For the last 10 years Hollywood has been happy to place Black women in highly functional sexual relationships with White men on screen, in ways that would never happen with a Black man and a White woman. (Columbiana, Lincoln Heights, True Jackson VP, Ugly Betty, Napoleon Dynamite, Lakeview Terrace, not to mention The Family that Preys, Nip/Tuck and Something New. Sanaa’s been busy!) And while these relationships are putting more Black women to work, they are still problematic since in most cases the Black woman’s own agency, thoughts and fears about integration and race are sublimated in favor of the couple (ie: White character’s) concerns or they are simply made non-existent. It is in this way that Awkward Black Girl is breaking new ground.
But I still couldn’t support Team White Jay.
If the relationship between J and “White Jay” fell into the typical Hollywood pattern of Black woman / White man relationships I would be on Team Fred out of principle. However, the show depicts interracial dating and love in all of its ups, downs, beauty and complications. J and White Jay’s first date is a hilarious comedy of errors from how she dresses to their adventures at a spoken word poetry slam to him mistakenly taking her to a Soul Food restaurant in L.A. where they were stared at each other like Martians. His mistakes were harmless, her concerns were made valid and their relationship grew based on legitimate chemistry and mutual awkwardness. This is a vast improvement on the typical hamfisted liberally racist way such relationships are depicted on screen. More importantly J is depicted as living in a world of legitimate multi-cultural choice, she is being pursued by two men – one White, one Black – both of whom are equally viable romantic partners. The triangle is not painted within a frame of ‘unavailable Black men’, or ‘expanding your horizons by dating out’ J is dating the men who have pursued her, which is much more realistic both in society and within her character’s emotional limitations. The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl is actually a model for how television should be depicting how race plays out amongst generation Xers and perhaps her decision between J and Fred will push it over that line. If the season finale is a big and viral as other parts of the series it will only be a matter of time before some network tries to get their hands on the show for better or worse. Based on screen time J has spent more time with White Jay and he certainly has pursued her more aggressively than Fred (for various reasons) and she probably would have a better ‘relationship’ with White Jay, which is why I can’t support her choosing him.
Now this team picking isn’t out of racial solidarity or some sexist notion of possessing Black women, my team choice is about a deep and unwavering love for good and rare comedy. The best comedies about underdogs and single people tease us with happiness but always lead to failure. If J ends up choosing White Jay, who is attractive, funny and whom she has natural chemistry with, what fun is that?
Who wants to watch a situation comedy about a happily functioning couple? (Mad about You notwithstanding). Comedies about single people are always about the humor of unrequited love, The New Adventures of Old Christine worked because whenever it seemed like the right guy came along something would screw it up. Seinfeld was funny because some insane quirk always ruined his chances at happiness. Once a main character in a sitcom finds true love, it’s not funny anymore. When Sam and Diane moved in together Cheers jumped the shark. When Dwayne finally got Whitley the show started going downhill. When everyone in Sex in the City got booed up the show got stale. The Game is awful now that Melanie and Derwin are actually married. J has a choice now between Fred whom is she more attracted to and White Jay whom she has better chemistry with, but the choice holds the very future of comedy and a template of race relations in sitcoms within it.
Choosing Fred may work, or it may crash and burn in some hilarious comedic fashion. But choosing White Jay is bound to work and the show will degenerate into stale Rom-Com territory until the writers create a contrived out of character break-up to re-gain the magic.
The world could use more images like White Jay and J, but for us fans out there it would be the worst thing in the world. Politics says I should be Team White Jay, but comedy says I gotta go with Team Fred. The writers of the Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl aren’t writing a treatise on life and race relations, they’re writing a comedy show, so hopefully they’ll make the right choice.
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.