Rounding out Women’s History Month has been an incredible week for the black female in television and film. Hidden beneath the updates on the Trayvon Martin tragedy and the record-high Mega Millions, you may have missed some the exciting achievements of those faces that represent us everyday on screen. What excited me most was the realization of the diversity of black women being represented. While some news highlights were more on the controversial side, it did please me to realize that the anger of some may mean sisters are making some progress out here!
First to note was the record high number of black representation on the Season 5 premier of Mad Men. The show has been long criticized for the absence of black characters, but if the first scene is foreshadowing things to come, this may be the season for some radical change. Was I the only person hoping that Lane’s collection of resumes may result in a new secretary at Sterling Cooper Draper Price (because clearly Pete’s assistant, Clara, is not gonna cut it)! I am excited to have a representation of color in the office to challenge resident vixen Joan and her curves this season. **Crosses fingers that Matthew Weiner shares this vision**
The last two weeks in tv land brought in a lot of new brown faces to the little screen, with the premiere of Mary Mary on WE, chronicling the lives of Grammy winning gospel duo Mary Mary. The show looks to bring cameras behind the scenes of their family and show the reality of a Christian household. Judging by their late night talk show visits this week, this series promises some true black woman moments, bringing some realness to reality tv. Vh1 continues to battle with TBS for greatest representation of brown women on a network, with the season premiere of La La’s Full Court Life and the series premiere of Styled by June. The former is a peak behind the curtain of the life of mother, media figure, and actual basketball wife La La Anthony. The show covers La La balancing her family, friends, famous husband, and adorable son. Last week’s premiere reached a ratings high record for the show. It was followed by newbie, Styled by June, featuring celebrity fashion stylist, June Ambrose. As the black equivalent to Rachel Zoe, I really enjoyed watching her remake Mischa Barton. Extra points for the first episode not featuring some stereotypically black rap artist, but instead a beloved Caucasian teen starlet and socialite. I am even more excited for upcoming episodes featuring the sassy black girl as the new intern. Reason #529282 why I’m happy for DVR.
If those three shows didn’t pique your interest, hopefully the mid season premiere of Shonda Rhime’s Scandal will. Starring perennial favorite, Kerry Washington as the head of a crisis management firm. The show is based on the career of former Bush Administration press aide, Judy Smith. This is Washington’s first starring role on a major network’s tv show and Rhimes’ first show centered around a black female lead. Rhimes is no stranger to strong women with her other hit shows, Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice featuring prominent female leads and cast members. Look for it April 5, 2012 on ABC. No seriously, I for one need you to watch it so it stays on tv and I can continue my hopes of seeing Columbus Short shirtless weekly without having to watch Stomp the Yard (not that I own this movie).
Coming up this spring with an extended guest staring role on Glee will be Whoopie Goldberg. Of course after Sister Act we know full well that she is capable of leading high school kids in song, but as a resident gleek I am still looking forward to her arc as a college professor who judges the auditions two major characters. Check her first episode currently scheduled to air May 1. And start the speculation of Whoopies sing along selection now…. Looking forward to shows that were recently greenlit, new shows featuring Megan Goode, Regina Hall, Ne Ne Leakes, the reboot of In Living Color, and a new A&E show based on Rosario Dawson’s graphic novel O.C.T. are coming soon to prime time.
Never one to ignore the achievements of our youngest starlets, this week was a great one for the stars of the Disney Channel. For the first time since 1995, Nickelodeon was knocked from its top spots in youth programming by the mouse-eared channel. Why do I attribute this to the success of black women you ask? Partially due to the amazing talent in actresses China McClain, Zendaya, Coco Jones, and Skai Jackson and the black girl representation on the channel. McClain stars on A.N.T. Farm and Zendaya is one half of the headliners on Shake it Up!, two of the stations most popular shows. New talent Coco Jones is part of the ensemble cast on SoRandom, a sketch comedy show starring the remaining cast members from Demi Lovato’s old show, Sonny With A Chance. My new favorite is Skai Jackson, playing one of the children on Jesse, and always managing to steal scenes away from her costars. If you don’t know them yet, no worries, I know this is not the last of these girls acting days.
Also premiering this month was Disney Junior show, Doc McStuffins, an animated show for the youngest set centered on a little girl who plays doctor to her broken toys. Seeing an animated brown girl in her pink lab coat with aspirations to be a doctor almost made my biological clock skip a beat. Looks like Disney is finally trying to make a better showing than Princess Tiana for our young ladies!
Another young actress faced a lot of attention this week on a bigger screen. Amendla Stenberg showed true poise and strength after outrage this week about the race of her character Rue, from blockbuster film, The Hunger Games. Many
racist morally questionable moviegoers took the web to protest the race of three of the movies characters. Many quotes pulled from twitter were horribly shocking (especially from the mouths of some youngsters) criticizing the film for using black actors. Even more foolish were explanations of the original book text describing characters as having dark brown skin and people saying they were surprised they were black. Stenberg spoke out praising her cast mates and film creators and saying how much she enjoyed the experience. I haven’t had time to finish the book yet, but her movie poster alone is enough to entice me to ignore mixed reviews and support Ms. Amendla. For my fellow movie buffs, she also played young Cataleya in Columbiana alongside Zoe Saldana and for those who saw this movie know she is a future action star in the making for sure. Moving from one ebony action star to the next, I was extra hype for the first footage of Naomie Harris in the next installment of the James Bond saga. This British star underwent lots of training before filming began to play Eve, a field agent. As a big fan of the Daniel Craig Bond movie’s intense action, Skyfall is sure to be a great addition to round out the trilogy.
Major film projects that got some legs this week celebrate lots of black women. The first was the announcement that Kasi Lemmons, director of Eve’s Bayou and Talk to Me, was named director of the film adaptation of Zadie Smith’s award winning novel, On Beauty. This book was my personal favorite of Smith’s work, and is about British/American mixed race family, the patriarch’s academic rival and his Trinidadian family, and the racial/social/familial politics when all collide in a New England college town. More excited are my visualizations of the characters in my head (With the kids being played by Zoe Kravitz, Evan Ross, Chris Brown, and KeKe Palmer in my daydreams… but I’m no casting director). Also in the works is a Queen Latifah produced and starred remake of Steel Magnolias. The Lifetime film will also star Phylicia Rashad, Alfre Woodard, Jill Scott, Condala Rashad, and Pariah star Adepuro Oduyere. The movie is being described as a contemporary re-visioning with a projected premiere for 2012. Originally, Steel Magnolias starred Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Dolly Pardon, Olympia Dukakis, and Darryl Hannah.
For young and mature black women, there are sure to be lots of interesting representations and portrayals of our varied experience in the next few seasons. How timely for the announcements to fall on the heels of Black History month and during Women’s History Month, giving us plenty to look forward to in the coming months.