Series Critique Time: Black Actresses in Today’s Media

So, I’m thinking of writing something of a new evaluation series. I’ve half-heartedly written about this topic in passing. I’ve wondered how much time I want to devote to it. It interests me, but I have to admit I don’t have a dog in this fight.

Stereotypical Roles for Black Actresses

What topic, you might ask? For the entertainment I do watch, I would provide a regular review. Followed by an in-depth (give or take) critique of how the role of the black actress, and only the black actress, does, or does not, fit within the context of a stereotype.

I want to hash out the stereotypes first. I’m thinking there maybe as many as 4 to 16. I do not want to get too complex. It sucks the life out of a person to consider this stuff too deeply.

I don’t want to be harsh. Last thing I want is to knock a performance, and have someone lose her job. I wouldn’t be critiquing her. I want to see if she is being cast as a human being, or within the context of the regular stereotypical role the writers of Hollywood like to slot black women into.

I wish I could say that stereotypes generated by the media don’t matter, but I’ve heard enough “My impression of black people are based on television and movies” to know that this stuff does add up.

I never want to make a movie, television show, or create any moving type of media. I don’t have any interest in it, but I do like to evaluate what is being released, because whether the Hollywood people realize it or not, when people watch their material they are an invited guest in people’s homes.

My theory is a lot of them have forgotten that. They really and truly believe that they are entitled to adoration and respect. Nothing could be further from the truth. I will also pin point the writer and director if I can find the credits. They need to be known for their material.

The Categories

Briefly, I will touch upon the stereotypes, and will refine them later. I mostly watch romance, crime series, mysteries, action, comedy and science fiction. I’ve come to recognize the characters they like to trot out.

Features: Age; Weight

Class: Street; Urban; Working Class / Hipster; Professional

Behavior: Loud/Hysterical/Mean; Know-it-all; Stoic/Victim; Sassy/Overly Sexual

I never want to use any words like Sapphire or Mammy. I find those terms demeaning, and unnecessary. When I look at these slots, a pattern emerges. How does it not follow? Let me show you.

Age -> 20-40s, Weight-> Medium to Heavy, Class-> Urban, Behavior->Loud/Hysterical/Mean

Where does this character appear? She’s the single mother with the wild kids, who finds out her son was shot. How does she react to the death? The kind of shrieking, bawling, hysteria that only Hollywood would ask for. It’s consistent. Whenever I see this character, I turn the volume off, because it happens like clock work.

Age-> 30s-40s, Weight -> Overweight/Obese, Class-> Professional, Behavior ->Loud/Hysterical/Mean

Where does this character appear? She works for the government or wherever. She’s the one sitting behind the desk giving everyone hell. She’s the meanest one in the office, hospital or wherever. You’ve seen her. You know her. She’s typical. It’s automatic that this chic appears if the drama is set in a city.

And there you have it, I have a few kinks to work out, but I think I have enough to work with.

This entry was posted in actors, black actress critique, black woman, black women, Hollywood, stereotypes. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Series Critique Time: Black Actresses in Today’s Media

  1. Pingback: Series Critique Time: Black Actresses in Today's Media « Watched … | World Global

  2. BWMM says:

    Frankly I would like a form of the old Hollywood studio to come back not the part that showed black people in a negative light, not the part that treated it’s actors/tresses like chattle. But bring back aspects of the Hayes Code (not all of it cause some stuff was just ridiculous like No IR in movies, but I love that Hayes put in that code no disrespecting of other religions/cultures etc. (even if people didn’t always listen to it).
    My main point though is that it was more like a team. In some movies it was a committee that made a film and the director was just one of the team. Then you also had the directors who had more power, because they were usually producer/directors. Anyway it was regulated. I don’t believe in extreme censorship, but I do think we need to implement the idea of not showing other cultures as negative, religions etc.
    Also women seriously had better roles than they do today. Women in old films could be strong women and still feminine. They didn’t have to have mantude.
    Then take some of New Hollywood (the good, leave out the bad) and blend them.

    Bring back etiquette. Sorry for all the other junk. Anyway this goes for turning down roles (which in the Old Hollywood Studio system you couldn’t do much of that as you were not your own person. The studio owned you) Since no one is contracted to a studio you can turn down roles.

    Frankly I think the parents of the girl who plays Destiny on OTL (haven’t watched it, saw they were going to have her be the best friend who does everything for Matt while he chases a fool of a girl. This fool even gave credit to the other girl when it was the black girl that did everything for him, before he met the other one.) should just take her off the show. Get whatever money the child is making put it in an account for college or whatever and then get the hell off the show. It’s only going to get worse.

    GoldenAh: I hear you on the need for an old style studio system, and the Hayes Code. This offensive stuff is getting too much out of hand.

    I think for a new studio system venture to work in this environment there needs to be a new or existing media outlet, like internet TV channels that you’ve shown, and producing high-quality content that is supported by a strong audience and advertising. I think it’s possible.

    What I’ve decided to do is document whatever shows have decent roles and characters for black women. I feel that whoever does well by us needs to be complimented, and those who do not need to be blasted. That would include the actress who takes on the role as well, although I would put the negative emphasis on the writer and director for the ugly stereotype she’s invited to portray.

    I’m all for an informal online scheme to coalesce into a supportive environment for black women’s entertainment, especially something that’s positive.

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