The Black Carrie Bradshaw: My "Problematic" TV Faves
“Every year 20 something’s move to New York in search of a few L’s: Labels and Love”. I am no different. While, I think Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw was referring to Gucci, Louis V and Manolo, I have been working on my own alphabet soup of labels here in NYC. While I share that quest for love in the city, as “it’s the thing you know”, I can’t necessarily wear my labels the same way or even remotely afford a keychain from her list of labels, I am Carrie Bradshaw.
Never in my wildest dreams did I envision myself living in New York City. Me? A black girl from Cleveland, Ohio? New York was never a place I could live. My visions of self weren't remotely large enough to think I’d be living in Manhattan. Even though I wasn’t too unlike Sex and the City's star Sarah Jessica Parker who is from Ohio, I was not her. Therefore, I never thought I'd be living on the top floor of real-estate heaven like I currently am #bragging.
New York to me was scary, unreal and lavish, it was my version of Hollywood. Every TV show or movie I loved placed New York as it’s backdrop. The Chrysler building was and still is my Cinderella castle. While my fairy tales were New York, my reality was NOT. I guess the cosmos always knew this was supposed to be home. If you know me, you know that I am the one black F•R•I•E•N•D•! Can’t you see it? Ross, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey, and Chloe? No, well literally catch me outside, how bout dat?!
From Carrie Bradshaw to Chandler Bing, New York City just “got me”. Of course, I wanted to be one of the Cosby’s kids, and instead of Carrie Bradshaw, looking at me most would assume that I would align myself with Maxine Shaw instead. Don’t get me wrong, I feel all types of joy watching the blueprint to my favorite show. History in television gentrification lesson, Friends was literally modeled (stolen) from Living Single. The executive producer of Friends, Kevin Bright, said he would recreate Living Single if given the opportunity. He did it and in true whitewashing fashion. He made it a billion dollar syndicated version of a show that I can’t even catch on rerun without having a certain cable package. The WOKE me is pissed, but the “white girl” in me without any guilt, on any given day watches friends at least 7 times a day. It’s airs on TBS, TV Land, MTV, and Nick-at-Nite. They are everywhere, and while I’d like to skew it as over saturation, it’s all by choice that I tune in. If the day comes when it’s no longer on cable, (whispers) I have the box series.
As soon as I let my list of favorite shows flow out, I don’t even recognize my lack of blackness in my choices. But like clockwork, I always get the "how can you watch a show that has so many opportunities to include more than cis, hetero white faces but blatantly chooses not to?" "How can these shows take place in one of the most diverse places in the world and not even try to include black people? Let alone create an avenue for a same-gender loving woman?" After I plead my failed cases of Jenifer Lewis in season 1 of Friends cooking with Monica, or Gabrielle Union and Aisha Tyler being love interests of Ross and Joey, or Blair Underwood as the doctor boyfriend of Miranda, I just have to say ... "because."
So how is it that a black, plus sized, dread lock wearing, plans to have a velvet Obama portrait in my home someday, lesbian living in the struggle consume so much television that doesn’t remotely acknowledge me? For a good 30 minutes they let me forget that I am in fact, weary of the ways of the world. While, I get to escape my struggles as a queer woman of color, I can’t ignore what my closeted love affair with these shows do to my dominant presenting identity. I am very open about my television choices but I refuse to watch them with women whom I am interested in. For some reason or another, my love for these shows pulls at the most feminine parts of my identity. They make me cry, and they make me think of “happily ever after” in a very contradictory way. They allow me to be the woman who is pursued, instead of the “gentlewoman” that I often am. Watching these shows with a love interest turns me from girlfriend to girl friend. Women who get to experience these shows with me, want to discount my romantic intentions and slide me right over to the friend zone. While that is a problematic word choice, it rings true. Why is it in 2017, the time when things are fluid, that I find myself feeling ostracized within the community? Why does my chosen role in the relationship come under attack based on my TV show choices, or for taking a prime time visit to my femininity? I get how there’s so much judgement, scrutiny and even self-hate in the community, but never did I think it would come at the hands of “must see TV”. Loving these shows should never make me have to question where I stand in the queer community, the black community or any community. These shows speak to me and they give me the ability to feel like I fit in.
I want to either be like Sex and the City's "Big" or be swept off my feet by my own version of "Carrie". Although I envision her adorned in shea butter, natural hair and the fire of Claire Huxtable. I want a great group of friends that I can just grow with, laugh with and maybe even fall in love with. While my life will forever match Living Single their flavor, style & hair, the twinkle in my eye to be Andy that small town know-it-all and a Miranda Priestly of a mentor. Cosmos and conversation, black cars and upper west side apartments are what I want and what I know I’ll have. These characters and those shows really helped me prepare for the concrete jungle that is New York City. I have to admit that I am fully aware that the characters and storylines that I love don't make space for me as a queer woman of color, but they most definitely give me the space to see a world outside of what I know while making me feel right at home in theirs. That happy ending, that camaraderie, that fabulousness should forever be "ever thine, ever mine and ever ours" but I’ll stop here because as you can see I’ve already been “Carried” away.