3 Web Series To Binge on Tonight
Ramou Sarr on Clench and Release, Real American Beauty, & Strolling
This post is part of a Nat. Brut series in which feminist writers, artists, and activists discuss people, publications, or organizations who are working toward inclusivity. Today, podcast host Ramou Sarr shares her choices.
Clench & Release
When I discovered Charla Lauriston’s web series I immediately watched the first season in one sitting. Written, directed, and starring Lauriston, Clench & Release turns the difficulty of being black and eating fried chicken at work and the sometimes traumatic experience of bumping into your white friends after watching Roots into laugh out loud comedy. The writing is so good and Lauriston’s coining of terms like “Roots Rage” makes you angry you didn’t think of it first.
“Lauriston lets her protagonist exist as a multifaceted black woman who can be many things.”
The second season premiered over a year after the first and any hesitation I had that it wouldn’t be as great as I remembered disappeared not even a minute into the first episode. The first season is good, but the second season is excellent. Lauriston allows Charla to fuck up in ways that aren’t usually afforded to black women on television and in film. She smokes crack with a homeless guy. She stands in line for the morning after pill with a handful of other women who had questionable dates the night before. She’s broke as hell. And none of this defines who she is or turns her into a struggle story. Lauriston lets her protagonist exist as a multifaceted black woman who can be many things. It’s unfortunate that the representation of a black woman in this way is revolutionary, but indeed it is.
Real American Beauty
“…Liza Mandelup has managed to weave together the intricate stories of the black salon experience of beauty, identity, and self-care…”
The first episode of i-D magazine’s Real American Beauty series takes us to Mr & Ms Hair Studio in South Central Los Angeles and with the image of a woman extending a handful of packaged hair to the stylist behind her, I can almost smell the familiar scent of burning hair as a hot comb passes through it. We watch and hear the stories of the women in the crowded salon — one explains that her client is a stripper and paid her in all ones, another woman tells us that she’s trying to go back to school to become a registered nurse and stay out of the street life, a group discusses whether Uber drivers go to the projects. It’s clear that the salon experience is about so much more than just hair. “They do miracles in here,” one customer says as she explains how some women arrive at the salon depressed and leave feeling like Beyoncé. Director Liza Mandelup has managed to weave together the intricate stories of the black salon experience of beauty, identity, and self-care into a 7-minute video that feels more like 30 seconds. There will be other stories told in the Real American Beauty series that don’t feel so familiar to me, and I’m sure I’ll watch those too, but I want a full-length documentary on Mr & Ms.
“”…Emeke validates both us and our stories…”
The #strollingseries was my first introduction to London filmmaker Cecile Emeke’s work. The honest and pragmatic approach with the subjects of Strolling (and Flâner, its French counterpart) is what makes the back to basics documentary series so fascinating. Emeke lets us tag along on her stroll through the neighborhoods of everyday black men and women as the two of them discuss issues that are so often thought of as taboo or impolite to bring up at the dinner table or on a first date — things like gender identity, racial politics, sexuality, and poverty. Emeke describes Strolling as “Connecting the scattered and untold stories of the Black/African diaspora,” and its complexity lies in how simple it is. The stories are untold not because they’re not interesting or because no one wants to hear them, but because of how little mainstream media values the thoughts and lives of everyday black folks. The themes throughout are similar, but everyone has their own story to tell. The series allows us to see how much there is to be said if given the platform. Through Strolling, Emeke validates both us and our stories and proves that the best ones can come from a simple conversation.
Ramou Sarr is a writer and podcaster who pays her bills through her public interest job that she doesn’t want to talk to you about. She spends a lot of time reading her Twitter timeline in bed on her phone, yelling about Magic Mike XXL as feminist praxis, and spilling red wine on her white couch. She is trying to teach herself Snapchat before she embarks on her cross country road trip to Southern California later this month.