Recently Nicole Beharie did an interview where she confirmed plenty of stuff I already knew about Sleepy Hollow. Just reading her experience and all the ways the production staff tried to label her after, she eventually quit the show, was not surprising but brought a lot of things to the surface for many of us Black women online.
So let’s start with the shows that are currently off the air and their problems: Merlin’s Guinevere; The Vampire Diaries’ Bonnie Bennett; Sleepy Hollow’s Abbie Mills. There are not enough ways to count the problems but let me try:
- How they handled providing them with love-interests (or the lack thereof for Abbie)
- How they handled their relationships (getting cheated on, causing unnecessary problems to keep their character apart from their partner etc. etc. eye roll)
- The need to constantly and consistently side-line them for more “appropriate” coupling AKA the white ones
- I will never forgive Merlin for never redeeming Gwen over her Lancelot indiscretion and her never really getting to truly confront Morgana.
- I will never forgive The Vampire Diaries for making Elena the main character in her relationship with Damon even though Nina Dobrev had left the show at that point (they say they were saving Damon for Elena but it felt like they wanted to keep the black women watching in hopes that a couple – that exists in the books – was going to happen while they don’t anger the white girls who want Damon to remain purely for Elena)
- I will never forgive Sleepy Hollow in general but the strong Black women tropes, as well as the way they treated Nicole Beharie, puts them squarely on my “eat shit” list.
- Not so fun fact: Kat Graham wore a lace front the ENTIRE TIME she was on The Vampire Diaries. This girl is biracial but because her hair was considered to be still too “Black”, for them, they made her wear a weave. Listen I am constantly here for Black women getting to do whatever they want to do to their hair whether its a wig, weave, braids etc. But what I don’t like is that these shows want to remove these characters’ proximity to blackness by covering or straightening their hair. Look this isn’t the first time and it sure as hell won’t be the last but that is also something that needs to be addressed.
Now for the shows that are currently playing and their problems: Titans’ Koriand’r; The Flash’s Iris West-Allen:
- Talk about never encouraging Iris to exist out of relationships. First with Eddie, then Scott (for a moment), straight into Barry. It was all they concerned themselves with even though in most of the first season she was the narrator.
- Iris being made into the punching bag for many of the characters’ frustrations and kill plans and yet she STILL made Caitlin a bridesmaid at her wedding. Would a normal person do that? Not me. I keep wishing for the show to remove her entirely from that Flash group because they are VERY MUCH Barry’s friends and not hers.
- Never standing up for Anna Diop or making statements of encouragement after she had to turn off her comments on Instagram cause of racist trolls.
- Would it have been that awful to make Kory Dick’s love interest? You know what forget it.
- What about making Kory the leader of the Titans? She already has the royal training. I am disappointed in Titans because her storyline was better than Dick and the other Titans’ and I hope they focus on it but I doubt it.
- I also have words for how they treated Garfield, the other person of color in the show, but that’s for another day.
Now for a character that was meant to be my saving grace: Star Trek: Discovery’s Michael Burnham:
- She wasn’t over-sexualised or diminished in her intelligence (although I have feeling that that is the reason white people don’t like her)
- But they diminished her character in a way I didn’t know could even be possible when they felt like they had to link her to a popular character Spock somehow. I was frustrated and I couldn’t put into words until I saw an interview JJ Abrahams did about why he decided to make Rey a Palpatine, he did so because he felt like a ‘nobody’ wouldn’t be able to defeat a powerful man like him. It was downright offensive because comic book, sci-fi and fantasy history is filled with men who were nobodies before they became heroes and that wasn’t problematic: Steve Rogers, King Arthur, Peter Parker, Barry Allen, Han Solo, Miles Morales etc. etc.
- Making it seem like a Black women could not lead a sci-fi show without somehow being related to every white man’s favourite character was offensive, making her that same character’s punching bag AND saviour was cliche and then taking all those lovable white characters and making a spin-off show, for them, seemed planned. I recognise what you were doing over there.
- Shout out to Michelle Yeoh who kills it every time I see her on-screen though.
Do you want to know what it is like to be a Black Woman who loves superheroes, fantasy and sci-fi? It’s 80% of your life spent watching white women be the female lead in shows and movies, without a problem, and as soon as a Black Woman gets the opportunity, you have to beg the white fans to wait until the project is out before projecting their judgement. It’s a season into the show when you realise that it won’t matter. People were ready to hate that character and everything she did. No. Matter. What. When the show declines in ratings or reviews they become the main target of the vitriol from those very same fans. Even though there are glaring problems with Dick Grayson and Barry Allen never learns from his mistakes. But no, the problem must be Kory or Iris, right? As if removing them from the show completely would make those shows instantaneously bearable?
At this point of having my blog, I don’t know how many times I have hoped, wished and begged for better writing and treatment of Black female characters. It’s like I am screaming into a void. I am tired. Straight tired. I want to be grateful for the representation but tell me how I should be? What am I being grateful for?
I am afraid to stop watching The Flash. I am afraid to stop watching Titans and Star Trek: Discovery. The other side of the fan aisle (the racist side) is so much louder and I feel like I need to be too. But it’s getting hard.