Hollywood, Please Give Me More "Insecure" and less "Twelve Years A Slave"

Photo by  Hian Oliveira  on  Unsplash

I told yall about how I grew up in a super pro-Black home right? In my house, it was all about Blackness: Black movies, Black TV shows, Black books, Black dolls, Black music, Black everything. In my house, I pretty much watch whatever if it was Black, which is why I saw a lot of Spike Lee and John Singleton films before I was probably old enough, LOL. And I was blessed to come of age in the golden age of Black TV, with shows like Martin, Living Single, In Living Color, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, New York Undercover and more. I even grew up with indie stuff, like Sankofa and Just Another Girl on the IRT.

Back then, the good old days of 90’s film/TV, we had such a diversity of images and stories being told. We had some stories of struggle and violence (Boyz In The Hood, Menace II Society) but we also had carefree stories (House Party) , and even romcoms (Boomerang). And then we went through this drought, where we hardly saw ourselves on TV or in film, and if we did get a film, it was probably a Tyler Perry Madea special - no shade to those who like that sort of thing, but it’s not my cup of tea for a variety of reasons.

It seems now like the pendulum is swinging back towards what we saw in the 90s, with a greater diversity of creators and stories being told, which I love. But what I don’t love is the type of stories that I feel bombarded with.

Frankly, I’m tired of seeing Black pain and oppression presented as entertainment.

A few week’s ago, Netflix released Ava Duvernay’s powerful miniseries, When They See Us, which focuses on the Central Park Five and the unjust, inhumane way they were treated. I know folks who watched and wept at every episode. I know folks who only made it through one episode before they had to turn it off, never to watch again. But me, I’m not even starting it - I won’t be tuning in. This is not because I don’t love Ava Duvernay’s work (I do) or that I don’t find this story worth telling (I do). It’s because I don’t think Black folks should be the ones watching this story at all.

We know what pain and trauma and oppression look like. We live with it everyday. We’re the first ones to share stories of police brutality or yet another unarmed Black person being murdered by the police or of a Black church being burned to the ground. We live with these atrocities and we already know these stories. It’s not us who should be watching this story, It’s white people. They are the ones who need to see and internalize the pain these young men endured.

i’m so happy that Black creators - from producers to directors to screenwriters and beyond - are getting the opportunity to create their own projects and share their stories, and our stories with the world. But is it asking too much that we share less about our Black pain and more about our Black joy? I’m tired of seeing us as slaves, as second class citizens enduring Jim Crow laws, of us living in poverty. I don’t need films or TV to teach me these stories, or to make it more real for me. All it does for me is inflict more pain and more trauma. Sure I could watch Rosewood or Twelve Years A Slave or Mudbound, but I know it will end with me in tears and feeling such a…a heaviness and sadness. And I don’t want that. So I don’t watch.

I do however, watch Insecure. And I watch Queen Sugar. And I watch Blackish and grownish and Dear White People. I love to see Black people doing regular degular smegular things, like fix their broken relationships or try to fit in at work. I want to see all different types of Black folks, that demonstrate the diversity of the Black experience, and how there isn’t just one way to be Black. I’m engaged and invested in Issa and Molly on Insecure because in them, I see myself and my own existence. I loved seeing Zoe grow on Blackish and now do stupid college student stuff on grownish. It’s relateable but more importantly, even at the “worst” moments, it’s not rooted in pain and oppression. It’s simply Black people living their lives and telling their stories.

Twitter told me that Octavia Spencer is producing a movie about the Tulsa race riots. While I hope it’s going to be better than that revisionist history presented in The Green Book, and while I love Octavia Spencer, I’m not looking forward to this one. It’s an important story that should be told, but I hope that we also get some films greenlit that show carefree Black people living their lives, and maybe some Black joy in it as well.

What TV Shows Do I Need To Watch?

I feel no shame in sharing that I watch a decent amount of TV. I know some folks think watching a lot of TV is a sign that someone is uncultured, or lazy, but over the past few years TV has become on my favorite forms of entertainment. I used to be a big movie buff, but I lost both my free time for weekly movies, as well as a desire to see a lot of films that are currently being made. I could do more reading I suppose, but I can’t read and knit at the same time the way I can with TV. Plus TV has gotten way better in the past few years, thanks to the increase in prestige TV shows and streaming platforms.

I’ve got my staple set of shows that I watch regularly, but now that it’s summer and almost everything is on hiatus, I want to discover some new shows to keep me company while I knit. When I say “new”, I just mean that it should be new to me, so that I don’t end up watching reruns and Harry PotterI marathons.

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I’ve got a few months until my favorite shows are back with new episodes, so what should I watch this summer?

I do like to watch things that are popular - I like to participate in live tweeting sessions or simply engage my coworkers in conversation about specific shows. Some shows I jumped on right from the beginning, like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal or Game of Thrones. I’m still hanging in there with Grey’s because I’ve watched for so long and I feel like I need to see it through to the end. I came to other shows later in their run, like Mad Men or Sons of Anarchy. And then there are a few things that I watched and loved after they’d already aired, like Nip/Tuck or The Good Wife.

Shows I currently watch: Grey’s Anatomy, Dynasty, This Is Us, The Good Place, A Million Little Things, Killing Eve, Wentworth, Call the Midwife, Pose, Deadly Class, The Magicians, For the People, The Handmaid’s Tale.

Show’s I’ve watched: Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy, Game of Thrones, The Good Wife, Boardwalk Empire, The Wire, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Keep the Marriage In Jade, My Horrible Boss

I’m currently watching Breaking Bad and The Sopranos for the first time!

I’m generally up for any genre as long as it has an engaging story and developed characters. Bonus points if I can find it On-Demand, Netflix or Amazon Prime (I don’t have Hulu but I may break down and get it). Also I’d love your non-American recommendations as well!

So tell me friends - what should I be watching?

19. Things I Ponder - What Makes Certain Entertainment "Hold Up"?

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We made it to another weekend!

I love pop culture, especially stuff that I grew up, especially movies and TV shows. Lately I’ve been thinking about one specific question: what makes a movie or TV show “hold up”? For the unfamiliar, I think of “holding up” as being able to be enjoyed years later and still be in touch with current society. There are shows that I was still watch and love that definitely fit the criteria of holding up, and others that I watch solely for the nostalgia because they definitely do not hold up, for various reasons.

Take, for example, Golden Girls - a show that I think completely holds up 30 years later. It’s still so funny and the jokes still work in 2019. And their serious episodes all fall on the right side of history, whether it’s tackling gay & lesbian issues, interracial marriage, the AIDS epidemic, undocumented immigrants, etc. Similarly, I think Living Single holds up in the same way - the storylines were (mostly) realistic, the jokes are still funny and it’s still very relatable in 2019. Contrast that with a show like Sex and the City, which feels really dated even though it was a more recent show. I think it doesn’t hold up because the setup was so unbelievable, from Carrie’s designer habit to portraying a NYC with virtually no people of color. It’s also out of step with current cultural norms - for example, you can hear the term “tranny” on the show, which is a no-no. Another is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, a movie which I loved as a kid, but as an adult I realize is so incredibly racist in its portrayal of India. There’s no way that movie would ever get greenlit in 2019.

I’m formulating a theory in my head around what makes a TV show or movie “hold up” but I’m curious what other people think - what would you highlight as a TV show or movie that still holds up in 2019?

Things I Read This Week:

Not all of West Side Story has aged gracefully, but its spectacular dancing sure has (A.V. Club)

Black Voters Get That Bernie Marched With MLK. They Want To Know What He’ll Do For Them Now. (Buzzfeed)

LOFT’s New Mommy-And-Me Collection is ADORABLE (The Mom Edit)

Lyft Says It’s ‘Not in the Transportation Business,’ So Disability Law Doesn't Apply (Gizmodo)

Seattle Times Journalist Suspended After Harassing Writer With Gross Twitter DMs (Jezebel)

The Midwest Isn't Just White People (Jezebel)

The True Road Warriors: How Men With Disabilities Travel the World (MEL Magazine)

Switching Political Parties (Design Mom)

Alexa has been eavesdropping on you this whole time (CT Post)

Tweak the Vote | Radiolab | WNYC Studios (Radiolab)

The Coming Generation War (The Atlantic)

Representation Matters: 35 Black Kids TV Shows You Can Watch Right Now (Mater Mea)

The politics of home (Curbed)

Other Stuff:

I took advantage of the Sephora VIB sale to restock on some of my favorite items: L’Occitane hand cream, a Benefit brow pencil, and Clarisonic replacement brush heads. I also picked up the Fenty Beauty Instant Warmth Bronzer in Caramel Cutie - I hope it looks good!

I haven’t been doing much reading lately - my free time is taken up by writing and knitting - but I picked up The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle because I couldn’t resist after reading a quick synopsis.

This weekend is Mother’s Day weekend! I won’t get to spend it with my mom but I did make sure to get her gift and cards in the mail so hopefully she gets both before Sunday. I’ll be spending the day with my little one. For all the moms out there, I hope you enjoy it in whatever way is good for you.

Enjoy your weekend!

I Listen To These Six Podcasts Every Week (and You Should Too!)

I realized when I was writing this post that I’ve been listening to podcasts for a long time. My very first podcasts were The Bob Edwards Show and the Answer Bitch show. Both were on XM radio (this was pre-merger with Sirius) and the only place you could get the episodes was from the iTunes store. I’d download episodes to my iPod classic and listen to them in the lab as I worked (so you see how long it’s been, since I haven’t worked in a lab since 2012!).

Over the past 2-3 years, podcasts have really exploded, along with the ways that you can listen. I use Spotify for 99% of the podcasts that I listen to regularly, and I keep Stitcher because that allows me to listen to This American Life. I’m sure you can also listen to podcasts via Apple Music, Soundcloud, Stitcher, or other podcast services.

My full podcast subscription list has 40+ shows, but I listen to these 6 shows every single week…

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The Read

I came to show late, like maybe Year 3 or so? It was around the time that Beyonce dropped the self-titled album. I was just coming around to the fact that I was indeed a member of the BeyHive, and Kid Fury and Crissle helped me feel comfy with that fact. Those two are my cousins in my head, and I love their commentary on what’s happening in pop culture, and their advice to listeners. New episodes drop on Thursdays and it’s the first thing I open on Thursday mornings. I love this show so much, that I traveled to Chicago to see them live back in 2017, and it was totally worth it. They also have really cute merch - the Break Up With Him sweatshirt is my personal fave to wear.

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The Nicole Walters Podcast 

I discovered Nicole when my friend shared one of her videos on Facebook. I’ve been following her on Facebook & Instagram and really loving her authenticity. When her podcast dropped, I was blown away at how timely it was for me, as a newbie entrepreneur. The episodes are about 30mins which is the perfect amount of time for me, and I really love the stories she tells about her entrepreneurial journey.

If you’re a budding entrepreneur, this is the podcast you should be listening to!

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Reply All

I stumbled on this podcast by accident but I was instantly hooked. I grew up on the Internet, back when it consisted of IRC chat rooms and AOL dialup, so a podcast about the Internet is right up my alley. They’ve done some great stories, like tracking down phone scammers in India, or how fraudsters work on Amazon, or figuring out how robocalls manage to make it seem like they are calling from your number. My favorite episode is the one that shows how easy it is to fall for a phishing scam.

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Stuff You Missed In History Class

I’m a history buff - if I hadn’t majored in chemistry, history would have been my next choice. There’s so much to learn and that’s why I love this podcast. Every episode is well-researched and there’s a variety of topics. I’ve learned about so many figures and topics that I’d never heard of thanks to the show, and even with people I was familiar with, I learned a ton more than I thought I knew. Also I really enjoy the hosts! This show has been around for a long time so I highly recommend going through their back episodes as well. It’s great listening on your commute, or on a road trip, and most of the episodes are family friendly, which is a plus.

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Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me

I think I discovered this show when I was driving in a rental car that didn’t have satellite radio, so I stuck to NPR. Yall know I love a good quiz show, and I was delighted to discover a nerdy yet funny quiz show on NPR. Each week there’s a different panel of celebs who compete to see who knows the most about the news from that week. I tune in every week and I’ve even attended a live taping when the show came to Minneapolis. I’ve also met two of the panelists - Brian Babylon & PJ O’Rouke - and they were both gracious and delightful.

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The Pitch

The first time I listened to this show, it was at the recommendation of Rachel Miller, who sent a link to the Tushy episode to the APW Slack with a "YOU MUST LISTEN TO THIS” message. After listening to that episode, I went back and listened to the entire catalog. In this show, a startup pitches to a panel of investors, and you get to learn about a new company while also hearing the types of questions that investors ask. Not only am I learning about how to run a startup and how to pitch, I’ve learned about several new interesting companies.

Have you listened to any of these podcasts? What are you listening to regularly? Let me know in the comments!