A Simple Request

If you know the names of theatre, film, television, literary or other cultural productions in which the main character(s) is a Black woman (regardless of the “biology” (gender, nationality, ethnicity) of the author) AND the Black men are NOT dysfunctional, please forward the name of that cultural production and any related information. I know there are many cultural productions which center on Black men where women are not portrayed as dysfunctional. I also know that there are many cultural productions where both Black women and men are portrayed as dysfunctional. If you consider this as a four box matrix, the first three boxes are:

  1. Black male main character – Functional Black female supporting character(s)
  2. Black male main character – Dysfunctional Black female supporting character(s)
  3. Black female main character – Dysfunctional Black male supporting character(s)

I’m seeking to fill the fourth box: Black female main character – Functional Black male supporting character. I should add a caveat or two. I would discount cultural productions in which one functional Black male character supplants or assumes the SPACE formerly consumed by a dysfunctional Black male character. In other words, I’m looking for a cultural production in which the dysfuntional Black male character is either non-existent or so peripheral as to not warrant a mention. In addition, any cultural production in which Black men appear as women would be discounted from my formulation. The long-standing tradition of Black men donning the clothes of women for comedic effect is not symptomatic of an effective or functional approach to addressing real-life dysfunction. Simply, what “works” (or generates laughs) on screen doesn’t work in the real world.

To be specific, then, these caveats would eliminate significant portions of the creative work by persons like Tyler Perry, Eddie Murphy, Alice Walker, Lorraine Hansberry, Martin Lawrence, Will Smith and many others. I do not believe, by any stretch, that it eliminates ALL of their work – but it should give us pause in considering our assessments of their “characters.”

Dysfunction may be defined as

1 : impaired or abnormal functioning <gastrointestinal dysfunction> 2 : abnormal or unhealthy interpersonal behavior or interaction within a group <family dysfunction>
Functional may be defined as something (or someone) able to fulfill its purpose or function.
Please be specific in your responses. Thank you.

7 comments

  1. You’ve stated something of a paradox here, for
    ‘dysfunction’ is at the basis of all drama if you think about it, cross-dressing and latent homoerotic behavior notwithstanding. I don’t think it’s fair, however, to single out Black comics for cross-dressing in films. It’s a common schtick employed by comic actors from Curly Howard to Tom Hanks.

    I’m having a hard time coming up with works featuring a Black female protagonist or lead. There aren’t many of them, and I have to cop to not reading Black romance (choke, gasp) novels, e.g.; Eric Jerome Dickey. All things considered, I’m thinking She’s Gotta Have it, Beloved, Mahogany, and Two Can Play That Game would qualify.

    I know, I know… it’s a stretch.

  2. That’s a big old stretch. BTW, my referencing of Black comics in drag was not to suggest exclusivity. We agree that others have done so historically.

  3. you are making a sadly stunning point with this request. i am tempted to spend the afternoon wading through IMDB, but I know my search will be in vain.

  4. It might. I have to think about it. I recall the movie as a classic romance story where both sides had equal time. In that sense, it might get a DQ…but this is solid. Thank you much.

  5. Reginald Hudlin’s run writing “Black Panther”. Wakanda is the most powerful and civilized nation in human history. T’challa is a descendant of a line of kings. In Hudlin’s arc, he marries the x-man storm, in this story re-imagined as a strong black woman, half african royalty, half child of black revolutionaries (skip a halle berry…).

    “black sci-fi” seems to be one of the few areas that tell stories based on what you are stating.

    tv gets weird . take claire and cliff huxtable. dysfunctional? if anything, it represented the assertion of middle-class values as the desirable set for black american family life. it deserves critique for not being self-aware, that the family life created only represented a portion of the broader community. but dysfunctional?

    on the flip, can you name a piece of media where white males and females are not portrayed as “dysfunctional”? crickets…..crickets…

    this requires some revisionist takes on the “leave it beaver” era, as many now recognize all of that 50’s mythology as media supported tools of social control.

    and flipping completely out of the black-white duality, would you consider the relationship between the two leads in “crouching tiger, hidden dragon” as dysfunctional? if anything, they were both guilty of supressing their individual feelings to destiny/mission.

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