Sometimes a thought comes slowly like a thief in the night. Sometimes a thought hits you like a ton of bricks. But then there are some thoughts that are a coagulation of littler thoughts. Thoughts that slowly piled up until one day…
“How come black girls don’t get rescued?”
I think it was a thought that was a long time coming. It started with Sleeping Beauty, the beautiful blonde who snoozed through most of her movie until a handsome prince swept in and kissed her (which is a little invasive of personal space but yeah ok). Or maybe it started with Princess Peach, another beautiful blonde who apparently couldn’t afford efficient enough security to keep her safe and kept requiring plumbers to rescue her. I definitely know that Princess Tiana played a major part in the build up to this. Tiana. My favourite Disney Princess (bar Pocahontas and Mulan). She rescued herself, built up her business herself, worked two jobs and got her future husband’s lazy ass out of the swamp. She was the first black princess and she had to sort most of her shit out herself. My other two favourite princesses stopped a race war (in an admittedly historically inaccurate way but still) and saved all of China respectively. Both ethnics. Neither one had anyone rescue them.
I look at TV shows and movies and come to a similar conclusion. Olivia Pope Can Handle It. Annalise Keating gets away with murder. Michonne’s first ever scene involves her coming into the story with two zombies on a chain, as if the whole “zombie apocalypse” thing was a minor inconvenience for her. The “Strong Independent Black Woman Who Don’t Need No Man”stereotype is… well… strong. But I find myself wondering if that’s a good thing.
Now don’t get me wrong, personal strength is a good thing. We all should aspire to be strong on our own, capable in our abilities and able to lift ourselves out of tragedy. But I wonder if telling girls that crying and having weaknesses is a sign of failing. That it’s not OK to want to lie in bed and eat ice cream and wallow for a bit. Like having any emotion other than determination (and a li’l bit o’ sass) is not a complex and important part of being human. Being strong all the time is tiring, just as being happy all the time is, being sad all the time is, being rescued all the time is. We, as human beings, need a little bit of each in us to remain human. It’s okay to be rescued when we can’t do it alone… and it’s ok to want to be rescued once in a while. Not in a knight-in-shining-armour way necessarily (though that’s ok too, if that’s what you need), but in the sense that wanting support, needing help, is something that will happen and should be taken on board as a part of life as opposed to a Kryptonite-esque glowing green rock that takes out Superman.
I think we need more complex PoC female characters. We’re getting there (I may have criticised Olivia Pope but she did, to her credit, have her crying days and her drinking-wine days and her swimming-until-the-chlorine-attacked-her-edges days) but we’re not there yet. And until we’re there, I’m gonna keep beating Bowser and wonder where my plumber is hiding.