[Womanist Musings] The importance of web series
[Drama Queenz, episode 1]
Renee at the Womanist Musings blog has a great post on why web series are so important for marginalized creators and audiences. Thanks to her post I’m now on to Drama Queenz, a web series about three black gay men trying to make it in New York’s theater scene. I just watched the first episode (above) and loved it!
Renee makes a great point about the racist backlash against Issa Rae and The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl when the series won this year’s Shorty award for Best Web Show:
When marginalized people complain about the bias in media, the constant retort is if you don’t like it, go make your own…the response to the success of The Misadventures of AWKWARD Black Girl tells us that what they really mean is be quiet and accept what we give you.
In other words, the problem isn’t just that certain kinds of characters, stories, and creators are underrepresented in media. It’s also that some viewers who belong to demographics that are overrepresented (“mainstream”) in the media are threatened by the existence of what little “non-traditional” content exists, especially if it draws in an audience. Any noticeable progress towards acknowledging the existence and complexity of marginalized groups in media is often seen as a “take over” of media by special interests. This mindset is what leads people to complain that shows like Glee are “too gay,” despite the serious lack of LGBT characters on television, or to complain that a handful of new female-led and created sitcoms are creating a “peak vagina” situation and “labia saturation” in the media.
Issa Rae made a similar point in her response to racist anger over her Shorty Award win, that critics assumed the series was of less quality and less deserving simply because it explicitly centers a black character:
As was demonstrated by some of the Shorty Award tweets, some people can’t get past the “black” in the title. The bewilderment that our show not only exists, but that it could actually be good is indicative of how mainstream media thinks. I’m pretty sure none of the people tweeting that I’d only get three-fifths of my award had even seen an episode of our show, but they were 100 percent positive that it couldn’t be as good as whatever it is someone who didn’t look like me produced.
This mindset is exactly why creative shows of color don’t get to exist on television anymore. There’s an overbearing sense of entitlement that refuses to allow shows of color to thrive. How dare we even try?
As Renee says, independent media is threatening to some because challenges widespread media messages and puts control over the message in the hands of people outside the mainstream – which is exactly why it’s so important for underrepresented demographics. What’s great is that despite institutional obstacles and opposition, marginalized creators continue to find ways to make their visions reality and produce great content.