Are Black male writers Erasing the “Black Couple” on TV and Film?


The TV Show black-‘ish’s episode 23 “Elephant in the room”  was brilliant.  If you haven’t seen the show, the structure is basically from Dre’s (the father who works in advertising) perspective.   The basic structure of the sitcom is:  a situation happens at home,  there’s some flashbacks, then Dre talks about the problem at work with his collegues (who are both black and white mostly males), then he talks with with his wife about the situation, then Drey triess to solve the situation, fails, then finally learns a lesson in the end.

In Episode 23 Dre’s son Jr. decides to become a Republican because he’s in love with a girl, who is black and a Republican at school.

Please CLICK HERE to watch Dre and his co-workers discuss how there are some things black people just can’t do.

In the clip of the scene I attached..Dre says, ” You don’t get it. There are just some things that black people cannot do.  You can live in the Suburbs and still be cool.  You can listen to The Dave Matthews band and still be down.  A black guy can marry someone white and still be good.”

Charlie, Dre’s black co-worker, chimes in examples, “Kanye, Quincy Jones, Tiger Woods, Ice T, Richard Pryor, Cuba Gooding Jr, Seal,(During this Dre  tries to interrupt Charlie he keeps going) Tae Digs,Charles Barkley,Key, Peele, Lamar Odom, Chiwetel Ejiofor…Dre finally stops Charlie and says,”Hey Charlie…we don’t have enough time for that…besides you didn’t get to anybody in the NFL or the Fathers of the Golden State Warriors Back court”  Then the white Male co-worker Josh whispers  to the white manager Mr. Stephens,” Clay Thompson.”


Episode 23  of Black-ish was written by these women:

Kenya Barris (creator)
Courtney Lilly (written by)
Lisa McQuillan (staff writer)
Njeri Brown (staff writer)
Devanshi Patel

These women are all women of color.

The entertainment industry has always valued the dark-skinned black man.  Dark skinned Black Men have had tremendous value in the entertainment industry. From Bill “Bojangles Robinson” dancing with Shirley Temple, Sidney Poiter the upstanding educated black man in Guess who’s coming to dinner,  the victimized Tom portrayed in To Kill a Mockingbird to drug dealers, thugs, and politicians shown on The Wire dark-skinned black men have always worked in Hollywood.  In the 21st century there has been a new trend.  The mainstream entertainment industry and media LOVES hyper-sexualizing black men and paring them with white women while at the same time demonizing black men as objects of violence and fear.

It all starts in the writing room.

I just finished binge watching the Cinemax series The Knick which is written by Jack Aimel and Steven Katz, both are Jewish American, and stars Clive Owen.  The Knick  is about surgeons in NYC’s lower East Side hospital in 1900.  The cast includes a  character who is a brilliant black surgeon who faces intense racism  whose only love interest is…a wealthy white woman. There is a white male character who is blonde haired and blue-eyed of privilege who hates the black surgeon and is a total incompetent racist.

This weekend I watched the season primer of Fear the Walking dead, the writers are Dave Erickson and Robert Kirkman and the first person you see being devoured by a blonde haired blue-eyed zombie, is a dark-skinned black man. Then later in the show, one of the lead characters kills his black friend, who is also a drug dealer.  But guess what, this black boy becomes a zombie so we get to see the white boy run the black zombie over with a truck several times.

Look deeper at the movie, 12 years a slave.   It was written by John Ridley a dark-skinned black man, and directed by a dark-skinned black man Steve McQueen.  The main character is a black man, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor  and the main female character is a black female played by LupitaNyong’o, who is single.  In 12 years a slave, the dark-skinned female slave is brutalized by the white slave owner sexually and emotionally, she is emotionally tortured by the white slave owners wife,  and beaten totally naked by the main black male character.  It’s awful, brutal hard to watch. It also got best picture, and an oscar for Lupita Nyong’o.   It’s telling that the writer, director and lead actor in 12 years a slave are all married to…white women. Interesting fact the 2012 movie also written by John Ridley about the Tuskegee Airmen had one love storyline…which featured a white woman.  Even when Chris Rock wrote a movie, his love interest was a fair-skinned latina and the black women in the movie were all pushy or whores.  Even the ruaway hit Empire, although is taking amazing steps forward for gay men of color and men of color with mental health issues, it sticks to the same tried and true formulas of sassy black women, black women hating one another, black women singing,  and dark-skinned black women being in service to the lighter skinned women on the show.

When we start to look deeper into who is creating the images that are going out into  America we don’t seem to want to focus on the complexities of the impact of the images that are put out there…and the biases that each artist has infused into their work.

Black folks are more than willing and ready to complain about the lack of black writers and producers yet don’t call to question the intentions of the black male writers who are telling stories from their narrow perspectives.  Black men in writing rooms  are rewriting history to glorify their personal affinity for white women and choosing to throw black women under the bus and even worse…pretend we do not exist, except for the mother, whore, or fat and sassy “best friend” character.  In comedy, Key and Peele who both are married to white women, make fun of black women in their skits while having no real point of reference to black women.  (Both Key and Peele have white mothers, and I make this assumption from seeing their broad portrayals of black women in their un-funny comedy skits.)

All stories are told from the perspective of the storyteller, the best storytellers are able to check themselves on their own biases and tell stories about human beings having human experiences. This is the main reason I love The Walking Dead.  It takes place in Atlanta, Georgia and has an ethnically diverse cast. At one point in the season last year there were a majority of people of color in the core cast! (8 actors of color 7 white actors)   The zombie apocalypse has come and the group who has survived, is surviving because they realized they will die if they don’t have each others backs.  It’s humans against zombies bottom line and it’s brilliant.  We get caught up in the lives and relationships of these people fighting to survive.  We root for them as humans having a human experience in a world filled with zombies. Walking dead…written by white guys. (Was not impressed with the way black folks were portrayed in the new prequel Fear the Walking Dead..interesting)

Why is it that complex  contemporary stories that deal with race in this country, (I’m not talking about bio-pics like Selma, Mandela, The Butler, or Bessie) for the most part, are being told by white men?  Writers and directors like David Simon and Paul Haggis of Show me a Hero, The Wire, Treme and Crash are exploring complex stories with interracial casts and the relationships of black men and women.  Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained actually showed a black man who would go to the end of the earth to rescue his love…who was a black woman. It took a white guy to write a love story between a black woman and man in the 21st century.  And when he wrote it…people like Spike Lee criticized it.  That’s sad.  If it weren’t for ABC TV and Shonda Rimes, humanizing cross racial storylines would be extinct on Network TV. Shonda opened the door for shows like Black-ish and fresh off the Boat to be rocking it in prime time.

Why is it that daytime television is filled with black couples in crisis screaming at one another, suing one another on one of the many court shows?

Like it or not the media and entertainment industries shape hearts and minds of Americans.  The USA is still segregated and for some the only black people they see are on TV.  For black boys and men… seeing every successful affluent black man with a white woman on his arm sends a clear message, educated black men are with white women.

I’ve always said, when a culture disrespects its women, it cannot thrive.  Thank god there are so many talented female writers of color coming into the forefront and telling stories from their perspective. Thank god there are still some black men out there who get it, including  Larry Wilmore, writer, Producer of Black-Ish, host of The Nightly Show and Malcolm D. Lee who wrote the screenplay for The Best Man Holiday. (Please add other black men who are black women as allies in their stories in the comments section below)We are living in an exciting time.  There are enough stories about American Africans out there that we can dive deeper into the nuances of race and gender in order to tell even more kick ass stories.  We can raise the barre, that is awesome.



P.S.   I realize that Shonda Rimes has paired Oliva (who is black)  in Scandal with Fitz  (who is white) and they are having an affair.  The thing is, Olivia has dated black and white men and the man who is the love of her life is Fitz.  Scandal goes beyond the broad stereotypes of interracial dating and dives into their dysfunctional relationship as a man and woman who are in love in an impossible situation.  In Shonda Rimes new show How to Get Away with Murder Annalise’s husband was white, her lover was black and the characters in the show are all races both genders and sexual orientations and it’s feast of twisty crazy dramatic funness.

In addtiton, for the past 10 years Shonda Rimes and her team of writers of herother shows, Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, have explored relationships between Black men and White women, Black Women and White men, White women and Latino Men, a long term relationship between a  Latina and a White women,  Black men and Asian women, Gay male relationships, and Trans Gender storylines, Jews and Gentiles together, White couples, Black couples, Latin couples, Asian couples… Human beings having human experiences together.  These stories are fascinating, compelling, heart breaking…awesome writing great television.

Humans having a human experience are much more interesting than a parade of stereotypes.  Always.


About VisAbleblackwoman

Entertainment/Wellness Journalist, Writer, Playwright, Actor, Producer, Vegan Chef Contributor - Black Girl Founder - VisAbleblackwoman Productions
This entry was posted in ABC, black men vs black women, gender & race, intraracial, tv writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s