Why Representation Matters

Representation Matters

As a young black girl growing up in a predominately white neighborhood, it was very easy to lose your sense of self. Luckily my parents instilled in me what it meant to be black and how being “different” is nothing to be ashamed of.

Of course, the older you get, you begin to look for validation from the outside world. I would often come home and turn on the television at the end of the day just to be able to see personalities like my own, seeing as everyone else around me looked and acted a certain way. I knew I would find comfort once I tuned into my favorite shows, because they were just like me! 

Here is a list of the most influential female Black television characters that shaped who I am today!

Susie Carmichael (The Rugrats) – The Rugrats was an amazing show, I still watch it to this day. But once Susie Carmichael was introduced was opened up to a more diverse audience. As a young girl I had no idea why I related to Susie more than the other characters, but as I got older I realized it was because she was exactly like me! Susie was a sassy little girl – but not in the way Angelica was. Most importantly Susie was smart, which was something that had not been seen in black cartoon characters.

Numbuh 5 (Codename Kids Next Door) – Abigail Lincoln, better known as “Numbuh 5” was someone who I related to around the time I was in the fifth grade. Though Numbuh 1 was the “official” leader of the squad, the team would be nothing without Numbuh 5’s smart, responsible, and laid-back style of leadership.

Raven Baxter (That’s So Raven) – The Baxter family was very similar to my own family. A close-knit black family who can talk to each other about anything. Raven and her hi-jinks always made me feel like it was OK to be quirky and loud, as long as I wasn’t hurting anyone… or in Raven’s case, hurting myself!

Denise Huxtable (The Cosby Show) – Before the recent scandal, I would often watch re-runs of The Cosby Show on Nick-at-Nite. It was always great seeing a black family who did not fall into the stereotypes that most TV writers put them into, Denise being the most individualistic of all the Cosby Kids. She was always eloquent and “woke” before we even knew what woke was, and we all admired her for it.

Princess Tiana (Disney’s Princess and the Frog) – Though it took forever and a day for us to get our own princess, it was worth the wait! Princess Tiana is a hardworking woman, which had not been seen in any other Disney princess movie. She was determined to open her restaurant and stick to her morals which is always key.

Issa Dee (Insecure) – Issa from Insecure is both someone to look up to and someone to learn from. We see the realistic life of a black woman figuring herself out and sticking up for herself in situations. I’m sure many other young black twenty to thirty something year old women get excited to see what situation Issa will get into next.

Bonnie Carlson (Big Little Lies) – Bonnie did not exactly stick out to me when I read the book, but once I watched the series she stole the show! I already am a huge fan of Zoe Kravitz, so it wasn’t too hard for me to get on board with Bonnie. I was most impressed by her level-headed decision-making skills and the way she supports other women in the series. Her role of “peacemaker” between her new husband and his ex-wife is also something to take note of.

Jodie Landon (Daria) – I recently started watching Daria on Hulu (seeing as I was around 6 years old when the show ended). Jodie is the perfect representation of how I was feeling toward the end of my time in High School. I was so tired of just being “the black girl”. Plenty of teachers would confuse me with other black girls who looked nothing close to what I looked like… yikes! Jodie was fed up with her classmates seeing her as just another token black girl, and honestly, I can’t blame her.

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