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  • Writer's pictureDedeStewart

Where did all the good black representation go?

Hi, welcome or welcome back to Discussions with Dede! I really enjoyed and appreciated our conversation, and it was so helpful to talk about my experiences with fellow dark skin women. It meant so much to me because this has been something that I’ve been needing to heal from in order to really love myself. So, thanks! Ok but I just finished re-watching A Different World, and wow! I wish Hillman was a real school because it just looks so fun and they’re so much like a family. Even Whitley grew on me, with her annoying self. After watching it, I was thinking about where all the black shows went? Why do we literally have to beg for representation now, when we have never been more culturally aware than we are now?

I was watching a Tiktok where they talked about how a lot of these black shows came about. The Black Panther Party did not like the show Good Times because they believed it was a poor representation of the black family unit. They complained about it to the CBS network and that’s how the show the Jefferson's came to be. So many positive black shows were made after that: The Cosby Show, A Different World, Fresh Prince of Belair, Moesha, The Parkers, Living Single, Martin, etc. That barely scratches the surface; I could go on and name so many more! It wasn’t abnormal to see black faces on TV, and there was no competition between the other shows. Everybody did what they were supposed to on the shows they were on and they thrived.

Not to mention, there were so many cameos from characters of different shows. The whole cast of A Different World was on Living Single at some point before the show ended in 1993, and I thought that was so cool. All the black actors were like a family, and there was barely any beef between them. Also, can we talk about how many black celebrities came onto the shows back in the day? TLC, Eartha Kitt, Morris Chestnut, Heavy D, Monica, Brian McKnight, etc. And that was just cameos on Living Single. So many big celebrities were on these shows and I loved that because that’s pretty rare now. I feel like celebrities now have too big of an ego, and they think they’re “too good” to appear on black television shows.

It also seems like we have to compete with each other now for a spot at fame. We’ve been made to believe that there is not enough space for all of us to exist at the same time when we know that is not the case. There are not that many black shows on because we are too busy fighting each other for a space of our own when there is more than enough space for everyone. It’s not fair at all because now we only see a certain type of Black people. It seems as though there is just no space for dark skin people. There is certainly enough space for the Zendaya in all these black shows and movies. They keep on casting the same type of black women because they are “acceptable” for both black and white audiences.

these same 3 women smh, I like them but some diversity would be nice!

It also makes me sad that dark skin women used to be the love interest of romance movies and no questions were asked. So many dark skin women acted alongside dark skin men in many movies and it was so beautiful to see. Nia Long, Gabrielle Union, Regina King, Regina Hall, and Angela Bassett, along with countless others, were the “it” girls in the ’90s. How amazing is it to see women who look like you in roles that aren’t about trauma?

Present-day, the only time you see a dark skin woman in roles is if it’s about them being abused or in a “struggle love” relationship. I must say that although he has broken many barriers, Tyler Perry is at fault for a lot of the stereotypical and mundane portrayals of dark skin black women, and now so many directors have followed suit. We all laugh at his movies, but his success is based solely on demonizing black women and now that's all we see in the movies. Why can’t we be in movies that don’t discuss race? We should be the stars in movies that are just about us being us, black people just existing, no trauma added on. We should be in romance, western, mystery movies; all dat and more because we are people. I’m so tired of Hollywood only casting dark skin women to be abused and treated terribly or going through some extremely traumatic experiences with/for their man. It’s enough! I need to see some good black representation because I’m done seeing that.

I love shows like A Different World because they inspired others to do more. Hillman was a school that you wanted to go to because you saw black people striving for an education. It was an accurate representation of how HBCU’s are; there are so many different types of black people. We are not a monolith and we all have different personalities. But yet, we are still all black. A Different World had very diverse characters: people from the hood, people that were wealthy, people that were dumb and lazy, people that were smart and hard-working. You felt like you were part of their story, part of their friend group, basically part of their school family. They also discussed so many topics that weren’t usually discussed and you could relate to the characters. The show wasn’t perfect, but it had the right idea. We need a show like that now, but I feel like it would not be the same because it would either be deemed “too black” or they would do a poor job in casting.

All the other black shows were so diverse, too. Living Single was about 6 friends in New York who were very successful but still true to who they were, and Girlfriends was about 4 bougie, successful black women in California. Very different shows, but still very black because we are all different people. Moesha was different from Sister, Sister but they were around the same age and in the same category of teen/young- adult show. I can go on, but I think you get what I’m saying. Black wasn’t just one thing back then because we are all diverse. I feel like we make the same type of black shows now, so I don’t even bother to watch them. There’s no creativity or diversity in black shows or movies and it’s tiring.

We need some positive black representation because I believe we can go back to what we once had and even be better. They did not have half of the resources we do now, so imagine how good we could be? We need to abandon that trauma trope and keep creating uplifting movies that represent ALL black people. Movies and shows should be your escape from trauma, not a reminder. I think we should continue to support the Issa Rae’s and the Marsai Martin’s of this world because they are doing so many great things for black people. They are trailblazers and they need as much support from us as they can get. We have made progress especially with films like Black is King and Black Panther. It probably wasn’t easy for so many black shows in the ’90s but they pushed for it. We need to fight for good black representation and keep critiquing it when it’s not what we want.

Just because I love Issa!

Question for the comments: What's your favorite black show or movie?

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