Feminism And Black History Month – Black Female Lead Movies and TV

Maya Angelou

I’m a strong believer in respecting all cultures. It helps that I grew up with so many surrounding me. For Black History Month (which I’ve always felt connected to because February is my birth month? Eh. Kid Logic), I thought I’d take a moment and write about my top 10 Favorite Black Female Lead Television Shows and Movies.

1. There’s definitely Scandal. Can I just say Olivia Pope and that’s reason enough? Kerry Washington portrays Ms. Pope with amazing strength – going from portraying a woman in deep agony over the loss of love (or possible death) to the fear of becoming your parent, to being practically giddy over getting away from it all. Shonda Rhimes  has certainly created a completely human woman – one who can even take a step back (at the end of the Mid-Season Finale) and say “I choose me.”

2. Belle. Oh my God, Belle. I loved this movie. This was the Social Justice solution to all of that Downton Abbey obsession (mysteriously void of black actors and actresses, by the way) that I desperately wanted. Belle begins naive, understanding of her place as a woman of color, of course, but naive about the way her people are generally treated, until she’s encouraged to look further into the history of her mother’s culture. Along the way, she meets forbidden love and insists her surrogate father do something about the way her people are treated. All comes to a Happy End.

3. Rhimes’ other powerhouse female player, Annalise Keating, is not a woman to be, excuse my french, fucked with. She will mess you up. How to Get Away With Murder demonstrates what it’s like to be a woman in a very powerful role, but unlike a Olivia, her role is definitely more front and center. As such, she is constantly dealing with the assumptions made about who she is – that she must be a cold-hearted bitch for the kind of work that she does. (Would you say that about a man? Um. No.). For many women with power in the corporate world – especially lawyers – the assumption becomes that they’re not just doing their job, they’re controlling and cold and don’t care. With Keating, we see her pretend to be cold and then we see who she really is, which is refreshing.

4. Sister Act II is probably one of my favorite movies of the 90s. I can sing it all and I can dance it all and I’ve listened to the soundtrack 5,000 or more times since I was old enough/there was an ability to download things from the internet. Not only is Whoppi Goldberg hilarious, but Lauryn Hill does a pretty good job at playing a “troubled” teen, coming from one who was also “troubled.” It’s about following your dreams no matter what others tell you – and that’s a story I can get behind. Funny, poignant, refreshing (especially at the beginning of the 90s).

5. Okay, so, yes, Extant can be a little convoluted, but have you ever seen a Science Fiction television show that wasn’t? Not to mention, how many black-female-lead Science Fiction television shows have you seen? Do you have any idea how ecstatic I was to hear that this was happening? Halle Berry is an astronaut? And she’s on television? And she’s not sharing the title of star? What? What? What?! Not only all of that, but Molly Brown has her share of ups and downs – and she’s never seen as different for being a woman of color or being married to a latino man. In fact, neither are really addressed in the first season. The show was a bit slow and didn’t do too well in it’s first season, so hopefully it does better in it’s season 2.

6. So, this was bound to happen. I really try to not write about this movie because of how much it makes me feel, but there’s really no denying how amazing Gabourey Sidibe’s performance is in Precious. That’s really all I have to say because there are far too many people actually living Precious’ life.

7. Let’s break that up with some Living Single. I fucking loved this show. What was so great about it? It was a comedy about three black women who mostly lived together and were getting through life. All three women were vastly different – from Khadijah’s hard working, disciplined self, to Synclaire’s slightly weird, slightly naive outlook on the world, to Regine’s hypersexuality. The show was a gem that, frankly, we’re missing right now.

8. What’s Love Got to Do With It stars Angela Bassett and is about Tina Turners strength in survival as she enters the music business with her (abusive) husband, Ike Turner, and her subsequent escape from him.

9. Sleepy Hollow had me as the most excited person in the world. I love the book – I love the storyline. In fact, I originally read the book when I was bored in class in the third grade. It was totally worth it. I love fantasy. I love strong female characters. And the fact that Abbie Mills is a black female cop? Fucking fantastic. Some people may argue that Ichabod Crane is the lead, but they would be incorrect. Watching the show, we know more about what Abbie feels than what Ichabod is going through, unless we’re watching the past. He has the knowledge, she’s solving the puzzle of his knowledge meeting her world. If that doesn’t make her the star, then I don’t know what does.

10. I would be remiss if The Color Purple wasn’t on this list. Sure,it left out some pretty significant moments in the book, but it’s amazing nonetheless. Whomever would deny The Color Purple a spot on this list has a couple of people – myself included – to talk to.

So, what do you think? How did I do? Obviously, I only included 10 spots, so there are so many more that I could include! Is there anything you would have wanted to see, or that you can recommend for me?


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