I literally just rolled out of bed this dreary Sunday morning to write this, so I'm gonna try to keep it brief: No.
I wondered how long before we got headlines like the one pictured above, in which the push for platonic relationships went from fake, cheerful applause to a flat-out order. It's no longer a phony, saccharine suggestion that we cease rooting for Black women with leading men; it's now a command.
The article lists couples from other shows--Cheers, Castle, Bones--as examples of endgame workplace romances, and then argues that this trope is trite and boring. Now, I'm not trying to start a debate or get into a fight with anyone, because...no. No, we will NOT stop shipping the duos from Abbott Elementary and The Bear--plain and fucking simple.
The female love interests in Cheers, etc. were not young, beautiful Black women opposite heartthrobs, and yes, that distinction matters.
Nobody had a problem with Viola Davis's sexy adventures on How to Get Away with Murder because 1) she was an older actress with age-appropriate love interests, and 2) that show was queer as hell, and the guy-on-guy action distracted a lot of people. For similar reasons, Angela Bassett (9-1-1) and Penny Johnson-Jerald (The Orville), who are both older actresses playing love interests, aren't drowning in detractors. In fact, when Jerald was first paired with much younger actor Mark Jackson, I initially braced for impact. But then upon some light digging, I found out Jackson is an openly gay man who posts adorable pictures of his husband on Instagram, hence why there were no summons to war.
People can use the "workplace romance trope" argument 'til they're blue in the face, and I'll still be here to say it doesn't matter. As I recall, Iris West and Barry Allen didn't work together on CW's The Flash, but a certain demographic came for Candice Patton anyway.
This isn't new, of course. They came for Angel Coulby on Merlin (2006), saying that Arthur and friggin' Guinevere should've remained a platonic couple. Gee, I wonder why. They came for Zoe Saldana in Star Trek (2009) and Amber Riley throughout her run on Glee (also 2009). This was the same demographic, I might add, that had a whole entire meltdown the minute Joe Goldberg (a misogynistic serial killer, mind you) started obsessing over his boss in Season 3 of You.
Yeah, they didn't like that.
And I would be remiss if I didn't point out here that the pushback against Janine and Gregory from Abbot Elementary is just a reminder that white supremacy doesn't like young, beautiful Black women being desired by any leading men, not even Black men. They'd rather make us lesbians or simply kill us off (or both) before letting that happen. And I specified "leading" men again just now because on The Bear, they don't want Carmy to get with Sydney allegedly because they work together. But I've seen claims that she has more romantic chemistry and is a better fit for Marcus, a Black secondary character...whom she also works with.
They never like it, so it's no coincidence they're "bored" with the workplace romance trope now. To be completely honest, I was bored before. I slept through Cheers, rolled my eyes through the so-called romance on Castle, and I simply didn't like Bones. Despite shipping Mulder and Scully of The X-Files, boredom was my typical reaction towards these workplace couplings over the years. I'm only warming up to workplace romances now because--surprise, surprise--representation tends to foster interest.
And here lies the crucial difference between viewers like me and a certain demographic: when we don't like a coupling or a show overall, we're expected to get over it and move on to something else (which we do). But when they don't like a coupling, or even the mere presence of a
usually Black female character, that dislike often translates to real-life consequences. The ship is sunk, the Black actress is often fired, or the show isn't properly marketed and ends up getting axed as soon as it debuts (think Gabrielle Union and Stuart Townsend in Night Stalker ). The list quite literally goes on and on.
|Hey, remember when the utterly flawless Nala (Estella Daniels) |
was randomly written off Sinbad (2012)?
Just say you hate Black women and go. It'll use less words. We already know where this is coming from and we don't really care anymore. If these shows are cancelled, we'll revive them in our fanfictions. If they sabotage the Black actresses to survive, we'll fix the storylines. I've seen 10 to 15-year-old ships still thriving on platforms like Tumblr and Archive of Our Own; people are still shipping the original Spock and Uhura over half a century later.
Our fandoms will survive so long as we do. No amount of headlines can change that.
Are Black Women Sabotaging Themselves on Dating Shows? (spoiler alert: yes, but so are the producers)