Culture Vultures

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

Southern Oregon, you know I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about Black sitcoms, Black women, and my least favorite - Blackfishing! Black representation in Hollywood is an essential part of making our mark in a country that still views my race as caricatures. Before there was a Black Vice President, Congress member, or lawyer, there were Black sitcoms that inspired their audience like Living Single and Girlfriends! People of Color working in positions with prestige instead of the gangbanger or drug addict stereotype. Each character in both of these sitcoms had actual depth to them where they could introduce the issues facing Black America in their storylines from hair discrimination to cultural appropriation. Yet the sitcom that’s deemed as the most iconic from the 90s is Friends, and T.C. Carson had some insight as to why. Carson told Comedy Hype that he was fired from Living Single because he spoke out against the favoritism that Warner Bros displayed towards Friends. The Black woman behind the magic was Yvette Lee Bowser and she says that, “For me, it began with the realization that if this industry was really only going to cater to and embrace white people, and white men in particular, and have them in positions of power behind the scenes...I wasn’t going to be here for long.” The show may have gone off air in 1998 but her Black Girl Magic echoes in another iconic show called Girlfriends written by Mara Brock Akil.

The show centering around 4 successful Black queens and how they balance career and love interests, has some behind-the-scenes differences compared to Friends with their male actors. When Friends ended, David Schwimmer was on the t.v. show Will & Grace , voiced Melman the giraffe in Madagascar movies, and currently stars on the sitcomIntelligence. Matthew Perry starred as Ted Kennedy on The Kennedys After Camelot and The Odd Couple but whatever happened to Reggie Hayes from Girlfriends? Hayes says that he, “wasn’t Matt LeBlanc or one of the other kids from ‘Friends’ who had doors opening for them after their show ended. Pretty much, I was just another guy.” Black people are tired of the lack of representation and what little representation we do have feeds the appropriation aquarium for Blackfishing Hollywood! I don’t know what’s more insulting, Alyssa Milano wearing cornrows, white girls believing Miley Cyrus invented twerking, or Ariana Grande going from mayo to melanated with her complexion. I never thought I’d say this but Hollywood managed to glamorize black-face minstrel shows, with lip injections and box braids while simultaneously making caricatures of Black women having emotions! If any of you Southern Oregon residents have an interest in TikTok, then you’re probably well informed of the suppression of Black voices and the endorsement of racism on the social media platform. White TikTokers will steal content from Black creators and take the credit! Black is a rainbow color complete with different walks of life so why wouldn’t we want to see a show or listen to a song that we can relate to? I strongly believe that Black people should build solidarity in gatekeeping because of the lack of appreciation and abundance of cultural appropriation that insults the essence of who we are. On a final note, melanin is magical, natural hair is professional, and Black Lives Matter!

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