being Mary Jane season two), chasing her career goals without complete financial stability, and staking a claim on her future but not necessarily chasing a baby or a quiet life in Vermont? To identify with a black girl (insert natural hair here) who is living her most fabulous life in The Big Apple, turning up at Brooklyn house parties, catching flights with her girls to the country’s biggest summer music festivals and venturing to Harlem every now and again to, well, indulge in something she’ll laugh about when she’s 35?
That being said, it’s imperative for television to tell a new story for women of all ages, but to especially visualize a drama for young black women millennials on the small screen. Ideally, shows similar to A Different World and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Shows that have topical and on-trend segments directly ripped from the real twentysomething experience should make a huge comeback, allowing for Kim Reese-type role models and relatable tales of young love like Dwayne Wayne and Whitley Gilbert’s to flourish. Instead, we’re consistently stuck watching thirtysomething black women try their hand at the word “bae” in an attempt to be young and hip, but who have no other connection to younger folks.
Seriously, if these writers and producers are paying close attention, the inspiration for the next black mid-to-late twentysomething woman TV star is marinating on every black millennial’s timeline and on every black girl’s Instagram photo map. It’s time to go back to the drawing board or bring our fave web series to the tube, ‘cause all black girls rock, but when it comes to entertainment, we’re not all created equal.