It seems as if Black girls no longer exist the way Hollywood fails to give us spaces. It seems as if they are going out of their way to make sure we aren’t represented. Why does Netflix’s entire teen drama catalog consist of the same blueprint: white leads, a dark skin Black boy, and then a biracial light skin girl with loosely textured hair? Why does HBO’s Black Voices catalog include the Gossip Girl reboot and Euphoria when neither shows have a dark skin Black girl in their lead cast? Many shows and companies pride themselves on “diversity,” but can you call it diversity when you deliberately make sure to not represent Black girls on screen?
The issue of colorism has been discussed several times and many people share the same concerns. The way Black girls are being erased from film and television is insidious. It is eerie to think that people with the power to create media that includes everyone purposely disregards Black girls. If not casting Black girls and women in significant roles, they will give them the roles of authoritarian figures or emotional support to main characters. In HBO’s Euphoria, there is no dark skin Black girl in the lead cast, but there is Rue, a light skin biracial girl, and McKay, a dark skin Black boy. People may refute this by saying Rue’s mom is a dark skin Black woman, but that proves my point. She only exists as Rue’s mom. Of course Hollywood would allow dark skin women in teen dramas if they play authoritarian figures such as mothers, therapists, or law enforcement. They do the same thing in Outer Banks. The same blueprint: white leads, a dark skin Black boy, and a biracial light skin girl. The darkest woman we see is Sheriff Peterkin, who is almost a comfort character to John B. as she tries to help him, but then they kill her off. In Never Have I Ever, Devi’s therapist, played by Niecy Nash, is only there to help Devi with her problems. Oh, and of course one of Devi’s best friends is a light skin biracial girl. There are a plethora of shows that follow the same formula. On My Block; dark skin boy and a light skin biracial girl, Panic on Amazon Prime; dark skin Black boy and a light skin biracial girl, and plenty more that simply refuse to feature Black girls. It is like Black girls don’t experience teenagehood–like they skip their teens and go straight to being adults. Many shows tend to cast dark skin Black girls later in the series, for example, Outer Banks and Sex Education second seasons, but why are we cast later, why not from the jump? Why are we always chosen last?
Not only does Hollywood refuse to give Black girls a space in media, but they also replace them in stories that were meant for them. This happens in book-to-movie adaptations such as The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. The Sun Is Also a Star revolves around a Jamaican immigrant who faces deportation. In the movie, Yara Shahidi plays the lead role. The actors who play the main character’s family all are dark skin and have type 4c hair while Yara is light skin and has loose textured curls. Yara does not look even remotely similar to her play family so why was she even considered for the whole? Why did Yara even audition and accept the role when it was not meant for her? This is the same situation for The Hate U Give. Amandla Stenberg plays Starr, who is assumed to be portrayed on the front cover of the book. It is no surprise that someone who does not fit the description of the character would be cast. The author has said that she viewed Stenberg as Starr while writing the book but I do not believe that. If that is the case, why approve of the cover? Why in a book about police brutality and racial stereotypes would you not want to feature a dark skin Black girl? For Black girls who were heading into their early teens like me at the time the book was released, it meant a lot to us and was one of the first books that I felt connected to and became aware of my Blackness. So my excitement to hear that The Hate U Give would be coming to screen was quickly shot down when I realized the main character would look nothing like me. It is important to not only critique Hollywood executives and producers for excluding us but also actors for taking roles not meant for them.
As I have become more aware of the blatant discrimination against Black girls in media, it has allowed me to look at how colorism translates to my own life. I always have to exceed society’s beauty standards. I cannot just exist as a Black girl, I have to make sure I am always put together. I am always overlooked when next to my light skin counterparts. I am always viewed as aggressive when I am simply expressing how I feel. Many of us use television and film as a way of escapism. In a world where Black girls like me are not given the respect and flowers that they rightfully deserve, we just want to be able to turn on the TV and at least see a Black girl who looks like us and feel represented. At the end of the day, this ongoing battle with colorism and texturism, and the erasure of Black girls is exhausting. What more do we have to do to demand that we be seen?
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