Why is the new diversity movement failing young, black girls?
Updated: Dec 9, 2019
Why aren't there more coming-of-age films with black, female leads? Coming-of-age movies are my favourite genre of film, but words cannot even begin to express how frustrating it feels knowing that film directors, producers, casting directors, and just about everyone else involved within the film industry who has the power to make these changes... doesn't believe that black girls are worthy of wholesome films that discuss our transition from youth to adulthood. I'm so tired of films about black people that only center police brutality, trauma, abuse, and death. Can we get something that doesn't remind us of how much the system that we live in hates black folks? Can I be represented on the big screen pursuing my passion, enjoying my life and all of the blessings that come along with it without being shot by the police 43 times, thrown out of the window by my fictional step-father, and physically abused by my financially and emotionally unstable partner first???
We deserve films about the power of friendship, the uncomfortable transition from youth to adulthood, exploring and understanding one's sexuality, teenage angst, the day in the life of a black student (that doesn't feel gimmicky), and young, black love that doesn't focus on constantly STRUGGLING with the black, female character being the mule and solely performing the emotional labour in the relationship. We deserve films that vary in subject matter whether it's about college, exploring religion, first loves, gender and sexual identities, finding ourselves and our purpose, the importance of healthy friendships and relationships, being black while pursuing higher education, and so much more. There are so many damaging narratives about black people that Hollywood likes to reproduce, recycle, and reinforce like clockwork and we've had ENOUGH. Our stories are not monolithic. We deserve a wide range of different perspectives on what it means to be a young, black person, especially a young, black female, growing up and experiencing all that life has to offer.
We need more films like Moonlight, Jinn, Akeelah and the Bee, Girlhood, The Color of Friendship, Home, Crooklyn, Roll Bounce, or Just Another Girl on the I.R.T? We can have films that examine class, race, and identity, but don't entirely focus on violence, poverty, survival, and death. When we only have films about black people that focus on our pain and suffering and not our happiness or personal development, it implies that living as a black person is not worth capturing because nothing about us represents joy, growth, or love.
I'm sure there are actually a lot more coming-of-age films about black girls that I don't even know about, but they do not receive the same level of visibility, funding, and promotion as coming-of-age films with white leads. Hollywood would much rather incorporate someone from a racialized background as a secondary character with little to no character development than to actually place them as the lead with a story that is not only relatable to those watching, but represents them fairly. We don't want tokenism. We don't want the same damaging stereotypes reproduced over and over again. We don't want coonery, foolery, or clownery anymore. We want to be properly represented, given stories that are actually FRESH, diverse, and interesting, and represent the realities of different black girls and women across the world.
Nonetheless, our stories deserve to be told, seen, and heard. Of course we can go out of our way to find independent and underrated coming-of-age films about black girls that are probably being poorly distributed, underfunded, and brushed under the rug, but we shouldn't have to do backflips and hunt for content through online forums just to see ourselves being represented on the big screen in a positive way. The erasure of black narratives, stories, and experiences, especially black female narratives, just goes to show how often we are also erased and silenced in society, as well. We deserve better.