Jamaija Rhoades | Staff Writer
It feels like all recent coming-of-age films such as (but not limited to) Booksmart, Love Simon, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and Sierra Burgess is a Loser all revolve around superficial and effortlessly watchable topics. The films tell stories of teenagers whose most significant problems revolve around their grades’ status and where the next hot party will take place.
While I love a good coming-of-age film (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is my personal fav), I cannot help but notice that Black teenagers are rarely the main characters within these stories. The few times individuals of African descent have starred in these films, they are either extremely heavy (Moonlight) or seek to make a statement about racism (The Hate U Give).
This lack of carefree, innocent films that showcase Black teens simply falling in love or having fun without the interruption of discrimination or poverty is related to the popular association of the Black experience and struggle.
“I feel like parts of society only view Black people as people who will inevitably struggle through life — that we must face an obstacle, big or small, in our lifetime,” said Meraiah Cannon, a recent nursing graduate from Norfolk, Virginia.
Of course, I am fully aware that anybody with melanated skin will face some hardships in some shape or form due to things they cannot change. However, I do not believe we need to be reminded of this all the time.
Most people watch movies to escape their reality or just enjoy a couple of hours where they do not have to be reminded of their struggles in their day-to-day lives. Few people need to escape the realities of life more than people of color, particularly children, yet they rarely get the chance to do so.
As important as it is to tell these heavy stories that are the realities of many Black people, Black creatives need to also ensure that they are creating films that highlight the innocence of Black teens and Black children as a whole. We often see children of African descent being forced to become adults and be strong in moments that other children are given the space to be vulnerable and make mistakes without extreme consequences.
Despite what major production companies may believe, the Black community craves more films that showcase Black characters experiencing a sense of normalcy.
“To see Black teens just getting to be kids and living out their best, normal teenage lives would be a dream come true. We need at least five of those movies within the next five years,” said Simone Williams, an HU graduate student from Newport News, Virginia.
Creating light-hearted coming-of-age films starring Black teens would not only be refreshing, but it would serve as a reminder to the world that despite the color of our skin, we are the same.
Just as white teens crave love, a good time and adventure, Black teens do as well. Highlighting and emphasizing the reality that Black teens are also teens would assist those individuals who still believe that Black teens are less than. It would help them realize that we are human just as they are.
Jamaija Rhoades is a graduating senior journalism major with an emphasis in cinema studies from Richmond, Virginia.