The Portrayal of Black Women on Television

As a black woman in America, I am burdened with the various negative stereotypes of black women from other races, and even black men. People assume that I am ghetto, combative, dysfunctional and find joy in being a, “strong, independent black women that don’t need no man,” and that could be further from the truth.  My belief is that these perceptions come from many places, but mainly the media. Lately,  more black women have been staring as leading ladies in prominent television series. Although, one would think that this is great for black women in America, it’s actually just furthering society’s perception.

Scandal is one of the shows that are adding to the negative perceptions of black women. In Olivia Pope’s career she is driven, successful, ambitious, and a powerful force in every case that she takes on. On the other hand, in her personal life she is lonely, self-sabotaging, and guarded. Her loneliness is exemplified in her nights outside of work either with another woman’s husband or drowning her sorrows in multiple glasses of wine. She self-sabotaged her relationship with Jake, because she didn’t know how to operate in an area of peace so she created drama. This show is just portraying black women as only being able to function in dysfunction.

Another show that is adding to the negative perception of black women is Being Mary Jane. Mary Jane is a successful news anchor with a luxury home, endless financial means, and once again…dysfunctional relationships.
Throughout the seasons, Mary Jane is constantly portrayed as desperate. At first Mary Jane was with a married man and although she had other potential suitors, she still wanted to be with the married man. I remember one episode where Mary Jane and the husband’s wife were at a table and Mary Jane got up and presented a speech about how being number two is better. Then, Mary Jane went so far as to freeze the sperm of her ex-boyfriend so she could use it to have a baby behind his back. She pulls so many desperate moves, which just creates this perception of black women as those that will do anything to not be single, even sacrifice their dignity.

Now I love Cookie Lyon just like everybody else, but I have to be honest. Empire also adds to the negative stereotypes of black women. Cookie went from jail to being a prominent figure within Empire Records to starting her own label. I love the fact that in every episode Cookie shows just how street smart and business savvy she is. What I don’t like is that she does this by being rude, manipulative, and combative. I think this just furthers the stereotypes that all black women have bad attitudes.

My point of writing this is not to discourage people from watching these television shows. I just want everybody to be aware of a few things while they are watching these shows. Be aware that all black women aren’t dysfunctional. Be aware that all black women aren’t desperate. Be aware that all black women don’t have bad attitudes. Be aware that these television shows are scripted entertainment.

What is your opinion?

Bianca Baymon84 Posts

I have recently earned my BBA from the University of Houston and I am a native Houstonian. My background is in human resources, so I have an understanding of what motivates people and their actions. As a result of those things, I merge my personal, professional, and college experience to write blogs that everyone can relate to.


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