When the Bough Is Black: A“When The Bough Breaks” Review

Black Hollywood Veterans Regina Hall and Morris Chestnut appeal to the black audience  lost in the abundant white faces that continue to dominate the big screen. Thus, despite the familiar plot, reminiscent of Fatal Attraction or Obsessed, the film becomes attractive in the still aberrant presence embodied by black actors. Unfortunately, the presumed “black” actors, betray a melanated presence that conveniently presents physical diversity despite portraying a privilege and hue antithetical to their own. The whiteness of the physically black cast surfaces in assigning Hall and Chestnut Anglo names. Regina Hall and Morris Chestnut become John and Laura Taylor, and their surrogate Jaz Sinclair becomes Anna Walsh. Thus, while it is certainly pleasing to see a black couple love one another, this love exists in the face of acquired whiteness that makes their hue a suggestion rather than a defining attribute. Through illustrating whiteness through black bodies, When the Bough Breaks embodies racial subtleties that strategically shifts culture and cultural accountability.

Laura Taylor, the skilled and conventionally successful culinary professional presumably has everything. She has beauty, style, an equally alluring residence, and an admiring husband. However, despite their love for one another, John and Laura cannot conceive a child. It is though her implemented barren state, that Laura Taylor, the black woman, swaps places with her European counterpart. This is not to suggest that black women do not struggle with fertility, but it is to state that it is not a moment issue plaguing our personhood. In fact, this portrayal counters the consistent portrayal of black women as hyper-fertile, an image that perpetuates black women as bearing multiple children even launching the 2011 Soho billboard that asserted the black female womb as the most dangerous place for a black child. More significantly, this perpetuation, when viewed allegorically, depicts Africa as barren and childless, a truth inconsistent with a history that conceals the repeated rape and seizure of people and natural resources from the fruitful land on earth–Affica. Thus, the black woman gains central placement at the expense of sacrificing her frutitful history to one that mirrors one of her oppressor. As a barren woman whose last chance for motherhood lies in a crazed woman, Taylor sacrifices her conjugal sanctity for her child. By the end of the film, it is Laura who shoots the fatal bullet into the body that birthed her legacy. In casting the fatal shot, Laura literally chops the tree that bears her fruit. Here, the black body does what Scandal viewers subconsciously absorb on Thursdays, a black body that exudes behavior historically aligned with whites. Scandal’s Rowan Pope (Joe Morton), is easily the most fascinating character on the series who simultaneously elicit hate and awe . Pope, as “Command” epitomizes power, as no system or individual seems capable to deplete his dominance. Pope breaks men down only to build them up in his image, or discards those unable to live up to his standards. By depicting a black man as powerful, but evil and perniciously dominating, racism takes on an equality as real as the characters themselves.

Similarly, When the Bough Breaks portrays blackness both physically and allegorically to illustrate  a similar reversal. Westerns raped Africa of her natural resources and children to birth the productivity of a stolen land. After providing the blood, sweat and tears necessary to nurture what we now consider America, blacks were emotionally and socially tossed aside to fend for themselves in a sea of disenfranchisement. Anna Walsh allegorically represents this marginalized presence, seemingly driven mad by the demands of a society that seems rooted in her exploitation. Conversely, John and Laura Taylor embody a systemic favorability that permits them to use and discard those lacking resources. In allegorically representing blackness, When the Bough Breaks employs black bodies as tools to discount racism in suggesting that blacks are as equally susceptible to racist positioning as whites. This suggestion implores viewers to conceptualize as individual not systemic. Ironically, in nurturing this belief, films like When the Bough Breaks and shows like Scandal cultivate the necessary unconsciousness for systemic racism to operate. Thus, what seems like another great time at the movies, permits black audiences to participate and foster their continued oppression in a country that thwarts enlightenment with entertainment.

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#TeacherBae and Sexuality as a Smokescreen to #BlackGirlMagic

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This week, Patrice Brown made headlines after pictures of her in a tailored, knee-length pastel pink dress went viral. The picture offset a series of conversations about professional attire, and the sexualized black female body. However, Brown’s popularity has little to do with her attire. Rather, Brown’s popularity betrays an anxiety surrounding black women in professional and non-stereotypical spaces.

I feel compelled to state that in conversations surrounding this subject, I was initially quite ambivalent. It wasn’t until I found myself rambling through my sentiments that I realized the smokescreen that enveloped my thought process.  With the few details that surfaced regarded her professional work, Brown exudes the same pride in her profession that she does in her appearance. This depiction, although commonly portrayed as disparate, conveys a resonate image that epitomizes a high sense of purpose and esteem. Yet, the intricacies surrounding her professionalism barely wash ashore in a society fixated on depicting the black female body as dichotomous to any identity that poses a question to what cultural critic bell hooks references as racist-sexist oppression.

It is racist-sexist oppression that prompts both blacks and whites to police black women for petty “offenses” to veil the true discomfort that lies in a black female striving to color outside the lines of welfare mother, sexualized performer, or wannabe white girl. Thus, it is immaterial whether or not Brown’s outfit is inappropriate, just like it is not relevant that First Lady Michelle Obama does not don a pageant smile at every moment or that Tennis giant Serena Williams is not a flat-chested, slim-hipped white woman. Rather these observations betray the contemporary world as uncomfortable with confident black females as experts in their fields.

By operating in the circumscribed identity prescribed for us by western society. black females perform in the fantasy outlined by western imagination. Thus stereotypes and stereotypical behavior prove that blacks are just as imagined in the minds of their oppressors. Nevertheless, blacks continually endure a caustic response in exuding stereotypical traits by those whose imagination crafted said image. Similarly, Brown’s popularity is partially due to her beauty, but mostly due to the subconscious belief that black female bodies are incongruous to professionalism, class and modesty.  A white teacher who wore a similar outfit would most likely yield two responses. In scenario A, the image does not prove viral, as a white woman incongruous to conventional standards is inconceivable to most, or at least not conceivable to the point of being more than a funny meme. In scenario B, the white teacher endures a celebrated image similar to Kim Kardashian, a curvy white woman who humanizes white femininity in possessing traditionally black traits.  Thus, Patrice Brown’s acquired visibility, proves that even in a society overly concerned with dissolving overt racism, black women remain excluded from the luxury of being human.

Oh, and Patrice if you’re reading this–You look beautiful. Thanks for giving the world a little #blackgirlmagic.

 

 

 

 

The Black Female Faces of My Childhood…

In honor of Women’s History Month I compiled a list to commemorating the brown faces that that shaped my childhood as a budding black woman. 

How many of these do you remember? 

 
Tia and Tamara Mowry from Sister Sister  ss

Who didn’t want to be the Mowry twins growing up? From their beautiful hair to their cute twin rhetoric, down to “Go home roger” they were sweet, classy and entertaining.

Brandy as Moesha  

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Brandy, as the first black Cinderella and the queen of the silver screen, Brandy was the queen of the 90s. Growing up I would hear Brandy on the radio, turn on the television and she would be there too! She showed the versatility of black femininity while only a child herself! 

 
Angela from Boy Meets World  Boy-Meets-World---Trina-McGree-then-jpg

This show was intoxicating, and it was pretty cool that Angela tamed bad boy Shawn Hunter. 

 
Kellie Shanygne Williams, as Laura Winslow on Family Matters  

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Laura stole simultaneously stole the hearts of Steve Urkel and America  as the girl next door. 

 
Lark Voorhies, as Lisa Turtle on Saved By the Bell  

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Stylish, assertive and cute: Lisa paved the way for many of the young black actress that would arise in the 90s. 

 
Stacy Dash as Dionne from Clueless  

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 Even though Cher was pegged the beauty,Dionne’s brown skin and thick locks stole every scene. It was also admirable that although Dionne looked like a model, she wanted to be a doctor.  

 
Patti Mayonaise from Doug

 Even though it was later revealed that Patty was just tan, as a child I admired Patti for her brown skin and raspy voice.  Patti 

 
Tatyana Ali as Ashley from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air

With her sepia skin, lush dark locks and the pipes to tackle Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” Tatyana was the girl we all wanted to be!   tatyana-ali-getty-2 

 
Reagan Gomez Preston as Zaria from the Parenthood
Zaria had the silkiest press in the nineties! Reagan-Gomez-Preston1

Meagan Good as Nina from Cousin Skeeter  

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Although a supporting character, this was the beginning go several roles Good would launch in the early and mid 2000s 

 
Andrea Lewis as Hazel on Degrassi 

 
Lewis brought my shade to the forefront of my favorite series!  hazel2

Sarah Barrable Tishauer as Liberty from Degrassi  boring-liberty
As the cliche overachiever, I admired Liberty’s ambition, curly locks and assertive confidence!

Gabrielle Union as Keesha Hamilton from 7th Heaven 

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I was only eight years old when I watched the first episode of 7th Heaven. Seeing a young Gabrielle Union on my favorite show contributed to my confidence as a budding black woman. 

 
Susie from The Rugrats

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Donning a hair style close to the hearts of many black women all the way down to the berets at the end -Susie literally mirrored black female childhood.  As a natural leader, Susie depicts black girls as beginning their reign as queens in their sandbox days. 

 Collaboratively these images capture the beauty, resilience, and intelligence of black womanhood. As an adult I can conceptualize just how meaningful these images were in crafting my confidence as a black woman. Cheers to these actresses for showcasing the many sides of black femininity.

Happy Women’s History Month!

Distraction in Division: Self- Love is for the Beautiful

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Perhaps it is performing within a racial society for those who encompass a certain kind of beauty to feel beautiful. Perhaps it’s easier to say that black is beautiful when your skin isn’t the blackest and your hair isn’t the coarsest. Perhaps it’s easy to shout from the mountain tops that black is beautiful when you have been made to believe that you’re an exception. So when you say “black is beautiful” what you mean to say is that your black is beautiful.

The challenge is placed on the sun-kissed sister who hair does not hang below her chin. The girl who only sees images of herself in the role of a slave or some woman down on her luck because of her appearance. The inevitable challenge is for this sun-kissed sister, with short coarse hair and a body as big as the continent that bred her, to raise her head in a country established on it’s bowed state. The challenge is to see the beauty in her fair skinned, long haired, light eyed counterpart-not because of her similarities with the majority but because she represent the diversity of the black diaspora. For, the oppressor has created an illusion of difference in the characteristics that mirror themselves, further down-casting the beauty of blackness. To see through these illusions at either side of spectrum is essential, as division has caused blacks to become their own worst enemy.

A similar dynamic is seen in the Afro- Latino, Caribbean, and African divisions of blackness. Due to different cultural exposure, many not only fail to align with American blacks, but place themselves in a position of superiority. This position of superiority allows for those outside the African- American experience to cast a scrutinizing gaze on the African-American body. This gaze often casts the African American as less beautiful and lazy for not taking advantage of the resources made available to them. Perhaps it is easier to case a scrutinizing gaze when you haven’t had to deal with the racism of the United States. Perhaps it is also easy to reap the benefits of these ugly and lazy people, only to cast a scrutinizing gaze upon them.

Scrutiny further divides an already divided race. Those placed on various ends of westernized beauty have been conditioned to antagonize those who embody the antithesis of their beauty, as are the various factions of the black diaspora. The commonality of being from the motherland should triumph all divisions set forth to distract us from the beauty of blackness in its entirety. This distraction is essential in the wish to maintain the positioning of the oppressed, as the most beautiful form of human beauty is the strength seen through unity. After all, a fist is always stronger than a finger.