What Price A Black Girl’s Life?
A thing I’m noticing in pop culture is this idea that black women can’t be traumatized by anything that happens to them. Usually when a female character is sexually assaulted/kidnapped/abused it works to make the audience sympathetic to that character. We certainly see that trope enough in books/movies/TV shows with white characters. In fact such traumatic moments are often used to “redeem” bad girls in popular fiction ranging from soap operas to suspense shows. Yet Tara, Martha, etc are some of the most reviled characters in fandom & are often blamed for the bad things that happen to them.
Tara’s treatment by True Blood fandom is a particularly egregious example of this phenomenon. Fans of the show seem to *hate* her for everything she has ever done, ever might do, or ever had done to her. But as written she has every reason to be the flawed angry woman that is on display because awful things are happening to her & around her. So, why isn’t that ever acknowledged? Why are there still weekly posts filled with Martha hate despite the fact that she isn’t even on the show as a regular?
There’s graveyard humor around R. Kelly’s ability to get away with his serial predation on young black women. We make jokes about it to push away the pain at seeing it writ large that black girls are worthless in the face of fame & money. But, if art reflects life & life reflects art then what does that say about the way black women are being presented and treated? We know we’re human, but does anyone else?
7 thoughts on “What Price A Black Girl’s Life?”
It’s sad and infuriating how often people forget that another human is in fact that, a human.
It’s so true. Black women are seen as the evilest things. Who care’s if it happened to them? most people assume we allowed it to happen or it is well deserved. We aren’t held to the purity that white woman are because of the standard made during slavery.
White woman were the beautiful pure house wives, anyone who tried to ruin her innocence was driven by pure evil. If black woman was raped it was because she was a whore and a temptress. This staple carries now.
So true, and I think that shocking lack of long-term repercussions against Chris Brown relates to this as well. I was just searching yesterday randomly on Facebook for a “Boycott Chris Brown” group. There is one but less than 200 people have joined, while disgusting groups mocking Rihanna and lauding Chris Brown have tens of thousands of members…
I’m from Skandinavia, and have seen every episode of True Blood. I was shocked to read your post, I had no idea of the reality of the treatment of Tara’s character in the fan communities! I’ve always felt that she is such a vulnerable, awfully mistreated and left to stand completely on her own, a truly tragic character, to whom I’ve felt more empathy than any other character on the show (other than Lafayette in addition, who has also been abused awfully, and left badly traumatized). This just makes me so sad, it really does…
I do not think that most individuals see us as being human. Everyone else is allowed to show emotion, but not us. We don’t even have support in our own community.
Oh my god, this so much. I have been shocked and appalled by the things fandom has said about these characters, especially Tara.
I’ve been in a lot of fandoms, though, and I can say these two fandoms are the most hate-filled I’ve ever seen. You can’t find a kind word said about anyone in True Blood, except for Pam and sometimes Eric. (But not Eric With Feelings, because feelings are gross and should be hated.) I think part of the problem with this fandom is that it’s based on books which it deviates quite a bit from, so the book fans were waiting when the show fans started looking for fandom, and they told them to just hate everything. I have never seen a show recap that says, “That was good!” or “That was exciting!” or “I like this character!” (That isn’t Pam or Eric.) The fic is practically nonexistent, and what there is is all Mary Sues. (I know the term is loaded, but what else do you call Sookie’s cousin that comes to Bon Temps and ends up romantically involved with both Eric and Godric? Because that is the plot of half of them.)
Doctor Who fandom is the second-worst. At least there’s love in there too. But it’s mostly cantankerous old fanboys who think the show hasn’t been good since it started broadcasting in color. I’ve seen hate for characters who haven’t even been on the show since 1966, so I don’t think the Martha hate is going anywhere for a good long while. :( There is Martha love out there, I’ve seen communities dedicated to it, but she doesn’t seem to have a love force strong enough to fight the hate force, like Ten and Rose (both very hated and very loved characters) do. At first I thought this was the old romance trope, you know, the first person you meet is the one you end up with, and anyone else is the romantic “villain.” Most shippers tend to put both Nine and Ten with Rose, their first companion, and then consider Eleven a different person and want him with Amy (and oh, did Moffat ever piss them off). But that is absolutely no excuse for blaming Martha for the things that happened to her!
What really drove DW fandom’s racism home for me was the reaction to Mels in Let’s Kill Hitler. (Spoilers for that episode follow!) Personally, I loved her from first sight. She was fun and rebellious and strong, and I wanted so badly for her to become a companion for at least a few episodes. (And imagine, another black companion! That would bring it up to three in 49 years.) Man was I disappointed when she regenerated–I love Alex Kingston, and I would have been fine with the reveal that Mels was River, but I wanted more of Mels with that actress! It’s all timey-wimey, so you can even have both at the same time. What got me was fandom’s reaction to Mels–they nearly universally hated her. How could they hate such a fun, adventurous character, on a show devoted to fun and adventure? River’s personality is divisive in fandom, yes, but even River’s fans didn’t love her until the reveal. That really says something to me. River’s badassery and moral ambiguity is both hated and loved, but put those same traits on a black woman, and suddenly the love part of the equation is gone. What the actual fuck.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell with fandom because they just hate everything indiscriminately, but things like that really tip their hand.
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