Thursday, September 9, 2010

2010 Update on Lisa Turtle Syndrome

*flicks switch to let time-traveling blog post app warm up*

Oh, Lisa. Who didn't want your weave, fashion sense, upper-class buppie affluence and carefree SoCal lifestyle?

Back in the day, if I couldn't be at home in my Esleep jammies on a Saturday morning, I would set the playroom VCR to record your adventures with Zack, hottie Slater, Kelly and Jessie.  We all could've cared less about Screech.

Although I loved the show, I was disappointed that they couldn't find a long-term Black boyfriend for you. You were perennially on the outside looking in, fighting off Screech's affections, and commenting on your lighter counterparts' love affairs.

I racked my brain, but I only remember one brother that popped in to Bayside (for less than three episodes) to woo you.  You also had a brief fling with Jessie's shady stepbrother, but we're talking about a period of teenage hijinks that lasted half a friggin' decade if you count the Miss Bliss years!   I appreciate that in the latter days of the show, you finally got some love from Zack (my teenage self thought that hospital scene was hot!), but too little, too late.

Let me get to the point--I can't keep this time portal open too long.  I'm writing to let you know that in 2010, things haven't gotten any better for Black folks under 35 on the small screen. In fact, when it comes to depicting us in relationships with other Black folks, it's only gotten worse.

First of all, the five major networks have no shows with predominately Black casts.  I can't get over it either.  I think "Girlfriends" (ironically, don't get me started on Toni's short ex-husband) and "The Game"were the last watchable, halfway decent Black shows on TV.  Who would have thought that this would be the case when we have a biracial man in the Oval Office?

We usually show up in prime time as wisecracking sidekicks to White folks, often without real lives of our own.  When we are depicted in relationships, the characters are frequently stuck with "leftover" White characters in lazily conceived, poorly-written hookups that just don’t make sense.  Sometimes it seems like Black relationships are impossible because of an unspoken one-Black recurring-character limit on these shows.  Don't believe me?  Need proof?  See the following:

1.  Kellee Stewart, Stephanie on "My Boys."  Kellee is one to watch, making moves on the big screen, but here, she plays an author of a popular book on relationships who is a sidekick to a White female sportswriter.  Likely because the producers are too cheap to bring a brother on as her love interest, they have stuck her in a nonsensical relationship with said sportswriter's butt-ugly, balding, sports-memorabilia store-owning friend.  It is easy to understand why they have zero chemistry.  Poor Kellee.

2.  Amber Riley, Mercedes on "Glee."  Amber is the only celebrated Black actress under 30 on a major network.  We love her soaring, show-stopping vocals and her spunk.  Her teenage love life thus far?  An unrequited crush on her White gay BFF and a fake relationship with the cute Jewish bad boy on the show to help him increase his popularity.

3.  Tristan Wilds, Dixon on "90210."  Watched this a couple of times when nothing else was on...  Teenage loves so far?  White series regular, then a psycho older Black woman in her 20s who faked a pregnancy after multiple hookups, then a new, much-less-glamorous-than-her-peers, stringy-haired, tomboyish blond girl that doesn't quite make sense on the show.

4.  Katerina Graham, Bonnie on "The Vampire Diaries."  Love this show.  This Black BFF to the White heroine of the show is a teenage witch.  (side note:  They killed off Jasmine Guy as her grandma...)  Bonnie almost got vamped by her brief White love interest.  The only brother I remember on the show was a vampire former slave from the 1800s who behaved like he was still in chains. 

5.  Camille Winbush, Lauren on "The Secret Life of the American Teenager."  Once again, don't judge me!  I've seen a few eps because there's absolutely nothing on TV during my kitchen time!  Although I'm convinced that this ridiculous show on ABC Family is trying to turn America's daughters into complete whores, I'm glad that she at least gets the best-looking White guy on the show.  No brothers to be found in the mix.

6.  Jada Pinkett Smith, Christina Hawthorne on "HawthoRNe."  I hate to admit that I haven't watched more than 20 minutes of the show (zzz...I tried), but when I did check in, Christina, an RN, was dating an injured White doctor.
Jessica Lucas, Riley on "Melrose Place," and Gabrielle Union of "FlashForward" would have been added to the list of Black women in relationships with non-Black men on screen, but their shows have been cancelled.
I don't even want to bother discussing the Black folks with failed marriages and engagements on Private Practice and Grey's, which I stopped watching shortly after they gave Isaiah Washington the boot.  Side note:  Anybody else remember that they got rid of Dr. Bailey's husband in the blink of an eye?  He couldn't handle her career...that one's for you, Conspiracy Bunny.

To summarize, we don't see ourselves on screen in positive, loving relationships with actors who self-identify as Black and portray a Black character.   It bothers me to no end that a generation of little Black girls growing up in the 21st century don't have a Cliff and Clair, a Dewayne and Whitley, or at least a Martin and Gina.  Yes, their shows are in syndication, but it's not the same as seeing a contemporary Black relationship.  I also have to wonder if they are subconsciously receiving the message that relationships with non-Blacks are somehow preferred and more accepted by society.  I look at my younger cousins' choice of wives, girlfriends, and babymamas and have to wonder about the impact of post-Cosby TV on their lives.

Lisa, things have got to change.  But I close this time portal with a little optimism.  Regina King bravely spoke out our on our lack of representation at the Emmys, so hopefully this will lead to positive changes in the industry.  Also, Boris Kodjoe is hitting your old network as a sexy spy married to a Black (yay!) fellow spy in "Undercovers" later this month.
 Thank God.

Au revoir for now.

P.S.  Do Slater's dimples taste as delicious as they look?  Just asking.

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