Misrepresentation is a recurring theme in Hollywood. I am one of the black women who feel personally about being underrepresented in lead roles on television.
According to The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, black female characters on Television achieved a historical high of 17% women represented in broadcast Tv. The misconception that haunts many of us is that we are oversexed and angry.
Who is the Angry Black Woman?
We have all seen her either in dramas or reality shows.
In 2016, when Taraji P. Henson won a Golden Globe Award for her role as Cookie in Empire. As she walked up to the stage, she calmly made a comment about her needing to play an ex-convict in order to win the award.
Other visible black female characters in TV Dramas include Viola Davis’ character on How to Get Away With Murder. Annalise Keating is a successful Lawyer and Professor. She not only battles alcoholism but is also so vengeful and willing to kill someone to keep out of trouble.
American Horror Story: Roanoke has Adina Porter’s character, Lee Harris, be a drug taking alcoholic with anger-management issues. The show even went as far as validating her need to kill her husband to have full custody of her daughter.
Reality shows like Real Housewives of Atlanta perpetuate the negative stereotype of the angry black woman. The shows focus on black women who can’t seem to have successful romantic or friendly relationships.
Who is the Mistress?
It is almost impossible to talk about the representation of black women on television without the mention of Olivia Pope.
Pope is intelligent, beautiful, independent and capable of employing people who may not otherwise get a meaningful and well-paying job. Yet, despite these traits, the show sends the message that she does not deserve loving and healthy relationships.
It’s frustrating enough to know that there aren’t a lot of black women on network television. Pope’s love-lust relationship with the married President reinforces centuries of images that have ripped too many black women of their self-esteem and self-worth.
All through the show, she was referred to as a woman who only knew how to use her sexuality to get anywhere. She was over-sexualized and voiceless. The episode in which she was kidnapped and then took part in the plan to sell herself to the highest bidder is a perfect example.
The way the black women are treated on the show Empire cannot be ignored either. Serayah, a young talented singer was willing to do anything to see herself succeed. It felt much like Scandal, in that she had to use her sexuality to get there.
I also want to highlight the most positive representation for black women. They have been seen mostly in sitcoms such as The Cosby Show and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. In as much as there has been a lot of misrepresentation, it has been a relief to see a show like Blackish. A prominent character, Rainbow Johnson, is a successful Doctor and family woman without any baggage.