It’s Time Black Actresses Played More Than The ‘Sassy’ Sidekick
“I’m tired of it, and I want more for our people.” – Yvette Nicole Brown
Black women are stereotyped and categorized non-stop in the entertainment industry, whether it be in music videos, on television shows, or movies, black women are not being portrayed as their full selves. Through media’s warped and biased lens, these women are either hyper-sexualized or given too much attitude for one person to handle…because it makes for a renewed season (Thanks, Cookie Lyon for the most recent example!).
Well, one woman is finally talking about what it means to be a black actress in Hollywood, and discussing her issues with the “sassy” requirement that all Black women must hone before stepping a half step into the doors of Hollywood magic.
That woman? Yvette Nicole Brown.You might recognize her from “Community”, 2015’s “The Odd Couple”, or, for our younger readers, as Helen from the Nickelodeon hit “Drake and Josh.” No matter how you know her, the actress recently had a lot to say about the limitations placed on Black women in Hollywood.
“I feel like we’re kind of the standard-bearers, and we’re lighting the torch, and that’s good and bad,” Brown explained in a chat for Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood conversation series. “Because sometimes, we’re not really able to do the kind of roles that will elevate us as a people.”
Brown has been known to play these one-dimensional characters – characters that resemble the same ones featured along the Madea spectrum.
“When I’m saying yes to something, I’m like, ‘Oh, is this gonna set us back?’ It feels like there are so few opportunities for us to shine in the way that we know that we shine. ‘Cause we know that we’re kings and queens, but for the most part we’re service people on film and in television,” she said. “We’re assistants, we’re meter maids, we’re nurses, we’re the judge, you know?”
The issue with these roles that Black actors and actresses are given is that all of these secondary roles come with this term of agreement that the actresses have to be sassy. They have to play the role of the sassy assistant (like Nicki Minaj in The Other Woman) or the sassy maid or the sassy nurse (like Xosha Roquemore’s Tamra in The Mindy Project). It’s not enough to be the token Black girl on set, now she has to be the loud, Black girl stomping her way with her big mouth and baby daddy issues pursing her lips through the 20-minute episode… but don’t worry, y’all, she’ll be back next week to give you a weekly dose of Aunt Jemima mixed with The Proud Family’s Suga Mama.
Brown is saying ‘no more.’
“I’m tired of it, and I want more for our people” Brown explained during her video interview. But aren’t you? Aren’t you tired of being stereotyped? Aren’t you annoyed with always seeing this fragmented self on screen? I am, and I’m not a Black woman.
Here we are though, so desperate to get a role that we will play any role that is given to us, when the fact is that we are worth so much more than the sassy Black characters. This is why Tyler Perry’s Have and the Have Nots and Kenya Barris’ Black-ish are crucial for the development of Black TV because they allow us to see the wide gamut of Black America, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Through these shows, we are allowed to see lessons learned, families torn, families united, the importance of education, revenge, happiness, sadness, anger, acts of police brutality, and more…all with a hint of sass because we can document our attitude, but you can’t.
(Photo by Jenny Anderson/Getty Images)