Yes, Black Lead: Representation Matters
Updated: Apr 24
It's officially my first week in quarantine. I'm a full homebody now and I have taken full advantage of binge-watching. Do I feel guilty? No. Because now, you get this exciting article.
Is anyone else just clicking on random movies and shows when they get to the home screen of Netflix and Hulu? Because I feel like I'm not curating what I'm watching. I'm clicking, grabbing my blanket and snacks and not moving until I have to pee. Don't judge me. I know I'm not the only one.
During this non-curating viewing, I have discovered and rediscovered a few shows including;
Netflix's Altered Carbon
Altered Carbon is the platform's highly-rated cyberpunk series based on Richard K. Morgan's 2002 dystopian novel of the same title. I ended up binge-watching the entire series within days. But it wasn't until season two, after some character changes, **spoiler alert** that I found myself yelling,
"Yes, black lead! **snap, snap, snap**
The great talents of Anthony Mackie (yes, the new Captain America himself), Haley Law (CW's Riverdale), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Hamilton, Broadway and the upcoming 2021 theatrical release) and Simone Missick (Netflix, Luke Cage, and CBS, All Rise) are all featured in this series--and more. Why is their representation important here? Because historically, audiences would be hard-pressed seeing black actors cast in SciFi roles, in lead SciFi roles.
Netflix's She Did That
As I continued on my non-curated binge-watching journey, I landed on She Did That. A documentary about black businesswomen by a black businesswoman. "Yes, black leads *snap snap snap*." Seeing a film for us by us, I felt seen.
Netflix's On My Block
Scrolling through Netflix, I saw On My Block season three had premiered. My opinion on the season is another article, but I digress. Seeing a cast of minorities being the majority made my inner child smile. Two black leads and three Latino leads...
"Yes, black (and Latino) leads *snap snap snap*."
Netflix's Self Made
Hulu's Little Fires Everywhere
I finally started Little Fires Everywhere. A-MAZ-ING. You already know what's coming...
"Yes, Black Lead!" *snap snap snap*
...a black female lead with depth and layers is so refreshing. Kerry Washington's character is multi-dimensional. Many times black actors get the one-lane background story. Her's is so much more. Let me not go into too much detail because you have to watch it!
But, I want us to collectively get to a point where we don't have to say it all the time.
As a preteen wanting to pursue acting, there weren't as many 'mirrors' on the small screen. Yes, I had That's So Raven, but the majority of black teen roles were for roles of the best friend to the white lead. For the longest, I thought I could only a best friend in a production and I was okay with that. I tended to shy away from the lead roles because I subconsciously knew I wouldn't get it because of the color of my skin. I realized, I was only conditioned to believe that. Art imitating life, right?
Thank God I was introduced to Moesha and Family Matters, Fresh Prince, Sister Sister and Smart Guy (just to name a few) because those were some of the only images that I saw people who looked like me where the stories revolved around a black lead.
Representation matters. I can't say that enough.
Now I see more black leads in multidimensional roles, not just the best friend, the sidekick, or a stereotype and it gives me hope. The stories I want to tell can have black leads or an all-black cast.
I want us to continue to say, "Yes, Black Lead" until we don't have to demand it anymore because black leads and black stories matter.
Until my next ramble!
Raven is a contributor to reelcultured.com.