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Monday, July 23, 2012

VH1s Single Ladies and Colorism


I am a brown chick. A middle of the road brown girl who gets down right toasty when kissed by the sun. So, honestly colorism hasn’t really affected me...much.  I went to an historically black college right around the time when Spike Lee’s School Daze was released. The song “Good and Bad Hair” seemed to be played out on my campus as I saw many ladies with “good hair” hanging together. The good hair was frequently coupled with light skin and well in my eyes a click was formed. It was an observation I made and moved on.  As for me I didn’t let stereotypes hold me back; the men I dated were of all hues...although admittedly I was a little suspect when a light-skinned guy with wavy hair was interested in me. Eventually I got over my hang-ups but in graduate school, to my chagrin, I ended up dating a guy who told me he could NEVER bring me home because I was *gasp* too dark! Too dark? I was flummoxed and quickly put that relationship behind me.

Skin color/colorism is something that is an issue in the African diaspora but plays out in other cultures as well. In 2012 here in the States I thought we were moving beyond colorism but I can’t help but observe pop culture norms that continue to perpetuate the idea that the closer you are to having caucasian features the more beautiful you are considered.  For instance, take my guilty pleasure “Single Ladies” I resisted watching this show that highlights three single women in Atlanta, with a predominantly black cast and one single white friend. I resisted for no other reason than the bad acting but after watching a few episodes I was soon sucked in and watched fairly religiously. 

Photo credit: VH1

The cast is full of successful women, movers and shakers who just happen to be light skinned with no successful dark skinned sister in sight. When lead actress Stacey Dash left the show she was replaced by a body double (light skinned, light eyed) Denise Vasi. Admittedly I did notice the color thing but didn’t make anything of it and continued to watch the show. Sidebar - the men apparently can be chocolate brown and successful, on again off again love interest of Keisha (LisaRaye), Malcolm (played by tall, dark and handsome DB Woodside)  is a very rich man. With humble beginnings. 

Photo credit: VH1 Season 2 cast leads

However, the newest cast member, Morgan (played by Cassandra Freeman) is brown skinned. 

Cassandra Freeman newest cast member
I was momentarily gleeful and then I realized that the brown skinned woman while single, is also a single mother, driving a Honda and her only prospect? A bus driver who she has to approach for a date and she ends up paying! Meanwhile, LisaRaye has men buying her Ashton Martins and Raquel’s (played by Denise Vasi) former fiance is a neurosurgeon. Coincidence? I don’t think so! I continue to be confused by such blatant displays of colorism on television.

I am particularly surprised because Queen Latifah is executive producer and she was one of the stars of Living Single back in the nineties. Living Single had a very diverse cast and the darkest sister on the show was actually a high powered attorney. I find it interesting that with this type of prior work experience on a successful show, the Queen would perpetuate the stereotypes frequently associated with skin color.

Does this mean I will be boycotting the show? Absolutely not. But I do think it is important to make these types of observations and call out folks on their stuff. I hoped we’d be beyond this in 2012 but clearly we have a way to go. What are your thoughts? Have you noticed colorism in pop culture?


5 comments:

YUMMommy said...

I'm hoping this is not the case because I love Queen Latifah and she seems to be a good person. Maybe, Freeman was the best actress that auditioned for the role and it's a coincidence that's her complexion is darker than the rest of the cast.

Tia said...

I don't keep up with the show as much as I did last season. Mainly because if the bad acting, LOL. I have to say that I would appreciate seeing more shades of brown on tv. I would also like to see less weaves and wigs, but that probably won't happen. I don't think there is anything wrong with those hairstyles (I rocked a Beyonce inspired weave a few years ago, loved it!), but I would really like to see more women of color looking more natural. As YuMMommy pointed out Living Single was a super successful show that featured all types of women. That's what I'd like to see tv get back to.

keyalus said...

I've absolutely noticed this! And if brown girls barely get love, dark-skinned girls like me *really* get no love.

I was wracking my brain this AM to think of dark skinned girls in recent TV/movies who A) aren't overweight and B) aren't playing an older mother figure. Because, unfortunately, if A & B aren't true in TV land, you aren't considered "desireable" in the context of the show.

I could hardly think of anyone! "Think Like A Man" had a whole cast of black folks and while there were 2 dark-skinned men, there were no dark-skinned women.

The only dark-skinned actresses I can think of lately are Gabourey Sidibe, Viola Davis, Retta (Parks & Rec) and Loretta Divine. None of them play parts where they are really considered desirable women.

Sigh.

This Cookn' Mom said...

Hmmm...you may be on to something here! I hope it's not the case though.

Mrs. Pancakes said...

I am with the rest of the ladies..I hope this is not the case either...I've always liked it whenever I've seen it!!

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