Awkward Black Girl: Do We Ignore Some "Isms?"

BlogHer Original Post

The response to the letter was overwhelming. As per usual, there were those who applauded Crunk Feminists Collective’s letter and those who did not, telling them to "get a life." What was unfortunate is it seems like there were more that seemed offended that someone would, in their minds, malign a very successful and groundbreaking series by two independent Black female filmmakers. How dare they?

The well-worded but seemingly vague response from Issa Rae and Tracy Oliver separated the camps even further:

Some of our viewers may have been offended by some of the language in our recent episode. We take this matter especially to heart, considering the CFC and members of the LGBT community were among the first to embrace "The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl."

Since our first episode debuted in February this year, "Awkward Black Girl" has received an incredible outpouring of support from hundreds of thousands of fans. We love and appreciate each and every one of our fans! In return, we strive to provide a show that uses irreverent comedy and humor to address the oftentimes uncomfortable situations that many people have experienced at some point or another in their lives.

In creating a series of this nature, we are willing to accept the praise when the jokes work and the feedback when they may not.

Andrea Plaid from Racialicious responded to their rebuttal, believing that their response was weak: 

See, here’s my thing: if you’re saying that folks in LBGT communities are some of the first fans of your show, wouldn’t you go out of your way to not turn off that fan base  by simply saying something like, "I/We deeply apologize for saying the word 'tr***y' on the ep. I could’ve used another word to talk about J’s discomfort instead of making trans people–and, by extension, our transgender fans–the butt of a joke," instead of essentially stating you stand by a transphobic slur that is used in conjunction to do much more damage than just create "oftentimes uncomfortable situations that many people have experienced at some point or another in their lives?"

The Champ from Very Smart Brothas alludes to the fact that perhaps politically correct behavior has run amok:

I’m sure they probably wish that the Crunk Feminist Collective didn’t get offended. But, wishing someone didn’t get offended isn’t the same thing as apologizing that someone’s been upset, and I appreciate them not taking the easy bait.

I really, really liked them for creating a series that’s witty, offbeat, irreverent, and intentionally toes the line of political correctness (and has proven to be an equal opportunity shot taker), and I think I love them for not apologizing for it.

Some have also said that the outrage over the "tranny" remarks is hypocritical, since as of this writing, no one has questioned other questionable language in the show -- such as the overly misogynistic language in J's raps, or Episode 11’s reference to White Jay as being a "white nigga.” Or even the liberal use of the word "nigga" in general. Why is this? As Andrea from Racialicious points out in her post, "tranny" and other slurs directed towards men and women in "real life" can lead to physical violence, and in some cases, murder. The causal references in how it is used in the series then alludes to an indifference to the real issues facing trans men and women. This issue also touches on the rampant homophobia and ignorance that is prevalent in marginalized communities, especially those communities in which there is emphasis on coming together in order to improve access to opportunities for the next generation, and communities that are suffering from racism and religious intolerance... and should know a thing or two about being discriminated against. Quite frankly, and sadly, I saw a lot of this in the comments to posts discussing this issue.

Do we blindly support Black entrepreneurs because there are so few people creating programs that reflect Black stories in the public eye? Do we feel that we have to overlook some "isms" because we are grateful just to see Black faces on the screen?

For example I find the underlying themes of religious faith and the questionable views on Black women in Tyler Perry films troubling -- yet, Perry is the most successful Black filmmaker in Hollywood history. There are Black male actors who are capitalizing on the "plight" of the pathetic Black woman, such as Steve Harvey, Hill Harper and most recently, Tyrese, and yet, movies are getting made and people are buying their books and / or they are getting major press from their "opinions." We might not like what they do and how they make their money, but there are people out there supporting their work.

I am personally on the fence with this issue. I applaud Crunk Feminist Collective for standing up to what they believe in, for crafting a letter that softly chides Rae and Oliver instead of blatantly accusing them of rampant transphobia, homophobia and ableism. They are completely in their right to do so. On the other hand, as artists, Rae and Oliver have successfully created a series that reflects real the real-life circumstances of men and women who are trying to make their way through this difficult and complicated existence. The characters are not perfect, and that is what we love about them, and that is why so many people love the show.

I think it is fair to say of the vast majority of viewers that we have all spouted some very politically incorrect things in conversations with our friends in the sanctity of our private spaces. We have said and done some things that we would not want to be publicly shared, but through The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, they are. It’s uncomfortable, it’s offensive, but it's real life. Perhaps we need to stop chastising a web series and start thinking about what we think about people who have different lives, preferences and values than us, in our "real lives."

*At the time of the writing of this post, Issa Rae has not responded to our request for her to provide us with a response to this issue.

Contributing EditorRace, Ethnicity & Culture

Blog: Writing is Fighting:


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