We all love those sassy black girls in our favorite TV shows or movies, because they always seem to bring certain energy to their character. We’ve all seen them do their neck roles, arched eyebrows, the “don’t mess with me” attitude, and, of course, the finger-snap; along with the over the top personality and the rough exterior. You can find your feisty black girl in a lot of different movies, playing different roles, but for the most part, never the main role, but, the best friend of the main character. The amount of attitude and flippancy that the writers give these characters is over the top, dramatic, and is promoting a stereotype.
Disney Channel has a show that started airing in May of 2011; the main character is an 11- year -old music prodigy named Chyna Parks. A.N.T farm is the only show on Disney channel in which the main character is an African American girl. The only reason why I’m bringing this up is because, one day I was flipping through the channels on my TV and came across this show. Having grown up with Disney Channel I stopped to see if this was a show I would like. I had to turn away 15 minutes into the show. During the 15 minutes of watching the show I learned that all of her school friends were Caucasian, which is fine. The thing that bothered me was how she was acting around them. She was extremely sassy. She spoke with a lot of power behind her voice, the kind of voice that let everyone know that she was in charge and kind of had that “momma knows best” presence about her. The “momma knows best” has to do with the fact that these girls think what they say is golden and that no one can prove them wrong. It was way too much for me. In today’s era, the media is only portraying one side of the African American girl. Smart-alecky and over the top. In the 90’s when I was growing up I had so many positive and diverse African American girls to look up to on Disney Channel like, Sister Sister, That’s so Raven and the Proud Family. Those shows showed me that I had more to look forward to in life then growing up and becoming the feisty over the top black girl in my group of friends.
TV Tropes says that there is a positive side to being cast as the brazen girl. They describe the role of a flippant African American girl as “a pleasure to be around, but is also so the go to girl for advice and help. These characters usually make good leaders, because though generally fun, insightful, they are still firm in decisions, trustworthy, and speak their minds”. Even though I do agree with what TV Tropes is saying about the benefit and the serious side of playing that role, I still don’t think that’s right. If you look at most of Queen Latifah’s roles from Living Single to Beauty Shop she is the motherly character, who tells everyone what to do and how to do it, who is successful, and very sure of who she is, and won’t let anyone tell her different. Her sassy-ness is not over the top or “ghetto-fied” like Tyler Perry’s Madea.
For those of you who do not know who Madea actually is a character created by Tyler Perry who is shown in multiple of his movies as well as television shows. IMBd describes her as “Madea is a tall (6’5″), overweight, older woman who uses the “mad black woman” stereotype. She is quite argumentative, is willing to threaten people with her gun, but generally does not get in trouble since she is a nightmare for the police” Tyler Perry uses the “mad black women stereotype” to get people to laugh at what is going on. Although it may be funny it is by no means an accurate representation of African American women at all, and should not be a person that little girls look up to.
Lisa Fuggins, writer of Ingle Wood Today Newspaper, wrote an article called From Mammy to Sassy (part two). In the article she talked about how the media portrays African American women in cleaning products to big motion pictures. Fuggins she says “I believe film directors, advertisements agencies, and television producers can look at the achievement of our black women today and use them as positive images to showcase their projects and products.” I agree with this statement 100%., African American women as well as girls do a lot of good for the world. There are a lot of African American girls out there who graduate on the top of their class, start a successful business like Pastry’s which was created by Vanessa and Angela Simmons, along with many other positive things. African American women and even girls all over the world are a lot more than a bundle of sass. African Americans as a whole race have come a long way, from the very beginning. That being said, African American women should be offered more roles that depict the success and pride of being an African American girl, and not just roles that depict them taking care of a whole bunch of little kids, or getting into constant confrontations.
Lisa Fuggins also wrote another article called From Mammy to Sassy (part one). In this article she talks about a modern day show that airs on Nickelodeon, called Everybody Hates Chris. Everybody Hates Chris takes place in Brooklyn, New York; the whole show is modeled after famous comedian Chris Rock, and his life. “Chris’s mother’s character, Rochelle, exhibits every stereotype associated with the Black woman. She rules everyone in the house, including her husband. Everyone is scared of her.” That is what Fuggins has to say about the mother Rochelle on the show. Even though she draws attention to Rochelle she fails to draw attention to that Chris’ little sister, Tonya, who is equally, if not more, smart-mouthed then her mother.
It’s time to start eliminating the amount of roles they have out there depicting black girls and women in a bad manner. It’s important to give the upcoming generation of African American girls something positive to focus their attention on. So if all they’re watching on TV is the African American character yell at people and express their feelings in the wrong way such as fighting, screaming and scheming, then that is what they are going to do. It’s time to end the stereotype, about African American women.