Friday, September 21, 2018

Salty Pretzels: Watching Black TV

Why is it that every time we decide to watch a black sitcom/drama/movie, some of y'all respond with a master's thesis of analysis? Why can't we just laugh/cry and move on to more important stuff like electing black governors in Georgia and Florida and Maryland?

I haven't written anything substantive about Insecure, and I promise, this will not be another bloated, self-important, over-analysis of the last episode or of anything that has already aired in the last two seasons. All I need to say is that I enjoy the show. I am just happy to watch something on TV that doesn't air on the Disney channel or PBS Kids. For half an hour, I get to change the channel from MSNBC or CNN or a rerun of a sitcom I used to watch. #thatisall

So why do folks have to deconstruct everything with the objective of making us mindful and reflective about what we're watching? Did y'all do this for Sex and the City and I missed it because I didn't have HBO back then? Is every episode of a black sitcom a very special episode? Why does this annoy me so much?

Let me back up to what made me open this family sized bag of stale, sour cream and onion flavored pretzels. It was last summer when some chick uploaded her feelings onto Facebook Live about the movie Girls Trip and it went viral. Admittedly, some of my saltiness had a lot to do with the fact that her commentary was damn near an hour long, yet still got re-posted multiple times (like who seriously watched that entire video). But now, some of y'all are similarly going in on Insecure and making way too much about the larger meaning of life as a 30-something black woman in Los Angeles.

Chill. It is not that deep. Let me summarize: Issa is a damn mess. So are ALL of her friends.

Now, I am not trying to stop us from having legitimate post-show discussions on social media about the return of Lawrence, Dro's lying ass, or whether Nathan is a fugitive from witness protection. Those conversations are fun. It reminds me of how we all bonded over Scandal just a few years ago, and how we are still trying to understand that Teddy Perkins episode of Atlanta. That level of pondering is entirely appropriate.

But when it gets to the point of questioning whether these characters are written with a realism based on authentic black female relationships (and yes, someone really went all the way there), I just can't. When some public health professional feels the need to criticize the show for all of the unprotected sex but didn't catch how they handled that with a character developing chlamydia, that feels a wee bit like overthinking things unnecessarily. Hello, Ross and Rachel, anyone?

It is a TV show. Just watch...or don't.

I get that whenever we see black people on TV, we want to see them in a positive light, but unless we are watching the local news, I think we need to become less uptight about how every character is portrayed. We need to accept nuance and multifaceted humanity. People are messy and indecisive and smart and stuck up and very often, make questionable decisions. Since I mentioned Sex and the City, can we just admit that Carrie Bradshaw and Issa (and Molly) make many of the same damn mistakes with men? If you watched SATC for any length of time, how could you not question her judgment with respect to Mr. Big and how they ended up married in that terrible movie? Are you certain that you wouldn't sit around at brunch and talk about Samantha while she's in the bathroom?

We place too heavy a burden on entertainment to uplift the race. And I am speaking from experience, because I have definitely been a proponent of respectability television in the past. When it was still politically correct to complain about BET, I did so. I admit to being snobbish about which reality TV shows I will watch. I have plenty of issues with certain stereotypes and tropes, but I realize that if we really want to see ourselves in all of our complicated glory, then we have to accept that not every black man on a sitcom will be Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable. And speaking of...he famously lambasted the premise of Living Single because he assumed it to be a show about something that it was not.

My point--let the show run its course without any of the baggage of our historical and sociological expectations of perfection over quality. Remember Frank's Place (of course not, because it only ran for one season and never reruns) just enjoy this great moment in black television that finds a black woman starring in her own show that she created.

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