Robin Thede: Movies & TV shows don’t ‘have to be about black trauma’

Creative Arts Emmy 2019 - Day 1 Arrivals

One of the best things to happen on television last year was the first season of A Black Lady Sketch Show. Every episode had several skits which were fall-down hilarious and I sometimes find myself remembering this skit or that joke in the middle of the day and giggling to myself. It’s coming back for a second season at some point and I can’t wait! The show is executive produced by Issa Rae (who also appears sporadically in some of the skits) and it was started by comedienne and writer Robin Thede, who appears in nearly every skit. Obviously, Thede has a lot of ideas about how to tell black stories and which stories should be told:

“A Black Lady Sketch Show” creator Robin Thede says that people looking to educate themselves should watch modern stories with black characters.

“Everything doesn’t have to be about black trauma,” Thede, 40, said during an all-female showrunner panel at ATX TV…from the Couch on Sunday. “I think the highest-rated streaming thing right when all this kicked off was ‘The Help,’ which to me is mind-blowing. It’s like, ‘Oh, I’m going to learn about black people, let me go watch black maids and see a white savior movie.’”

She quickly added that movies like “The Help” (which takes place in 1960s Mississippi) and “Hidden Figures” (set in the 1960s) are great, but said people should also watch modern stories — referencing her own comedy show as well as TV’s “Black-ish” and “Insecure.”

“Unfortunately, there are not as many … to choose from because they just don’t get made,” she continued. “My challenge now is greenlight these modern black stories. We want to see modern black stories … Go watch black people just living regular-ass lives and being flawed and not being strong black women all the time or making mistakes. It’s about what we can do to not tokenize black people in these stories either.”

In addition to actors, Thede said that in terms of productions, it’s “a comprehensive thing that has to happen and that’s what I want people to understand. It’s not just about hiring one black writer and one black actor, thats not it, it’s about creating an environment where everybody feels equal on set,” she said.

[From Page Six]

I agree with her completely and I would add one note: perhaps these white savior stories and black trauma stories would not have the stupid impact they have if A) other black stories were being made alongside those pieces and B) the Academy would stop rewarding every f–king film about slavery. Those old white people – the gatekeepers of Hollywood – only want to talk about race through the historical prism of slavery or through the prism of “and then white people saved the day.”

2020 13th Annual ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Awards Luncheon

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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20 Responses to “Robin Thede: Movies & TV shows don’t ‘have to be about black trauma’”

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  1. Christina says:

    My family and I binge watched Kenya Barris’ #BlackAF and loved it. I need to go check out The Black Lady Sketch Show. I will NEVER watch Twelve Years a Slave or The Help. If it isn’t from a Black perspective, I’m.not interested. I know that Twelve Years a Slave was written by a Black man, but that got a green light for the slavery and pain. Cannot stomach movies like the last Samurai. Really, Tom Cruise? Idiot…

    • TC says:

      12 Years a Slave is a true story. The Solomon Northrup character was born a free black man in the USA but was kidnapped sold into slavery in 1841. Because he was a black man in the USA no one believed him when he said he was free but had been kidnapped. I don’t know if you can get any blacker than that. It’s like telling someone strangling you that you can’t breathe and the person continues to choke you anyway.

  2. anniefannie says:

    OMG?!? How in the world have I missed this show? That bad bitch sketch had me convulsing on my couch.

  3. Dazed and confused says:

    Robin Thede is hilarious. I used to watch her on “The Nightly Show” before it was rudely canceled. That show was a great platform for exposing systematic racism and sexism. I always thought it was canceled because it cut too close to the bone.

    • Christina says:

      I miss The Nightly Show.

    • ohrhilly says:

      BLSS was amazing. I must have watched each episode several times. I agree with Robin. We shouldn’t be pigeonholed into one genre. Her sketch show is a perfect example of that.

  4. Laalaa says:

    I binge-watched a few of the last year’s roundtable videos on youtube and answering a question “which characters you don’t accept anymore?”, one of the black actresses responded: I don’t want to be a sassy black anything, I am done with being black and sassy!

    That hit hard, I never realized that was a stereotype I see all the type and don’t recognize. #whitepriviledge

  5. BlueSky says:

    Bad bitch support group and Black Lady courtroom skits had me in tears!! I love Robin Thede

  6. yinyang says:

    I think she’s absolutley right, it must be tiring to have everything focused on race. Black people dont look in the mirror in the morning and think “I’m black”, it’s secondary. Also being portrayed as one dimensional, I wonder in alot of tv the smarterest or most suave is the white person, the black person’s skill is…I dont know…being black? it’s super embarrassing. Loved Black/Mexican Gustava Fring from Breaking Bad, he was so bad ass and he played such a pivitol role, his race came secondary!

  7. Green Desert says:

    I encourage everyone to watch A Black Lady Sketch Show…it’s hilarious! If you’re interested in working to be actively anti-racist, along with learning more about white privilege and systemic racism and the abuse and terrors black people have been subjected to, consume black art that is not focused on trauma. This show, Insecure, Atlanta, other shows and films and books created by black people and starring black people.

  8. Veronica says:

    There’s so many situations were race just doesn’t matter. It makes the lack of black and non-white casting glaringly obvious, especially when you’re looking at things like the Marvel universe where the existence of aliens and superheroes would have likely radically changed social conceptions of prejudice. Why *not* make this or that character black? What’s it going to change? If the answer is nothing, you need to examine why you didn’t do it in the first place. That’s where the change needs made.

    I agree with with her absolutely in that regard. The focus on slavery and racial trauma is so limiting and does more to promote the sense of Otherness of black existence than anything else it does.

  9. JEM says:

    I can’t wait for the second season! It was such a hilarious show.

  10. Case says:

    Watched a great Netflix three-part series They’ve Gotta Have Us about the history of Black cinema, and how absurdly long it has taken for films with Black actors to not just be considered “Black movies,” but regular dramas and comedies and horror movies and everything else, with a cast that just happens to be white. It’s truly stunning to think about.

  11. yinyang says:

    I also think casting directors put a wide variety of white people trying to outdo eachother as the most smartest, most beautiful, most charming, but casting of colour, any persn of colour would do, or they find some strange coloured person to give them an edge. why not take the time to find truly talented and charismatic of all races instead rushing to find the white star, in a sea of white, and the person of colour is just an afterthougt. We have to be more careful when we choose now more than before, we’ve seen white talent in everyway, it’s played out and the same thing, why not let some other people have a shot.

  12. Betsy says:

    I don’t have cable and only one television gets over the air tv, so If it doesn’t appear in my ine streaming service, I don’t get to see it for a while. I have wanted to see this show for a while!