“Where my people at?”

“I
 can 
turn 
on 
the 
television 
or 
open 
to 
the 
front 
page 
of 
the
 paper 
and 
see 
people
 of 
my 
race 
widely
 represented…”

Too bad I cannot answer yes to this question. There is barely any representation of people of African-American people on the television. The main representation of my people that I personally see are the music artists or the ones on the semi-stereotypical shows such as The Cleveland Show and Tyler Perry’s  Meet the Browns, House of Payne, and For Better or Worse, on TBS.

Back in the day when I was growing up in the early 1990s there were shows like The Cosby’s, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Martin, Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, In Living Color, Moesha, Sister, Sister, The Parent Hood, The Wayans Bros., The Steve Harvey Show, The PJs and many others. Needless to say there was a wide variety of representations of African-American people. It ranged from people who were successful professionals such as judges, lawyers, doctors, principals and also middle class blue collar working citizens. The concept of the positive family image was present and many issues that any families could go through were also depicted through these shows.

(Just below is an image of The Cosby’s Family Show to the left, which does not depict any stereotypical images. However the image across is the image of the Cleveland Family Shows, which depicts many stereotypical images of black people. The wife in the Cleveland Family has a big butt, the daughter is dressed very provocatively, and the son has a an afro.)

                 vs.

Today, the positive non-stereotypical black families are not really present. In the Tyler Perry shows, you typically know what to expect from his shows because they usually have the same concepts. The people are usually very loud, boisterous, over the top, and “ghetto.” Although, some black people do behave in this manner, this image should not be the only image of black people. It’s kind of bringing us back to the days where black people were chucking and jiving on the screen.
However, the shows that could potentially add some flavor to the television scene have difficulties breaking their way into the industry. Also, creators and producers worry that they might have to negotiate so much that they lose the identity of the show and this is exactly what happened with the web-series the Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.

For those of you that do not have any clue what the show Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl is about, here is a quick summary:

Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl an American comedy web series, commonly known as ‘Awkward Black Girl’ created by and starring, Issa Rae  as J.  It premiered on YouTube on February 3, 2011. The show follows the life of J as she interacts with co-workers, Nina, Fred, A, Patty, Amir,  and Boss Lady and love interests, White Jay and Fred, who place her in uncomfortable situations. The story is told through first-person narrative as J usually reveals how she feels about her circumstances through voice-over or dream sequence. The show has been very successful on YouTube and because of it extreme popularity Issa Rae and producer Tracy Oliver planned on transitioning the show to television. However that did not work out too well….

“Why ‘Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl’ Won’t Be Coming to Television Anytime Soon” discusses the issue that came about when creator and producer Issa Rae and producer Tracy Oliver attempted to transition their web-series Awkward Black Girl to television. Some of the issues and concerns were:

1)    The content would have to adapt in many forms just to be acceptable under the strict television policies and rules

2)    Who will become the showrunners? (A showrunner is a  person who is responsible for the day-to-day operation of a television series)

3)    Whoever the showrunners will be, will they understand the creator and producers’ vision?

4)    How many writers of color will be staffed?

5)    Will the staff remain the same and how much control will they have over the content?

Issa and Tracy met with an executive from a television network and his overall response was that He felt that in order for ‘ABG’ to become more mainstream, the entire cast would need to be replaced.

His suggestion for the lead character, J, was a long-haired, fair skinned actress who looked more like a model from a rap music video than an awkward black girl.”So basically, this executive is saying what they need to do in order for ‘ABG’ to fit into the mainstream media is to recreate entirely and make it into something that it is not.

(Pictured above: Actress Zoe Saldana)

Being a devoted watcher, I personally would be pretty upset if the show were to replace “J” with a long hair, fair-skinned actress. I know that in our society, light skin African-American women are more idolized and in the forefront when it comes to the television screen. Not many darker skinned sisters are presented on the screen. So with that being said, I know that if that change was to be made, there would be much criticism.

The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl has the potential to make a change on the television scene when it comes to African-American representation. Could Issa Rae Save the Black Sitcom? discusses how Rae has the ability to revive Black sitcoms because of her web series that makes many references to many popular 90s Black sitcoms such as Living Single, Moesha, and Sister Sister. But of course the corporations are trying to “Hold her Back.” 

If I were in their position, I would not want to negotiate so much and I would keep my show on the web, where I have freedom and my ideas can be explicitly displayed without any censorship, restrictions, or major alteration.

If you were in this position, what would you do? Would you fall into the trap or stick it out and stay true to your loyal fans?

P.S. Here is the first episode of the first season of #ABG titled “The Stop Sign”

-Taylyse W. 

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