Why ‘The Bold Type’ and ‘This Is Us’ are doing more for minority groups than most traditional forms of entertainment.
It is no secret that for most minorities my age and older, we grew up without any forms of representation in the entertainment we consumed. However, ‘The Bold Type’ and ‘This Is Us’ are the most perfect example of how things are heading in the right direction.
When minority groups say we want representation, we don’t mean we want TV shows and films to put us in as a token character for a company to tick a box and say they've done it and we most definitely don't mean put us in a TV show or film and enforce a false stereotype about us. What we mean is, show us in the way that we are — humans who also make mistakes and fall in love and sometimes get a happy ending but sometimes don't. When including minorities, include our humanity, learn about the things we do, include our joys. Our lives do not start and end at the hardships of being a minority. Our lives mean much more than that.
The first thing about ‘The Bold Type’ that really made my heart leap with joy is that one of the three main characters is a biracial actress. I instantly felt a rush of happiness for the little biracial girls growing up in today's world who will get to see someone who looks like them on TV. From then on it only get better. Kat Edison, an accomplished, biracial, head of social media, also spends a big part of her storyline exploring her identity. Whether she is discovering and understanding her race or her sexuality, the happy times and the low times in both are beautifully portrayed. When Kat writes her bio, the show explores her difficulty in deciding whether or not to add that she is black. She finds out why her parents don't discuss her black side and why they don’t use labels. Even though Kat herself very strongly decides to not label herself in other aspects of her life, she does mention that she is black in her bio: “I’m so proud to be biracial but right now it feels important to embrace this part of (her blackness) myself.” Showing black struggle as much as black joy is what people need when they ask for representation. I, as someone who is not white, have seen every aspect of white life shoved down my throat in all forms of entertainment but very rarely do I get to see black joy, black discovery, black struggle but also black success. ‘The Bold Type’ has successfully figured out a way to do just that.
Who hasn't heard of ‘This Is Us’ by now? The show that makes us all cry more than we knew we could. I’m sure to a lot of white people ‘This Is Us’ stops at that. Just a really good feel-good show that also makes them cry. For me, It was the first show I had ever seen where interracial couples complexities are discussed. I am a child of an interracial couple and for a long time, I didn't know that a lot of the world still had an issue with that. When that became apparent to me, I felt as if my world had been shaken. But then it made sense, whenever I’ve been with a white guy, I tend to ask myself “do they like me because of me or because I’m “exotic” or different?”, “would they prefer a white girl?”, “will they understand the cultural differences between us?”. The cultural difference question is the reason I could never thank the writers of This Is Us enough for their representation. Season 3, Episode 5. Zoe doesn't have her silk pillowcase and her white boyfriend, Kevin, didn't understand why that was so important. To any other black girl watching that episode, we KNOW why that silk pillowcase is needed and essential for our hair. And I’m sure for many of us it is difficult to explain to non-black people why that is the case, but the vulnerability Zoe had in this episode, unapologetically being herself and embracing her blackness was so inspirational. “The reason I need the silk pillowcase is because it keeps my hair from drying”. As simple as that line was, it was powerful. I have never seen a black woman on TV explain why we do things differently with our hair. I normally see these black women coming into every scene with perfect coils and curls and kinks with no sort of reference made to the struggle we go through maintaining that. Or I see a black woman with perfectly dead straight hair. That line, that scene, it was small but so so mighty.
Both of these shows have restored my faith in black stories being told. It is not enough to simply include a black person in your storyline and call it a day. Yes, there is a lot more progress to be made, more black stories to be told, more black voices to be heard but the fact that these two shows exist restores my faith that maybe one day people won't have to write about how there are only two shows they've seen that made them feel represented, instead it will be so normal that pointing it out wouldn't even make sense.