The NAACP Image Awards were filmed recently and I know they’re going to air in the next week or so but of course a majority of the highlights are already on Youtube. As I was perusing the various clips I came across one of Kerry Washington being honored for her political activism and I was like “Go on head Kerry you be active in your democracy and whatnot.” Only thing that made this clip better was that it was presented to her by the President of the NAACP, Benjamin Todd Jealous (if you never seen him he’s this light skinned fellow here)…
….And the oh so fabulous Diahann CaroLl. I’m sure not many of you know this but I love Diahann Carol if for nothing more than her ability to look like she just stepped off a runway ALL THE TIME. The woman is flawless and her hair(her famous wigs) is perpetually LAID like no other. The woman is 77 years old and she looks like this..
…oh and she’s a wonderful actor.
Back to Kerry and ’em. So as they were giving their talk about why Ms. Washington is so awesome they pointed out that she is the first Black woman to lead in a primetime television show in over 40 years. The last Black woman to do it was who? Diahann Carroll. She played a nurse who was also a widowed single mother in the series Julia. The show was a big deal not just because Diahann Carroll was a black woman on tv, but she was a Black woman on tv who wasn’t a mammy or a domestic. The series ended in 1971 meaning that its been 41 years since a Black woman has led a series on primetime tv.
Props to Kerry and Shonda Rhimes (creator of Scandal) for breaking the color line and fulfilling the dream and wading in the water( and all the things that go along with being Black and great) but why in the hell has it been 41 years since a Black woman has led a primetime TV show?! I mean that’s very long. So you mean to tell me there wasn’t n’an a Black woman that could lead a show that people would want to watch. And yes there are many more male-lead shows than female lead shows as a whole but I can think of three shows off the top of my head that has non women of color leads. So although this may be a gender issue, it’s defitely a race issue as well.
This absence of Black leading ladies (and for the most part gents also) is appalling and it brings me back to a thought I had about a popular tv show back when I was trying to force myself to love this show that EVERY ONE (read: white people I follow on facebook) else seems to just adore. I’ve been trying to get into Mad Men for over a year and for some reason I just could not connect with ANY of the characters probably because it took five hundred episodes for anything life changing and important to happen. AND Betty Draper annoys me to the core.
But I think another reason I could never get into it was because there were no black people in it besides the janitor and the elevator operator (which is mostly historically realistic since it’s set in the 60s). I didn’t expect there to be many black folks because well where on tv (besides reality shows and BET) ARE there many Black people. Especially black people that aren’t purely comedic relief, severely emasculated, or extremely angry and militant? But I guess what I really couldn’t get past with Mad Men is that while these characters are running round drinking, whoring, and making crap tons of money black people were basically fighting for the right to live decent lives without being lynched, shot, or arrested.
Guess it’s personal because during that time my mother and her siblings were going to school and watching Dr. King and Brother Malcolm and the Kennedys on TV. And yes they do make references to the Civil RIghts Movement and the assassination of the President in the show, I even hear there’s a colored on there now who’s actually important, but I just can’t seem to pull myself to be invested in the lives of these superficial human beings while folks were fighting real struggles, particularly MY folks.
I always wonder how my mom felt, sitting in the front of the family tv in their apt in the projects, with her brothers and sisters watching shows like Leave It To Beaver and Bonanza and all these other shows where white, middle class families enjoyed these perfect, drama-free, color-free, struggle-free lives while people were somewhere marching and protesting in order to get equal rights for her race. I’m not trying to down Mad Men or take anything from it, I just realize that it’s prob a show I will probably never be able to get fully into (plus it’s beyond boring to me).
It’s awesome to see Kerry Washington leading a popular tv show with a super dedicated fan base but hopefully we don’t have to wait another 41 years to get a black woman as a lead on a primetime tv show.
So let me know, do you think it makes sense that it’s been 41 years since a primetime tv show had a Black female lead? Or do you think that’s just the way the cookie crumbles in Hollywood? Any particular group you would like to see better represented on the TV?
Stay strong in the Struggle,
“You do well in everything else. You do well in faith and in speaking. You do well in knowledge and in complete commitment. And you do well in your love for us so make sure that you also do well in the grace of giving to others”-2 Corinthians 8:7