Statements of love and stories of nostalgia flooded social media after Netflix included Black comedic classics like Sister, Sister, Moesha, and Girlfriends to its queue. All of the shows have one key element in common: Black female leads.
Seeing Black women’s triumphs, struggles, and identities on network television are essential and the true embodiment of “for us, by us.” a concept that brings art and culture made for and by the Black American community. These shows manifest how vital it is to have Black women in the writer’s room, behind the camera, and in front of the camera, to depict the complex and layered elements of being a Black woman, our stories have to be created and told by us.
Nineties shows like Living Single, Girlfriends, and Moesha depicted and created a representation for the strength of Black women’s friendships and what challenges Black women have to face both professionally and personally. These shows brought light to what Black women face daily without being over-saturated with unnecessary drama or stereotypes.
These groundbreaking shows were not only a comedic relief to the Black community, but a stepping stone to the shows that impact us today, like Insecure and She’s Gotta Have It. It is essential to have Black female leads because they showcase the beautiful and multi-dimensional elements of Black women’s lives. These shows display to young women that we can be lawyers, writers, entrepreneurs, and creatives. These shows cultivate storylines where Black women could make mistakes and promote friendships that push us forward. These shows allow audiences to understand further what it means to be a Black woman in America from the perspective of Black women.
These Black female-led shows depict a diverse range of Black women’s stories and experiences, but Girlfriends, especially, was a show that formed storylines and character relationships beyond their time. Girlfriends, a show about four thirty-something Black women from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, shaped how our stories could and would be told on screen.
Following in Girlfriends‘ footsteps, shows like Insecure remind and reaffirm how fulfilling relationships with other Black women are- even if there are bumps along the way. Likewise, shows like Sister Sister and Moesha show the experiences of young cool Black girls who strive to be creative in their lives and find their purpose. The idea of displaying young Black girls’ life experiences was unique in the ’90s and created space for more sitcoms centered around Black female protagonists’ varying styles and perspectives. These shows paved the way for a new coming of age shows such as Grownish, a show following Zoey Johnson as she navigates through the trials and tribulations of college life.
These shows offer a new illustration of how vital and different Black women’s stories are and how relatable characters can be to a broader audience, but especially for women of color. It is essential to promote and continue to create television narratives that are focused solely on affirming Black women’s experiences and stories. Through these shows, Black women can see the type of woman they are, the type of women they want to become, and their sanctuary offered from sisterhood.
Shows Listed in the Article:
Girlfriends, the long-running sitcom about thirtysomething Black women navigating their lives and relationships aired for eight seasons on UPN (and later The CW).
Insecure (2016) a show about two best friends as they navigate life and their insecurities in LA that currently airs on HBO.
Moesha, a six-season sitcom that premiered in 1996, focuses on the life of Moesha Mitchell is a teenager juggling school, friendships, and romance.
She’s Gotta Have It, (2017) a two-season Netflix show about a Brooklyn-based artist Nola Darling struggles to stay true to herself and her dreams while dividing her time between her friends, her job and her lovers — all three of them.
Living Single, a five-season sitcom that premiered in 1993 about six Black 20-somethings — four women and two men — share their lives and loves in a Brooklyn brownstone.
Sister Sister, a sitcom that premiered in 1994 and ran for six seasons, about twin sisters, Tia, and Tamera, who were separated at birth and grew up adopted by different parents.
Corinne Dorsey is a DC-based freelance writer and journalist, currently studying journalism at Howard University. Most of her work focuses on black womanhood, social issues, culture, and music.