Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Best TV Couple #14: Dr. Lynn Stewart & Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning

The slow build up of Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning (Cress Williams) and Dr. Lynn Stewart (Christine Adams) is well worth the wait in CW's Black Lightning.

As fans lie in wait for the second helping of Black Lightning-- a series breaking ground by featuring an almost all black cast, involving racial politics in stories, and introducing  LGBTQ characters to a network superhero drama-- the first season explored kick butt action and titillating romance. Divorced parents, Jefferson Pierce  and Dr. Lynn Stewart are successfully shuffling demanding careers-- he a high school principal at Freeland High School, solid community leader, and sometime reforming action hero and she a wise, neuroscientist at Bowman College-- and balancing two strong willed daughters, Anissa and Jennifer.

"Actually, you do look really good in this suit," coos a flirtatious Lynn (Christine Adams) whilst giving Jefferson (Cress Williams) that special woman's touch. As she saunters away with a feline grin, his lookback speaks volumes.
Jefferson's superhero complex drove Lynn to leaving, out of fear that he would die. It was similar to the worrisome police wife, except in Freeland the police were corrupt and dirty. Jefferson saw the community's desperate cry for help and co-created the persona Black Lightning to eliminate organized crime. Lynn, tired of tending to his wounds and worrying that he wouldn't return home alive, wanted him to make a commitment. For her, time is precious and valuable. Throughout history, black people have not been afforded those luxuries. He believes himself invincible, still naïve about the full breadth of his powers-- the cons are as complex as the cons.

Ultimately, Lynn forced a choice to Jefferson-- her and their family or being a vigilante. Vengeful Jefferson, out for the blood of Tobias Whale (the man who murdered his father), chose the electric suit, and it was a "this is the last time" too many.

Years later, Jefferson and Lynn's separation has appeared to an amicable situation. They have a genuinely caring relationship, demonstrating a terrific example that former couples can remain friends-- beneficial when children are involved.

However, at Freeland High School's lavish fundraiser, sparks are turned up full blast once tuxedo clad Jefferson and evening gowned Lynn exchange words. Jefferson had previously helped Anissa (whom Jennifer affectionately nicknames Harriet Tubman) out of jail after a peaceful protest goes awry. In Anissa, Lynn sees so much of Jefferson-- a selfless freedom fighter putting those weak and powerless above themselves. Of course, Lynn's subtle praising propels Jefferson to lay on the charm.

Lynn isn't keen on playing Jefferson's nurse again.
Among the Pierce daughters' perils, endless city unrest due to The 100's destructive violence, and the reappearance of presumed dead Tobias, Jefferson is lured back into Black Lightning. Mentor Peter Gambi cannot soothe every wound affecting Jefferson's physique and emotional well being. Despite painful deja vu, Lynn aides Jefferson's return to hero status, putting her plausible issues aside to give him proper medical care and supportive ears.

Lynn is challenged frequently by Jefferson's passion for justice as well as his tall, muscular form, award-winning goatee and beard combination, and mega watt smile. Whereas Jefferson is obviously still smitten with his gorgeous ex-wife whose savvy and intelligence has him acting like captivated, smitten schoolboy. Plus, her chic haircut frames her face perfectly-- how could that brother resist?

As they romantically circle around each other, family issues come first-- like the fact that Anissa and Jennifer have inherited their father's powers! Jefferson and Lynn are a thoughtful, encouraging unit together, accepting how each girl handles the diagnosis.

Also applause worthy, Lynn and Jefferson respect Anissa's sexuality. In a world where most television serials and films have black families constantly ostracizing and disowning their LGBTQ members, this is such a treasure.

Kiss and tell.
In episode twelve's "The Resurrection and the Light: The Book of Pain," Lynn calls Jefferson over to possibly kill invisible spiders. Yet he finds her in seductive pink satin, playing smooth jazz, glass goblets filled with red wine. At long last, the old lovers rekindle, releasing the escalated sensual tension, making the screen smolder with that pulsing electric feel MGMT sung about. With the electricity coming to heed on their new chapter, one wonders where the reunited couple journeys onward.

Can Lynn handle her lover and daughters being in constant jeopardy and will not having powers impact her emotionally, mentally, perhaps even physically in the future?

In the good hands of prolific black creators and real life loves, Mara Brock and Salim Akil, the charismatic Cress Williams and beguiling Christine Adams are a bonafide match as the returning superhero and take-no-mess neuroscientist. It will be entertaining to see what happens next as Williams and Adams continue fascinating audiences with their charming interplay. For the first DC Comics verse black superhero lovers on television one can conclude that the lightning bolts are only fire from here.

Season two of Black Lightning premieres in October on the CW.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Best TV Couple #15: Darla & Ralph Angel Bordelon

What happens when an ex-convict and recovering drug addict decide to take the lover's plunge?

Queen Sugar's Ralph Angel and Darla have come a long way.

In the beginning, these two works-in-progress were at different life stages post first break up. Six months out of prison, parolee Ralph Angel is raising Blue with the help of his father Ernest and Aunt Vi, instilling positive wisdom. Unfortunately, Ralph Angel isn't taking that gung ho advice, robbing a corner store (without a mask) and later on stealing from his honest job. Darla is trying to stay clean, having found a good city job, living in a trailer. She wants another shot at motherhood, a place in Blue's life.

In season one, episode three, "Thy Will Be Done," with come hither glances, a stroke of background guitar cords, and little dialogue, Ralph Angel and Darla fog up the screen, leaving nothing to imagine.

They eventually make for a relationship, both grasping at individual redemption, co-parenting Blue. Darla, having lost so much time, doesn't realize Blue's Kendra doll isn't about her absence. Importantly, Darla has a sponsor (who is skeptical about Darla being in an intense relationship) and Ralph Angel has a parole officer (who wants him to think about Blue's future). With the exception of Blue, the sponsor and the parole officer are Darla and Ralph Angel's ties to a healthier future, to living a rich, fulfilling life without the influence of inebriating drugs or hotheaded decisions.

Their forehead kisses were the best.
Darla's raw poignant moments in season one, episode eight's "Where With All" set a tremulous stage. During the hurricane safety nest of Vi's house, facing two storms at once, Darla knows she's not welcomed, heavily burdened with unforgiving Vi's wrath. Still, Darla uses this to her advantage, softly telling a bedtime story to Blue-- an allegorical narrative hinting at how new friends, peer pressure, and drugs damaged her relationship with Ralph Angel. Later, she thanks Vi and Hollywood for saving Blue from that terrible night in a hotel room. In that moment, she bears her soul, unloading a weighted depression utterly heartbreaking to listen. Through it all, Ralph Angel is there, awed by the beauty of her words, the strength resonating in a body that has overcome more than any of them realized.

Ralph Angel and Darla passionately reunite in one of the steamiest shower scenes ever in the opening of Queen Sugar's thirteenth episode of season one, "Give Us This Day." As the water dripped and Kan Wakan's sugary sweet track "Molasses" played, the couple finally unleashed the pent up tension whilst being clean-- a great way for two people on the path to salvation.

In season two, Ralph Angel and Darla spend plenty of time together at Ralph Angel's. This sets up a cozy, loving atmosphere for Blue-- whose delight is absolutely contagious. Ralph Angel and Darla are doting black parents, building a new foundation even as the troubling past rears its ugly head. On Ralph Angel's roughest, Darla soothes him, cajoles him like a medicinal balm against a pesky rash. She  heals the fire raging inside her man, but while she is nurturing and comforting him, it is a lot of responsibility for one woman who still isn't completely whole.

Their differences are major.

Ralph Angel has tendencies of being brutally stubborn, relying fully on Darla, putting her fragile recovery at risk. His overbearing selfishness and rising temper (enough to erupt a whole volcano) is a weight too carry for sensitive Darla. She has to balance a job, staying clean, and resuming motherhood. It wasn't fair to have additional demands placed on her shoulders. After all, she was quite hesitant at their fast paced intimacy. He often forces her to choose him, including over her recovery steps. In fact, instead of defying him to keep her job, she comes to his side and is fired the next day. In her need to find another job, she turns to Charley for help and an unsupportive Ralph Angel (who is having a blistering feud with his older sister) throws a huge tantrum.

Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe), Blue (Ethan Hutchison), and Darla (Bianca Lawson) having a family outing.
Ralph Angel and Darla's finest moments include her unwavering support of him at the dinner table once everyone learns of Ernest's handwritten will. Ralph Angel shows up at Darla's sobriety anniversary in a huge showing of support. Then came that gorgeous marriage proposal:

"I promise I'll do my best and help you do your best. Always...…. I want you in this house, by my side, next to me, for the rest of my life. Darla, will you marry me?"
She is silent at first. Says, "yes." Kneels down to wipe his tears and kisses him. They exchange heartfelt "I love you's" and revel in the candlelit bathtub.
Darla's big secret, a huge and colossal shame, destroyed it all and they will probably never get back to romance. Co-parenting yes. Lovers? Probably not.

Still, Ralph Angel having learned that Charley fired Darla and that Darla hadn't shown up for her sponsor meeting, having known that she was lowly and vulnerable, he frantically searched everywhere-- drug houses included. In the plight showed a empathetic, compassionate soulmate driven by despair and great betrayal. Alas, he had found her, swimming skillfully in an abandoned pool, using rippled water to give clarity and not the prick of a needle.

After announcing their emotional confrontation, Ralph Angel's gravely spoken, "God Bless You, Darla," the same words Hollywood echoed to her after the lowest point of her life, was probably the saddest ending to a relationship yet. Or maybe it isn't truly over.....

Lastly, Ralph Angel and Darla's incredible, multidimensional story contains profound courage and exceptional quality. These characters --these survivors of a system that often neglects them-- couldn't have happened without Kofi Siriboe's astoundingly layered reluctant black male patriarch and Bianca Lawson's articulate defiance and quiet poise. Their remarkable chemistry, an eloquent touch on a series that illustrates the highs and lows of black love, is just beautiful picture to witness.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

History of How Small Screen Love Caters to A Carefree Black Woman: A Prelude to My Favorite Television Couples

A few years ago, I spent early mornings catching episodes of The Patty Duke Show. The silly antics of Patty clashed with her twin, Cathy. Patty (the late Patty Duke) had a steady relationship with sweetheart, Richard (the late Eddie Applegate). 

July is National Ice Cream Month. Today is National Ice Cream Day.

What is tantalizingly delicious alongside a four serving pint of epic delight?

A fantastic binge on romance.

Sex and the City's sex columnist Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) and entrepreneur Mr. Big (Chris Noth). 
The 1980's and 1990's were a time of nostalgic pairings defining the very essence of falling in love. Innocent animated series were slyly putting characters together. Scooby Doo's Daphne and Fred, Tiny Toon Adventure's Babs and Buster Bunny, Gargoyles' Goliath and Eliza prepared me for watching daytime soap operas on my mother's knee. We were CBS soaps, rooting for the black Winters family on Young and the Restless. I would venture off to other channels, finding NBC's Sunset Beach and Passions to be campier hilarity or finding ABC's All My Children a secret pleasure thanks to Ryan and Gillian and Greenlee and Leo. Sadly, I didn't catch the celebrated Angie and Jesse story, hailed as the greatest black soap opera romance. Mom and I also spent weeknights on Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, and other Aaron Spelling shows. I even recall staying up late for Highlander, Silk Stockings, and Forever Night. Then there were canceled serials like Kindred the Embraced, Spawn (all hail the underrated Michael Jai White), and Pacific Palisades.

Yes, we watched so much television.

Perhaps, a bit too much.

On Saved By the Bell, Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and Kelly Kapowski were sold as the one true pairing of Bayside High. However, Zack and resident fashionista Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies) had a short fling. During the remainder of the series, Lisa was always paired off with Screech, often guilted into doing so, including having him as her prom date.

These writers told their forbidden love stories in a thousand different angles, some creative than others. However, romances were almost absent of blackness. Like a twisted Shakespearean tragedy, the television world appeared to say that love couldn't benefit us, that love couldn't be afforded. The lack of black romance was like a shadow that rarely escaped thoughts. My teenager years were spent on the old WB network with complicated, angsty dramas such as Charmed, Dawson's Creek, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

On ABC, Castle's medical examiner Lanie Parish (Tamala Jones) and NYPD cop Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas) had a steamy affair that wasn't fully explored. The potential came and left. The writers were simply not invested in them.
Black romance weaved into comedies. From The Cosby Show to Martin to Living Single to Family Matters to Girlfriends to The Game and those existing prior and in-between, blackness and laughter went hand in hand. Humor was the ticket to black television success. Thankfully romance was not too far behind.

Historically significant Shonda Rhimes is a huge television force changing the drama game with her Shondaland company. Her flawed characters falter face down in the romance department. Often, it was a challenging mystery how a black woman could front shows that granted ample white privilege. Sure a black man headed the staff on Grey's Anatomy, but Meredith and Derek led for years. Private Practice's Addison, Derek's ex-wife, had a relationship with her best friend's ex-husband Sam-- who had lusted after her for years! Talk about messy. Scandal's Olivia Pope juggled one emotionally abusive relationship to the next. In How to Get Away With Murder-- Pete Norfolk's creation-- Oliver and Connor have the most investment whereas pairings like Wes and Laurel and Michaela and Asher were absolute trash. Canceled Still Star Crossed speaks for itself.

Maya (Golden Brooks) and Darnell Wilkes (Khalil Kain) were the longest running Girlfriends couple-- on/off/on. Funny coincidence is that on Living Single, Kain guest starred as Keith, a love interest for Regine Hunter. Regine broke up with Keith and eventually married Dexter Hunter (Don Franklin). On Girlfriends, Franklin played Stan, a man Maya emotionally cheated on Darnell with.
Yvette Lee Bowser (Living Single and For Your Love), Mara Brock Akil (Girlfriends, The Game, and Being Mary Jane), Ava DuVernay (Queen Sugar), and Issa Rae (Insecure) are other creative powerhouses shifting the pendulum in our favor by writing, producing, and directing stories that star black women and black men, that have black women and black men falling in love with one another. The self love is also evident-- a huge bonus for those of us growing up with specific phenotypes (wide noses, big lips, and dark skin). We weren't always leading the show, much less romantically desired. Nowadays, I find a harmonious kinship in layered characters like Maxine Shaw, Toni Childs, Nova Bordelon, Issa Dee, and Molly Carter. Behind these black women are black women. And in the world that has them, they are wanted and wooed.

In Xena: The Warrior Princess, Xena (Lucy Lawless, right) had two excellent, dynamic pairings-- with Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor) and Ares the God of War (the late Kevin Smith, center). Although they had a strong, intimate bond, Xena and Gabrielle didn't become anything more than tight companions.
Whiteness should be criticized. And often.

Throughout my thirty plus years of television watching, whiteness had an overwhelming impact on both my small screen and psyche. I admit to having crushes on actors like Elijah Wood, Wil Wheaton, and David Boreanaz, believing black men, especially of my complexion or darker were beneath attraction standards. Then again, the black men that personally encountered wanted light skinned, biracial, or nonblack women anyway. At the same time,Young the Restless introduced Shemar Moore (who didn't have a supercouple pairing) and Adam Lazarre-White, enticing me away from the subtle brainwashing. Taye Digg's turn on Guiding Light helped me see the error of my mental conditioning.

Once Melanie Barnett (Tia Mowry) and Derwin Davis (Pooch Hall) left The Game, so did I.
Over the next fifteen days, I have scheduled blog posts dedicated to my favorite ships. I spent weeks sorting them out, reordering couples, deleting or adding, realizing that unfulfilled pairings (those who never had a real chance) was something admirable. Saved By the Bell's Lisa Turtle shouldn't have been constantly shown as a consolation prize to Screech. That woman was a freaking diamond. Lisa and Screech are were definitely a start of examples of gorgeous, gifted black women tied to lackluster white men. However, Lisa and Zack would have been much better. In Girlfriends, Joan and Davis should have dated and Toni (another black woman chained to a white man) should've given Paul (played by Idris Elba), a real chance. Living Single's Regine and Dexter were super rushed, but probably due to FOX's foolish cancellation of the sitcom. Regine deserved an invested love story like the other couples around her. She and Keith were great until he became a huge, self-absorbed douche.

The late Bernie Mac (Bernie) and Kellita Smith (Wanda) played a well balanced couple on FOX's The Bernie Mac Show. Bernie's humor and Wanda's warmth were always as comfortable as a blanket on a cold night.

The recent wave of reboots, reboot talks, and film sequels can never replace the satisfying original content in romantic television history. They offer poor, unimaginative substitutes, and sometimes destroy a solid conclusion. For example, the Sex and the City films were awful, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics are mind-numbing trite, and 2.0 versions of 90210 and Melrose Place were unbearable. Now a new Roswell and a new Charmed are on the way-- likely more stabs to the nostalgic heart.

Where is the creativity? Where is the respect? Why can't we let things stay in the past so that we can reflect on them in the present?

Hence, hiring fresh faces with extraordinary perspectives is more important now than ever.

In closing, as the single girl relishing a beloved pint night, tomorrow begins the revisit of noteworthy love stories. Some pairings are of the past. Some pairings currently exist. Some have tragic endings. Few are happily ever after. Some are white. Most are unapologetically black.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

'Hermione and the Quarter Life Crisis' Season Two: Recapping the Mischief and Mayhem

Hermione Granger and the Quarter Life Crisis opens up in a fascinating prelude: Juniper Dias (Stephanie Ezekiel, far left), Pavarti Patil (Gabby Shaikh, third), and Laquita Granger (Tamara French, far right) mime soft, poised movements as Hermione Granger (Ashley Romans, second) recites metaphoric wisdom.
Summer has been a killer frenzied return of black women creatives and black women leads: Queen Sugar is back on OWN TV, Insecure will soon be offering its third helping on HBO, and Hermione Granger and the Quarter Life Crisis is in full swing on YouTube. After a long, tormenting hiatus and a solid Indiegogo campaign, series creator Eliyannah Amirah Yisrael directs the first two available episodes of magically entertaining Hermione Granger and the Quarter Life Crisis. Ashley Romans' turn as Hermione Granger, the exceedingly smart bookworm friend of Harry Potter, is such a sensational treat.

Hermione's library ranges from Jane Austen classics to Alice Walker.

Spiking up that butterbeer.
Seven months after her cousin Laquita almost discovered their wizardry ways, Hermione has moved into a posh bachelorette pad. Her pals are more than thrilled. Well, Pavarti is thrilled. Sarcastic Juniper is happy to be freed of Hermione's couch crashing and endless brooding.

Uninvited guests, Papa Bear Herman Granger (David Stewart) and ex, Ron Weasley (Conor O'Sullivan) pop by Hermione's new place.
Papa Bear still hasn't climbed on board Forgiveness Express.
A major problematic issue with J. K. Rowling's hit series is that sex is glossed over. Yes, the books and films started off as pure children's genre, each period transitioning into darker and young adult oriented territory. At the same time, the seven part saga ends with everyone married off, happy, and raising children. Now Hogwarts didn't have sex education. Future warlocks, witches, and the like learned only about their supernatural capabilities. Perhaps if bad performing boyfriends couldn't cut it, dissatisfied lovers used wands for other purposes.

Reunited and it feels so..... bad?

Ron's second visit to Hermione's home comes unfortunate morning "break up sex." Except, Ron isn't a Casanova between the sheets. Ron has always been rather clumsy and a bit selfish. For a person often performing bad spell incantations, driving cars into trees, and running off in misguided jealous rages, Ron cannot possibly be a gratifying physical partner. He and Hermione's lack of experience sheds a light on their sexual compatibility as well as emotional and psychological. People say friends make the best lovers, but sometimes friends should remain strictly platonic.

Hermione will have a special place in the Weasley clan. They were her extended family. With Ron, however, their friendship related closely to a sibling vibe. Hermione took the right  step in setting things right with him. She had to deal with the broken engagement, leaving him behind. In fact, it was very Hermionian that amicably ended them. In her delicate case, she is slowly finding her way in Los Angeles and coming to terms with what she did to her mother. A romantic relationship probably is not the best situation.

Then again, a romantic relationship with Ron was never going to be the best for Hermione. For a woman with fire, intelligence, and passion, she shouldn't have to settle for mediocrity.

"All you need is a good horizontal refresher with a guy you don't really care about."- Pavarti
Yet Pavarti advises Hermione to rethink inhibitions about sex. Of course, having a sex buddy (sex nemesis?) would translate to Draco, the bane of her existence. Draco may say that they were children of war. That much is true. yet previous actions speak louder than words. He had slurred her most of their childhood years and considering that Hermione is now a black character, a slur can have a double edged meaning. Filthy little mudblood could also be a stab at her blackness as well as her half magic status. And in one of the most heinous acts in the Harry Potter series involved Hermione being violently tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange in Draco's own house.

Draco Malfoy (Nicholas D. Johnson) also drops by Hermione's to make a surprising declaration.

Hermione's wtf face. Just minutes before she garbs her wand. Even Draco knows Hermione knows how to use it.
At the same time, Draco is seeing a therapist. Despite his evil family's lifelong commanding influence over him, last season he had allowed homeless Hermione and her friends to stay at his house. Perhaps, he is crawling out of Lucius and Narcissa's thumb, happening since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ended. It makes perfect sense for him to carry guilt. He has a lot to repent.

Hermione is right to cool things off with fellow wizard Ben van den Berghe (DJ Ester).
In other man orbiting Hermione news, cutie Ben, who looks like Dean Thomas's distant cousin, has also staked claim on our independent witchy woman. A knight-in-shining sorcery, Ben rescues Hermione's bad day with hugs, forehead kisses, and wand prepped dinner. Hermione, however , is in a rough internal place. Sweet, noble Ben is sincere and put together-- quite a striking difference than Ron, but the last thing Hermione needs is another serious clinch. She should relish in her twenties, be carefree, find the magic in the ordinary. Throughout her adolescence and teenagerhood, Hermione has always been the responsible, level headed resource, putting others before her. As pleasant as Ben appears to be, Hermione has earned "me time." She deserves to be self indulgent.

The magic gang is all here: Ben (DJ Ester), Hermione (Ashley Romans), Kang (Chase Li), Pavarti (Gabby Shaikh), Juniper (Stephanie Ezekiel), and Leslie (Robert Dowdy).
Hermione's complicated love life aside, her friends are holding little crises of their own. At the end of the first episode, via radio, star Qudditch player Kang has been injured after a match. Whilst questioning his purpose sans the uber popular magic sport, he seems to be in good spirits. He is financially set, but money isn't always the greatest source of happiness. Plus, he might be falling for Juniper-- a hardened shell to crack. Meanwhile, Leslie is running for muggle political office and confides in Hermione that he plans to propose to LaQuita. He wants to tie the knot and tell her everything! It is bad enough that LaQuita hints at Granger family secrets to Pavarti-- meaning that she may not have bought their bogus haunted mansion fib. This could have awful consequences.

After all, Hermione ran away after her marriage proposal. What's LaQuita going to do once she finds out her boo is a wizard activist?

Exciting times ahead.

Leslie's future plans will affect Hermione in a crucial way.
Hermione Granger and the Quarter Life Crisis remains an intriguing, must watch series and a wonderful, refreshing delight easily accessed on the web. It promotes positive images of black and nonblack people existing, thriving. They're magical without the negative tropes.

Isn't it enchanting that people of color have gone from speaking six minutes, eighteen seconds in all eight Harry Potter films (20 hours long), to having complete dialogues in twelve minute episodes?

Imagine that!

Catch the Episode One: Hermoine's First Day and Episode Two: What She Wants episodes of Hermione  and the Quarter Life Crisis season two on YouTube as well as the first season. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

'Queen Sugar' Remains a Resonating Juggernaut in Season Three

Queen Sugar season 3 poster.
Warning: If you haven't watched Queen Sugar's epic season two or the first few episodes of the recently debuted third season please do not scroll down.

Sisters Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner, left) and Nova (Rutina Wesley, right) comfort Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe, center) after he receives paternity test results.  
Last season ended on a traumatic shocker. Darla let out a colossal secret that many viewers didn't see coming. Blue was not Ralph Angel's flesh and blood. After years of raising the sweet, lovable tyke as his biological offspring, Ralph Angel was crushed to learn the devastating truth.

Micah (Nicholas Ashe) and Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner) have dealt with Davis's scandalous affair/love child in similar ways.
This third season is more somber, its quietness contained. The characters are dealing with personal aftermaths, channeling hurt, anger, frustration, and rage in cages that could have detrimental consequences. For one, Charley is pulling further away from her family, deserted by them. Rightfully so. No one seems available to answer her despair. She is a determined, headstrong woman.. It took time for the others to understand why she sold the mill to the awful Landry family. Thus, when Davis tells her about his daughter from an elicit affair, that shatters Davis and Charley's brittle post-divorce relationship. She handles her pain against grain, against logic, allowing the younger Landry-- Jacob Boudreaux-- to take her to dinner and dancing, going as far as sharing a public displayed kiss with him.

Whereas Charley can't see that Micah is putting forth the same emotional distance. He too is blown away by Davis's shameless discretion. As he becomes fully ingested with public high school life, fresh from strict, upper crust private institutions, he is enamored more and more with the young black activists, a team of black students campaigning for justice anywhere they see fit. While their ways of raising black awareness impresses Micah's vulnerability, especially after running into the white police officer that tormented him, he is slowly lulling away from his girlfriend, Keke.

Now Keke appreciates the young black activists' valiant efforts, but at the same time, she knows that she is a teenager with a lot of life to  She wants to be there for Micah, but he brushes her off for the thrills of egging on conservative white people. It gives him the power that was stolen from him, revives his spirit. Still, Micah is allowing the pursuit of danger to grant him comfort instead of his loved ones. There will come a moment that he will have to choose between activism and his relationship with Keke. From these seven aired episodes alone, he is grappling with countless pent up issues on top of his father's latest betrayal.

Nova (Rutina Wesley) has reservations about becoming involved with Charley's ex Remy (Dondre T. Whitfield). 
Meanwhile, as Nova prepares her novel, seeking out influences from Ida B. Wells to Aunt Violet, her love life is becoming another taboo. First was the tawdry affair with Calvin, a white police officer. Then came a short tryst with Chantal Williams. Lastly, a man who didn't know her at all, the kiss up, Dr. Robert DuBois. Now Remy is wooing her with words, subtle touches, and longing looks, despite his very recent history with Charley. From the first two seasons, Remy appeared to be a humble, sweet man turning on that rustic Southern charm. He is also rather old fashioned. He couldn't work out with Charley because she was an underhanded schemer and dangerous risk taker. With Nova, perhaps he sees quite the opposite. After all, he is fond of her writing. Nova gets to the heart of the matter without playing any manipulation tactics.

In "Delicate and Strangely Made," the sixth episode, at the dead of night, Nova comes to Charley's house having learned of Davis's love child. Previously, a tear stricken Charlie had called Nova (whom had her phone off as she spent time fishing with Remy). Nova had plenty of time to get back to her younger, hurting sister. Instead, she's texting Remy and not returning her sister's call. Thus, when Nova is at Charley's house, apologizing and wanting to provide solace, Charley is ice cold, closing the door on her. Nova was wrong for not being immediately present. Afterwards, she texts Remy that they cannot continue.

However, in "Study War No More," episode seven, a fickle Nova appears to have changed her mind, letting Remy tenderly hold her hand in Vi's kitchen. And Charley, who is constantly the family's black sheep, is many yards away unbeknownst to this newest burgeoning development.

Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe) and Darla (Bianca Lawson) have it out over Blue.

Blue (Ethan Hutchison) tugs onto Darla (Bianca Lawson), making a shocking announcement.
Ralph Angel rambunctiously unleashes his pain in a more destructive fashion. At the beginning of the season, he is sleeping with random black women, shoving Darla's Facetime phone calls on Blue, and drinking heavily. However, he is focused on making sure the farm is harvested. Out of good will, he even allows a stranger, a former convict, have a job and stay at his house. When Darla returns-- fresh faced, hair cut, and new lovely home likely supported by her parents-- she is outraged by what Ralph Angel has been withholding. She lashes out about Blue's school behavior and the random stranger gambling with friends in the house Blue is living in.

Darla stays vigilant in her sobriety, seemingly well put together. As she grows accustomed to living back in St. Joe, sustaining without Ralph Angel and realizing that his family that ostracize her forever, she focuses on being a mother to Blue. It is unclear if Darla found a steady local job since Charley fired her.

Darla's return also ignites a change in Ralph Angel's behavior. Suddenly, he is ready to pursue a new relationship and the boss's daughter, Trinh, holds the key. They go out on a few dates. Trinh shows Ralph Angel the appeasing nature of ordinary life, which is eerily reminiscent of Darla taking Ralph Angel to watch independent films. At first, Ralph Angel is nicer to Darla, letting her chaperone Blue on the school field trip instead of himself and allowing her to have Blue spend the night in her new house. Yet when Ralph Angel goes on an ice run with Trinh and Blue in tow, they look like a family unit. In fact, to the blurry eye, they look like Ralph Angel, Darla, and Blue. Although Trinh and Darla are different nationalities, they have the same complexion, doe eyes, full mouth, long dark hair (yes, Darla cut hers but still...), and slender body type. Darla sees the three of them together and is hurt by the sight. Ralph Angel, king of petty, aware of her presence, drives off without a care.

It will be interesting how Ralph Angel, Darla, and Blue move forward in this pins and needles fragility and if Trinh is going to be a permanent fixture in their lives. Ralph Angel is still hurt that he isn't Blue's father and Darla, who has realized the grave error of mismanaging her recovery steps, yearns to make amends to get back what she has again lost.

Blue celebrates his birthday by sending letters up to Ernest Bordelon: Micah (Nicolas Ashe), Blue (Ethan Hutchison), Vi (Tina Lifford), and Hollywood (Omar Dorsey) stand in front of the firepit.
In Queen Sugar too, it is never late to find love. As the younger Bordelons weigh ups and downs in their relationship choices, Hollywood and Vi are the finest illustration of love having no age limit. They have their battles though. Vi's independence remains an issue that Hollywood must face. Vi's pies business is booming so wonderfully that a couple offered to buy stakes. The stakes are more for them and less for her. She wants to create a storefront, well and within her right. After all, she is so popular that she calls on Nova for help. Vi is stubborn as a mule when it comes to asking for a second hand.  It is a red flag that she insistently rejects Hollywood.

As the family celebrate Vi's big 60th birthday, Hollywood's mother, who had stayed over to take part in the festivities, touches on Hollywood's insecurities. Sadly, Hollywood had originally wanted kids in his future. Even if her intuition was right about Hollywood's first wife, LeeAnne, we all hope that she is wrong about Vi. It would be flabbergasting if like Darla and Ralph Angel, Hollywood and Vi do not make it to the altar.

Relationships aside, the Bordelon farmland brings Charley, Nova, Ralph Angel, and Vi together. With Charley's daring sleuthing, the family has discovered a startling secret project that the Landrys have planned-- a private jail on properties of black farmers including the desired Bordelon property.  With corrupt institutionalization modern day slavery, the Bordelons will be damned if history repeats.

Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Oprah Winfrey, Rutina Wesley, Kofi Siriboe, Tina Lifford, and Ava DuVernay are what make Queen Sugar great.
As the complex, juicy stories unfold onscreen, off Queen Sugar dominates the awards shows honoring our specific demographic. For good reason, it has won the African American Film Critics Association's (AAFCA) Best Drama Series twice in a roll and has NAACP Image Awards honors for Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series for Ava DuVernay. Rutina Wesley has won Best Actress in a Drama from the Black Reel Television Awards and is nominated again this year. Although it continues breaking new, pivotal ground each season, with its all women directing team, phenomenal top notch acting, breathtaking cinematography, and gut wrenching narrative, the white institutions running Emmys and Golden Globes cannot remove themselves from historical prejudice, a discriminating hierarchy that will rarely nominate black actresses let alone black and women writers and directors.

Moreover, Queen Sugar deserves all the praise received. Whether its spread via Twitter trends, topping Wednesday night Facebook feeds, and the main topic of countless blog think pieces, Queen Sugar is a buzzing wildfire honey. Its sweet taste stings and soothes simultaneously. Endless television shows including this year's Emmy nominees cannot compare to Queen Sugar's brilliant delivery. On the screen moves mountains. Behind -the-scenes, women are helming and finessing to the magic of Meshell Ndegeocello's pulsing soundtrack. Every little element operates succinctly, like the brain, heart, and lungs of a full working body. Thus, we should continue to revel in this existence, of seeing and hearing what has long since been denied.

Week after week, viewers are fortunately rewarded with a generous helping of gratifying storytelling, of a show that demonstrates what it means to be a black body in the 21st century, to fight against oppressive capitalism, to take what has always belonged to us, and retain heart, strength, and dignity. We are seeing vast diaspora of our flesh range and as multifaceted human beings who demonstrate rights, who make grave mistakes, who fall in love. At the same time, wise and authentic Queen Sugar says in a clever, roundabout way, that family can often be the ticket to accessing those values that matters most, that are not often seen from black and women point of view.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

'Fahrenheit 451,' Brother, Where Art Thou the Black Women?

Fahrenheit 451 poster.
Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is considered to be a great classic. It is certainly an outstanding piece of dystopian literature. Thus, it made perfect sense to create a new film adaptation of a story entailing a post apocalyptic world without books, without knowledge turning pages grants us. With Michael B. Jordan tapped as lead and serving executive producer duties, why not be excited about HBO's reenactment?

Captain Beatty (Michael Shannon) and Guy Montag (Michael B. Jordan) burning all books.
Ramin Bahrani's film shows a quite compelling opening sequence that is heated and alluring all at once. Heartbreaking imagery of beloved books and art devoured by smoldering flames. Classics like Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, Herman Melville's Moby Dick, and Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood and works by Vermeer, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Horace Pippin, James Van Der Zee, and Gordon Parks are consumed by melodious fire. Archival photos including The Kissing Sailor are also torched alive. Poetry, fiction, theory, and everything in between translated in various languages across the globe are destroyed, seemingly lost forever.

Left behind, however, is a hardened yet vulnerable world surviving on inaccurate information, without art and music, with nearly 7,000 languages lost, doomed for collapse.

Secretly seduced, Montag pockets a slim copy of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "Notes From the Underground."
The firemen break into houses, damage property, and humiliate the guilty via surveillance that can be seen on the web. Captain Beatty and Guy Montag lead their team, burning up computers and books, determined to stop anyone from uploading thousands of existing material onto the Internet. They're a rough, aggressive bunch, often celebrating victories over these intelligent renegades, believing that burning books are necessary, saving people from sin and depravity.

Beatty and Montag have a close bond, an almost familial allegiance. Montag is Beatty's righthand man, someone he can count on most, and a topnotch replacement for his upcoming retirement.  Both men, though, are hiding secrets from one another and from Yuxie, their in house Suri. She is in charge of securing the home, offering a vocal companionship, and instructing them to take their eyedrop cocktails.Unlike Beatty who instructs, "Yuxie, go dark" and places a lampshade over Yuxie's sleek head, Montag only tells her, "go dark," believing that he has complete privacy.

Guy (Michael B. Jordan) finds himself beguiled by dimly lit stacks of paperbacks and hardcovers. If you're a library/bookstore enthusiast, the smell of books, the sight of books is a tantalizing seduction, albeit innocent, but worthwhile and pleasant. Fahrenheit 451 definitely captured that lure.
Just like Black Panther's Erik Killmonger, Montag has strong patriarchal ties, his memories flooded with father and son interactions. It is beautiful, an expression of tenderness and compassion, thoughtfully expressing a father's love, a black father's love that is present and undeniable. Without exchanging words, the father and the son look upon one another in a genuinely endearing affection. However, the black mother's absence isn't explained. Had she fallen for books? Was she a betrayer to the country? Or had she died in childbirth due to the lack of knowledge doctors likely held?Although it starts to become obvious that Montag's thoughts are rigged, there is no indication as to what has happened to his mother. Montag's desire for a father figure makes his relationship with Beatty appear a desperate clinch, a reach that ultimately starts to unravel once Montag's views on burning books changes.

Enter Clarisse McClellan, a woman who helps those eels in need and moonlights for the fire department, granting them information to keep them off her revolutionary trail. Montag is intrigued by her, sneaking visits to her room in the slums, which also showcases a great class difference between the two. Clarisse's knowledge, however, puts her in a whole other league from Montag. He no longer feels driven by duty, but by destiny. Soon, they're reading Dostoyevsky together- she reading with purpose, he struggling with reading flow as though illiterate. After witnessing a woman sacrifice herself along her vast book collection ala Joan of Arc fashion, Montag begins to understand the draw of the written word.

Guy (Michael B. Jordan) and Clarisse (Sofia Boutella) have a bland, short lived romance.
Of Jordan, fresh off one of Marvel Universe's most successful hero origin films where blackness held a vital key, is it not too much to ask that the same logic be shown in a huge HBO picture such as Fahrenheit 451? This is a man set on producing films with the inclusive rider clause. Yet, however, this film doesn't include black women in a way that is valid and celebratory. Sure, Khandi Alexander shows up one hour and nine minutes in, calling herself Toni Morrison, a fierce leader among a gang of folks ushering the rebel change. Now Jordan knows black women are his hugest fans, his biggest support group. The love is definitely not returned here. Once Toni Morrison arrives, the main points have been made, the shift has already been set in stone, and the film is only an hour and forty minutes.
"The most disrespected woman in America is the black woman. The most un-protected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is black women."- Malcolm X
Yes, books, art, and music have to survive. They're absolutely needed. Humanity would be in a sunken place without people's individual opinions, convictions, passions, and talents. Most importantly, black women are imperative.  And a world without them, is a world without strength, dignity, and backbone.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Fighting For Y&R's Mishael Morgan

Mishael Morgan is sailing away from the adventures of Hilary Curtis and the top notched Hevon pairing. This cannot be real.
It is with a breaking heart to disclose that beloved she-ro, the helm of the precious, heavily tormented Hevon ship, Emmy nominated Mishael Morgan may possibly be leaving Young and the Restless. After five years on daytime's number one soap opera, Morgan has chosen to depart from what appears to be due to contract negotiations. If that is the case, valiant fans are urging the powers behind Y&R to reconsider, to give Morgan all that she deserves for carrying the weight of not just her character's story lines but that of unworthy others.

Say it isn't so? A frustrated Devon (Bryton James) and concerned Hilary (Mishael Morgan)'s facial expressions definitely match up the emotional state of fans right now.
Great things are finally unraveling in Genoa City for Hilary Curtis and her one true love, Devon Hamilton. With no major secrets held from each other, a recent cutely announced baby on the way (created with a sweet compromise), and moving in together at the penthouse again (unfortunately near that awful interloping shell of a man), this news of Morgan's unexpected out is completely devastating.

Hevon: no other ship like the beautiful chemistry of Hevon. Mishael Morgan (Hilary) and Bryton James (Devon) worked so well together.
No one can imagine Genoa City without Hilary in it.

This is unbelievably wrong and cruel, like a nightmare that cannot be real.

For years, Hilary Hamilton has been a vital player in this small fictional Wisconsin town. A smart, resourceful beauty whose revenge plotting schemes threw certain folks in town for a loop. Yet, she eventually turned on a new leaf and became so much more than a vivacious temptress on a vengeance mission. With many notes to play, she had a heart of solid gold that melted in Devon's lion tatted arms. In the beginning, Hilary and Devon's love story was refreshing, wonderful, and titillating. They delivered sexy black romance in a spellbinding Shakespearean tragedy kind of way. Audiences knew that black Romeo and his black Juliet were meant to be, but countless obstacles continued marring their journey. In the midst of a sultry affair, the fallout, the engagement, and that gorgeous wedding, for a short while Hevon had it all. Eventually, fans had to deal with a horribly bad kidnapping story, an unnecessary divorce, characters like Jordan, Mariah, and Simone, and once again Neil.

Still, Hilary is pregnant and she is happy moving back in the penthouse with Devon.

For that road to ultimately stop, to have Morgan leave in the middle of this latest juicy reboot, crushes hopes and dreams. It is a solid punch in the gut, a sucker slap to the cheek, especially hurtful to those who have longed for Hilary and Devon to passionately reunite with tender declarations that reflect the old days of their once-in-a-lifetime-love, to start a beautiful little family-- a beautiful little black family (severely lacking in Genoa City). 

Look at all this hot chem: Mishael Morgan (Hilary) and Bryton James (Devon) are all smiles.
Moreover, Morgan's first Emmy nomination should have been the polarizing start of others, of a possible win for a black actress at last. Black viewers watch the Daytime Emmys year after year, witnessing black actor wins while black actresses continuously wait in the wings. Whereas, it was amazing that Days of Our Lives' James Reynolds (winner for Best Lead Actor) and Bold and the Beautiful's Rome Trumain (winner for Best Younger Actor) scored epic wins, black women were robbed in their categories. It appeared that down the line, someday, Morgan would not only be nominated but win a gold statuette for all of her excellent hard work. She is a most convincing artist, eloquently skilled at showcasing Hilary's layers: her tenacity, her humor, her compassion, her desire. Every week, Morgan delivered soap opera masterclass.

And many devoted fans will miss her if she truly does exit the canvas.

Please don't go....

However, if Morgan chooses to move forward, it will be okay. Valiant, devoted supporters will follow and champion anything that she shares to the world. She is multifaceted, capable of performing in any genre with chops for drama, comedy, all that rests between. There is no doubt that her career is meant to be more than half of a dynamic soap opera couple. Fans will miss her chemistry with Bryton James. That would be irreplaceable.

The best ship in daytime must carry on. If not, fans could join hands and sob together as we reflect on the best parts of this splendid pairing.

In the Hevon hearts, we're just praying that maybe it is not too late.

Currently, fans have the #Fight4Mishael campaign heating up online. Join the brigade.