You’ll probably never read this, so I’ll try and keep it brief. I’m am not a woman of color, but I am a man of color. I can’t speak on the representation of Women of Color and what it may mean to see these characters portrayed on screen.
My problem with representation is that how we choose to examine them. Because they are black they should be above critique. In the last year in ATLANTA, we have seen a female lead with hopes, dreams, ideas, shortcomings, and a genuine personality. I feel like portraying REAL women/girls and their issues is far more important than idealized versions of black women. The idea that black women can be the object of our hero’s affection is GREAT (even though they are both mixed race, but its still cool), but having them be TYPES or IDEAL versions of tropes that typically showcase white characters just painted over with black ones is kind of lame to me. I don’t want to see Liz be a perfect girl who never gets mad, who’s smart, and pretty, and still likes Peter even though he gives her reason not to. There are real reasons to be upset, and being mean in the face of a guy who stands her up (TO ME) is a valid position to have. Being unrealistically nice does not make you a better person. It doesn’t make you real at all.
What about her shortcomings, what about her hopes for herself. She even says that the decathlon means the world to her, but Peter deserts her for it. I’m sure she’s a good person, but no hint of animosity? No resentment or anger?
I have seen so many films that subjugate black women as the best friend of the White female lead. They aren’t objectified or even considered as people outside of their relationship to their white female friend. That also may show black women in a role that’s not detrimental to a societal idea of black women, but it still isn’t real. It still isn’t considering that this Women of Color is her own person and may have her own issues that aren’t linked to anyone but herself.
I’m a black male, and I don’t like uninteresting versions of black men in media. Sure, it may be nice in theory to see a one-dimensional black hero who is infallible, but those aren’t the ones that stick with me.
Samuel L. Jackson in Black Snake Moan, Denzel Washington in Mo Betta Blues, Michael B. Jordan in Creed, Donald Glover in Atlanta, David Oyellowo in Selma. All are characters with faults, ideas, and perspectives on the world. They’re not perfect, they’re real, and they reflect REAL black men who walk around everyday. They might be petty or annoying or unreasonable at times, but that’s how I want to be reflected.
I don’t want the only version of an acceptable black character to be a perfect one. I’d rather feel like being my problematic self is enough for the world. Sorry about the length, hopefully this explains all that I feel.