Black lead character Abbie Mills (played by Nicole Beharie) died during Sleepy Hollow’s season three finale last week. As audience members, we learned that just because a show has people of color does not mean that it is people of color friendly.
Her death was the final blow in the show’s treatment of her character. After her death, we are left to decide what to do with shows that have no respect for their characters of color.
It is likely that Sleepy Hollow will return for a fourth season but when the show killed off Abbie it lost many of its loyal fans. Like many of the show’s fans, I watched Sleepy Hollow because I wanted to support Nicole Beharie in her lead role. I was ecstatic that a Black woman was heading a historical show that had a supernatural twist, but without Beharie, I have no plans of watching the fourth season. There’s no denying that the show was on its last leg. The plots were confusing and the character development became weaker with every season. But, I supported it because of Abbie Mills.
By the end of the third season, we knew more about the emotional torment of Ichabod Crane’s dead witch wife, than we knew about Abbie and her struggles. The relationship between Abbie and her sister, Jenny was lightly developed despite being placed in tragic situations. For these two powerful and talented sisters, the shows weren’t afraid of making them suffer for the sake of a plot arc. Both Jenny and Abbie had a traumatic childhood.
On the show, Jenny found love for a few episodes and was happy. Then, the show killed off her lover and sister within weeks of each other. The writers seem to enjoy placing their Black characters in traumatic situations without developing them mentally or emotionally. However, characters like Icahbod’s wife and his son got an entire season to examine their emotional depths.
This decision to not add to Jenny or Abbie’s emotional interiority is not due to their lack of talent as actresses, but the writers and the show didn’t believe that these characters were worth the investment. Despite Beharie being talented and being one of the show’s leads, it comes off like Sleepy Hollow’s producers and writers were never invested in her character simply because she was Black. She just got reduced to the sidekick.
Beharie was unhappy while working, and she was trying to leave the series for quite some time. The show did not hide their disrespect for Beharie. For example, last year Beharie was not invited to the DVD commentary. This year, the Sleepy Hollow’s Official Twitter Page wasn’t following Nicole Beharie until she notified them. Even though the showrunners state that there is a possibility for a fourth season, many watchers of color have no interest in watching it.
— Black Girl Nerds (@BlackGirlNerds) April 10, 2016
— Kim Richardson (@DaxNY) April 14, 2016
RIP to #SleepyHollow. Thanks for the memories of season 1.
— Black Girl Nerds (@BlackGirlNerds) April 9, 2016
— Scott Hanselman (@shanselman) April 9, 2016
— WTF SleepyHollow (@wtfsleepyhollow) April 11, 2016
Just we watched #SleepyHollow decimate a black woman's centrality , then I watched the MTV award where no black women pop youth culture
— OriginalRudeGyal (@Blackamazon) April 12, 2016
Abbie's dead. Bye #SleepyHollow you won't be missed. At all.
— Courageous Convos (@ActsofFaithblog) April 9, 2016
Frankly, shows that do not respect people of color should not be watched, at least not by people of color. Watching them gives the writers and the show runners an excuse to undermine the actors of color we so rarely see on television.
Instead of keeping the same white men, shows need to kill them off also. Somehow in Sleepy Hollow a 200-year-old man outlived a highly trained FBI agent. In the end, killing off Abbie Mills officially killed the show.