Let’s talk about Netflix. And the cultural divide…again.
Back in October of last year, we touched on this subject. As a refresher, the cultural divide is the difference in ideologies, interests, art, food, music, opportunities, family structures, etc, that make it hard for people to relate to one another, get along and/or feel seen. The cultural divide is not something that is even, however; there is a hierarchy. Those at the “top” of the societal ladder, are not tasked with being privy to the inner workings of those on lower rungs. The reverse is not true. Some of this has to do with assimilation, but it is still noteworthy.
In my previous post, I used the show Friends as an example. Everyone knows about Friends, right? Yup. Most people watched and/or loved it, wouldn’t you say? No. Friends was REALLY popular with white people. A lot of Black people, myself included, watched Living Single, instead. Which, I have to mention again, was the show that inspired (was copied, bit from, it all applies) the creator of Friends. If you’re rolling your eyes thinking “well, aren’t people allowed to like different things?”- the answer is of-fucking-course. The problem is that most white people have NO idea about Living Single (or similar) and are not expected to know. While most Black, brown and NB-POC know about Friends (or the like) and ARE expected to. And that, my friends, is the cultural divide.
What’s Netflix got to do with this?
Just last week, Netflix announced that it had acquired 7 classic sitcoms. Those sitcoms were Moesha, Sister Sister, The Game, Half & Half, The Parkers, Girlfriends and One on One. I swear the moment this news came out, I could hear a symphony of Black people yelling yasssssss. Or it could have been an echo from me screaming it, who knows. Almost instantly, everyone was (and still is) talking about it, celebrating and binge-watching, of course. And the memes from Black Twitter? Comedy gold. A few of the actors from these shows, even put out a little video, thanking the fans for supporting all these years and for asking (demanding)that they come back. And that warmed my heart, because when I tell you that Black people have been asking, for years, where our shows were and talking THE biggest shit about none of the streaming platforms really having them (they have a few), I am not exaggerating. This was a long time coming. Honestly, it probably has something to do with the current narrative and conversation surrounding race and Netflix wanting to show that they “support,” but whatevs.
All of that sounds great! Sooo, what’s the problem?
Take a guess. What could possibly have slithered its way into this moment of pure joy and celebration? Anyone?
Angry white people.
They were mad, BIG mad. Because they had never heard of these shows, so how dare Netflix describe them as classics. Because they could think of a dozen other shows that actually were classic and decided to name them all off. Because, when they found out these were Black shows, they guffawed and snickered and made jokes about Netflix and affirmative action. They commented on how they knew these shows had to be awful because, I mean they’re…Black focused. They flocked to posts where Black people were reminiscing and expressing happiness and added in their 2-cents of casual racism. With a sprinkle of “I hate how even our TV is being affected by the PC police,” a dash of “I’ve never seen Netflix promote ACTUAL classics like Lassie or I love Lucy, this is bullshit” and a lil razzle-dazzle of “are these shows going to show crime, rape, theft and people who don’t know how to talk let alone contribute to society because that is classicly black;” which is just outright racism.
And the mood shifted a little. Black people were now having to drag racists, in between happily talking about season 2 episode 5, where that one iconic thing happened that was forever ingrained in our culture. While chopping it up with other Black people (who were strangers but culture connects us all, honestly, so it’s like talking with fam) about how fine so and so was, they had to deal with white people reminding them how they are not what is considered beautiful in society, when the comments comparing the actors to dogs, roaches and burnt toast came in. After watching and enjoying an episode, and coming to post a critique about this or that thing, that they can now see was problematic, they were met with attacks on the culture as a whole.
And I wish I could say that this ignorance of culture was rare, but it isn’t. Your granny (or you) might have watched the soap operas The Young and The Restless, Bold and The Beautiful or Guiding Light, but did she even know about Telenovellas like Rubi or La Reina del Sur? I realize there’s a language barrier here, so I won’t fault anyone for not watching, but again did she/you even know about them?
When you think about teen coming of age dramas, do you imagine the Native American led Four Sheets To The Wind? Or do you think of, I don’t know, Juno, or something like that?
If someone were to ask you about actors/actresses that you considered to be a staple, maybe for their talent, maybe for their body of work, cultural importance or just pure cult fanaticism or popularity, are you going to mention Deniro, Dicaprio, Jen Anniston, Afleck or Bruce Campbell? Or are you going to mention Keith David, John Witherspoon, Jackee Harry, Sanaa Lathan or Nia long? Other than the few crossovers (like Denzel or Will Smith) can you name any famous (famous to the respective culture)Black, Native American, Asian, Latinx or Hispanic actors?
Did you have a favorite boy band growing up? Was it Hansen, Nsync or the Backstreet boys? Or was it B2k? Have you…ever heard of B2K?
Because we (Black and NB-POC) know allll about your faves, your movies, your TV shows, your music, your everything; so why don’t you all know about ours?
It’s probably because whiteness is the standard, the default and is assumed to be what everyone reveres. It leaves no room to consider that within society, there are THRIVING subcultures, with just as (if not more) talented people than what is currently touted. It tells people, that their cultures, just aren’t as important, aren’t as “good.” And like with the Netflix situation, it steals joy.
And Black joy is so, so necessary. Especially when our pain is the center of attention.
So binge-watch that show, sis/sib/my guy. Sing the theme song at the top of your lungs. Say all the lines to your favorite episode. Do ya dance, when your part comes on. And know that there is a chorus of other Black people, enjoying right along with you. You deserve every ounce of joy, beloveds.
Everyone else, expand your horizons, you might just find your new favorite movie/show or what have you, in the culture that you least expected. Just do me a favor, and don’t “bye Felicia” whatever you find. Appreciate, not appropriate.
When JanayB isn’t posting memes, scrolling through “wokebook” posts, ordering food and otherwise being your typical millennial, you can find her here destroying white tears and basking in her unapologetic blackness. Get in touch with her at JanayBsays@gmail.com.