What’s Wrong with Black Content?

Grace Elizabeth Hackney | Staff Writer

When thinking about the range of Black movies and TV in the ’90s and early 2000s compared to what there are now, you would think they’d have gotten better. Better writing, better representation of intersectional identities, better marketing, just better. I’m not so sure that’s the case. 

When it comes to present-day Black entertainment, most of it seems to stem from struggle. I can’t even think of one TV show about Black high schoolers that does not involve some sort of stereotypical trauma. 

In the ’90s and 2000s, you had The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Moesha, The Parkers, and Sister Sister to tell the stories of Black kids in high school. You had A Different World to tell the stories of Black students in college. You had Living Single, Girlfriends, and Martin to tell the stories of Black young adults. 

I didn’t even mention the plethora of Black family sitcoms from the ’70s and ’80s. Not only were these shows entertaining, but they also featured Black people dealing with day-to-day life issues and not only Black struggles.

While these shows touched on issues that affect the Black community, those issues were not the narrative that pushed the entire storyline forward. Not to mention that these shows featured characters of all sizes and shades, unlike the Black TV content that we see today. 

When thinking about Black shows now, the first thing that comes to mind is Kenya Barris and his roster of “ish” shows. While I like these shows, I do think the shows cater to white audiences. 

I also don’t consider Grown-ish to be a Black show. Barris himself said he cares about what white people think in his Netflix show, #BlackAF. It is evident in his work, especially since people have criticized Barris for not featuring dark-skin characters in his sitcoms. 

Now all of this is not to take away from the good Black shows there are right now that are not built off of Black trauma and stereotypes such as Insecure, Run The World and Queen Sugar. I would even loop Power in as well. 

However, we need more for our Black teens and young adults. I know we love All American, but that can’t be our only option. 

Now let’s talk movies. 

The ’90s and early 2000s were almost like a renaissance for Black movies. Not only did you have the classic hood movies such as Boyz In The Hood, but there was also an abundance of romantic comedies, biographies and dramas. 

Love Jones, Malcolm X, Eve’s Bayou and Coming to America are just a few. There was also a selection of movies about Black college life like Drumline, School Daze and Stomp The Yard. What happened to these types of movies? Why aren’t they being made anymore? 

Today, Black movies that aren’t about a historical figure, slavery or Black trauma lack good writing. The Photograph is a movie that had so much potential. It had a solid cast, good storyline and beautiful cinematography, but the writing seemed elementary. 

We got Black Panther, though. That was a great one. 

I’m not going to talk about Tyler Perry’s movies. 

Every few years, we get a Kevin Hart comedy. I would consider those to be Black movies. They serve their purpose, but we need more.

I do think we are starting to get a little more. We have Jordan Peele making Black horror movies where the Black people aren’t the first characters to die. Marsai Martin vowed never to produce content about Black trauma, and I’m excited to see what Issa Rae’s next big project will be as we approach the final season of her fantastic show, Insecure

It’s important to remember that our fight is for equality and representation, not assimilation. It’s important to remember that white people do not need to like our movies. They are not for them.

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