The Importance Of Friendship Between Black Women Being Celebrated And Reflected On Screen
March 22, 2017 at 4:42 pm
Before there was Joan, Maya, Toni, and Lyn, there was Max, Sinclair, Regine, and Khadijah. Those were the women that first epitomized black friendship in television and film for me. My middle school Thursday nights were LIT — a must-see TV lineup filled with Friends, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, New York Undercover and Living Single.….because “In a 90’s kind of world, I’m glad I got my girls !!”
To be honest, I loved Friends. With its quirky humor and character development, its probably one of my favorite classic sitcoms, but let's face it…people from different backgrounds tend to also experience life differently. This includes the dynamics of their friendships and relationships as well, both culturally and demographically. So it's cool to see something on television and think “Yo that’s hilarious!” But, its something special to be watching and say, “OMG we do that too."
Similar to the way "The Cosby Show" connected a positive black family image, to the black experience of the 80’s, OR how "A Different World" so perfectly portrayed the actuality of student life on black college campuses, by constantly educating and encouraging its viewers to be confident in their blackness. Consequently, it was this type of direct representation that resulted in an increase in enrollment at historically black colleges and universities across the board for years to come.
When Sex and the City premiered in June of 1998, women throughout the country were excited about a television show that finally told our story and exhibited females that were confident in their femininity, their careers and their sexuality. It also launched on the brink of a new millennium, a time when many women were grasping to redefine their womanhood. But as amazing as Sex and the City was, I can’t help but to think *insert Carrie Bradshaw voice* did it really tell OUR story? Could the average black woman see herself reflected in the sincere submission of Charlotte? Would she be called a mean and angry bitch if she carried herself in the same sharp, independent stature as Miranda? Do you think “Shanicka” would be viewed as the same open and careless free spirit as Samantha if she were equally as outspoken, uninhibited, and sexually explicit? I don’t know about you, but I think Shanicka would be labeled a hoe before they could even finish running the credits.
Though it was relatable, the chemistry between Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda just didn’t connect with many of us the same way the chemistry between Savannah, Robin, Gloria and Bernadine from Waiting to Exhale did. Their experiences were different, their relationships were different, their images of self-acceptance were different, their bodies were different, their parenting was different — even their breakups were different! The entire social construct surrounding black women and white women, and the friendships they pursue, was rooted in two completely different experiences…and that’s OK. They’re supposed to be different, because we're all different.
As black women we don’t go around intentionally excluding ourselves from conversations, but if you can’t accurately depict our story alongside yours, then we’d rather just tell it ourselves. For me, it was Girlfriends that best illustrated the lives of the new, post-millennial black woman and the roles they play on a day to day basis in the 21st century. They reflected everything from colorism, to gold-diggers to interracial marriage. The talked about what it means to be not just a woman in the workplace, but a black woman in the workplace. It covered teenage pregnancy and black motherhood, to “hood” love, to trying to raise a family in the suburbs, to divorce and to remarriage. Mara Brock Akil did a great job of telling the stories of black women in the 21st-century, maneuvering through the stereotypes and circumstances they endure. And at the end of it all, I think the eventual breakdown that ensued between Toni and Joan was one of the realist depictions of female friendship I've seen on television, until I met Issa and Molly. The truth is, a real friendship breakup will hurt worse than a romantic one. Maintaining a friendship is gonna be more work than just going out, getting drunk and singing Keyshia Cole’s first album on the way home from the club while you both cry together and try to keep the other one from texting their ex. Don’t get it twisted though. It does consist of that, but it's also about being honest with each other when you see your best friend about to make a dumb ass decision. It's about having each others back and coming through in the clutch and creating a distraction when necessary. It's about being the other one's biggest cheerleader and best liar. And It's about being ready to fight on sight when you see that one ex-boyfriend that took her heart and threw it in the trash.
That's what I saw when i saw Molly and Issa. I saw two beautiful, black girls, flawed and still finding themselves, as women, as lovers, as employees, and most importantly, as friends. What was magical to see about them was how they behaved even when they were beefing with each other — even when one of them was wrong. They still came through. They still delivered. At the end, her best friend was the first one there on the scene, no questions asked. Watching their rollercoaster of a friendship over the last season was definitely a direct hit for me, as I'm sure it was with many others. It only echoed a hard lesson that I would soon learn firsthand in my own life, a lesson about best friends, those who come, those who go, and those who never leave. This July, I can’t wait to see what happens with Issa and Lawrence (with his fine self), but I really can’t wait to see what Issa and Molly bring back to the table. Black sisterhood is so important to the fabric of womanhood itself. Many times we’re so conditioned to be uplifting everyone else that we don’t have anything left for ourselves, except…..maybe, each other. And seeing that reflected on screen, in the arts and in our everyday lives, normalizes our connections and is always a storyline that should be celebrated.