Gaps between white experiences and non-white experiences pop up in the strangest places.
Raven-Symoné has a new comedy on ABC Family called State of Georgia. This is her first comedy series where she will be playing an adult role and it’s been interesting watching that transition. I had planned to tune into the premiere, but it moved up in priority when I read the producer, Jennifer Weiner, talking about Raven’s weight loss in USA Today:
Q: Tell us about the show’s star, Raven-Symoné, who plays Georgia.
A: What we were looking for was a larger-than-life, bubbly, exuberant, confident young woman who was convinced of her own worth even when the world couldn’t see it. I really think that’s what we have with Raven. She’s this incredibly natural comedienne.
Q: Is Georgia a classic Jennifer Weiner character?
A: The original intention was for Georgia to be a big, curvy girl, and that would be one of the obstacles she dealt with while pursuing her acting career. She wanted to play the ingénue and the bombshell, and people would want to cast her as the funny best friend. Raven has lost a lot of weight, and that’s been a challenge we’ve been dealing with. But in terms of her sense of humor and outlook on life, Georgia’s going to feel familiar to anyone who loved Canny in Good in Bed or Becky in Little Earthquakes and Addy in Best Friends Forever.
Okay. I’m very familiar with Weiner’s work, having read most of it, and I get it – Weiner writes curvy heroines. She is most comfortable writing about larger women trying to make their way in the world. And there have been a great many discussions (like this one from Women and Hollywood) on the debates around Raven-Symoné’s weight loss and how it impacted what they were doing for the show.
But I’m puzzled. Did no one ever point out that black, thin and thick actresses face that same problem in terms of always being cast as the funny best friend? Come on, now, it’s even got a TV Tropes entry. The same jokes wouldn’t fly, but I am sure there are plenty of women who could help the writing team come up with amazing bits about how screwed up the acting world is to women of color. They could call Angela Nissel and Aisha Tyler in for writing assistance, and ask for people like Gabrielle Union and all of the women on this list to provide real life anecdotes for the show.
Or is that just too scary of a topic?