Someone once told me those were the two worst things anyone could be
September 14, 2011 11:31 AM   Subscribe

"As a black woman, I don’t identify with and relate to most of the non-black characters I see on TV, much less characters of my own race. When I flip through the channels, it's disheartening. I don’t see myself or women like me being represented. I’m not a smooth, sexy, long-haired vixen; I’m not a large, sassy black woman; an angry Post Office employee. I’m an awkward black girl."

NPR interviews Issa Rae, creator and star of the webseries, The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl.

In an interview with AfriPOP magazine, Rae goes into more depth about the genesis of the webseries: "My friend sent me an article... where the writer asked, "Where’s the black Liz Lemon?" and I knew I had to hurry up and make this character happen."

YouTube playlist of all 8 episodes to date.

Classic episodes include:
Episode 2, The Job
Episode 4, The Icebreaker
Episode 7, The Date

(Some NSFW language in most episodes.)
posted by lesli212 (186 comments total) 108 users marked this as a favorite

 
[folks, let's have a do-over and maybe look at the linked stuff and have a discussion about it? thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 11:44 AM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yay, glad to see this featured here. And proud to say I was a backer of her recent Kickstarter campaign.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:45 AM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


These arguments aren't correct anyway. If you watch enough TV, you'll see a great variety of people represented. Some are represented more than others, and that's the point. If you look hard enough, you're definitely likely to find an awkward, Black girl, but you'll have to look much harder than you would to find an awkward White girl.

In fact, I was just watching "What Not to Wear" the other day, and they featured an awkward, Black girl.
posted by PigAlien at 11:47 AM on September 14, 2011


I’m not a smooth, sexy, long-haired vixen

And that's why they photo-shopped (poorly) your pic on your website to make you look like a smooth, sexy, vixen?
posted by spicynuts at 11:47 AM on September 14, 2011


She aint no Liz Lemon..
posted by zeoslap at 11:48 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


What the fuck is up with the negativity here?
posted by Think_Long at 11:49 AM on September 14, 2011 [25 favorites]


Uh... did I just see comments deleted??? I've been on Metafilter since 1999, and I was pretty sure the policy was to not delete comments, although entire threads might be 'deleted' and sent to the archives. Otherwise, don't we usually post our opposition to poor comments in Metatalk? Color me very confused and very concerned.
posted by PigAlien at 11:49 AM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Another tragic innocence lost.
posted by localroger at 11:51 AM on September 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


She aint no Liz Lemon..

I don't know... I've only seen a few episodes but I think she's great. She may be overplaying the 'awkward' thing as she seems self-possessed enough to build a web show around herself but who cares - her persona works and she's clearly talented.

Rock on...
posted by victors at 11:51 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


What the fuck is up with the negativity here?

I guess nature abhors a sass vacuum.
posted by condour75 at 11:51 AM on September 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


PigAlien: comments get deleted ALL THE TIME here. Seriously, all the time. And I imagine that any conversation about this will be moved to MetaTalk.

As for the post... Good for her, for creating something where she felt there was a lack (as opposed to people who simply complain about the lack of relatable entertainment options for them, and do nothing about it).

Having said that, I don't have a problem enjoying movies and TV that don't feature characters I can relate to/identify with, so I never would have been in her position in the first place.
posted by antifuse at 11:52 AM on September 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm watching Ep 2 and it is hilarious. Very amateur, but also very funny.
posted by DU at 11:52 AM on September 14, 2011


Folks, if you want to take questions about comment deletion to MetaTalk or to the contact form, we'll be happy to talk to answer them, but it's not really fair to this first-time poster to have their thread turn into a discussion of site policies and practices.
posted by jessamyn at 11:52 AM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


The mods have never "deleted" a comment, not in this era of environmental consciousness. What happens is that the letters are put back into the big bin. Then, when someone wants to make an FPP or comment, the letters are taken out of the bin so that they don't have to fab new ones. It's part of MetaFilter's personal goals to be a greener website.
posted by griphus at 11:53 AM on September 14, 2011 [28 favorites]


oh for
posted by griphus at 11:53 AM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


an aside: wife asked the other night why in movies or tv shows judges are more often than not Blacks and almost never are Blacks representing the state or the person on trial.

My answer: Black guy defends someone and he gets off, racial; black guy acts for the state and he get convicted or off, Black stuff. With black judge, he is judicious and lets the white folks decide and take the blame.
posted by Postroad at 11:54 AM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not a badass cop or a billionaire playboy or a pudgy comedian but whatever.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:54 AM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yay Awkward Black Girl! I'll take amateurish over too slick sitcoms any day.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:54 AM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is great. Thanks for posting. At our house we love Everybody Hates Chris, which I suppose is more "authentic" thank most of what appears on television. It's also a great antidote to the fucking horrible Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:56 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why is it important to people to have whatever stereotype they identify with represented on television? That's so weird. No really.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:59 AM on September 14, 2011 [22 favorites]


Ok, hmm, well this is going badly. Sorry. I'm pretty sure once NBC grants Issa Rae a budget of a million bucks an episode, she'll be up to everyone's high standards of episode production and website photoshoppery, but for now, it's an after-work diy kind of thing for her. I'm sure we're all familiar with youtube webseries, right?

And yeah, no matter how much I love Liz Lemon, Rory Gilmore, Leslie Knope, Lindsay Weir, or Peggy Olson, there's a little twinge that I'll never get to see any of them have to deal with coming into work with their hair stretched and being asked if it's a weave and can I touch it.

I just sigh and watch the characters anyway, but unlike me, Issa Rae sat down and wrote and got a videocamera and put it up on youtube to share with us all, and I think that's pretty awesome.

I'd love it if we can get to talking about the show; if you watch an episode or two, there's plenty to talk about.
posted by lesli212 at 11:59 AM on September 14, 2011 [44 favorites]


I didn't mean "very amateur" in a bad way.
posted by DU at 12:00 PM on September 14, 2011


Why is it important to people to have whatever stereotype they identify with represented on television?

If you enjoy watching television as a hobby rather than just watching whatever is on, it becomes demoralizing to see the fact that regardless of the quality and variety of programming, they're missing huge swaths of characterization.
posted by griphus at 12:02 PM on September 14, 2011 [16 favorites]


It's also kind of monotonous watching the same characters over and over, with new names.
posted by DU at 12:03 PM on September 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Why is it important to people to have whatever stereotype they identify with represented on television? That's so weird. No really.

Because - I speak only for myself - sometimes it's nice to see some part of you reflected in the popular culture. Even if it's not exactly you, but it's enough like you that you can identify with it. Because if you can see it, then other people can see it, too. Sometimes it's nice to be reminded (even by something as dumb as a TV show) that you are not invisible.
posted by rtha at 12:03 PM on September 14, 2011 [40 favorites]


These are great, fun and funny. Thanks!!!
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:04 PM on September 14, 2011


I like how she starts off as awkward as she's pretending to be, and then gets progressively less so over each episode.
posted by vanar sena at 12:05 PM on September 14, 2011


I'm a white middle-aged British man and I too do not identify with any person I see on TV, but then I actually find that very pleasing.
posted by Decani at 12:09 PM on September 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


This is great, thanks for posting. I really really do not understand why everyone is being so negative about this post.
posted by capnsue at 12:09 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think some are taking an unreasonable interpretation of the complaint about 'me not being represented'. Seems like you take it that people are griping about their exact selves being absent on TV fiction?

I presume what she wants are characters who share with her some selected subset of attributes she finds relevant in herself. I (white Finnish nerd guy, among other things) find some such attributes on TV often enough, and I do find that such stories can be easier to relate to. So, if she finds the equivalent supply lacking, good on her for doing this project.
posted by Anything at 12:09 PM on September 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


So much win. I found the one about the party particularly amusing.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:09 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]



The mods have never "deleted" a comment, not in this era of environmental consciousness. What happens is that the letters are put back into the big bin. Then, when someone wants to make an FPP or comment, the letters are taken out of the bin so that they don't have to fab new ones. It's part of MetaFilter's personal goals to be a greener website.


~~~~*** PLEASE THINK ABOUT THE TREES BEFORE PRINTING THIS COMMENT ***~~~~
posted by odinsdream at 12:12 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't understand what people don't understand what
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:12 PM on September 14, 2011


PigAlien: "These arguments aren't correct anyway. If you watch enough TV, you'll see a great variety of people represented."

Quoted for WAT?
posted by danny the boy at 12:14 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


What the fuck is up with the negativity here?

Metafilter doesn't care about awkward black people.
posted by yeloson at 12:15 PM on September 14, 2011 [26 favorites]


I think some are taking an unreasonable interpretation of the complaint about 'me not being represented'. Seems like you take it that people are griping about their exact selves being absent on TV fiction?

Nah, it's more of a "well, she's not the ONLY group that's being slighted so I don't know what the big deal is." I saw it in the "full of awesome" post too -- where a post about a site catering to how to raise little girls got filled with "boys get this too!"

I'm wondering why the corgi video post didn't get people saying "Omigod you left out dachshunds you haters!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:19 PM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Once again it is so weird to me that we've got two things at the same time: many, many black women saying that they do not feel represented in popular culture, that they would like to be represented as frequently/normally as white folks are, and that this lack of representation is a buzzkill and a lot of white (I can only assume) folks flipping out and basically saying "you don't feel what you say you feel, your feelings are invalid, your desire for representation is stupid, so stop talking about this, plus your creative work is terrible".

Here's a girl who sees a lack and sets about filling it - in post-racial America, where it's considered terrible form to ask other people to redress racial wrongs instead of "doing it yourself", she's doing it herself. And provoking, it seems, a weird amount of hostility for taking on this lack. What's that all about, anyway?

It looks funny. (And also - perhaps it's sordid to mention this - I think she's really cute.)
posted by Frowner at 12:20 PM on September 14, 2011 [53 favorites]


the Date episode is pretty hilarious.
posted by daisystomper at 12:21 PM on September 14, 2011


My comment makes no sense, danny the boy, because the comments I was referring to were deleted...

Previously, two other posters commented that *they* didn't see themselves represented on TV either, so they didn't understand what the big deal was. Since I can't refer to the comments themselves, I just have to go by memory that they were implicitly or explicitly white (men?).

My response was merely that if you watch enough TV, between the thousands of shows ranging from comedy to drama, horror, sci-fi and everything in between, you'll eventually see just about everyone represented.

That being said, the point of this awkward, Black girl isn't that never has there been a single, awkward Black girl represented in the media, but rather that they're so rare that you just don't come across them. So, she wanted to do something about it. Which, for the record, *I* think is great.
posted by PigAlien at 12:21 PM on September 14, 2011


I've got a new media crush...thanks! From an AAG (awkward asian girl)
posted by honey badger at 12:21 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it's cool that Rae is doing something to expand the realm of characterization in pop fiction.

However, I'm with Lutoslawski in that I don't feel entitled to being represented in the media I consume. I'm a young white male (so far every sitcom ever) with sometimes crippling introspective tendencies. I'm often depressed or anxious or hyperventilating in the car before work because I'm convinced I won't be able to handle the shift. I listen to a lot of NPR and read stuff like The Economist in class and so maybe I come off as smart, I dunno, but I certainly don't relate with Big Bang Theory.

I don't look for myself when I watch TV. On occasion I relate strongly with situations a character finds themselves in or a characters decision to do x instead of y. But it's almost never based on race or gender lines. Just plain old human struggles.
posted by Taft at 12:22 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed these, and found her character plenty relatable. Awkward moments happen to generally non-awkward people, too.
posted by KGMoney at 12:22 PM on September 14, 2011


"As a black woman, I don’t identify with and relate to most of the non-black characters I see on TV, much less characters of my own race.

Hate to break it to you, but this phenomenon is definitely not specific to African-American women.

There also aren't many short, nerdy white guys on TV, and when they are, their portrayal is almost never positive.

Maybe it's time that we actually start writing characters, rather than stereotypes....

That said, this is wonderful. I approve!
posted by schmod at 12:23 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


On occasion I relate strongly with situations a character finds themselves in or a characters decision to do x instead of y. But it's almost never based on race or gender lines. Just plain old human struggles.

This is a fair point, but the counter-argument to that is: if you are going to do something on television that depicts "just plain old human struggles," why is it that the default "human" thus depicted in that scenario is a white guy?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:24 PM on September 14, 2011 [11 favorites]


Hate to break it to you, but this phenomenon is definitely not specific to African-American women. There also aren't many short, nerdy white guys on TV, and when they are, their portrayal is almost never positive.

That's as may be, but this is a post in response to a black woman's creative efforts, which is why we're talking about what she noticed. QED.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:25 PM on September 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


Ok, for everyone confused on why this is "necessary", I'd highly recommend you watch or read this great TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, "The Danger of a Single Story" (transcript).

She talks about how there are some types for which we have "a single story" because we only see them in one context. "White guy" doesn't elicit any particular stereotype because we see so many of them, doing all sorts of things. There's nerdy white guy, dumb white guy, blue collar white guy and on and on. They're codified as tropes.

But for "black woman", there's one dominant trope: a sassy bitch. And that's too bad, because most of us are nothing like that, but we don't see that realty reflected in a diversity of types. There's no such "trope" as an awkward black girl; she's not a type.

As always Adichie is much more eloquent than I; my favorite quote from her talk is,
"I recently spoke at a university where a student told me that it was such a shame that Nigerian men were physical abusers like the father character in my novel. I told him that I had just read a novel called "American Psycho" — and that it was such a shame that young Americans were serial murderers."
posted by lesli212 at 12:27 PM on September 14, 2011 [65 favorites]


why is it that the default "human" thus depicted in that scenario is a white guy?

Not sure when that was decided.
posted by Taft at 12:29 PM on September 14, 2011


I'm a white, sarcastic IT guy that likes the Simpsons.

Who speaks for us, the accurately stereotyped?
posted by blue_beetle at 12:29 PM on September 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


Hate to break it to you, but this phenomenon is definitely not specific to African-American women.

There also aren't many short, nerdy white guys on TV, and when they are, their portrayal is almost never positive.


WON'T ANYONE THINK OF THE SHORT NERDY WHITE MEN??? Oh wait, they have Big Bang Theory (white and nerdy) or Seinfeld (short, schlubby, unattractive), or EVERY OTHER SITCOM EVER MADE (99.99% featuring white dudes as leads!).

The point, you have missed it.
posted by emjaybee at 12:30 PM on September 14, 2011 [22 favorites]


a lot of white (I can only assume) folks flipping out and basically saying "you don't feel what you say you feel, your feelings are invalid, your desire for representation is stupid, so stop talking about this, plus your creative work is terrible".

Where on earth are you seeing "a lot" of people saying these things? Where do you see a single person saying these things? I see a thread that is basically cheering this woman on, with a couple of "I got gripes too" comments sprinkled here and there. You're attacking straw people.
posted by brain_drain at 12:31 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why is it important to people to have whatever stereotype they identify with represented on television?

Because television is a great normalizer for most of the population. As anyone who has participated in the struggle for gay equality over the past 40 years knows, the purpose behind coming out and gay pride is because it's only through exposure that unfamiliar and foreign concepts become familiar and domestic. Thus, the images presented on television as far as people-types go are the ones which get lodged in the collective consciousness.

American television is TERRIBLE at finding ways to be inclusive, and since it's all profit driven, nothing that doesn't immediately find an audience stays on the air long enough to make an impact. I look at BBC programming like The Kumars At Number 42, which was an excellent program, but when they did the US version (using hispanics instead of indians), it didn't catch on, and so it went away before most people even know it was on.

Between the white homogeneity of most television, coupled with the ghettoization of black programming onto second tier networks and the complete dearth of english language presentation of hispanics, it's not surprising that we haven't managed to normalize the awkward black girl into a recognized type of person.
posted by hippybear at 12:31 PM on September 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


Why is it important to people to have whatever stereotype they identify with represented on television? That's so weird. No really.

As a blue-eyed, blond-haired white guy I feel the same way... but then, there have been countless people on TV who are just like me, and I've grown up knowing that society accepts and celebrates people me more than pretty much anyone else, and has for a long, long time.

Isn't it possible that people who have been historically underrepresented in media have different feelings about this? Not weird, different.
posted by Huck500 at 12:31 PM on September 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


I should add also that not only is J not that much like me, even Issa Rae says J doesn't completely reflect her attitudes and experiences. But the point is, J is a different type of black girl than we usually see.
posted by lesli212 at 12:31 PM on September 14, 2011


As a white American Protestant cisgendered heterosexual male, I don't understand why people don't feel the same way that I do about our culture and that therefore they are probably silly whiners!
posted by shakespeherian at 12:32 PM on September 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


> why is it that the default "human" thus depicted in that scenario is a white guy?

Not sure when that was decided.


....Have you WATCHED television recently?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:32 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just to set the discussion on a good foot, the following are very different:

1) I don't like what X consists of. Other people should change what they do in X.

versus

2) I don't like what X consists of. So look at what I went and did for X.

This post is about something of the second type.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:34 PM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Shiiiiiit.....I was going to make this post a few days ago, but now I'm kind of glad I didn't. WTF

Hi Metafilter! I'm an awkward black girl. My life is filled with awkward black girl moments (like the one in this recent comment). The awkwardness stems from being stuck between two cultures (white and black). Issa's character J is obviously black, but she doesn't entirely fit in with the black culture. She can't dance, she likes sushi, she hates slam poetry, she "talks white", and she has natural hair (which is still considered sort of "fringe" in African American culture). On the other hand, she doesn't fit in with white culture because she's obviously not white, not even bi-racial. She has to deal with well-meaning-but-clueless white people who try to touch her hair, call her 'girlfriend' or assume that she likes soul food.

She's stuck in the middle and it's hella awkward. That's my life. That's the life of soooo many educated black women who live bi-cultural existences.

I love this show. Love it. I've been raving about it for weeks. I've watched every episode dozens of times. It is hilarious and ground-breaking. Do you know how rare it is to see a black woman who:
1) has a dark complexion (fails the "paper bag test)
2) has short and/or natural hair
3) has a love interest
4) isn't a 'sassy sidekick'?
posted by chara at 12:35 PM on September 14, 2011 [97 favorites]


These are great. A struggling network like NBC could do worse than to pick this up.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:36 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Durrr..... this recent comment
posted by chara at 12:36 PM on September 14, 2011


Why is it important to people to have whatever stereotype they identify with represented on television? That's so weird. No really.

I asked this, you responded, and I feel satisfied that I sorta get it now. Thanks.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:37 PM on September 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Who speaks for us, the accurately stereotyped?
My problem's a wee bit different; I'm a maverick cop who doesn't play by the rules and frankly I'm sick of the sight of myself.
posted by Abiezer at 12:37 PM on September 14, 2011 [34 favorites]


I also see an unfounded assumption that because people wish to see characters that fulfill certain easily expressed attributes (black, awkward, girl, ...) that they don't care whether that character is otherwise well written, and all they're asking for is for those boxes to be ticked. I don't know why that would have to be the case.
posted by Anything at 12:40 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


However, I'm with Lutoslawski in that I don't feel entitled to being represented in the media I consume.

Respectfully, that's because you don't have to worry about being represented or not, because you will be. There is such a variety of young white men in popular culture that it becomes easier to identify with displayed characteristics as opposed to whole characters: introspection here, awkwardness there, hobbies and interests across a dozen TV shows. I'm not at all surprised that you don't look for an exact representation of yourself in media, because there are so many representations that you can afford to select and mix qualities.

I find myself silently cheering every time I see an Indian character on TV that isn't a doctor or a store clerk. I find myself watching otherwise terrible shows just because they cast an Indian in a lead role. I do that because I'm hungry for any kind of representation in my culture at all, even though those Indians are usually not anything like me. I'm hungry for any admission of my existence reflected in the wider culture, and honestly I settle for some pretty shitty simulacrums just to experience a moment of visibility.

So it's important. It's the sort of thing that doesn't seem important while you're saturated in it and that can seem terribly important when it doesn't exist for you much at all. To be seen, to be heard, to be reflected, these are all things we want as social creatures. I think it must be hard to realize how vital it is if you've never not been visible in this way.

Plus, "what the fuck rhymes with 'pussy nigger'?" is fucking hilarious. For that reason alone it's worth it.
posted by Errant at 12:41 PM on September 14, 2011 [50 favorites]


Wow, totally surprised by the negativity here. Awkward Black Girl is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time. The creator actually gets people and what makes real life so comical-- in opposition to pretty much any of the canned stuff you see on TV (and I'm not just talking about the total dregs like Everybody Loves Raymond, no-- 30 Rock? Scrubs? Do people really find these shows enthralling? They're cute, but really.)
posted by threeants at 12:41 PM on September 14, 2011


PigAlien: "My comment makes no sense, danny the boy, because the comments I was referring to were deleted..."

Uh, no, your comment doesn't make sense because you're claiming that if you watch enough television, you'll see everyone's stories represented. That you think so is... bewildering.

I can't speak to what it's like being black and not seeing yourself on TV, but I can speak to what it's like being yellow* and not seeing yourself on TV, and I sympathize.


* Think about all the Asian Americans you see in the media. Are they all 'exotic' women that serve as love interests to the leading man? Are they ever males who don't know kung-fu, or who aren't comedy relief?
posted by danny the boy at 12:41 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm a maverick cop who doesn't play by the rules and frankly I'm sick of the sight of myself.

I'm a ruddily-complected Euro-mutt who's gettin' too old for this shit.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:43 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm a white middle-aged British man and I too do not identify with any person I see on TV

Hm. We just finished watching the last few series of Midsomer Murders on dvd, and I think it might be the show for you!!

but then I actually find that very pleasing

Oops - never mind. (And I didn't actually come up with the Brian True-May joke I wanted to put in this comment, either.)
posted by aught at 12:44 PM on September 14, 2011


Why is it important to people to have whatever stereotype they identify with represented on television? That's so weird. No really.

I'm gonna take a wild guess that you're in a demographic that doesn't have to worry about underrepresentation.

I'm a white middle-aged British man and I too do not identify with any person I see on TV

So... you don't watch TV?
posted by kmz at 12:45 PM on September 14, 2011


This is great, and a win for awkward people everywhere--all kinds of little gems here. Encountering people in long hallways, getting caught dodging a phone call, waving back at someone who wasn't waving at you but someone else? Classic moments of OMG-WTFness that propel me back to being 12. Taking these little discomforts and mining 'em for comedy makes Issa Rae awesome.

And to touch on the larger conversation about the importance of seeing characters who look and act like [whatever under-represented group], well, yeah, it is important. Like someone said above, it means you're not invisible. The people on TV and in the movies don't look anything like the people I know in real life. What does it say about mainstream media that the overwhelming majority of those depicted are attractive, tall, middle class or rich, and white (and assumed Christian unless stated otherwise)? Sure, media is often about escapism and fantasy...but does that mean we have to escape non-white people? I find that idea really disturbing. It's an issue, and I totally get the frustration and concern.

So yay, AWB!
posted by smirkette at 12:46 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find myself watching otherwise terrible shows just because they cast an Indian in a lead role.

I'm still upset about all the weeks I spent on Undercovers, that stupid spy show by JJ Abrams. And last I heard, my half Asian ex was sinking too much time into the Nikita reboot with Maggie Q. Yeah, I feel you.
posted by lesli212 at 12:46 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


....Have you WATCHED television recently?

Ah, gotcha. I won't pretend to know the reason for representative inequalities on television. But media didn't create male-centric and white-centric culture; it happens to reflect it.
posted by Taft at 12:47 PM on September 14, 2011


At this point, when some of my friends say "sassy," I know they are referring to a black person. There are some characterizations that have outlived any usefulness and have slipped into being problematic.

It's funny how one of the fundamentals of writing, that one should eschew the cliche, is so relentlessly ignored by popular entertainment. NO. WE WILL JUST STRING CLICHES TOGETHER IN NOVEL WAYS. THAT'S HOW YOU MAKE A STORY.

You wind up in a universe of off-the-shelf characters who speak identical dialogue with punchlines that mostly consist of vaguely mean put-downs occurring at dependable interludes. And then people think sitcoms are generally a pretty mediocre form.

This is what makes them mediocre.

Everybody in Hollywood seems to have borrowed the structure of Neil Simon, because his scripts feature relentless punchlines. But they miss something I have always respected about Simon: His punchlines arise from his characters and are specific to them. It is very hard to imagine taking a funny comment from, say, Oscar Madison and put it into the mouth of Felix Unger. It wouldn't work. Their comedy arises from their personalities, and the specific ways their personalities drive a scene, and then respond to the scene. It's good writing. really good writing.

I don't know why sitcoms haven't learned that lesson: That character is all. It's what makes the action, and it's what generates responses to the action. No, instead it's just one stock character in an entirely manufactured setting reacting with a generalized insult to another stock character in another manufactured setting, and they could all be swapped out, like are is Garanimals children's clothing.

Whatever this web series is, it's not that. It represents a specific character's specific experiences. It may be amateur, but it's already so much better than most mainstream sitcoms.

And Neil Simon did pretty well for himself, so I think he may have been on to something.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:49 PM on September 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


And last I heard, my half Asian ex was sinking too much time into the Nikita reboot with Maggie Q.

Hey, Nikita's actually a pretty decent show.
posted by kmz at 12:49 PM on September 14, 2011


That's such a racist statement. I'm mostly Native American, but I can watch and relate to the Cliff and the rest of the Huxtables, or the Carl and the Winslows, and Urkels. Why do other humans have to look just like you in order for you to relate to them? Racist.
posted by Leisure_Muffin at 12:49 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why is it important to people to have whatever stereotype they identify with represented on television?

Especially growing up in a television culture, you are watching families/people that are not like you at all and you wonder where you as a kid and then you growing up fit in to the scenery. Am I just the only one who (feels/looks/acts) like this?

When we get reflected by our TV screen we don't feel so alone anymore, especially when we're the only awkward black girl/queer/asian/disabled, etc. in school.

I love ABG. :)
posted by Sophie1 at 12:50 PM on September 14, 2011


Errant, that was illuminating, thank you.
posted by Taft at 12:51 PM on September 14, 2011


Why is it important to people to have whatever stereotype they identify with represented on television? That's so weird. No really.

I don't think it's a question of importance in this case, nor does it really matter why it's important if it is important to people. She can write, has stories to tell, and perceived that there's a market segment that isn't well-represented.

So...no problem, right?
posted by Hoopo at 12:51 PM on September 14, 2011


Ah, gotcha. I won't pretend to know the reason for representative inequalities on television. But media didn't create male-centric and white-centric culture; it happens to reflect it.

No, we...know that. I'm not sure how you got the impression that I was saying it was intentional, I was just saying that that fact is why some people get annoyed and do their own youtube videos, so yay let's all get happy about that.

Well, I'll meet you back at the punch bowl in the topic.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:52 PM on September 14, 2011


The last white person I could identify with on tv was Superman.
posted by Postroad at 12:52 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


A good character isn’t supposed to 'represent' anyone. A good character should cast the illusion that he/she exists for his/her own purpose, not serve as a prop for some preexisting consumer/viewer segment around which the narrative is intended to revolve. To perform the latter is to commit your character to type. Trading compelling, unique, and individualistic characteristics for quick tropes that juke an "I know that person!" acknowledgement from the viewer is always terrible, terrible writing.
posted by tiger yang at 12:56 PM on September 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


You know, I was hoping Metafilter would be the one place on the internet where the comments on a story like this would be 'Why yes, there is an obvious lack of non-stereotyped black characters on TV, let us all celebrate this internet-borne attempt at fixing that'.

BUT NO.

(Also the name 'Issa Rae' is really familiar, for some reason. Has she done anything else that got attention online? Am I just thinking of someone else? It's going to annoy me all night.)
posted by anaximander at 12:56 PM on September 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


I think television characters (including the plethora of reality shows) as a rule tend to be unrelatable regardless of race. They are usually stereotypes, peoples fantasies of what they could be, someone who makes people feel better about themselves, or someone people can direct their anger towards. As a forty year old white guy, the characters who supposedly represent me are dopey lugs who married out of their league, ignorant rednecks, loud mouth wanna be mobsters or the handsome, rich, charming, successful guy who is supposed to be every women’s dream. I am none of those people and do not know any one like that. Either way kudos to her for filling the void with something creative instead of just rolling her eyes (like I do) with the latest television offerings.
posted by remo at 12:58 PM on September 14, 2011


I watch comedies because I think they're funny and typically I relate to the character's situation more than their identity or characteristics, but sometimes one's identity leads to those situations. One of the most repeated complaints about Seinfeld was how unlikable the characters were, and "I'm glad that asshole on that sitcom is just like me!" wasn't a popular refrain.
posted by Challahtronix at 1:00 PM on September 14, 2011


Wow, this is a fucking weird thread. It's like someone wrote their autobiography, and everyone's all "why you'd write that? Aren't the lives of other people good enough? Are the stories others have told about their lives not good enough?"

You know how when someone is bitching on the internet about something, and inevitably there will be responses such as "this will never change because all anyone does is bitch about it on the internet"? Well, here's someone who actually went and did something about something that bugs her and...that's wrong, too?

I guess I don't understand why this is a threat, or puts upon you, or whatever the problem seems to be. People care about different things. Just because you don't find her concerns relevant to your own life doesn't invalidate them--or, more to the point, make the things you care about more important than the things she cares about.

More power to her.
posted by maxwelton at 1:01 PM on September 14, 2011 [33 favorites]


A coworker turned me onto this show last week, it's fantastic! I've just seen the first one and "stapler" so far. I love her twist on workplace comedy. Good stuff.
posted by runtina at 1:01 PM on September 14, 2011


EmpressCallipygos, I'm not sure where I got that impression either. Having one of those days. One of those heightened-sensitivity-to-being-understood days.
posted by Taft at 1:02 PM on September 14, 2011


I didn't say you'd see everyone's story, I said you'd see *just about everyone* represented, in one way or another, and THAT'S TRUE. There are literally MILLIONS of hours of television and movies out there from hundreds of thousands of sources, including, believe it or not, minorities too...

The question here, though, isn't, "Can I watch every single episode of every television show and movie ever made and find one instance of someone who comes close to representing me?" The question is, when we turn on the television and flip the channels, what do we see? We sure as heck don't see many Awkward Black Girls, or Awkward Asian Girls.\

So, go ahead, keep missing my point. Cause you're arguing with someone who supports and agrees with what Awkward Black Girl is doing and pretty much wasting your energy and breath barking up this tree.
posted by PigAlien at 1:03 PM on September 14, 2011


Fair enough. I've had those too -- don't sweat it.

(hands you the glass of punch I just got ) On me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:03 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you have to look at the existing stereotypes of black American women on television. They're loud, bossy, in-your-face, use ebonics, and are always dispensing sassy, down-to-earth pearls of wisdom. Shouting. Showing the whites of their eyes, etc.

It would be nice to see something a little more... normal.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:07 PM on September 14, 2011


I saw this about a month ago, and it just is missing a few elements. It's not bad, it just isn't all that great to me. I hope she gets better though.
posted by cashman at 1:08 PM on September 14, 2011


Dang I love her. I used to work with a woman like this and I tried so very hard to help her get past the awkward, but sadly I'm an awkward white girl and it just didn't work out.
Thanks for posting.
posted by teleri025 at 1:09 PM on September 14, 2011


Why do other humans have to look just like you in order for you to relate to them?

They don't, of course. I relate to all kinds of representations and characters. The issue isn't "I can't relate to anyone on TV because they don't look like me" and casting it in this way is disingenuous.

The more that diverse representation exists across the spectrum of popular culture, the better able that culture is to speak to more people. I don't think that's a difficult equation to understand. That's not a call for Friends to have an Asian cast member or else be considered racist. That's not saying "enough with the white people on TV, there are plenty". There is an infinite variety of narrative in our culture, filtered through all kinds of lenses and experiences. Some of those lenses and experiences are much more frequently interrogated than others. The answer isn't to shun the media that exists but to add new media alongside which does look at different perspectives.
posted by Errant at 1:09 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Given the number of arguments already presented I think I'll take lesli212's hint and go watch a bit more of the show itself.
posted by Anything at 1:09 PM on September 14, 2011


Why do other humans have to look just like you in order for you to relate to them? Racist.

Um. How is it racist for minorities to want fictional media representation in the form of anything other than tired old stereotypes? This is kind of a crazypants accusation of racism, dude.
posted by elizardbits at 1:11 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's such a racist statement. I'm mostly Native American, but I can watch and relate to the Cliff and the rest of the Huxtables, or the Carl and the Winslows, and Urkels. Why do other humans have to look just like you in order for you to relate to them? Racist.

While I realize that the subject of this FPP said something entirely different, I think it's more important to have diversity of people-types on television for the sake of people who are NOT like you, in order to help them see you more clearly.
posted by hippybear at 1:12 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


But media didn't create male-centric and white-centric culture; it happens to reflect it.

This is either a profoundly careless statement, or a profoudly disingenous one. The "medium" of television is itself a cultural producer. If the television networks collectively produce only male- and white-centric shows, they are in fact creating white-centric culture. And yet out here in the actual real world that we might expect our culture to "reflect", there are plenty of non-white, non-male human beings. I'm not at all sure what you were attempting to say here.
posted by Ipsifendus at 1:13 PM on September 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


I was seizing with laughter when she introduced Amir, in episode 4. Those sorts of people are so irritating and slightly amusing at once.

"Amir ... he's a walking rainbow of racism. And the main reason he gets away with it is because nobody knows what he is. But maybe part of me is jealous of his effortless connection with people."

Also, J and Cece's friendship is awesome; I adore them. And when she said "baby voiced n****" I was ROLLING. I'm gonna keep watching. Thanks for the link!!
posted by one teak forest at 1:13 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love how she is actually awkward, not just fake manic pixie dreamgirl-awkward. With a real budget, this would easily be so much better and more interesting than the horror that is most of the new sitcoms that were actually produced this season.
posted by pishposh at 1:18 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why do other humans have to look just like you in order for you to relate to them?

I'm not sure anybody has said this, precisely. People can relate to television characters based on all sorts of things. But that doesn't mean that it wouldn't be nice, once in a while, for the person who acts like you on television to also look like you, instead of most people who look like you acting like a stereotype.

And part of the reason that would be nice is so that people in the real world don't expect you to act like a stereotype.

I'm not likely to ever see myself reflected on television. I'm an Irish-American who was adopted by Jews. So the Irish on television aren't going to have my specific cultural background, and the Jews on television aren't going to look like me. But I still would prefer that Irish television characters not be drunks and Jewish television characters not be stingy. And there are a few less blatantly hurtful stereotypes affixed to both, but I'd also like to see a few Irish characters who aren't loquacious, good-humored storytellers and Jewish characters who are neurotic. Not because this would represent me better, but because, good Lord, am I sick of those characters, and they badly represent the diversity of the Irish-American experience and the variety of the Jewish experience.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:19 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I know! I love the Amir thing. First thing I thought of was Fred Armisen, from SNL. He reads as a white guy, but he gets to claim hispanic (and by the transitive property of race, black), white and asian heritage, so he can make fun of anybody. I am definitely equal parts jealous because he has that intimate connection to so many cultures, and also annoyed because, well, he walks into a room and nobody treats him like a black, asian, or hispanic guy.
posted by lesli212 at 1:19 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are not neurotic, rather. The neurotic Jews is almost the default character.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:20 PM on September 14, 2011


I love it when white people lecture brown people on entitlement.
posted by TheKM at 1:22 PM on September 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


Why do other humans have to look just like you in order for you to relate to them?

I'm not sure anybody has said this, precisely.


Um... scroll back up and re-read the FPP.
posted by hippybear at 1:24 PM on September 14, 2011


"Why is it important to people to have whatever stereotype they identify with represented on television?"

In a slightly different direction, one of the reasons I so love the show "Parenthood" is that it represents a close (extendedish) family who are all up in each others' business, who love and support each other, but who are imperfect and argue, but whose nexus of support and identity is the family. Because so many TV families are either totally nuclear, or hateful, or non-existent, or saccharine, or completely stereotyped (dopey dad, hot-but-nagging mom, bitchy MIL, cranky FIL ...). I LOVE seeing something that much more closely reflects my family experience on the screen, and it spurs a lot of conversations in our household because it reflects so many things we see in our actual lives. I love Parenthood so much that I was a little relieved when I saw an interview with the creator and he said it was sort-of wish-fulfillment for him because he wishes his family could all be in the same city and spend that much time together (extraneous life events being ignorable in television for sake of plot), because Parenthood makes me wish that too. :)

That said, I also adore seeing well-made, nuanced shows that DON'T reflect my experience of the world, because I learn a lot and see through different eyes.

But yeah, it's nice to sometimes see things that more accurately reflect my life and experience. Or even just my sense of humor -- witness all the online love for sitcoms that hit a slightly different humor note (30 Rock, Parks & Rec, Community) when the airwaves get oversaturated with all one sort of humor. Some of those samey shows may be high-quality, but sometimes you want something DIFFERENT.

This is probably why I watch so many crap teen shows on the CW -- at least they're catering to teenaged girls rather than white men aged 18-49. It's sort-of a weird world where I see more commercials targeted at my demographic (30s female) during NFL football than during primetime sitcoms ... because the NFL goes out of its way to target female fans, and apparently plenty of Hollywood can't be arsed to do so.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:27 PM on September 14, 2011


I love it when white people lecture brown people on entitlement.

I'd say I love it too, but honestly it depends on how many credit hours are being offered.
posted by cashman at 1:27 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm curious as to what parts of her show are specific to black people. I see a lot of awkward behavior that's reflected in a lot of people I know, yet they're of all skin tones. Her show could just as well be called Awkward Girl Who Happens To Be Black. Josie (not her real name) sown the hall doesn't have her own Awkward Asian Girl show. Bret doesn't have Awkward Scottish Guy and I doubt that Amir would even want Awkward Saudi Guy.

And, if there are parts of her show specific to black people, aren't they potentially reinforcing the stereotypes?
posted by Revvy at 1:27 PM on September 14, 2011


Um... scroll back up and re-read the FPP.

I presume you are referring to this:

As a black woman, I don’t identify with and relate to most of the non-black characters I see on TV, much less characters of my own race.

I don't read that as: Somebody must look like me for me to relate to them.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:27 PM on September 14, 2011


I didn't say you'd see everyone's story, I said you'd see *just about everyone* represented, in one way or another, and THAT'S TRUE. There are literally MILLIONS of hours of television and movies out there from hundreds of thousands of sources, including, believe it or not, minorities too...

I am mixed race and fat but I actually get laid on the regular and am not constantly the "sidekick" so LOL no.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:29 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm a white middle-aged British man and I too do not identify with any person I see on TV, but then I actually find that very pleasing.

Nice try, Giles.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:29 PM on September 14, 2011 [13 favorites]


Yeah, I guess "don't" and "must" are indeed different words.

But it is pretty easy to interpret it either way, I'd say.

Not defending her words, not even saying I know what she meant. Just pointing out that the sentiment may be reflected in her words.
posted by hippybear at 1:31 PM on September 14, 2011


Nice try, Giles.

Hey Decani, I'm in ur history re-reading all ur comments as Anthony Stewart Head.
posted by griphus at 1:31 PM on September 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


hippybear, it doesn't say that. The quote says she doesn't relate to many characters, black or white. Then she goes on to say it's especially annoying that the characters who reflect her race and gender are often the most unrelatable to her.

More importantly, it's more a question of diversity in representation than relatability.
posted by lesli212 at 1:31 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wouldn't a black Liz Lemon have to be played by a writer/actor/comedian with a long track record for creating and performing good to excellent edgy material on a consistent basis? Because that is who I see when I watch 30 Rock.

Also, Liz Lemon is every bit the "smooth, sexy, long-haired vixen" as Bailey or Mary Anne.
posted by Ardiril at 1:32 PM on September 14, 2011


More importantly, it's more a question of diversity in representation than relatability.

Well, yes. I've said that twice now myself.
posted by hippybear at 1:33 PM on September 14, 2011


I've watched two episodes so far. It's funny and reminds me of the other workplace shows that I like, like Party Down, Community, and Parks & Rec. I'd like to see it with a budget.
posted by codacorolla at 1:34 PM on September 14, 2011


(Also, not being discussed nearly enough in this discussion is omg these are hilarious. Though it does need a pro sound mix, it keeps getting suddenly loud and startling the heck out of me.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:36 PM on September 14, 2011


Wouldn't a black Liz Lemon have to be played by a writer/actor/comedian with a long track record for creating and performing good to excellent edgy material on a consistent basis? Because that is who I see when I watch 30 Rock.

Ah, so you stopped watching 30 Rock a few seasons ago?

Nice try, Giles.

We can all only hope to be one day as awesome as Giles.
posted by kmz at 1:37 PM on September 14, 2011



Why do other humans have to look just like you in order for you to relate to them?


So little black girls don't grow up thinking that the only way they can ever get married is by painting themselves peach and wearing a wig. I grew up thinking that, secretly. Every time we went to a hardware store, I'd browse the paint sections to find "flesh-colored" paints until I was old enough to know better. I really, truly felt that I couldnt' be pretty if I wasn't white, or, at the very least, light-skinned.

How was I to assume otherwise? Of all of the thousands of images of beautiful women I saw on TV, in magazines, in movies, even in my own life, none of them looked like me. They all had light complexions, euro-centric features and/or long straight hair. Other black women existed in the media, of course, but they were not love interests. They were sassy black women who couldn't keep a man or "didn't need no man" or had to put up with triflin' men. There were no black princesses, no black prom queens.

Sure, you could say, "Well overweight women/unattractive women go through the same thing". Okay, yes, true, but a heavy woman wasn't born heavy and she could theoretically lose weight. An unattractive woman could, with the right makeup and wardrobe become more attractive. I can't become less black. All I can do in life is stay black and die.

So yeah, it's hella awesome to see someone say, "Yes, black women are beautiful and have functional relationships and normal lives", when it seems like everything in the media is saying otherwise.

If you don't understand that, then consider yourself blessed.
posted by chara at 1:39 PM on September 14, 2011 [42 favorites]


Regardless of whether the fat can become thin and the ugly pretty, they have been pretty poorly represented in the media as well.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:41 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I know, hippybear! It's just that so many people are arguing that, "Well I don't see myself" when that's not the point at all.

Speaking of which... Ardiril, it is not about creating a chocolate carbon copy; it's about the fact that the "Liz Lemon" - the only sane woman at work who's really a mess in her personal life, is a type -- for a white woman. But put a black woman in that role? Are you kidding? Who would do the sassy one liners?

And we shouldn't forget either that when the Liz Lemon first came into being, she was a "Mary Tyler Moore", but then it took another 20 years for MTM to be more than an anomaly, and another 20 after that for her to become an actual type.

Also, I cannot believe I'm threadsitting like this, but the misconceptions here are making me so sad. I would have never guessed that metafilter couldn't handle this; I really thought there would just be a few complaints about the amateurness, which yeah, it totally is, but thanks to kickstarter, they have money now and I can't wait to see what they do with it.
posted by lesli212 at 1:42 PM on September 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


Just about every show on tv, cable or otherwise, is trash and worthless. there. said it.
posted by Postroad at 1:42 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


But media didn't create male-centric and white-centric culture; it happens to reflect it.
There are lots of cultures in the US, and the media chooses which one to reflect (by funding it, advertising it, putting it in good time slots, etc).

Why do other humans have to look just like you in order for you to relate to them?
Ask white people, especially men, that?

There are a lot of stories and viewpoints that don't make sense if they happen to straight, white, cis, Christian men. But since most stories on tv are about men who fit those categories or have these men as part of an ensemble cast, there are a lot of stories being left by the wayside.

I look forward to getting home and watching this show.
posted by jeather at 1:48 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll take the 99% of worthless trash twice over for the creamy goodness of the 1% that's pure art.
posted by griphus at 1:49 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Liz Lemon is sane? No. She raises her compulsive obsession about her insecurities to a meta-level.
posted by Ardiril at 1:50 PM on September 14, 2011


And, if there are parts of her show specific to black people, aren't they potentially reinforcing the stereotypes?

In episode 4, when the main character and her best friend have to split up for the office icebreaker exercise, there's a subtle piece of physical humor where they do the patty-cake hand game that Nettie and Celie do during the traumatic separation scene in The Color Purple. That's definitely a joke with a black frame of reference that doesn't reinforce any stereotypes. She definitely won me over with that little throwaway bit. it's smart, funny, and subtle in a way that's rarely found in mainstream entertainment.
posted by billyfleetwood at 1:50 PM on September 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


"Only sane woman at work who's really a mess in her personal life." I mean, reading comprehension 101.
posted by lesli212 at 1:51 PM on September 14, 2011


Just about every show on tv, cable or otherwise, is trash and worthless. there. said it.

Not America's Next Top Model. That's still pretty awesome...albeit wrong in a way that is so horrifying it is actually causing a tumor to develop in my brain.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:52 PM on September 14, 2011


She also used to be the trope namer.
posted by lesli212 at 1:52 PM on September 14, 2011


Just about every show on tv, cable or otherwise, is trash and worthless. there. said it.

Ack, I can't believe I cared about it! Thanks for letting me know how dumb I was. Luckily this particular show is on the Internet, which (last time I checked) is about 90% worthwhile. Phew!
posted by codacorolla at 1:53 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


"90% worthwhile" - It's the porn that elevates it to that level.
posted by Ardiril at 1:56 PM on September 14, 2011


What about Sue and Cerie? They are the most sane regulars on the show.
posted by Ardiril at 1:59 PM on September 14, 2011


"Have I just died and gone to Simple Bitch Hell?!" (from The Stapler)

Priceless. Please, stop arguing on the internets about race and media representation (which is an important issue) and just watch the damn episodes and start laughing, people! You will be glad.
posted by honey badger at 2:00 PM on September 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


I've seen this show. It's really funny!
posted by AmandaDay at 2:07 PM on September 14, 2011


Surely those of us who are...um...not awkward black girls could remember back to times when we felt represented, known, recognized - and how that felt.

And those of us who are often represented might try to imagine how the world would look if our only literary heroes were Jane Austen characters and chick lit, for example, and if we were children trying to find ways to understand our experience pretty much without stories of people who were even sort of similar. Particularly if we also had to negotiate many painful and inaccurate representations of ourselves.

Seriously, it's possible to take people's often-repeated feelings and descriptions of their experiences seriously rather than strive to minimize and delegitimate them.


I didn't see representations of anyone even remotely like me on television or in the movies, ever (admittedly, my movie-viewing was very limited). I read a very few books about smart young girls who were not defined by their looks or femininity. There were so few representations of butch queer women, in fact, that just recently, when fucking J Crew ran an online editorial showing a butch woman who dressed like me...I felt an immediate surge of delight and recognition, and actually eBayed a used pair of loafers identical to hers because my first thought was "wow, those look nice! I bet they'd look nice on me!" And that was JCrew, of which I disapprove profoundly for all kinds of reasons. Now, you can say that I should just be tough and strong and take femme women and various dudes as my role models, or say that while you see lots of straight dudes in the media none of them are exactly like you, so I should just shut up. You can attack my feelings, but you can't make them un-happen - it was awesome to see a regular dapper butch woman out there with everyone else without it being a big giant production, it made me smile, it made me feel less weird and afraid.
posted by Frowner at 2:08 PM on September 14, 2011 [19 favorites]


Wow holy crap! Just went to her website for the first time. Defffffinitely awkward! I guess that's the point. Really well done - - haven't ever even seen a site like that before.
posted by AmandaDay at 2:09 PM on September 14, 2011


According to her cast bio, Issa Rae has signed a deal to develop the show into a half-hour cable sitcom. So that's awesome.
posted by Errant at 2:11 PM on September 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


This is excellent. Thanks for the post, lesli212!
posted by lord_wolf at 2:22 PM on September 14, 2011


It's not stalking if you don't mean any harm.

Oh, how many times I've told myself that.

No, really how many times? Let me count these restraining orders, and I'll let you know exactly how many.
posted by hippybear at 2:26 PM on September 14, 2011


I didn't see representations of anyone even remotely like me on television or in the movies, ever (admittedly, my movie-viewing was very limited). I read a very few books about smart young girls who were not defined by their looks or femininity.

Ditto. I spent much of my childhood consuming media (reading, mostly) that was full of people who were completely not like me at all and finding ways to put myself in the story or characters anyway. How many girls read adventure-type books where the protagonist is always a boy, because there are (or were, I'm not up-to-date on what's what in kid lit these days) so few books where the girl got to be the one to go live on (Her) Side of the Mountain?

Finding ways to put yourself into the story or character even when it's utterly unlike you is a valuable skill, and I'm glad I developed it. But do you know how...relaxing it is to not be required to do that? It's fantastic.
posted by rtha at 2:28 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I can't believe people are arguing about the relevance of this. I remember in the late 60's when the parents in my black neighborhood would call us kids in from playing when a black person came on TV. It was so rare that we were shown. See Color Adjustment by the late filmmaker Marlon Riggs

We're much less rare now but black women on tv are almost exclusively shown as loud-talking sapphire types or Tyra Banks lookalikes. Most of my friends grew up in black or mixed neighborhoods, are college educated, travel worldwide, have professional jobs and don't go around snapping their fingers, can't sing like Jennifer Hudson, don't talk in black vernacular, don't 'say praise the lord' or cuss out co-workers (even when they deserve it because they want to touch our hair).

And yes, we aren't the only ones not very well represented on TV.
posted by shoesietart at 2:41 PM on September 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


MAN STABBED 104 TIMES OVER TEXT MESSAGE TYPO

God invented liquor because he foresaw spoken word
I appreciate the occasional well-timed deadpanned ludicrous hyperbole.
posted by Anything at 2:52 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Fuck, I can't dance."

Can't tell you how many times this has been my reaction to a party invite. Love this.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:57 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I agree that discussing the need for this or relevance of it is odd. When we can't find people like ourselves, with similar backgrounds and experiences, represented in our culture, that leads to a disconnection from said culture. And Rae's reasons for creating this are, significantly, not just about race, but about character types within racial depictions. I have a number of friends who are black women, and all of them are you know, different. Like people tend to be. However, all of them are also much more likely to see aspects of their lives in Awkward Back Girl than they are in almost anything on TV. They are educated professional women who are also geeks and are charmingly awkward. This isn't any one of them, exactly, but I'm sure it could resonate (and more importantly, be recognizable with it's humor and reference points.)

There's an old Ken Tucker piece talking about Family Matters and making the point that, as irritating as Urkel was, he was also revolutionary, for never had TV seen a black nerd before. I can see that. More important, I think, is to look at the long Dan Harmon interview a few months ago. He makes a couple of important points. First, he was ordered to make half of his writing staff women, which is almost unheard-of in television, and which he thought was just crazy quota-madness at the time. Now, having had that kind of staff to work with, he's devoted to always doing it that way because, as he says, it just makes sense.

Secondly, he discusses the character of Shirley, played wonderfully by Yvette Nicole Brown. Now, Shirley is a more complex and less cliched black woman than most seen on TV, but Harmon himself admits that she gets shorter shrift than other characters because he personally doesn't know how to write for her. He simply doesn't have the set of experiences needed to properly access that character. I think if he was told to find a black woman for his writing staff he'd do so in a heartbeat now. Hell, for all I know he's looking to hire one without needing any prodding now.

We write what we know, and what we write will reach an audience with shared interest and experiences. Most TV writers are nerdy white men, and as a result that's the audience most represented and served. Good on Rae for doing this herself, and I really hope somebody with a budget and greater distribution power takes notice of her talents.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:11 PM on September 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think this is great...thanks for posting.

In general, I much prefer forms of entertainment (be they books, movies, or television) where I can relate to the characters. It don't think it's strange or surprising that I, a middle-class nerdish white suburban girl, should prefer Freaks and Geeks to The Hills. I think it's cool that Issa Rae is creating a character that she relates to and is vastly underrepresented in the media.
posted by emd3737 at 3:13 PM on September 14, 2011


We will have to disagree on our definitions of regular. In my book, characters that span seasons are regulars.

Why would Rae say she invented this one type of character and then compare that character to another TV character who does not fit her invention?
posted by Ardiril at 3:14 PM on September 14, 2011


I love this series! It's my new favorite thing. This is delightful. I had genuine laugh-out-loud moments in every episode. That guy's face after he got so mad over emails in comic sans font and White Jay is all "have you considered plain text" and ha ha ha. Maybe I'm easily amused.

I'm still upset about all the weeks I spent on Undercovers, that stupid spy show by JJ Abrams.

Oh me too, me too, man what a disappointment.
posted by Danila at 3:19 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


These are awesome...thanks for posting this.
posted by jquinby at 3:20 PM on September 14, 2011


I think it's rough in spots, but has the potential to be great, and I'm enjoying them.

I think a creative tool that's used surprisingly infrequently is to have two of your characters have the same name. It gives your characters opportunities to self-label and be externally-labelled, and you can grant them expectations that they can live up to and struggle against. Also if you're lazy, you can get some cheap laffs from miscommunication/mistaken identity plots. But I guess the cost is you have to have deep and distinct characterizations that the audience wants to care about, which rules out most sit-coms.

White Jay. Ha.
posted by danny the boy at 3:42 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's definitely a joke with a black frame of reference that doesn't reinforce any stereotypes. She definitely won me over with that little throwaway bit. it's smart, funny, and subtle in a way that's rarely found in mainstream entertainment.

In "The Date", the poet doing the Fresh Prince monologue! I died right along with Jay. Aww I'm all out of episodes.
posted by Danila at 3:51 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I find myself silently cheering every time I see an Indian character on TV that isn't a doctor or a store clerk.

Yup, that's the only reason I tolerated the lone season of Outsourced, and continue to follow TBBT.
posted by vidur at 3:56 PM on September 14, 2011


I'm already re-watching stuff and I've lost my voice from laughing. Thanks for posting this lesli. I saw it mentioned at Ankhesen's blog but I don't usually watch web-series or actually any kind of sitcoms so I skipped it. Glad I didn't skip it this time.
posted by Danila at 4:03 PM on September 14, 2011


Love her breakup rap process. I think she is a very relateable (sp?) character, kudos to the writer.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:04 PM on September 14, 2011


The main issue in how minority characters are underrepresented or misrepresented or stereotyped in mass culture is not so much that the minorities are not seeing themselves there and are under-served as consumers or that their self-esteem gets mutilated or whatever, it's that what the masses are seeing is not what minorities really are (i.e. human beings as opposed to racial stereotypes). Media is how modern culture reproduces itself. For every awkward back girl who does not see herself on TV, there are many other people who perceive her in real life based strictly on TV's depiction of the black female. In many ways, mounting a production like ABG is self defense. Characters on TV have a huge influence on how modern culture evolves. It serves Power to disenfranchise segments of the population, to marginalize them. Hence racist culture. As has been said, racism persists because it works.

(sorry for Institutional Racism 101, but some people still don't get it)
posted by bonefish at 4:09 PM on September 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


but I don't usually watch web-series or actually any kind of sitcoms so I skipped it. Glad I didn't skip it this time.

Me too, I usually don't watch web-series type of stuff but after this discussion I clicked on a couple and OMG HILARIOUS. Thanks for posting!
posted by lalex at 4:17 PM on September 14, 2011


I've been watching more of these over the day and I have to say just having an awkward black female character making do in a sort of nowhere job is fun to see. She's charming, the cast of supporting characters are varied and interesting and it's clear that she's really talented.

I have a weird non-problem with representation of people like me which is that when there are women who are mid-life and unmarried and don't have children and use power tools [in popular media] there is pretty much zero overlap with those categories and "straight lady" Not a giant problem, as these things go, but it's interesting to me what stereotypes people feel portray people in some ways like them on screen like the nerdy white guy, the Indian doctor or the nebbishy neurotic Jew. I'm also familiar with the hapless husband and, of course, the sassy bitch and I'm not even much of a TV watcher. It's one of the reasons I liked The Office so much is that it had a decently wide range of characters with weird pecadillos but ones that didn't always "play to type" which often made the humor funnier, to me. Same thing with these videos.
posted by jessamyn at 4:33 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh god, the hallway is the stuff of nightmares for me.
posted by heathkit at 4:36 PM on September 14, 2011


I think these are awesome; thanks for posting. For all the talk about new media, most of the stuff I end up getting excited about when it comes to online video is new ways to post all media. I can't believe there hasn't been a successful online soap opera or very many other TV-like projects, and I'm glad when people's solution to a problem is "just fucking doing it themselves."

For those who are questioning the point of representation in popular media... I can't. I just can't. We are obviously coming at the world from such different places that I'm not sure anything I can say would make a difference. But since I'm not getting on my soap box, could you please do me a favor?

Read these Wikipedia articles:
# List of pre-Stonewall American television episodes with LGBT themes
# List of 1970s American television episodes with LGBT themes
# List of 1980s American television episodes with LGBT themes
# List of American television episodes with LGBT themes, 1990-1997
# List of post-Ellen American television episodes with LGBT themes

You don't even have to read them fully. Just skim them. Note the tone and tenor of the subject matter across the decades. Then think about how those might relate to how gays and lesbians were treated in America in those time periods. Sure, it may be a bit of a chicken and egg thing. But I bet if Marcus Welby stopped treating people with same sex urges as diseased, those born the same year like me wouldn't have had to fight as hard to convince others later on in life that they were healthy. And if fewer gay kids who first heard the term on Dawson's Creek rather than when a straight character learned a valuable lesson from somebody dying from AIDS, they may be able to imagine their future lives a bit differently and not off themselves because they want a life that is full and worth living, not just a guest spot in somebody else's Very Special Episode.

These are extreme examples. And maybe nobody ever killed themselves because they didn't see somebody with their skin or hair type or whatever on TV. But what if the answer is, actually, maybe not. Is it truly skin off your ass because somebody (who isn't asking for anything other than your attention if you're interested) made a point and was inspired to do something about it? I'm not asking for you to do anything you don't want to do or waste your time on something that doesn't interest you. And if you feel like you're getting the short shift because of your straight white maleness in some place, please speak your mind. But don't tell others not to ask for the same privilege.

(Yeah, I guess that wasn't me staying off my soapbox.)

posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:41 PM on September 14, 2011 [25 favorites]


I finally got to a high speed internet connection and watched all of these and my stomach hurts from laughing so hard and my face is streaked with tears. My goodness, those were hysterical, thanks so much for posting! On a side note, I love that there is so much profanity in these. These definitely could not be shown on network TV, and that would take something away from this, I think, but they certainly might be suitable for HBO or Showtime.
posted by PigAlien at 4:43 PM on September 14, 2011


I'm favoriting McMikeNamara's comment a billion times... in my version of reality.
posted by hippybear at 4:51 PM on September 14, 2011


No one ever killed themselves because of any particular story or song or caricature. (Probably.) But people have probably killed themselves because of a thousand tiny insults without a compliment among them, or a thousand "Everyone Knows" factoids making them into a scapegoat.

Television's influence on our culture is large.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:02 PM on September 14, 2011


Corrections to my comment above:

1) I meant to post "new ways to post OLD media" in my opening paragraph.

2}"what the fuck rhymes with 'pussy nigger'?" is fucking hilarious. For that alone it's worth it

Before getting sidetracked by my own grar, I meant to say that if that phrase doesn't become my go-to internal monologue way of referring to writer's block, I don't know myself as well as I thought. (Of course, middle class gay white men repurposing the humor of awesome black women is its own stereotypical behavior.)

3) I also meant to say that if I was a network exec, anybody who does a joke about the phrase "NO HOMO" would get money immediately. Though if there is ever a bit where she wonders how the phrase got to mean both "I don't mean this in a way that means I'm gay" and "I don't mean this in a way that means I'm homoophobic", I'd feel less like the world was being accurately portrayed and more like someone had bugged my house.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 5:15 PM on September 14, 2011


There's a lot of complaining by myriad groups about their underrepresention in any variety of fields; media production is one area where being the change you want to see actually works. It's a lot of hard word, but if you feel your group is excluded from video games, films, tv, etc, you read some books, get the software and get cracking. It's a lot easier to complain about it on message boards, my hats off to ABG for actually doing it, and doing it pretty well.
posted by Scoo at 5:33 PM on September 14, 2011


Sure, it may be a bit of a chicken and egg thing. But I bet if Marcus Welby stopped treating people with same sex urges as diseased, those born the same year like me wouldn't have had to fight as hard to convince others later on in life that they were healthy.

A good example of this sort of chicken/egg thinking is Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern explaining on a talk show that homosexuality is a bigger risk to Americans than terrorism, because -- get this -- AIDS has killed way more people than terrorist attacks.

This is a woman who was (theoretically) awake and aware during the 1980s, but was probably only exposed to the portrayals of gays available through the mainstream media up until then. In Oklahoma. So she is just unable to see the (to me) obvious point that an ENORMOUS amount of the AIDS death toll can be attributed to the lag in attentiveness to the crisis -- which was due to exactly this kind of perception of homosexuals. It's so terrifically insulting and preposterous to use these figures against us now, when actually they represent a way in which we were already victimized and villainized 30 years ago. It's so backward that I don't even know how to argue about it. (You can write the OK governor about these remarks here, or Kern directly here.)

She's right about one thing -- this is a culture war. Oklahomans 20 years from now will have been exposed to way more examples of homosexuality (both healthy and unhealthy, but mostly healthier) than she saw in her entire life. That won't necessarily disperse their ammunition, but it will certainly change things in a way that contributes to a greater awareness of actual LGBT issues than ever before. Hate and fear won't come *quite* as easily. I pray that she will be alive to witness it, and that her continued grumbling and sighing will make gay-hate look even stupider and more old-fashioned.
posted by hermitosis at 5:37 PM on September 14, 2011


I think that the takeaway here is that some forms of suffering do transcend race. As someone who has sat through an evening of spoken word without the benefit of alcohol, I can say that "The Date" almost made it all worthwhile. Almost.

And if you don't think that Fred playing his guitar upside down is one of the funniest things you've ever seen in your life then we have nothing to say to each other regardless of color or creed. For until you have dated Fred...or merely been his roommate..you will never understand my thousand yard Open Mic Night stare.
posted by melissa may at 6:57 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I just powered through this and loved it. Totally transcended race in my opinion and just hit all the awkwardness-of-life, not-fitting-in-where-it-looks-like-you-should-on-the-surface spots and I hope that was the point, because it worked. I got her.
posted by padraigin at 7:57 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: I just powered through this and loved it. Totally transcended race in my opinion and just hit all the awkwardness-of-life, not-fitting-in-where-it-looks-like-you-should-on-the-surface spots and I hope that was the point, because it worked. I
posted by quanta and qualia at 8:07 PM on September 14, 2011


Issa Rae: How to Write A Wildly Successful Web Series
posted by jessamyn at 8:13 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought these had some great moments.
posted by sweetkid at 8:41 PM on September 14, 2011


Oh my lord, there were SO funny, I already want to start quoting like it's Arrested Development.

"I feel gay....NO HOMO!"

"My boss is an offensive, dumb fuck of an idiot."

"Niggas love me, I'm on my Kim K.!"

"I HATE Mexicans!"

"Why does she sound like a contemporary slave?"

"I hate to say this, but hair is the best thing to happen to rhythmless non-blacks."

"Is she trying to get pregnant?"

Man, the hits keep coming - this is awesome, thank you!
posted by tristeza at 9:38 PM on September 14, 2011


hermitosis: I went to High School in a small town in Oklahoma in the late nineties, and we nominated two openly gay dudes for prom king, one of whom won. This was not in a hippy enclave or anything either. I heard only one homophobic comment during this period, and it was from a dude who was raging because nobody else seemed to see it as a problem.

Also, Elizabeth Warren is from Oklahoma. So it's not just Sally Kerns out there.

I loved the way The Office handled its characters because they were never about stereotypes, except when clueless Michael Scott brought them up, and then the joke was on him. Who cares f Stanley is black, or Oscar is gay and latino, unless it's for the groans when Michael tries to connect with them on that superficial level?

As for Community (again), I was brought into it with the Dungeons and Dragons episode, which was awesome to me because here was a group of gamers that actually looked something like my own D&D group. And nobody in that group is thinking about the game in terms of stereotypes of what race or gender would be playing it, because they are just a group of friends playing the game and getting involved in it, and it rungs true.

I wish shows like How I Met Your Mother weren't so damned lilywhite. But I at least partially see their problem, even if I don't love how they handled it. Take a look at something like Newsradio. Now, this was an excellent sit-com which even its fiercest defenders, among them myself, must admit had a problem in that they didn't have a clue how to write the character of Catharine Duke. They had the magnificent Khandi Alexander playing her, and seemingly game for anything, but every line they wrote for her was like it was handled with 6-foot tongs, so as not to offend anyone, and thus the character never had any depth. Every other character got a ton of foils and foibles and comic obsessions, but with Catherine it was like they had a three word character outline that went something like this:

BLACK: ehh... don't really feel comfortable touching that subject.
WOMAN: ehh... combined with the above point, not too comfortable with that one either.
PROFESSIONAL: Can we make that funny? Somebody send down to the lab and see if we can make that funny somehow.

But that doesn't excuse these shows from hiring writers who know how to access these characters. Khandi Alexander left after three seasons because there was clearly nothing for her to do there, on one of the most critically acclaimed shows of that decade. I love that show but they should have done better by her.

And w=shows like HIMYM should have more diverse casts in the future. Not for quota purposes, but because it is more like life. And those characters need to be written with input from people at least somewhat like them. Because while some experiences are universal, most are not, especially where comedy is concerned. To put it another way, you wouldn't want a latina woman who is not versed in Star Wars writing your nerdy white guy, so why would you want your nerdy white guy writing her character either?
posted by Navelgazer at 10:03 PM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


/googles 'paper bag test'

Oh for fuck's sake, humankind.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:14 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I understand the idea of minorities not seeing real representations of themselves on TV, what I don’t get is the idea that anyone sees a real representations of themselves on TV. Maybe I just hang out with the wrong people, but I’ve never seen any characters anywhere that were like real people I know.
posted by bongo_x at 10:34 PM on September 14, 2011


You all take what they showbon TV seriously?

Seriously?
posted by c13 at 11:58 PM on September 14, 2011


Think of it like this: you may never see yourself on screen, but through various representation, you may see enough things that are like you to form a composite that represents you through your tastes. People who are underrepresented have fewer points of reference in popular culture, and so they either find more things missing, being drawn too broadly to reflect nuance, or they find themselves cast only in stereotype with no accurate referent whatsoever. This is not just a racial thing: I dare anyone to find five popular transgender representations that aren't simply gross stereotype. So the absence of that acknowledgment causes discord, because people want to be seen in some capacity.
posted by Errant at 12:02 AM on September 15, 2011


Thanks for posting this. I'm a (half-)black nerd. Having recently moved to Harlem, I'm becoming reacquainted with just how many different types of minority subcultures there are. As someone who's nerdy but not fashionable enough to be a 'blipster,' it's kinda sad when the closest analogue to yourself on TV is "Urkel." Kids call you Urkel when you're younger, even if you're not really like that. On the other hand, positive depictions of people like yourself (or even just plain neutral depictions, showing that you're, you know, normal) are incredibly validating. Whatever you think about Whoopi Goldberg, it was seeing Nichelle Nichols on Star Trek that made her think, "Hey, I could be an actress." Instead of, you know, just a maid or something.

When stereotypes exist, positive stereotypes matter even more.

[And lesli, congrats on what I hope is the first of many excellent posts. Discussion (and dissent) is important (it's how we learn from one another), and you've handled complaints and detractors capably and coolly. Please stick around.]
posted by Eideteker at 5:36 AM on September 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


I really can't understand mefi people downplaying the significance this web series might hold for those non-whites who have to face ridiculous social expectations due to media portrayals. Seems like a lot of this stems from the elitism of the "I don't have a TV in my house" mindset, or they act like a country's popular culture isn't reflective of (or lack reflection of) the society it contains.

I think the more diverse portrayals of women, GLBT, and non-whites out there the better because it is validating and empowering to know that someone's creative work is out there that isn't the usual mumbo jumbo. Exposure in media counts.

Also, I feel like anything posted by Metafilter regarding the African diaspora (African-American, African Caribbean, etc.) gets more than less shitted on by people here. It makes me feel uncomfortable every time a link is posted with hundreds of comments and a good portions of those is like, "Why are black people always whining? Shut up because it is making me uncomfortable."
posted by LilSoulBrother85 at 7:21 AM on September 15, 2011 [14 favorites]


It's also kind of monotonous watching the same characters over and over, with new names.

A friend of mine will only refer to the characters on Happy Endings using the names of their Friends analogues -- e.g. Gay Chandler, Black Joey, and Blonde Monica. I love this quiet way of commenting on the dearth of new stories being told.

Another thing I love is Issa Rae's face. My favorite moment in this series so far is when her White Date takes her to a fried-chicken joint and the whole restaurant regards them with evident suspicion and disapproval. J is just silently absorbing all this opprobrium as if it were their due, until she makes eye contact with a guy who is also there with a White Date. The exchange of head-shakes between them speaks volumes about race and gender.

Rae has a fantastically expressive and malleable face that she keeps reined in most of the time, which is what makes scenes like her fantasy dance sequence even more entertaining. J's ordinarily flat affect sets off these scenes so well. All good comedy is grounded in startling its audience, everything from pratfalls to Jonathan Swift. I hope she ends up famous as hell.
posted by cirocco at 9:58 AM on September 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh yes! I always love the glares when I'm out with a white girl. From women who would never otherwise pay the slightest bit of attention to me. Hi, I don't see you asking me out! YES TYRA/BEYONCE LOOKING CHICK, I'M TALKING ABOUT YOU. With your lithe and skinny almost-6ft.-tallness. I bet you don't even know the name of a single X-Man who hasn't been in the films. Yeah, I'm callin' you out. Roll. For. Initiative.
posted by Eideteker at 11:03 AM on September 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm a young white male (so far every sitcom ever) with sometimes crippling introspective tendencies. I'm often depressed or anxious or hyperventilating in the car before work because I'm convinced I won't be able to handle the shift. I listen to a lot of NPR and read stuff like The Economist in class and so maybe I come off as smart, I dunno, but I certainly don't relate with Big Bang Theory.

Wilfred.

There also aren't many short, nerdy white guys on TV, and when they are, their portrayal is almost never positive.

I don't watch that much TV these days, but c'mon...

Joel Fleischman
Arnold Horshack
Carl Levitt
Spence Olchin
Dave Nelson
... (there are lots)

As a forty year old white guy, the characters who supposedly represent me are dopey lugs who married out of their league, ignorant rednecks, loud mouth wanna be mobsters or the handsome, rich, charming, successful guy who is supposed to be every women’s dream. I am none of those people and do not know any one like that.

Andy Bellefleur
Louie
Walter White
Phil Dunphy
Ron Swanson
John Locke
Nate Fisher
Mitch Yost
Nathan Petrelli
Evelyn William "Bill" McNeal
Tig Trager
(again, lots and lots and lots and lots ... i mean I'm just picking shows out at random and every one has a different sort of 40-year-old white guy ...)
posted by mrgrimm at 1:13 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why do we need characters we relate to? Especially in comedy? Seriously? So much of what we find funny comes from our experiences. Why do so many men think it's hilarious to see other men getting hit in the balls. They can relate. Why did so many people find Richard Pryor and George Carlin funny? Because they were talking about things that others saw but nobody dared to talk about, thing that people recognized to be true.

It's really ironic to me to see men questioning why women need characters they relate to, because so often when MEN don't relate to something, it's "universally" deemed to suck. I've heard so many men, and especially male comedians, say that women just aren't funny. Because they don't relate to so many of the experience we've had, it's not funny to them, and it's not interesting to them. They don't want to hear about us or watch us, they want to hear about and watch themselves. Well, fuck that. The funniest people I know are, to a person, women. And I am sick of very specific, narrow types of humor being practically the only thing thing we ever get just because that's what the dominant gender relates to. Great, we get The Hangover VII or another 5 movies starring Seth Rogan, joy. I'm sooooo ready to see something else.

I laughed my ass off watching these episodes, and they are totally addictive. I hope this is the shape of so much more to come. Thanks to lesli212 for the link!!!
posted by Ashley801 at 9:10 PM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeesh, I hope the guy talking about how there aren't enough awkward short guys running around in sitcom land was being sarcastic.

Anyways, I'm surprised this hasn't been posted here before. This is a great series. Thanks for spreading the word, lesli!
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:44 PM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


And I don't think I've ever cringed more in 12 minutes of my life or laughed as uncomfortably than during episode 7, The Date.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:59 PM on September 16, 2011


So, for anyone who's still paying attention, I just recently noticed there's a video of outtakes. I died. Baby voiced nigga indeed.

I was waiting with baited breath before, but now I'm doubly excited about episode nine. I was on Team White Jay before, but playing a guitar upside down? Too cute, and with that I'm more than halfway over to Team Fred. But isn't that the dream, though -- to be as awkward as we all are and yet have 2 paramours about to have a death match over you?

Well, this has been a fascinating thread; I'm resolved to make more of an effort to post cool on the web that has to do with African or African Diaspora culture -- as LilSoulBrother85 mentioned, MeFi could do a lot better.

And I think we can. I remember when I used to read Fark occasionally (way back in the heyday of Strongbad, it was), the most charitable comment that you might see when a story had to do with a gay guy was "Nasty!" And yet, the other day, I happened to be extremely bored and perhaps somewhat masochistic, but I clicked on a Fark comment thread about a transgendered girl, and the comments were overwhelmingly supportive. And they're not even moderated! I almost had a heart attack, but it was a lesson to me that all things pass.

Beyond that, a huge thank you to billyfleetwood - I had completely missed the Color Purple reference. Catching that joke alone made this thread worth it!
posted by lesli212 at 6:26 AM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Politically correct or no, the addition of new stereotypes to pop media gives writers more to work with. Maybe we'll get better stuff.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:50 AM on September 18, 2011


I was waiting with baited breath before, but now I'm doubly excited about episode nine. I was on Team White Jay before, but playing a guitar upside down?

Blasphemy! Team White Jay all the way! They are way too cute together.

I normally roll my eyes at any type of "serious" romance in a sitcoms (I always got bored by Pam and Jim in the Office, and it's one of things I always liked about Seinfeld--total absence of romantic sideplot) but for some reason this JJ has me actually emotionally invested in what will happen. That's pretty amazing for 8 short webisodes...that's it's got me giggling like a schoolgirl again.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 6:00 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wanted to come back to this and say after watching them all and pondering it for a couple weeks and watching lots of the new network shows for this season, this is still the most hilarious and original thing I've seen this fall season. I keep recommending it to everyone.

If you haven't watched it yet, you are totally missing out. lesli212, thanks for the funniest thing I've seen this season!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:14 PM on October 1, 2011


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