Bye Felicia: It’s Time to Get Rid of these Stereotypes in 2015

by Gina Torres VH1 has quietly become the unofficial network of all things ratchet and hood, as they consistently churn out TV shows that...

by Gina Torres

VH1 has quietly become the unofficial network of all things ratchet and hood, as they consistently churn out TV shows that regurgitate and perpetuate age-old stereotypes about Black women. Their latest offerings of “Sorority Sisters” and “Bye Felicia” on top of their “Love and Hip-Hop” franchise is a testament to this.

These shows in their well-intentioned package still dig deeply in the trough of stereotypes. And while there has been lots and lots of criticism against “Sorority Sisters,” there doesn’t seem to be enough backlash against the way all of these shows are harming us by relying on tired tropes and perpetuating stereotypes.

As the saying goes, “New Year, New You!” Well, we’ve created a list of familiar TV stereotypes that misrepresent Black women and that we’d like to see disappear immediately -- and forever -- in 2015.

1. The Mammy

She has been around since we were “happy” Negroes on the plantation. In her original incarnation, she was an expert at inoffensively putting her slippered foot right by that line that wasn’t to be crossed. She knew exactly how to run her white folks household, mother their children, keep them in line -- all while allowing them to think they were smarter than her. But newsflash: Black women do not exist solely to nurture and take care of other people.

2. The Sassy Black Woman

She is the slightly updated version of the Mammy. She is still often overweight and the assumption is that she isn’t a sexual threat. She is loud and maybe embarrassing. But she is bringing the truth whether you like it or not. Her language is often peppered liberally with black-isms (chile, boo, honey, BAAAABY). Examples include the Pine-Sol lady and Annie the Popeye’s lady. Why don’t white people ever get tired of seeing her? We’ve been through for a long time.

3. The Token Black Girlfriend

She exists in a role that could very easily have been a white character. But the project needed diversity, so they gave the main character a token black bestie. Often her sole existence is to support the main character. That’s it. She rarely has a story line or subjectivity of her own.

4. The Angry Black Woman

(Not to be confused with the Sassy Black Woman.) The ABW is simply mad as hell. She is verbally abusive and critical. Anyone can be her target. She speaks her mind, but it is usually just noise. She is intimidating to white people. And of course, any black woman who is not smiling can be characterized as an ABW. Tyler Perry has built an entire empire based on his own portrayal of Madea, the Supreme ABW. Now if only he could use all that money to write more fully nuanced Black women into his films and TV shows…

5. The Weak Clueless White Woman

Although this isn’t a black woman characterization, it is still harmful and dependent on Black stereotypes. Oh, sure, it is flattering to buy into the belief that black women are so strong and wise that we can somehow be saviors to our meek white sisters. But this archetype just reinforces ideas that divide white and black women. And ignores the rich diversity in personality and circumstances of women in general.

On top of these tired tropes, a recent study revealed that white people view black people as magical or superhuman. So not only do we get to be sub-human, but now we also get to be superhuman as well? How about America just recognize us as HUMAN for once, and create media representations that allow us to be fully so?

In 2015, we’re hoping to see more fully realized characters on the small and silver screens. Thankfully, we made incredible progress in 2014 -- Shonda Rhimes, Ava DuVernay, Gina Prince-Bythewood, and Viola Davis are just a few of the names who offered increasingly complex portrayals of Black womanhood. Yet still, we know America needs to do better.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Gina Torres is a Facebook addicted-arm chair psychologist, political commenting, often militant, pop culture junkie blogger. She also happens to be a voracious reader, often reading several novels in a week. She loves the written word and the subtle, or not so subtle, turn of a phrase. Gina is a wry observer and humorist whose greatest joy is to make people ugly laugh. She has been a freelance writer for many years, writing copy, articles, web content, and for political campaigns.

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