I must admit that it is fairly easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of current outrage whenever it hits social media news streams. Sometimes, and I am guilty of this myself, we get so caught up in being heard that we often completely ignore the facts that should be considered when talking about these complex issues.
Over the last few years we have seen an increase in the promotion of Black Love particularly as it pertains to darker skinned couples being portrayed in mainstream media. It’s not an invalid argument as time has proven that there is a significantly smaller percentage of darker skinned couples in relationships on TV and in movies. The vocal advocacy behind dispelling misogynoir and unlearning anti-Blackness has pushed the door open for other conversations to be had within the Black community with colorism being in the top five of the most or more important topics being tackled. As a result, people are now realizing, or perhaps admitting, that darker skinned women in the media are not only often portrayed as women who are unsuccessful in the love department but also are often coupled with men who are significantly lighter than they are.
Growing up watching TV or my favorite movies I never stopped to notice the lack of women who looked like me (and by me I mean dark skinned and obviously Black) never dated nor were they coupled with men who looked like me. It wasn’t until I was much older that I began to put the pieces together. Of course, back then when the topic was brought up it wasn’t uncommon to be met with rebuttals accusing you of being jealous, bitter and upset that you weren’t the one being liked. Not much has changed as these kinds of remarks are still received. It was also not uncommon for these kind of remarks to be made by other girls/women who were significantly lighter than I was. Not to say that boys/men don’t regurgitate these kinds of remarks because they most definitely do but most Black men are completely tone deaf when it comes to women's issues and how to properly navigate these conversations so I don’t expect much from them.
“Get over it. You’re just jealous.”
Keeping in mind the current climate of social issues when it comes to Black women it is easy to overlook a few minute details. Details that while do not change or cancel out the validity of said argument, do in fact stand to prove that it isn’t all the way completely factual. Case in point the discussion of the lack of media portrayal when it comes to pairing darker skinned women in movies with a male love interest who is similar in complexion. It is a fact that there is not nearly as much positive representation of dark skin Black love on screen. It is absolutely true that both old Hollywood and those who are responsible for ushering in the era of new Black Hollywood need to do a better job of representing all aspects of love, even the ones that may not be as popular. We have witnessed milestones in media over the last 10 years. Now more than ever we are seeing more darker skinned Black women being portrayed as more than angry, bitter, sidekicks who act as support for their lighter, more socially accepted co-stars. We are seeing darker skinned Black women be cast for roles of power and intelligence. We are seeing more darker skinned women be casts for roles that were unimaginable just under 20 years ago. We are no longer just the inspiration for the Shenaynays and big mama. We have a voice and platform. Nonetheless, we are still finding ourselves screaming for representation when it comes to being loved by a man who looks like us.
Then I got to thinking…
I took out my handy dandy thought book and began to make a list of every TV/movie couple that were darker skinned or dark skinned that I could remember. Obviously, there are millions of movies and TV series to comb through so I decided to stick to the shows and movies that I have seen. I expected to come up practically empty but I was surprised to notice that most all of the movies and TV series listed did in fact have at least one dark or darker skinned woman and one dark or darker skinned man coupled. It was something that I honestly never noticed before.
Dark and/or Darker Skinned Couples/Pairings Showcased in TV, Media and Movies:
Jacob and Kerissa (Greenleaf)
Vanessa and Brickey (The Cosby Show)
Kyle and Maxine (Living Single)
Tommy and Pam (Martin)
Carl and Harriett (Family Matters)
Laura and Steve (Family Matters)
Darius and Nina (Love Jones)
Stella and Winston (How Stella Got Her Grove Back
James and Florida (Good Times)
Wanda and Bernie (The Bernie Mac Show)
Bird and Lem (Soul Food movie and TV Series)
Alicia and Mike (The Wood)
Rochelle and Julius (Everybody Hates Chris)
Jamie and Fancy (Jamix Foxx Show)
Dee and Frank (Moesha)
Curtis and Ella (House of Payne)
Eddie and Jenn (Lincoln Heights)
Mia and Lance (Best Man)
Sheila and Troy (Why Did I Get Married) - Whether or not Jill falls on the darker side of spectrum is up to opinion
Jalessa and Colonel (A Different World)
Yes, I know this is an extremely short list but I opted to keep the list down for both my fingers and times sake.
So, what do we actually mean by “dark skinned couples”?
It’s a valid question. It’s a question that should be examined because from where I stand, for better or worse, there has been a rather consistent representation of darker skinned paired couples quite often and usually right in our faces although not nearly enough as interracially paired or lighter woman/dark man paired couples.
One could argue that this is due to the fact that “dark skin” comes in more than one shade of “brown” and who is or is not darker skinned will vary based on who you ask. Hell, I have had more than enough people tell me that they don’t consider me to be “dark” because my skin isn’t as dark as Lupita’s. To some Gabrielle Union isn’t dark at all (yes, this is an actual conversation I had with someone). It is getting harder to tell these days who is or is not Black with all of the intermixing of DNA and Instagram filters changing the entire concept of Blackness. Perhaps, it is more accurate to state that there is a desire to see more darker skinned paired couples leading the cast as oppose to playing support. Better and happier storylines presenting strong, ambiguously Black couples raising their families and living the good life. Less dysfunction between the darker shaded couple. More scripts showcasing darker skinned couples in healthy relationships with “normal” typical teenage children.
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