Tea Anyone? Tropes are Fun, But I'm Tired of These...
Okay, you probably thought I was going to talk about how I'm tired of seeing the love triangle or reading about how the 16 year-old finds out they suddenly have powers. Sorry! Wrote that, haha!
No, this blog isn't about that. It's a list of the Black television and film tropes that I am tired of watching. I wrote this list in response to an editor's inquiry, maybe a year or two ago, who asked why I didn't go down a particular path with my own book.
One good thing I can say is that things have really changed on the big and small screen since I initially wrote this list. eg. Black Panther. But I wouldn't go so far as to say the stereotypes aren't alive and well.
Now, before I go any further, let me make clear that people like Shonda Rhimes have been breaking barriers for a long time now. Kudos to her and the many others who've had to destroy walls so I can even write this post about how I'd like to see more range. Having gone from no range to having a range is a great thing! Terrific actresses and actors had to play those parts so we could get to this point. So, I'm not saying barriers haven't been broken nor do I mean to minimize all of the hard work that has gone into reprising these roles. Just saying that in the fantasy world in particular, we have a long way to go.
I was still in the process of writing my book when I heard Black Panther was going into production. Trust me, I was PRAYING that the movie would be a huge success because I knew it had the potential to set the tone for years to come. In many ways the success of my own book was predicated on the success of that movie.
Don't get me wrong, a good story is a good story. But honestly, how many Black fantasy movies have you seen represented in film? While you work on compiling that list, I'll just say thank God it did well because it opened doors I may have had to pry harder to get open. And now look. Eyes have opened and writers like Tomi Adeyemi have been recognized and her talent is being adapted for the big screen. Pretty awesome!
Okay, back to the tropes. Let me start by saying that all of these things have there place. I'm just tired of seeing them over and over again (eye-roll).
As an African-American, I'm tired of seeing the following:
1. Black drug/gang/stripper movies.
2. Black movies with a bunch of f-bombs or over-sexed.
3. Black comedies- love them, just want some balance.
4. Slave movies- our history doesn't begin there but it is constantly presented as such.
5. Black maids--you know "the help" (no pun intended).
6. Kind/funny Black women- usually plump. Nothing wrong with plump. I'm plump! But
they're always funny and plump, or wise and plump. Rarely the sexy, clever
protagonist). I find the "funny & plump" trope seems to cross racial divides.
7. Black people in general relegated to the background- Rarely do blacks lead a mixed
group or a group of let's say white people. If they're incorporated in the story they are
usually one of the aforementioned characters on the list. Rarely clever AND handsome,
etc. Usually if there is a positive black character, something is sacrificed. If they're
smart, they're nerdy. If they're strong, they're kind of dumb or just funny. Usually, they're
8. White Egyptian movies. Because, you know, Ancient Egyptians never could have been
Black Africans. Forget about all the paintings with braided hair or dark skin, DNA
samples or the fact that they are IN AFRICA, man originated from Africa, etc. Why
aren't they depicted as such? We know why. Because then you'd have to acknowledge
African intelligence, creativity, etc. Same reason why many other regions are ignored.
You'd have to admit they were intelligent enough to have constructed and designed
those pesky pyramids in all their grandeur. Or not. You could always give the credit to
aliens. OKAY, you're right, that was a rant...moving on....
9. Angry black people- haha, excluding me of course!! Kidding, I'm not angry! Please
don't gauge my everyday temperament from this post! I might get frustrated
at times perhaps. But c'mon, who wouldn't get frustrated with these tropes?
I didn't know what the non-black editor was going to say after I gave him that list. I literally wrote it out, unleashing this torrent of pent-up feelings I didn't even know I had. Or perhaps knew but never thought I'd pen to paper. I was so surprised when he told me that in his eyes, I'd leveled up! Ha! Classic.