Where Have All My Stories Gone?
Living in today's world is stressful. Reading up on current events and scrolling down social media timelines to stay informed of the latest news can leave us reeling. We need an escape. This is why TV & Film are so important. It helps us enjoy the quiet in life when there is too much chaos. But what happens when we sit down to our favorite guilty pleasure shows and don’t see a single shade of brown in the cast? The answer: we keep watching. Sometimes without even noticing.
It’s no surprise to longtime TV junkies like myself that it’s hard to find an image of what I look like on screen in abundance today. A complex, layered, beautifully flawed black woman. Sure some shows get it right when they put black women in the forefront. Think Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder and Pitch. But where have all my stories gone?
There’s more than one way to be a brown woman on screen. We don’t always need to be strong like ABC Quantico’s Alex Parrish or slapstick funny Nicole Byer on MTV’s Seriously Exactly Nicole. Allow me to be frank, just a sprinkling of diversity that reflects us in the dry landscape of TV is not enough.
Honestly, we deserve a healthy serving of stories meant for us each week. Even with the addition of successful primetime network shows like OWN’s Queen Sugar, FOX’s Empire or ABC’s Blackish, it’s still not enough to fill our stomachs. Haven’t we earned a kitchen full of tailor made narratives after being refrigerated characters for so long?
On the contrary, there are a few specialty networks offering stories in shades of brown. For example, SHO’s Survivor’s Remorse and rapper 50 Cent’s Power, HBO’s Insecure and Netflix’s Chewing Gum are all great shows ranging from gripping drama to belly-laughing comedy. The only downside is the price tag. Without paying for subscriptions each month, these shows are not widely available or accessible for the people who need them most. Us.
We’re complex and dynamic and we come in all hues, languages and talents. We’re more than career professionals and parents so what happened to us being portrayed as we are in real life? We’re capable of both creating problems and fixing them. We can be silly, soft and resilient all at the same time so why can’t networks like CW, NBC, CBS write us that way? Too often we are either one or the other but never both within the same script.
Bring back the days of UPN’s Moesha and Girlfriends. Give us Living Single and Soul Food the series. Even play reruns of Nickelodeon’s My Cousin Skeeter or Disney’s That’s So Raven. Let our narratives be shown because they’re sorely lacking as I scroll through channels prospects to record not produced by powerhouses like Shonda Rhimes and Oprah Winfrey.
If TV black women all appear the same after a while, you have to wonder. Is this what the world thinks of me? Our stories have been forced out of the limelight and into independent spaces like YouTube and Vimeo because we creators (writers, directors, producers, viewers) have a driving need to tell our stories they way they’re meant to be told. Fully and with a flourish for the dynamics that come with being a brown woman living in today’s world. Thus, the landscape of entertainment where mini-series for black women come from startup creators like Issa Rae (Youtube’s Awkward Black Girl) are available exclusively online is gaining popularity while syndicated networks just seem to be waking up to the problem of inclusion. I ask again, where have all our stories gone because I finally have the answer.
Our stories are slowly finding their way back into the hands of the storytellers who care for them most. Us.