If you are among the folks not feeling Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone, perhaps you’ll dig the High Priestess of Soul as awkward black girl. Shadow & Act reports that a biopic about the legendary author of A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry, is in the works, featuring none other than Awkward Girl creator Issa Rae as longtime Hansberry friend, Simone, and Jaleel White as James Baldwin. Billed as a nontraditional biography, the film is being developed by Hansberry’s grand-niece, Taye Hansberry, and Numa Perrier, and cast by Will Stewart, casting director for Scandal.
Above: Nina Simone sings “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” her 1970 song in memory of Hansberry, whose posthumous play by the same name debuted in the late 1960s.
But in going from the wilds of YouTube to Pharrell Wiliams’ i am OTHER channel and now to serving as co-executive producer and writer on a broadcast television show, Rae becomes the first notable web creator to complete the circuit. This brings pressure on multiple fronts: not only does she become, for better or worse, a test run for creators and executives looking to see how her style and fanbase translate to a “mainstream” stage, but you have to figure no small percentage of ABG fans will seek reassurance that the comedy that drew them to that show survives the migration.
On the other hand, with Rae making the airwaves not long after Mindy Kaling’s own ascension, we also have to ask ourselves: how much does progress need to be progressive? –AG
With most of broadcast television going into repeats for the summer, it’s a good time for you to catch up on more online offerings.
At this point, you have to consider Issa Rae’s The Misadventures Of Awkward Black Girl among the most anticipated webseries out there, and the show will start airing new content on June 14, as part of Pharrell Williams’ i am OTHER brand. If you missed Season One, don’t worry, this preview also recaps the story so far. This being ABG, be advised the vid is slightly NSFW for language, but keep an eye out for Williams himself, as things get…well, you know.
The trailer for the YOMYOMF Network, presented by the team behind You Offend Me, You Offend My Family, is also slightly NSFW, but there’s no skimping on star power. There’s a few curse words, and Kev Jumba’s tour of the YOMYOMF studio–”where poorly buffered videos come to life,” he says –quickly escalates into a CGI-powered misunderstanding. On the other hand, if you’ve always wanted to see Tyrese get hit with a bar stool or ring announcer Bruce Buffer go out Ned Stark-style, it’s worth a look.
Finally, an update on K-Town, the Jersey Shore-esque show featuring Asian-Americans we talked about in 2010. Amoeblog’s Eric Brightwell reports that after being offered around to traditional networks, the show will instead debut as a YouTube series on July 2nd. And as the trailer shows us, the show has indeed embraced its Jersey roots, from the creative team on down.
Moments after Joel Ward’s overtime goal secured a playoff victory for the Washington Capitals over Boston last month, the twittersphere exploded with a barrage of racial epithets, threats of violence, and stereotypes.
Editor’s Note: Trigger Warning under the cut–pictures of racist slurs
By Guest Contributor Aymar Jean Christian, cross-posted from Televisual
So, HBO has a problem with Girls. Mainly, that a lot of smartpeople are really pissed the show is so white! And they’re right. I’ve refrained from writing extensively about this because (a) so many other people (links above!) are doing it well, (b) I think the show is smart, and (c) I agree with Seitz: race is the industry’s problem, not Lena Dunham’s. She is privileged, yes, but–let’s be honest–also got lucky with a sweetheart Louie-like deal: cheap production and relative freedom in lieu of high ratings (Girls‘s paltry 0.4 rating in the demo would get it canceled everywhere but HBO, and maybe FX**).
In the spirit of shifting blame back on the industry and being constructive, I’ve decided to link to some web shows mainstream TV critics might not know about because there are so many.
The Girls imbroglio, which was easy to see coming but surprised and heartened me in its scale, has shone a light on the ugly side of Hollywood most people forget about. Mainly, that mostly everyone is white, and most people in power are male. Alyssa Rosenberg has done a really great job highlighting this in the past week (see: her posts on women of color already writing for TV and her stats on their employment).
There’s been some discussion about how the Internet figures into all of this, with a number of people mentioning Awkward Black Girl, hugely popular and shopped to networks only to stay online (following The Guild, that might be a good call for Rae). Latoya Peterson linked to my black, gay and latino web series pages–links at the top–in her great critique of Girls.
I thought I’d make it easy, and, in the spirit of “put up or shut up,” spotlight a few shows, past and present, which could use an FX-style pick-up. A lot of these shows would be cheap to do but could benefit from the little bit of low-risk cash TV networks can deliver (I’ve highlighted shows by men and women, because the problem isn’t just with female-led shows on TV, far from it).
As always, this is the tip of very large iceberg. Please put other suggestions in the comments!
If you’ve seen the latest episode of The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl (ABG), you probably caught J’s best friend Cece refer to White Jay’s ex as a “tr***y bitch in heels.” Or J’s co-worker Patty ask her if she’s “gay” because J cut her hair to a tweeny-weeny afro (TWA). Or J’s nemesis, Nina, asking her when did she “catch cancer” due to the new ‘do.
We love the show! We also love your continuous engagement with fans and your commitment to staying on the Web to maintain your vision. What we don’t love is the transmisogyny and misogyny in episode 11.
In episode 11, CeCe calls White Jay’s ex a “tra**y bitch in heels.” The word tra**y perpetuates violence and divisiveness amongst women by relying on the idea that trans women are not “real” women; it suggests that White Jay’s ex is somehow less than the main character J.
The word “tra**y” has a very real history of violence and discrimination, often targeting trans women. It has been used as a slur, as a way to objectify women, and as a way of denying the personhood of trans women on the basis of appearance.
We have seen your responsiveness to the fans of ABG and we hope that by raising this concern you will respond accordingly by not using such language in future episodes. There are so many awkward queer, trans, and disabled folks who love the show and it hurts to see and hear our lives used as punchlines. For those of us, the awkward black, queer folks who have lived at the intersections of our awkwardness, our blackness, and our transness, words like “tra**y” erase our lives, and our humanity. Phrases like “No lesbo” and the use of affected speech to imitate hard of hearing people detract from the vision of creating representations for the rest of us who are all too often maligned in mainstream media.
We look forward to many more episodes of The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl that are hilarious without the use of marginalized groups as a punchline. We have confidence that you have the creativity to continue to push comedic boundaries in new ways and educate your audience in the process.
(Video slightly NSFW – one F-bomb near the beginning)
Issa Rae’s The Misadventures Of AWKWARD Black Girl has been picking up critical acclaim as of late, and as the series has progressed, it’s becoming easier to understand why. Slight spoilers under the cut.
The video above shows the jump-off for our protagonist, J, played by series creator Issa Rae. J cuts off all her hair in the wake of a break-up, not anticipating some second-guessing on the part of her now ex-boyfriend. And that’s when things start getting awkward, indeed.
Most of the series, though, takes place around J’s office – ironic, since the language is at times NSFW – where she deals with a parade of cringe-inducing co-workers: the boss trying to be “down,” a somewhat regrettable hook-up, and a one-man “Rainbow Coalition of racism,” among others. “I’m passive-aggressive, and I hate confrontation,” J says via internal monologue. “So I just hold my feelings inside …” The Office Space vibe these scenes conjure up have been among the best in the series so far.
J does have a way to cope, though – she writes some hilariously goofy “gangsta” rhymes and spits them, mostly to herself, though as of the fourth episode, there’s signs of an upswing in her social life. Maybe.
Colorlines’ Akiba Solomon has called J “one of the most textured black woman characters I’ve ever seen,” and our own Andrea says she’s “representative of quite a few of us nerds of all colors.” I know I’m waiting to see where things with her go from here. As a bonus, here’s the first episode:
Editor’s Note: Readers who watch the whole may notice that MABG has a lot of problematic jokes and language, particularly around queer identity and colorism. Feel free to bring these up in the comments section here. It’s an ongoing tension where we want to highlight works by creators of color, but all creators don’t share our anti-oppression values. (A good reference point would be almost all of our conversations around the depiction of women in the Harold and Kumar series.) We are still working out, internally, how we want to engage with this type of work. – LDP
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World