black sitcoms by Marie-Louise Onga Nana September 23, 2020
At the end of July, Netflix announced that it was bringing on seven classic Black sitcoms to its US platform in the fall.
This addition came right on time because with stay-at-home orders, more people turned to streaming services, and committed to continuing them.
Finally getting these heavily-sought-after sitcoms was a win for the streaming platform. Shows like Sister, Sister and Moesha are extremely lucrative and couldn’t be found anywhere else before Netflix was able to bring them on.
The shows joining the platform are: Moesha, The Game, Sister Sister, Girlfriends, The Parkers, Half & Half, and One on One.
Bringing old shows back may not do much in terms of creating accessible work for up-and-coming Black actors. However, it was a step in the right direction.
The lack of nuance in the representation of Blackness has caused some popular shows like BlackAF, Dear White People, and Grownish to seem as if they cater more towards non-Black audiences.
In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, there has been a lot of conversation around diversity on screen. Many recent Black-led sitcoms have at times been deemed performative, so Netflix obtaining these sitcoms was a win for the platform.
Even with Netflix’s push towards elevating Black voices, the platform has also gone under fire recently for its lack of diverse skin tones.
When comparing Black sitcoms now with those of the 90s and early 2000s, many have argued the creators have taken steps back. Even when leads we loved got swapped out for lighter-skinned actors for various reasons, older Black sitcoms had deeper skin tones represented in them.
Seeing a diverse range of skin tones, races, and ethnicities on screen is important to younger viewers. Having characters that look like you going through similar experiences allows them to feel seen and represented.
A 2012 study found that Black and white girls and Black boys felt lower self esteem after watching TV shows. White boys, on the other hand, felt little to no change.
Shows like Girlfriends and Moesha shaped a generation growing up alongside them. From the clothing to the storylines to the familiar faces, young Black audiences that missed out on the shows before, now get to step into the world of 90’s Black nostalgia.
Though while not without their faults, the shows bridge a sort of cultural gap between Gen Z and Millennials.