In Part 1 of Breaking the Stereotype, I discussed two characters in TV shows that I have seen that I think are positive portrayals of black males. Moving along with the theme of characters breaking the stereotypes given to their race by society, this article is going to talk about two shows that have positive portrayals of black women. This article will discuss Iris West from The CW’s “The Flash” and Annalise Keating from ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder.”
Iris West, “The Flash“, CW
Stereotype Broken: Independent Black Woman
Now I know the name of the stereotype may be misleading and you’re wondering if I just pushed the feminism movement back but if we look at the stereotype, it’ll make sense.
Often times, the independent black women is shown as narcissistic, overachieving, financially successful, emasculates black men, and has virtually no love life. (Thanks Wikipedia. Sometimes you are very helpful.) Iris West, portrayed by Candice Patton, is a journalist at Central City Picture News and the daughter of Joe West, who I wrote about in my last article. She is a member of Team Flash meaning she helps Barry Allen/The Flash beat the bad guys.
Iris is independent in the sense that she doesn’t need guys to support her and she is not narcissistic as she tends to care about the well-being of others before herself. She is an overachiever in the sense that she wants to succeed at her job which includes putting her life in danger in order to get the truth behind a story. Iris doesn’t emasculate men. Sure, the black men she deals with in the show are her father, (spoiler) her brother, and her new boss, but she doesn’t even make snide comments about them.
Her love life is doing great/not so great. Let me explain. Spoiler ahead if you haven’t seen season 1. Her finance, who was white, dies at the end of season 1. She grieves for him during the entirety of season 2. So her love life is explained as she is grieving the loss of her first love and can’t move on. Her single life has nothing to do with her being narcissistic and overachieving but rather with the fact that her finance died.
The way the show displays Iris as not a damsel in distress and not as narcissistic, overachieving, emasculator of black men is a breath of fresh of air compared to how black women are usually portrayed in television. Iris definitely has her flaws, but overall she is a positive portrayal of the black female.
Annalise Keating, “How To Get Away with Murder”, ABC
Stereotype Broken: Jezebel
Annalise Keating, portrayed by Viola Davis, is a criminal law professor and a ftc defense attorney. Discussing more about Annalise will give spoilers away and I don’t want to be that person, so I will try to give as little away as possible. Often times, black women are seen as extremely sexually promiscuous.
The show has created a character that is about much more than her sexuality. She is a bad ass. She is shown without her wig/weave. She is successful and married. There were a lot of talking points that I could have chosen but I chose Jezebel for a reason. I don’t know if you would consider the following a spoiler but I warned you regardless. The show starts off with Annalise being married to a white guy, Sam. She then cheats on Sam with her boyfriend Nate.
Then, after a series of events, her past lover returns and it’s a woman, named Eve. They get it on. Now, sure you might be thinking, “Damn. Why did I chose the Jezebel stereotype?” Well, like I said before, Annalise is more than her sexuality. She’s queer, black, female, and the lead character on a TV show. She doesn’t desire sex 24/7. She owns her sexuality.
Annalise being seen as more than a sex object is nice to see on TV. Once again, there are issues with the character of Annalise but for the most part, she is a positive portrayal of the black women. Which is always a good thing to see.
Seeing positive portrayals of any minority member is a good thing for today’s youth because we need to be able to look at mainstream media and say, “That could be me.” We don’t have a chance of doing that when almost everybody in mainstream media is white and even characters who aren’t white are portrayed by white characters. It’s important to know that not everything displayed is negative and that there is such a thing as a positive portrayals for minorities.
This is the twelfth article of the column titled “Living in White America.” Every month there will be a new article discussing how minorities live in America. This column will have articles dealing with anything and everything that concerns the under-represented groups of White America. This could include political and social talks. Some articles may discuss cultures of different groups and interviews with a variety of people including those of the racial majority. Discrimination against everybody but the racial majority has gone on long enough and now it’s time people get a look into the worlds of those they dislike so much.