So, I am currently hooked on a show called Breaking Bad. Why? Because it’s brilliant! The writing is outstanding and the premise alone is enough to pique the interest of the average viewer.
For those who don’t know, the lead, played by Bryan Cranston, is a high school chemistry teacher with terminal cancer who decides to secure his family’s financial future by manufacturing high-quality illegal drugs with one of his former students – Wild! Right? But, it really got me thinking. If these were Black characters, the writers, producers, actors, and their families would all presently be under fire. The NAACP, Al Sharpton, Tyler Perry and a host of others would inundate the media with cries of outrage. Yet, I haven’t heard one iota about the garbage that is Basketball Wives and all those other bootleg reality shows, that because of the subject matter or location, have mostly Black casts.
The truth is I rarely watch TV, and sadly when I do have a moment to tune in, there is very little quality programming to choose from. The only shows I consider watching are The Game [which is not getting much love from me since its move to BET], Real Housewives of Atlanta [slowly making its way out of my system], old Seinfeld episodes, Millionaire Matchmaker and now, Breaking Bad. Sadly, only one of these – The Game – is a scripted Black show.
Problem #1: Black people are so concerned with being portrayed in a bad light that they don’t want to push the envelope in terms of content. I understand why, but honestly I’d rather a “scripted” show perpetuate negative stereotypes about Blacks rather than something loosely referred to as a “reality” show. At least it might possibly be judged on its merits without people thinking that that is how Black people actually behave.
Problem #2: Black television and film usually go to one of two extremes: too hood or too “good.” I remember the ‘Boyz in the Hood’ era, when most Black movies (Juice, Menace to Society, etc.) were about ghetto life to which I could not relate. I hated this era as much as I hate the current “feel-good” era we happen to be in now. I don’t want to “feel-good” ALL the time. Sometimes, I want to watch something that elicits conversation, makes me think, or even makes me slightly uncomfortable.
Therefore, I write a second plea to the powers that be to:
1) Create more Black dramas
2) Be original and,
3) Stop trying to always teach a lesson. I am NOT entertained!
I understand that since Black people have historically been portrayed negatively, now that we have the power and the capital to make our own films and create our television shows, we go to great lengths to prove that we are not that way, to our own detriment.
Unfortunately, The Game, which has now perished at the hands of BET, was the last “Great Black Hope” as far as TV shows are concerned, and I think it’s safe to say that a Black show equally as sinister and thought-provoking as Breaking Bad will never be. We are type-casting ourselves – popular media is no longer the blame. I don’t want to see a tired version of The Cosby Show [Reed Between the Lines - which unimaginatively casts a Cosby Show cast member in the lead role], but I also don’t want to see Tiny & Toya. On the ghettometer (pronounced get-ah-mit-er), can we meet somewhere in the middle? Bring the DRAMA!