black girl blogs · reviews · tv reviews

Blindspotting: Honey Brown Child

Since it’s first episode Blindspotting hasn’t been afraid to bring up tough, often controversial, conversations. It’s here to entertain us but the show is also here to make us think, to ask us the tough questions that audiences often seek to avoid in the content they consume. So it’s no surprise that Blindspotting did it’s best to cover the topic of what qualifies or disqualifies a brown skinned person as Black. Plus Ashley gets a much needed self care date in which she debates about telling Sean where Miles is. It’s a heavy episode but a much needed one.

One of the biggest issues in the Black community is the constant debate of whether or not someone is “Black enough” to be considered a Black person. It’s always a hot debate what circumstances and situations can either provide someone with a Black card or take their Black card away. Have you seen The Wiz? Do you know Who Let The Dogs Out? Why did Craig get high on Friday? How much sugar do you put in your Kool-Aid? Hot sauce, yes or no? The ways a persons Blackness can be tested is endless. And in episode six of Blindspotting, Mama Nancy tries to test Sean’s Blackness only to be disappointed in his answers and preferences. Which in turn sparks a huge debate between herself, Janelle, Earl and Trish.

Sean’s favorite movies include John Wick 1 & 2 along with Paddington and it’s sequel. Four movies that aren’t exactly ripe with Black people. This revelation appalls Nancy and when she asks Sean what color he is, his response of “honey brown” does even less to soothe her. He can’t even handle a single hot Cheeto. When she brings this to the attention of Janelle and Earl they both have very different view points on Sean and his Blackness. Janelle is firm in her stance that because Sean is mixed he’ll never really have the full Black experience. He may be Black but he is not the same kind of Black that dark skinned Janelle is. Earl, understands this, but he is against the idea that Blackness can be qualified by outside circumstances. Because he himself is dark like Janelle but he grew up in the “nice” part of Oakland, his parents love each other and are still together but yet Earl still ended up in jail on a drug charge. Does his upbringing take away his Black card only for his time in jail to return the card to him?

According to Trish, yes, that’s exactly how Blackness should work for Earl. Because at the end of the day he got his Black card back. To Trish, Blackness comes in all shades and it’s all valid but she very clearly understands that where you grow up, how you live your life and your environment factor into the way outside perspectives on Blackness are created. However where she’s coming from triggers Janelle, because all of her life she has been the dark skinned friend and rarely anything more. In school everyone clamored to hold Ashley’s attention because of how light she is and how much hair she has, though in the same breath that they praised Ashley they critiqued and put down Janelle. Colorism is a huge problem in the Black community and it’s often overlooked for more “important” issues, like what makes some Black. The same way everyone at the table comforted Janelle but went back to talking about the qualifications of Blackness instead of diving deeper into colorism and the way it affects the community as a whole.

By now though, Nancy probably slightly regrets even bringing the situation up because the debate at her dinner table is getting hotter and hotter while going nowhere. So she settles it by telling them that the conversation as a whole is Black privilege because she comes from a time where Black people didn’t have time to argue over what makes a person Black or not, they had bigger problems to solve and today there are bigger problems to solve. But that doesn’t mean the conversations on what makes some Black and what doesn’t should stop happening.

Meanwhile Ashley’s spiraling farther and farther into turmoil over how to tell Sean that Miles is in jail. So she takes herself on a date to a spot she frequently went to with Miles. Though in her head she’s not alone, the imaginary Miles is with her. He’s here to guide her and help her through this. Though that’s a bit hard because this isn’t the real Miles, every response or solution he gives Ashley can’t really be considered his because this version of him is coming from Ashley herself. A complex mess.

But talking to this Miles really does help Ashley think and come to conclusions on how to push forward. She’s known all along that it’s way past time to tell Sean his father is in jail. But just like she’s scared that Miles is starting to see her as disloyal, Ashley is also scared of bursting the innocent child bubble that surrounds Sean. No mother wants to be the reality crusher in their child’s world. But as imaginary Miles points out, it’s gotten to the point where Ashley is acting as if Miles is dead instead of just away for a while. And the longer she puts it off the harder Sean is going to take it. So Ashley puts on her game face and heads home to tell Sean what’s going on with his dad. After correcting his babysitters and letting them know that Sean has in fact seen The Wiz, that’s one part of his Blackness they don’t need to question, Ashley takes him home and the episode ends with an emotional close of her explaining to Sean that Miles is going to be in jail for five years. She even does her best to soften the blow by switching his bedtime story to one of the books Rainey bought earlier in the season. She might be weeks late, but at least now Ashley will be able to move forward and this unbearable weight isn’t pinning her down anymore.

To me, a big reason Blindspotting is so compelling is because of the chemistry between Ashley and Miles. They are in this together, forever. So much that Miles is all Ashley can ever think about. So much that, as it turns out, Miles is in jail for something that Ashley did. At least that’s what’s been insinuated, although Ashley’s non anger at Miles would make all the more sense now. It’s not so much of a plot twists but a reveal that I think many suspected, but that doesn’t make it any less relatable. They are after all whether whatever storm comes their way, even one that means five years of separation.

As much as I love Ashley and Miles, this episode belongs to the supporting characters. The conversation at Nancy’s dinner table easily toppled Ashley’s when to tell Sean struggle. It’s nice when the side and supporting characters have development and content that can exist outside of the protagonist. Not often that Black audiences are treated to open, honest and clear conversations about the inner workings of our community. Even in the new age of television, there are certain topics that many shows skirt around and absolutely avoid. Colorism and the qualifications of Blackness are two of the biggest ones. I’ve been waiting for Janelle to show any kind of resentment towards Ashley because of the way others treated the two of them as a collective. She mentioned it a bit before, in her smoke session with Earl but “Ghost Dad” is the first time we’re really getting to see how Janelle feels about it. Especially her comment about how Ashley’s hair could look however and was considered good but her combed and styled Afro puffs only got Janelle flack and peer pressure to flatiron them out. Tv is full of too many Ashley and Janelle like friendships, the lighter of the two is the center of attention while the darker skinned is regulated to the sassy best friend. Janelle as a character only edges out of that category because we’ve been shown that her world doesn’t revolve around whatever Ashley or Trish have going on. It’s a nice change and a much needed one, but I’m still hoping for even more Janelle.

Another thing I appreciated about this episode was the use of Trish in it. She is the textbook definition of a light skinned Black girl, but Trish seems to be aware of it. Where other shows simply take the easy route and make it seem like everyone hates on the light skins girls because they’re pretty, Blindspotting acknowledges Trish’s beauty but they also spotlight the fact she can be unhinged and mean and no one thinks it’s cute. Trish’s in-depth understanding of circumstances and environments having a direct relationship with how a person behaves makes her more of a relatable character. I had worried a bit at the beginning of the season that she would be nothing more than the wild, unnameable stripper sister in law; it’s great to been shown that couldn’t be farther from the case. Trish is wild, but she’s also intelligent. Even if she did get caught up on being likened to Doja Cat during the serious discussion of Blackness.

Also, we’re getting closer and closer to Janelle and Earl figuring out that they might like each other as more than friends. I find myself having a soft spot for this budding relationship because it seems so wholesome, something that’s being build out of genuine mutual like. Even if they don’t know or haven’t realized that they like each other yet. I’m especially here for a Black love romance that isn’t centered around any kind of trauma or abuse or hardship. Janelle and Earl are sweet, I hope that it’s something they can uphold if/when they do finally get together.

With only two episodes left, Blindspotting is pulling out all the stops and holding nothing back. I can’t help but cherish this episode because I don’t know when another show will come along and discuss these kind of topics this well. Blindspotting has managed to find the perfect blend of drama, comedy and musical theater. As great as the conversation on what qualifies Blackness was, it was equally appealing to watch the prison inmates interpretive dance around Ashley and Sean as she prepared herself to tell him. Whatever formula the creative team cooked up to make this show is, it’s something they should try to see if they can bottle and sell because shows don’t get much better than this.

Blindspotting airs Sunday nights on Starz

-Danyi

black girl blogs · reviews · tv reviews

Blindspotting: The Degrees of Discipline

Kids are tough. They’re small people that are more often than not misunderstood. Adults simplify children because it makes taking care of them easier, for the grown ups. In Blindspotting’s third episode “The Rule of Three”, Sean starts spiraling out of control because his father isn’t there to be the disciplinary. So it falls upon Ashley to take him in hand, only she finds herself deeply conflicted on how to do it the right way. Meanwhile it’s Trish’s turn for her day to put its foot on her neck and not ease up, and the more she fights back the worse it gets.

Anyone who cares for children for an extended period of time knows that when things suddenly and drastically change they can start to act out. Sean’s entire world has been flipped upside, so it was only a matter of time before his behavior became less than stellar. Especially since his dad isn’t there to physically snatch him up and he knows his mom isn’t going to. After ruining Ashley and Trish’s morning with swift kicks to the legs, Sean’s put in time at Nancy’s while Ashley tries to figure out what to do about him.

Of course everyone has advice for her, Rainey insists that if she plans it correctly she’ll only ever have to discipline Sean physically three times as he’s growing up. But Ashley hesitates at the physical part. Miles pretty much agrees with his mom, she needs to karate chop Sean back multiple times in different ways. And he even points out that Ashley has her own standing with violence, she used to beat bitches up. Yorkie and Rob offer a bit more toned down solution. A slap or two to the face, which Yorkie quickly explains can be considered a spanking of the face depending on how you look at it. Even Scotty, Ashley’s manager at the hotel, suggests simple pops to the back of Sean’s hand could be enough. But Ashley balks at them all, she doesn’t want to get physical with her baby. She doesn’t want to contribute to the possibility of him growing up to be violent, which she eloquently explains to us in the episodes spoken word break of the fourth wall. It puts her between a rock and a hard place.

Meanwhile, Trish’s day spirals in a different way. Determined to run her own strip club, she makes an appointment with the bank to apply for a loan. But the meeting doesn’t go the way she wants and Trish ends up losing her temper and getting kicked out. It doesn’t phase her until she heads to work where she’s surprised to find that the girls don’t take her side in the situation. They try to explain to Trish that most the time she’s on a level ten when she should be a on five, but she won’t hear it. The night turns worse when Trish is forced to go out on stage and dance despite the agreement she thought she had arranged with the owner. It’s a sobering moment for Trish, but she deals with it my throwing back alcohol; no one wants to be sober when life is shit.

Everything comes to a head when Ashley returns home that night to find that Trish took her work shoes without asking. Drunk and still seething about not getting the loan Trish pokes and prods at Ashley until the older woman snaps. Though she’s not the one who gets to Trish first, Rainey does and it just so happens that Sean is dropped off right as Grandma Rainey spanks Tia Trish’s face. And it strikes a bit of fear into him in the right way, which Ashley uses to her advantage to position herself as the parent Sean been a to listen to. At least while his dad is away.

As someone who cares for kids as a job, this episode was particularly interesting. How to discipline kids is always a heavily debated topic, because no two parents do it the same. And as society tries to constantly move forward in progressive ways, the act of hitting or spanking children is something that firmly divides people. And it’s divided on several different layers. Episode three attempts to unravel a few of those layers and mold itself a solution that works for the scenario. Sean isn’t bad kid, so what works for him might not work for other kids. Or could even just be a temporary fix. There’s the possibility that he could become a bad kid, once he learns that Ashley has been hiding the truth about Miles from him. But that bridge hasn’t been crossed yet.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the episode isn’t the tensions of what to do about Sean, it’s the little details of the other characters that reveal bigger plot points or deeper development of their character. For instance, we learned that Ashley comes from an abusive household, which is what makes her so firmly against physically disciplining Sean. She doesn’t want to repeat the cycle in anyway. We also saw another side of Trish, it was brief and nearly buried by her outburst at Ashley but earlier in the night it was there. After being shouted down by the owner of the strip club Trish had to get ready to go on stage and as she puts her makeup on we witness her break a little. There’s more to Trish than just the wildness and ratchet ways. Though it’s hard to feel sorry for her when it’s obvious she knows what she’s doing when she’s being a bitch. Which is super evident when after Rainey slaps her, Trish whines out the excuse that she’s drunk. As if that somehow makes her treatment of Ashley okay.

With each episode Blindspotting challenges what it means to be thought provoking television. It gives its characters different layers of personality instead of just sprinkling pieces and hoping something sticks. This is no more clearer than when it comes to Ashley and Trish. The show makes space for them both to exist and although they seem pitted against each other on a surface, it’s seems likely that could change soon. Especially since Ashley tried to apologize for her judgement of Trish’s clothes and attitude before the fight. She tried even though it got her nowhere. Which says a lot.

With each episode of Blindspotting I find myself loving it more and more. I was obsessed with the movie when it came out and now I find myself obsessing with the show. It’s an amazing when a show makes you feel like you can be as creative as you want and that’s what Blindspotting is doing. Giving us permission to present creations differently. Hopefully more TV shows will take after it.

Blindspotting airs Sunday nights on Starz

-Danyi

tv reviews

My Ode to Dr. Cassandra Railly

I started watching 12 Monkeys because of Aaron Stanford, he’s my favorite actor probably of all time. I never really cared for the movie, it’s a good time travel story but I was a kid when it came out. So a 12 Monkeys tv show didn’t really hold much significance to me besides my favorite actor was going to be a time traveler. That’s all I needed to be on board.

I liked the characters well enough. James Cole, I have a love/dislike relationship with. I don’t hate him, he just tests my patience a lot. Katarina Jones is a level of badass I aspire to be but suspect I won’t ever reach because I don’t have the accent to pull it off. And Jennifer Goines dreams of galaxies while the rest of us can barely comprehend stars. But it’s Dr. Cassandra Railly that has irreversibly burrowed a spot deep in my heart. She is everything, I’ve ever wanted in a female character.

Too often, women characters on tv are barely two dimensional, let alone three. Female characters usually are A) the love interest B) the “protagonist” that can only get things done with help from a man C) the reason behind a man’s pain or D) a complete and total bitch. Sometimes they can be all of the above, but it’s rare. And almost never are they all of those things plus more. We’ve come far in the world of television but for some reason, many shows still lack a quality, fleshed out, well-written female characters.

Dr. Cassandra Railly or Cassie for short is a rare kind of female character. Not only does she get to be all of those things I mentioned above but she soars beyond them and leaves those stereotypes in the dust. And I love her more than any other tv woman I’ve come across. So this is my love letter to Dr. Cassandra Railly and her fantastic character development.

In the beginning, Cassie wasn’t really on my radar. I appreciated her taking charge and telling Cole to shut up and listen but other than that I didn’t have much interest in her. It wasn’t until after “The Red Forest” did I start to notice little things about Cassie. The way she clammed up at certain things or her logical way of looking at the problems on hand. However, I also noticed a change in Cassie. Most chalked it up to her being traumatized from being kidnapped but I think her first time drinking the red forest tea truly did awaken something in her. She hasn’t been the same since then and for some reason, it was only noticed by everyone else in season two. Not only is Cassie smart, but she’s intelligent. A lot don’t know that those are two completely different traits and smart doesn’t always mean intelligent.

Cassie is how I like to think that I would handle a random man kidnapping me and telling me he’s from the future. The disbelief at first, the cautious agreement to help and finally the complete dedication to saving the world even if it means that I’ll be hurt in the end. Cassie keeps her feelings close to her and she’s not good at expressing them. She sticks to her medical science and the things she knows are fact and concrete. Feelings are never concrete so I don’t blame Cassie for being wary of them. What makes it so great though is that she’s allowed to do these things. She’s allowed to take the time she needs to be ready for a relationship, she’s not rushed into it for the sake of developing the man.

After “The Red Forest” Cassie’s change was so subtle that many missed it. I even missed it. It wasn’t until the end of the first season did I realize that the Cassie we started out with is not the Cassie we have now. But the change was so quiet, so small that her shooting Ramse was truly a shocking moment. No one saw it coming. And that, to me, is true character development. I think that we weren’t meant to notice Cassie’s change the first time around. The focus of stopping the Army of the 12 Monkeys was too intense. We only seemed to care about what Cole was going to do next. We missed the way Cassie was quietly struggling. It started with her not wanting to share what happened and what she saw with Aaron Marker. After he and Cole rescued her from the Army and she was back home, Cassie shut Aaron out. Which at the time I was overjoyed about. I never liked Marker, the way he dismissed Cassie and left her. But I really wish she had of least shared with him how much the red tea had gotten into her head. I wish Cassie hadn’t been suffering so silently while everyone else worried about the virus and the army.

Even before Cassie shot Ramse, there were always the signs that something a little deeper was going on with Cassie. Another example is when she seemed unbothered by Marker’s passing. Sure Cole found her crying in the coffee shop bathroom but Cassie was supposedly in love and going to marry Marker, so her brushing away her tears and demanding they continue on with the mission is odd. It just didn’t seem odd then because the show has us so focused on the mission and what needs to be done. Silently, Cassie slipped into the beginning of her development. She quietly built an arc in the series for herself.

Cassie went to unwavering lengths to help Cole in season one, from coercing a young Jones to help them out to tracking down a young Cole and convincing his father to help them. Cassie even defied government orders. Cole spends a lot of time dying and being in pain during season one. It’s up to Cassie and at times Marker, to fight against the army. Something that they don’t seem to get as much credit for as they should. Cassie even risks jail time and treason while Cole is in Chechnya with the case holding the virus in it. I always found it insulting how everything Cole did was praised and yet anything Cassie did was viewed as just assistance to Cole.

Season one Cassie was a set up for some seriously intense character development in season two. It’s the type of development a writer dreams about achieving. Cassie’s journey is her own, her reactions, her fears, her decisions. Everything that Cassie is in season two is almost a direct reaction to season one.

To put it plainly, season two Cassie is an absolute badass. She was thrust into a horrible situation that she couldn’t escape from and she adapted amazingly. It may seem hard for people to imagine but going from a comfortable, safe life to a post-apocalypse world is damaging. It’s traumatic. If Cassie hadn’t changed then I think the show would have greatly suffered for it.

Character development can make or break a show. The point of character development is to humanize a character in the story you’re trying to tell. Writers develop characters, give them story arcs and flaws to make them human. They make them relatable and they craft them so that the audience will care. If the audience doesn’t care about a character, then the story suffers.

Male characters, usually are always given thorough character development. Even if that development is bad. They take priority because in most cases it’s the male character whose story is being told. Female characters are put on the back burner. Or they’re slapped with the label of love interest and the only real acknowledgment they get is when the male lead decides he wants to be with them. It’s a small box with not much wiggle room but it’s a box that’s held for years on end. Female-driven stories are just beginning to be told regularly and the development of the characters still has a long way to go.

To me, 12 Monkeys is one of the first shows to break out of that box and give its women characters not only room to grow, but room to make mistakes and be human. The show gives Cassie, Jones, and Jennifer the chance to react like the humans they are and have emotional responses that are relatable. For a long time, women characters were only given hardships if it meant that those hardships would somehow affect the male. They never had their own problems to deal with and consequences that applied only to them. It’s nice to see there finally be a change. Cassie has had some of the best character development of any female character on tv. She’s got her own personal issues going on while dealing with the world ending and those issues aren’t put on the back burner.

I was excited about Cassie’s development, I was overjoyed about it. Then I got online, then I saw the weird hate that was being spewed in Cassie’s direction. Just like all other shows that have fandoms, if the show or the characters aren’t going in the direction people want, they begin to trash it. There’s a thin line in fandom that many fans cross constantly. I’m unsure if fans think the internet is a safeguard that gives them permission to be mean or if they think that the character they’re trashing isn’t played by a real person with feelings. Either way, when fandom starts trashing talking, things get ugly quick. And things got ugly during S2 of 12 Monkeys. I understand why the fandom was upset about Cassie, however, I find it to be a bit overdramatic. From the sounds of it, many were upset just because Cassie spoke harshly to Cole. She was called out of character even though this snippy Cassie has been here since she told Cole to shut up in S1E2. Cassie wasn’t out of character at all, she just wasn’t behaving the way fans thought she should. Her actions weren’t feeding into the ship fans were desperately wanting to happen. Shipping usually causes a lot of discourse in fandoms, with many ships in shows and/or films causing arguments deemed “ship wars” and keyboard battles that can last for months and even years. Fans can become obsessive in negative ways. They can become obsessed with the idea of two characters being in love. They obsess over the way the characters love each other. It’s fine for the most part but it causes problems when fans start to think they know characters better than the people who created them.

Cassie’s hate upsets me because in the day and age of all women claiming to be feminist, or claiming that they want better for women, the moment she didn’t fall at Cole’s feet and kiss on him, people started calling her a bitch. Any time she snipped at Cole or said something wasn’t in a cheery happy tone, fans trashed her. It’s strange and upsetting to me the way women will throw each other under the bus in the hopes of looking good for a man. Cole is a grown man, he literally can handle himself and he was never upset at Cassie for being hardened in S2. The fans projected their feelings of being angry at Cassie onto Cole, saying that he deserved better and that was Cassie was out of character because they thought him loving her was more important than the trauma Cassie had faced. Her pain meant nothing. It was upsetting and shocking. As for the male fans, because I know something will be said if I don’t address them too, it seems they were taking Cassie’s words personally as if they were the ones she was directly talking too. Again, weird.

I cannot fault people for behaving in the ways we were conditioned to behave. It’s all too common for women to be expected to just go along with whatever the man says and or does. She has to quietly be angry at him but still smile at him and kiss him because of the “wonderful” thing called love. She has to suffer in silence because a man admiring her is more important. It’s the way we were raised but it’s not the way we have to continue to be. I defended Cassie every single time someone said something negative about her. Most of the fandom disliked me for my constant defense of her and I ended up having to step away from the fandom because my defense of Cassie was taken as hate for Cole. Which is a whole other problem by itself. I do not hate Cole, I just think he has dumb moments. I critique him because he’s supposed to be saving the world. If he’s gonna do that he needs to get it together. However, because Cole is the lead of the show and because of the way we as a society are conditioned to behave, fans will excuse everything he does no matter what. They also excuse his behavior and actions because Aaron Stanford is handsome, which in turn makes Cole handsome. It’s weird but it’s expected and it’s routine. The second season of the show is spectacular but the fandom treatment of our female lead blew the air out of a lot of my excitement. It got better once the season was over and news of the third picked up steam but yet a whole three years later and I still find myself having to stick up for Cassie and explain simple character development because people automatically think if a woman isn’t smiling in a man’s face she’s being a bitch. And to be perfectly honest, there is nothing wrong with being a bitch. If you need to be a bitch to people to keep yourself safe, then by all means, be that bitch.

Cassie has saved Cole’s life many times over. She’s saved Hannah. She saved Deacon. She saved Jennifer. All Cassie wanted to do was save people and stop the Army of the 12 Monkeys. She had a mission that needed completing and she dedicated herself to that. I wish people were able to be more thoughtful and put themselves in Cassie’s shoes. This man who kidnapped you brings in this unbelievable idea that time travel is real and he needs your help to save the world. You agree to help and your life is turned upside down, friends start dying, you have to go on the run, you’re tortured, you’re shot, you’re sent to the post-apocalyptic world where everyone is dead and nowhere is safe. Yet people want you to remain the same throughout all of it. They want you to focus on only how handsome a man is and how often you two kiss. It’s weird, right? It’s unrealistic and it’s boring.

Cassie developed even further in S3, she became a mother. As if a switch had been flipped, suddenly people were back to loving her. Part of me thinks it’s only because she was having Cole’s child but I’m trying to have more faith in people. Now, she’s given even more reason to be vengeful as her child is taken away from her and she only sees him twice more, when he’s a kid and when he’s a grown man. However this time around, her vengefulness is seen as inspiring and great. Her need to find and protect her son was apparently the Cassie fans had been waiting for all along, even tho she hasn’t changed from her S2 self, her focus just shifted. I find it odd how Cassie was suddenly meaningful again because she had a kid. It’s an unconscious belief in many that women are only worth something if they’re being loved by a man or if they have a child. Or rather, it’s the only way they can be of relevance. Cassie is meaningful because she’s Cassie, not because Cole loves her and not because she is Athan’s mom. She’s a full person with emotions and ideas. However, most only look at 12 Monkeys as something to entertain them, I find myself looking at it as a learning experience. A goal of mine is to someday, hopefully soon, write for tv. So I spend a lot of time looking at a show through the lens of a writer. It probably drastically changes my opinion of things compared to those who only watch to be entertained.

As a writer, the development of the women characters on 12 Monkeys is really fantastic. All of the women are fleshed out and given something to do. They each have a purpose, they have believable stories and understandable reactions. And that’s really important to me. Before when I wrote, I used to write very much like a man would. Making all the important characters male except for that one female love interest. The men made all the decisions, the women followed them. It’s a habit I’ve been working hard to break out of. Now I pay more attention to the way the women characters of a show are treated. There’s a lot of room for improvement on most shows, there’s a lot of room for women characters to be given more to do. These days, there should be no women characters that are sold as the lead of a show but in actuality are only plot devices. There’s a difference between giving your audience the idea of a strong woman and actually producing a character that is a well-rounded lead who also happens to be a woman.

From an audience standpoint, Cassie should go down as one of the best female characters on tv in a long time. Her kindness, her heart, and her determination are just a few of the characteristics that make her the fully grounded person she is. Cassie’s dedication to making things right, no matter the cost is often downplayed in favor of Cole’s dedication when they both should be praised for the efforts and sacrifices they’ve had to make over the last three seasons. Out of all the characters, Cassie and Cole have given up the most. They can’t even really be in love and be happy because the circumstances around them demand something different. They really are star-crossed lovers in a galaxy that isn’t supposed to exist. It hasn’t escaped me that Cole and Cassie’s happiness was built outside of time, meaning it could have lasted forever. But in order to stop The Witness and the Army of the 12 Monkeys, nothing can exist outside of time. Not even a love as strong as Cole and Cassie.

I’m protective of Cassie because I see myself in her, I’ve always been the one to put a goal above my personal feelings. In turn, I’m also super protective of Amanda Schull. I think she’s an incredible actress and the life she breathed into Cassie has been absolutely amazing. I’m not sure anyone else would have been able to make me care so much about Cassie the way Amanda has. She’s beautiful inside and out and kills every scene that Cassie is in. I’d love to see more shows in the next few years that model their female characters after the ones written in 12 Monkeys.

A good female character could be designed after any of the 12 Monkeys women; Cassie, Jennifer, Jones or Olivia, they’re each vastly different and amazing all the same. They’re rounded and fleshed out fully, they make you care about the show Terry Matalas and his crew have created. My praise for the show cannot get any higher, I’ve loved it from the start and I’m incredibly sad about it ending. But I’m also happy it’s been given the chance to end and not snatched away from the audience before the whole story could be told. Whether or not I believe in fate, I’m glad to be placed in a cycle where this show and Dr. Cassandra Railly exists.

-Danyi

black girl blogs · black women · Movie Reviews · reviews · Uncategorized

Black Panther: A Look At T’Challa

It’s not very often that we are able to look up on the big screen and see male protagonists that are all around good. Usually, the whole point of a movie is to watch a man going from being a nobody or a not terrible but not decent person to a great, caring and mostly kind man. It’s rare for them to start out that way.

Toxic masculinity has been up on the big screen since movies began. It’s a normal thing if we’re being completely honest. Even outside of the movie theater, toxic masculinity is in our everyday life. When we’re children, little girls are told that if a boy is being mean to them it means they like them. The idea that men are supposed to be mean to the women they like has been ingrained in our heads since elementary school. We were told that men are supposed to be assholes. And it’s wrong.

Black Panther and its lead T’Challa challenge this notion. I’ve been thinking about T’Challa since my first viewing of the movie and there’s really only one word I can think that accurately describe him. Soft. T’Challa is a soft character. Many would disagree with this and argue because usually the idea of a man being soft means that he is weak. We’ve been conditioned to associate the word soft with unmanly things. T’Challa is anything but weak and unmanly. Again though, it comes down to how we’ve been brought up to think.

T’Challa is openly emotional, he listens to what those around him have to say, and he clearly respects the women around him. T’Challa is compassionate, he puts the well being of others over himself and he’s dead set on being a great King to his people. Of course, his journey in the movie is about how exactly he’s going to do that. He’s faced with his first real problem as King and it’s in his way of finding a solution that I feel T’Challa is in the running for the best male character we’ve had in a long time.

T’Challa is an amazingly fleshed out, thought through character. His development has come a long way in just two movies. He went from being a whirlwind of anger in Civil War to a grieving son, then a lost man and finally at the end of Black Panther he’s become a comfortable king. I don’t mean comfortable in the sense that he sits on his throne all day and has no worries. I mean comfortable in the way he carries himself. The confidence and the strength T’Challa gains through the journey of his movie makes him comfortable with the idea of being King and ruling over people.

I’ve seen it argued that some were disappointed that T’Challa wasn’t as “badass” as he was in Civil War (which isn’t true, he very much was) but to me, that sounds very much like mansplaining. T’Challa wasn’t the only character in Civil War, he technically wasn’t even a main character. So it was fine that his character had almost no development and was just pure fire and fury. It was a way for him to gain the audience’s attention. To have T’Challa be that same ball of frustrated energy and to be that angry for a whole new movie would have made the character redundant. If T’Challa can’t have emotions other than anger and they want to fight, then what’s the point of him being a character at all. We got used to superhero movies being all about cool looking fights, catchy one-liners and the man using his internal pain to beat the crap out of the villain. That’s not to say Black Panther doesn’t have these things because it most definitely does but that’s not all the move has. This movie develops its characters, it gives them all purpose and reason.

It also speaks to toxic masculinity again to complain when a male character shows something other than anger and violence. The stereotype that men must always have this hard edge to them is as damaging as it is inaccurate. Men don’t want to experience or express their emotions because they are afraid of being seen as weak. And when they see other men being well versed in letting their emotions out, it makes them uncomfortable. T’Challa is okay with crying and he’s okay being visibly sad, if he were white like Tony Stark, then it would be grumbled about only. I do believe that him being not only a man but also black, adds another layer toxic masculinity that not everyone would realize.

When you’re black, standards are different. If we’re going to do something we have to do it to the absolute best of our ability. Especially if when we do it, we will be in competition with others. This applies to pretty much everything, from the streets in the hood to the office buildings where you’re either one of or the only black person there. For black men, they have to always be strong. Always. There is no room for a black man to be weak or soft on the streets. There is no room for a black man to be anything other than strong and hard-working if he’s trying to make something of himself. It’s all we’ve known so it makes sense that most expect us to be portrayed the same way in movies. It’s only recently that black men have been able to openly express themselves and even now, there are still many who won’t. They still fear being labeled as weak, being laughed at. As a community, we’re still learning to accept that we have emotions. And that it’s okay for us to display them.

T’Challa is a soft man. He is not weak, he is literally a king and a superhero. But he is still soft. He has frustrations and insecurities but those do not make him any less strong. He’s beaten up Captain America but still had the compassion to want to hear out Killmonger and make something work. T’Challa has a series of complex and everyday emotions and it never takes away from his awesomeness when it comes time to suit up and fight.

I also took special notice in not only the way T’Challa listens to the women around him but the way he trusts them as well. His royal guard is all female to start, the people in charge of protecting the king are women. It speaks volumes that men aren’t the ones keeping the one on the throne safe. T’Challa’s sister, Shuri, is in charge of all of the country’s technological advancements. A sixteen-year-old girl is the smartest person in all rooms at all times and T’Challa recognizes that. He admires that. At the end of the movie, he puts Shuri in charge of Wakanda’s new tech dealings with other countries. Because he knows that she is the best person for the job and he trusts her. T’Challa even breaks all tradition and opens Wakanda’s borders to the world because of Nakia. It was her words about Wakanda being strong enough to help those less fortunate and protect itself at the same time, that first settled in T’Challa’s mind. Killmonger may have been the terrifying but educational push T’Challa needed to do it, but it was Nakia’s optimism that he trusted. And by putting Shuri and Nakia in charge, by providing them with the means and support, T’Challa is now king of a new Wakanda. One that is open to the world.

The kind of character Ryan Coolger has created with T’Challa is one I hope to see more of. I also hope they write T’Challa this way more in the comics because let’s face it, comic T’Challa is an asshole most of the time. I hope we get more black boys and black men roles where they’re allowed to have emotions. Where they get fully fleshed out character arcs and their characters struggle isn’t in vain or some thinly masked attempt to keep them manly. Let black men have emotions on screen. Let black women have emotions on screen. Let black children and let black people have emotions up on the big screen. It makes the movie ten times better.

-Danyi