It’s been a hell of a week for you. It hasn’t been a disaster and yet it hasn’t been decent either. The most you can say is that you’re still here, to grind out another one. The usual suspects were there to get on your damn nerves. They work them like a baker kneading dough but you’ve developed a way to deal with it, without losing your sanity. There were a few what in the hell kind of foolishness is this moments but you can’t quite remember them all. This week, like majority of the rest have to be filed away in order to move forward. What if instead of filing them away into distant memory, you could just review your experiences in a concise 22 to 28 minute segment? All of the minor wins that you cherish and all of the tough loses being felt over again but in a way that helps you grow from them so you won’t make the same mistake again, are there for you every week, would you tune in? If you’re black and watch Atlanta or Insecure, you already do.
It’s the little things that light up your life right? You can relate to deep conversations with your girls about the guy you’re seeing. He has no idea that he’s so close to being replaced, yet behind the scenes he’s skating on thin ice. You’ve worked hard, to get where you are. You did it despite all of the odds that are placed before you, only to be the ambassador for black culture? Nah. How can you not feel a little bit insecure when everything calling at you is either trying to give you “constructive criticism” or flat out saying you aren’t legit? Nobody really feels you, though they say they do. It’s hard to get you because anything worth having, is. Insecure gets you. Insecure represents you in the realest way imaginable. You don’t have to say anything at all. You could gather up your coworkers and everyone else in your life who can’t quite understand where you’re coming from, put it on and just nod as their entire concept of you is changed forever. What you truly go through without needing to feel vulnerable in expressing your deepest fears, it puts them on display, broadcasting to the world. The security that Insecure gives women but black women particularly is like a warm blanket on a winter night. You can just continue to be and feel the warmth that you needed and deserved.
Without giving too much away for those who have not had the pleasure of viewing either of these shows this is an example I would like to reference so that I can make my next point. In Atlanta, Earn starts with a commission based job that he absolutely hates. He went to an ivy league school but clearly things aren’t working out for him like they should. He has an on and off again girlfriend who is the mother of his daughter. Emotionally and physically, Earn is a great father. Financially? Not at all. It isn’t for lack of trying, sometimes ruts happen and life happens. The knock of opportunity hasn’t come to his door yet so the struggle is real and weighing on him since he desperately wants to be the man everyone knows he can become. On Insecure, Issa has a good job, a steady boyfriend and good friends but she isn’t happy in her relationship. Her boyfriend is educated but out of work. He’s in a rut and she has to navigate the things she has going on at her job along with trying to be as supportive of him as she can. Those two scenarios sound real enough that it could be anyone in them. The fact that this is the first time in a very long time, the people in these positions are black, speaks volumes. It is important to see a positive and real representation of yourself projected out there through movies and television. It’s not just TV or HBO for that matter, it’s a realistic escape, watching your fake self handle real life problems almost as you would. If you don’t get how those things are monumentally important, check your privilege.
What privilege is he talking about? Oh man, here he goes, making everything racial again. Why does it always have to go there? It doesn’t go anywhere, it isn’t going anywhere, it’s here and it’s real. Minority characters tend to be less complex than their white counterparts. Minority characters tend to fill a typecast as being capable of a small handful of things but never multiple things at once. FOX, NBC, CBS, ABC, CW, FX, heck, let’s add FX, HBO and STARZ, how many of those channels has more than 3 shows where a minority is the lead? Don’t think too hard about it, the fact that you probably had to look up and stare off into the distance while holding your hands up counting fingers to compile your list, says all that needs to be said. So, if you are not used to seeing shows with minorities in the leading spots, at least they should be different in the costarring spots as well correct? In a perfect world, absolutely, in the writer’s room, it’s not. Part of that is because the people writing, can’t officially relate to how a minority would act. You can write lines but can’t fake culture. You can put what you’ve read or used a search engine for out there. You can draw back to that one friend you had that, never actually showed you who they were when you were around and commit that character to memory but like Marvin and Tammi said, ain’t nothing like the real thing. The fake stereotypes is all that a large segment of the country knows. They don’t get to hang out with minority people in their own comfort zone. You don’t see behind the curtain. Hair is up, not laid down and undone, until now. Those old roles of the fatherless insert variation of name Andre or Kiesha here, should be coming to an end. The quirky nerd or the unaware breezy easygoing person who loves hip hop and always says something oddly racial can’t be accepted anymore can it?
When you read certain reviews from people from major publications you will find a few things that don’t pass the smell test. In the article “Atlanta Stumbled Too Often To Really Soar” by Billy Haisley, he writes, “It wasn’t just a problem that the show seemed to waver between being a unique, Twin Peaks-style weird-out and an Everybody Loves Ramond-esque normal sitcom, it was that it didn’t do either version particularly well.” That is an absolutely spot on assessment that he made but for a different reason than the one he intended. The reason that it doesn’t do those two shows particularly well is because, well, it wasn’t trying to be either of those shows. The need for shows to connect and conform is a dangerous thing. The easy way out is to try and compare it to something that has come before it and then measure it against that thing it never said it was to begin with. The box is something that shows like Atlanta and Insecure simply cannot fit in because, unfortunately, there haven’t been shows like it before. Not exactly like this. Similar in some ways like, this one show one time had 4 black women in the lead and this other time there was a mechanic and a guy who owned a bar together on a TV show. That’s not disrespect to those shows by the way, it’s just that in order to judge fairly, you need to understand the essence of the show you are speaking of. A lot of it is lost in translation simply because of the lack of true diversity on TV, many critics simply don’t speak the language.
Since, you brought up lack of diversity, or maybe I did, let’s not let facts get in the way of a good article, or presidential campaign, but we’ll stick with article for now, is there a fear of diversity on TV or is it one of those made up cards, that minority people get to play when they’re not represented enough in prominent roles? An interesting article was written in 2015 by Nellie Andreeva. In her article, Pilots 2015: The Year Of Ethnic Castings – About Time Or Too Much Of Good Thing? in response to the shows, Empire, Black-ish and Fresh Off The Boat, she writes, ” But, as is the case with any sea change, the pendulum might have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction.” That’s interesting, one year of change and the pendulum has swung too far already? One solid year in which the shows she mentioned were actually big ratings hits, and that’s enough buddy, it’s time to restore things back to the way they were? The entire article is a hoot though. If you drink, you’ll get alcohol poisoning if you take a shot every time the word “ethnic” is used. Saying ethnic in the context as it was written in that article is like saying “alternative lifestyle” to a member of the LGBTQ community. Doesn’t quite sit right does it? The larger and more important question is why does it matter who’s on television if it’s not a big deal? If it’s not to be taken seriously, then why can’t all the show’s star “ethnic” people? What’s there to be afraid of if you show humanizing portrayals of people of color that everyone all over America can relate to. People who America invites into their homes weekly to laugh when they laugh, cry when they cry and feel the pain and joy over several years of their lives? Positive images of fictional characters people grow to love, doesn’t shape perceptions overall right?
When a breath of fresh air hits you, it’s tempting to attempt to bottle it and keep it safe for as long as you can. In the case of Insecure and Atlanta, it’s best we let them breathe. Let these shows continue to be culturally relevant. Let’s wait and see where the organic nature of these series, takes us. Don’t get caught up in continuation as much as progression. Don’t try to mold it into what you feel it should be instead of just taking in the entire experience. For the past few years, the misses have come in much more abundance than the hits. Even fewer hits, reach the adult serious people of color demographic, where people of color craft every single aspect of the show in front and behind the scenes. In ten years, we can start to make arguments for where these two belong in the pantheon of television. Notice, I didn’t say the pantheon of television starring, people of color because this transcends color. This isn’t in that box. It’s not in any box. It’s in your face. It’s pure. It’s refreshingly new while heart-warmingly nostalgic. Atlanta and Insecure are leading the new charge to make American television great again.
A Damn Good Reason To Be Optimistic About The Insecure Black-ish Future Of Atlanta, And People Of Color On TV. was last modified: January 23rd, 2017 by