Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Why Do Teen Dramas Keep Sidelining Black Characters?

Bianca Lawson as Kendra Young
from the second season of Buffy
The Vampire Slayer
Writing for Vulture, Angelica Jade Bastién, talks about hear love of teen dramas, starting as a teen watching The Craft and shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer when she was a teenager herself. She's remained a fan up to the present day, but she's found that a problem she had with shows in her teens persists in shows today: it's really hard to find characters of color that get as much development in ensemble dramas as their white counterparts. djdjdjdj, :

[B]lack characters are often solely given an arc in relation to the white characters around them... In many films and TV shows, this is also used as a way to discuss racial politics...This may seem radical for the predominantly white filmmakers who work in this genre, but it’s important to remember that black girls’ lives aren’t solely defined by racism. We deal with romantic foibles, desires, and fears just as richly complex as the white leads this genre focuses on to the detriment of the black girls coloring the margins.

Bastién mentions the latest teen drama to start with a promising introduction, only to fall to some of the same problems: CW's Riverdale and the show's introduction of Josie and her bandmates The Pussycats:
K. J. Apa, who plays the remarkably befuddled (and ripped) Archie, is half Samoan. Veronica is Latina. Reggie is played by an Asian-American actor. And most notably, not one, but all of the members of Josie and the Pussycats are black, a change that eschews the tokenization previous iterations of the group have displayed. But as Riverdale approaches the end of its first season, it has reaffirmed some of the age-old problems within the genre... At the least, Riverdale’s Josie, Valerie, and Melody aren’t stereotypes, but they rest in the same troubling space that the black girls in films like Save the Last Dance occupy. They’re not characters so much as they are a vehicle for a Message. Josie and her fellow pussycats are positioned to communicate the message that Riverdale is more modern and inclusive than teen dramas of the past, even though it has yet to prove it beyond its casting.
Heck, in the comics and cartoons, Josie and The Pussycats were mystery solvers. Riverdale ended its season with a murder plotline that's been weaving in and out of the story all season, but Josie and company have been seemingly shunted aside. Bastién name drops The Craft, Buffy and Bring It On-- what ensemble shows do you think dropped the ball with characters of color? Did the writers fix it? What would you like to see, dear readers?

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