Um...It Ain't About Us

Angel Coulby
Issa [Rae] and I sat down with a television executive from a prominent network. In short, his response confirmed our worst fears. He felt that in order for "ABG" to become more mainstream, the entire cast would need to be replaced. His suggestion for the lead character, J, was a long haired, fair-skinned actress....
So I deleted a comment on one of my Merlin posts in which an Anonymous commenter was saying that Angel Coulby's casting was "to appease a certain race of people" and that it was "rubbish."

Awwwww...come on now.  Talk about pissing on someone's leg and then saying it's raining.

Katerina Graham
I've often criticized Western media's brazen BW/WM push for various reasons; each post is an exploration of what bugs me about the casting choices we're seeing more and more in Western film and television.  I guess this is just another one of those exploratory posts.

First off, it's not about us

Let's be clear: these Black women we constantly see cropping up opposite white men are not being written for Black people's benefit.  It's not even really written to draw in the Black audience; if it was, we'd have more say in casting, writing, and ignoring bitchy white female fans who try to get shows canceled.

Antonia Thomas
No, no...this is white fantasy at play or, more specifically, white mantasy. These characters aren't written to empower Black women.  Many of them don't even sound or seem like the Black women you would know personally.  They're not written with a Black female audience firmly entrenched in mind.  They don't even look like most of us.  Almost all of them come off as white women dipped in watered-down chocolate.

They are the white female interpretation of Black women, with no care for reality at all.  I say female because when you refer to any of these women as "Black", both their white female fans and haters rush to "correct" you.

Lenora Crichlow
In their minds, a Black woman is desirable so long as she's as white-washed as possibled.

No, this isn't new

White men desire Black women, and it's nothing new.  To say that it's been going on for centuries would actually be an understatement.  It is what is, and the Black women who are on these shows and in these films are there...because white guys want them there.

White guys own Western media.  If they don't like it, it's not broadcast.  White women may be writing some of these storylines, but it's white guys who are making damn sure the stories come to life, are put on the big networks, have the big screen budgets, and oh yeah...they're making sure Black women are put opposite other white guys.

Ruth Negga
And it's not going to go away.  White guys aren't going to stop; men just don't operate that way.

Dilution don't mean dick

This is precisely why we need to lose the colorist rants in communities of color.

Dark-skinned sistahs; I feel you.  I feel your pain.  I understand what you mean about your beautiful complexions being devalued and dismissed.  I get your frustration when the Black women being cast in popular, mainstream material all seem to conveniently fit the same mold.

Zoe Saldana
But these are our sistahs too, and their struggle is just as real.  And despite their light skin and straight hair, the moment they lock lips with a white dude, they become public enemy #1.  It doesn't matter if one of their parents is white - they're that demonic, full-blooded darkie who's corrupting/molesting/attacking/imposing themselves on some helpless, innocent white male actor who's actually living out the mantasy of some white male writer.

It's just easier for white female fans to get mad at them rather than at the white guys who blatantly want these women.

Jessica Szohr
A house slave is still a slave

Over on the Black Girls Club post, we discussed how a lot of these characters are treated like dirt on their shows.  They're the poorly written punching bag, misfit, "best friend" (*shudder*), and overall handmaiden - having light skin doesn't save them from this fate.  Yes, the white guys may find them attractive (alas, an unfortunate side effect), but their sole purpose is still to serve the white chick, make her feel better, and even been willing to lay down their own lives if necessary to protect the fragile pale princess of the show.

Tamara Taylor
They're racial insurance; they're supposed to be concrete proof that the characters and writing and casting staff are not racist.

So they're not there for us.  Our "appeasement" was the last thing on the minds of their characters' creators.

All these bitter, simmering haters who watch these films and shows need realize that you can hate the player all you want...but it won't change the game.

Comments

  1. I agree with you 100% that its never about appeasing us. In the western world we simply don't have enough power to require appeasment. However they also don't need race insurance; there are plenty of popular and succesful monochrome programs. Any producer that decides to include WoC is doing it for their own reasons.

    In some of these cases it is just mantasy. In some cases though someone is trying to do the right thing by creating a diverse cast for a diverse world. I feel it is important that we make the distinction because when a director or producer is trying to do the right thing they get zero support from the rest of Hollywhite and are usually undercut at every turn. Person of Interest and that TV Guide cover comes to mind.

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  2. White mantasy: This is why I side eye when ever a white guy with a Woman of Color. they are usually treated like an object or the other even if thier skin is light.

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  3. "Mantasy." New word for the Lexicon, methinks?

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  4. I enjoyed this post, except I don't full agree with you in the sense that they experience the same level of animosity from white folk because that just is not true.

    ( It doesn't matter if one of their parents is white - they're that demonic, full-blooded darkie who's corrupting/molesting/attacking/imposing themselves on some helpless, innocent white male actor who's actually living out the mantasy of some white male writer.)

    Yes, the characters may be treated "like dirt" on these shows but the fact that they can actually be on these shows and be seen as desirable is almost a leap forward from the fact that you rarely (or maybe never) see dark-skinned, non-skinny, sistahs with features that are distinctly African and such, on these shows playing the love interests of white males. There was not a single dark-skinned black woman in Skins, Misfits or Being Human (with the exception of Curtis' female self in Misfits, who turned out to be a lesbian and was a short-lived character).

    Just the other day, Viola Davis went on to make a comment at an Oscar roundtable where she said, “I’m a 46-year-old black woman who really doesn’t look like Halle Berry, and Halle Berry is having a hard time,” - that to me captures the essence of what I'm trying to say here. That yes, although we may all be seen as black women through the eyes of white supremacy, even in the eyes of white people there is a distinction between black women who are seen as desirable and black women who aren't. And the most obvious distinction is in the physical sense, of course.

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    1. That yes, although we may all be seen as black women through the eyes of white supremacy, even in the eyes of white people there is a distinction between black women who are seen as desirable and black women who aren't.

      You missed my point.

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    2. But why are we making this distinction, racial discrimination hurts all black folks. What's the purpose in quibbling about levels? If they decide to get rid of a n****r they decide to get rid of n****r. They don't stop and say "That one's light skinned lets give her another chance."

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    3. LOL! What are you talking about?! There was JAL from skins!
      http://amplicate.com/media/topics/aa/jal.jpg

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  5. Not gonna lie, I see both sides of the colorism issue.

    Given that it wasn't long ago when the paperbag test was something being used and the Good & Bad Hair rivalry from School Daze wasn't too off the mark in our community, I think we need to keep the issue of colorism in mind as we move forward. It's too easy to backslide. Because too often I've witnessed the most privileged of marginalized people throw their own under the bus at the drop of a hat.

    But that said, K is right too. In that we shouldn't be looking at the light-skinned, biracial sisters as the enemy. They aren't. They ARE our sisters. That 1 drop rule is in effect and they are catching hell for existing also.

    So yes we need to address the issue of colorism, but don't let it divide us so we can be conquered, if that makes any sense.

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  6. we shouldn't be looking at the light-skinned, biracial sisters as the enemy. They aren't.

    Bingo. We should never lose sight of this fact, but we do.

    But why are we making this distinction, racial discrimination hurts all black folks. What's the purpose in quibbling about levels? If they decide to get rid of a n****r they decide to get rid of n****r. They don't stop and say "That one's light skinned lets give her another chance."

    This pretty much nails it.

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  7. Agreed. Have you noticed - on the recent episodes of Glee - that there's a giant push for the one black female character, Mercedes, to abandon her black boyfriend so she can get with her (admitted by both)white "summer fling" (Sam) - whom even the writers admit they paired together as Pair the Spares? What the hell's wrong with Mercedes being in love with her boyfriend Shane, or liking a black, East Asian, Indian, etc., etc. guy instead of white-bread Sam? Ick. Amber Riley deserves better.

    *sigh*

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    1. Finally someone who agrees with me. Seriously, her boyfriend is a good guy and he encouraged her to breakaway from that status quo Rachel's kingdom known as New Directions so she could become a star in her own group. What has Sam done for her exactly? There's nothing wrong with her bf, Shane. If anything once he's no longer her bf we will not see another black male character, side character or otherwise, with a recurring role for a while.

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    2. Glee is written by what's left of Hitler's army. So that don't come in a suprise...in fact you just made want to do my homework on why media hate's black men.

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    3. I’m surprised she has a love interest as I totally viewed her as a mammy stereotype due to her weight and sassy “black girl” demeanor. Why is it so difficult to cast a conventionally attractive (slender) not necessarily bright skinned black girl? Where’s the hot black cheerleader? We’re not all overweight. The overweight black girl who can sang has become another “type” I don’t appreciate.

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    4. Anonymous - name please.

      Where’s the hot black cheerleader?

      Million-dollar question, boo-boo.

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  8. We're gettin' a bit off topic people....

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  9. I never posted before, but I have been reading your blog since last year. And in that span of time I must say your posts have opened my eyes and made me think about things twice (in the media and in real life). I wrote all this to say THANK YOU (from the depths of my young 20 yr old heart) :)

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  10. Ankh do you have an idea about supporting these actresses?

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    1. It's tricky.

      For one, I don't directly pay for this material if I don't have to. I don't have cable and I no longer buy DVDs. If it's not on Netflix streaming or on the show's website, I really don't bother.

      One way to change the game is to stop funding the game.

      Two, I blog and I encourage others to comment and blog as well. Talk about these actresses and analyze their characters. Do comparisons, do lists, compile chronicles (a la the Black Girls Club post), and keep the conversation going and focused on the white supremacist aspect. Focus on the ROOT problem, because that's what needs to be fixed first and foremost.

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  11. Your posts about the BW/WM push are always spot on and I wish white women would figure it out. You're right, it isn't about us and isn't really for our benefit. And then we get all the hate from white women about a conversation that white men should just be straight up about.

    White men will still talk about how unnattractive black women are until they're blue in the face and yet, for some inexplicable reason ,black women be they light or dark skinned are getting hit on by white men in real life all the time. So white women can't understand for the life of them how we end up alongside white men on tv and movies. The other day I saw a forum where some white women explained that Freema Agyeman's presence on Doctor Who was, I shit you not, "a fill in to prevent racism." This after it was explained that the powers that be called her up to audition for the role based partially on just how stunningly gorgeous she is.

    So yes, if white men didn't want black women on tv as their love interests then they wouldn't be there. But that's why black women have to be very critical of the way in which we are portrayed by white people. The colorism issue is real but if the best a black woman can hope for is to be light skinned and Eurocentric enough to make it to film or tv and then endure the ire of white fans if she even makes it long enough on screen without being killed or written off a show then there is absolutely no appeasement whatsoever there for us. I think folks are going to have to go the way of Issa Rae and others like her before we see any real progress.

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  12. The colorism issue is real but if the best a black woman can hope for is to be light skinned and Eurocentric enough to make it to film or tv and then endure the ire of white fans if she even makes it long enough on screen without being killed or written off a show then there is absolutely no appeasement whatsoever there for us.

    Exactly. We can hate on "fair-skinned", straighter-haired sistahs, but then we'd just be playing the game. Divide and conquer - get the white girls mad at the WoC, get the darker-skinned WoC mad at the lighter-skinned WoC, and all the while all the women are ignoring the shallow, backward misogynistic portrayals of women in film and television.

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  13. I think your post went over most folks head over at Abagond's :( ....

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    1. It really did.

      I'm always honored when Abagond posts one of mind, but because of his word limit and epic troll infestation, I sometimes worry he's wasting his time with some of his reader.

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    2. It's also annoying that many of them never even bothered to read the original post.

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  14. I agree with everything you said,they are mostly bi-racial actresses,you rarely find a fully black actress playing in a movie.What bug me more is that they are never the main characters.In The Vampire Diaries Kat Graham is just the best friend and the witch,Nina Dobrev is the main character even if Kat is way prettier than her.If there was a black Elena Gilbert,I'm sure most of the fan would have protest! But I sympathy more with Angel Coulby,she is one of my favorite actresses,people tend to compare her with Katie Mcgrath.They that Katie is way prettier than her and bla bla bla.Well excuse me Katie is not stunning at all that girl as a face like a man(did you see her jaw?) and when she smiles she looks weird.When Angel smiles her face lights up :) This girl is stunning.
    Oh and this comment come from a white girl :)

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