Every Black History Month or Juneteenth, streaming platforms create an informative guide that features movies and television shows to highlight Black stories. However, these productions have been criticized for having a triggering sexual violence scene, racial trauma depicted as “history” or a Black character that is only relevant for the white main character’s development. For example, the token Black friend trope has been seen in recent Netflix shows like Jaz Sinclair’s character in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina or Dionne in the 1995 rom-com Clueless. If your movie/tv roster doesn’t include the Black female character as the token Black gal pal or a character with a troubled past, there’s barely enough feel-good films and television shows that accurately portray a Black woman’s experience.
HBO Max has a good reputation for giving Black women the platform to direct and produce their own content, such as Misha Green’s Lovecraft Country, Issa Rae’s Insecure and Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You. Although Lovecraft Country was cancelled prematurely and is not a feel-good chick flick, it still defies the standard of Black films by having a primarily Black cast in the science-fiction genre. Insecure follows Issa Dee, the Black female protagonist living in Los Angeles along with the experience of other Black women in their twenties.
In I May Destroy You, the 12-episode show follows main character Arabella Essiedu, but beware, a portion of the drama series does highlight Essiedu’s sexual assault. Along with their shows, A Black Lady Sketch Show stars Robin Thede, Quinta Brunson, Skye Townsend and more in the award-winning sketch series. Besides HBO Max, other streaming platforms like Hulu offer High Fidelity, Amazon Prime is home to Miss Juneteenth, Sylvie’s Love and Selah and the Spades and Netflix has the Spike Lee series She’s Gotta Have It. The point is — this isn’t enough.
You can continue to name the innumerable amount of comedy, romance and fantasy shows/films that center a white female lead or duo, like Bridesmaids, Booksmart and Sisters. But whenever it is time to find a comedic movie that has a Black female protagonist(s), why is Girls Trip the sole film that comes to mind? The 2017 hit was an accurately portrayed example of the Black female experience: HBCUs, a raunchy girls’ night out, sisterhood and it was a phenomenal debut for actress Tiffany Haddish. But how often are Black women granted the pleasure of seeing themselves and their friend groups portrayed in a blockbuster movie? And I’m not talking about Tyler Perry movies.
Without the widely inaccurate caricatures of Black women that share a monolithic view of us, we aren’t receiving enough movies/shows that embrace the Black female experience. Black teenagers and women in their twenties deserve coming-of-age films that represent them. Queer Black women and non-binary folks have stories that should be shared without being over-sexualized or having a non-acceptive parent. Black nerds and geeks that grew up reading comic books and obsessing over fictional characters should be seeing Black leads in sci-fi/fantasy roles.
It’s very clear that talented, unproblematic Black actresses and comedians exist and could fill in any role that their white counterparts could (and most of the time, better). Instead of creating a gender-flipped reboot like Ocean’s 8 or Ghostbusters, Hollywood should actually practice diversity and begin casting Black women in rom-coms, chick flicks and action movies. We’ve seen enough adventure movies with white male leads or buddy comedies with white women. It’s time for casting directors to call actresses like Nicole Beharie and Naomie Harris and keep Black women booked and busy.