Black Girls Can’t Be Superheroes? My Kickstarter Adventure – Week 2

DeAara-Confident-blog

“You have a lot working against you,” Q.T. said.  “You can’t be a witch, a bitch and black, you will lose your entire potential audience.
Black girls can’t be superheroes, it just doesn’t sell.  Then you are using ‘witch’ which scares a lot of black people off and those that do stick around will be offended by the word ‘bitch’,” he casually finished and then sipped his coffee like he had just given me the time.  This was not the time I needed to hear this, considering I am currently running a Kickstarter for a web series featuring a superhero-type character, “The Confessions of a Witch Bitch.”  Although, I went to him to get some suggestions on how to market my Kickstarter campaign better, I was not prepared to be shut down and dismissed.

“So, would it have just been better if I did a show about being a slave or a maid?”  I sarcastically and defensively quipped back.  “Probably,” he mockingly responded.  “Or something religious. Black women in fantasy roles is just not how the world sees you.”

Something inside of me was unsettled after that conversation and when I checked my gut, I realized, a part of me believed him.  Last week was a good week, “The Confessions of a Witch Bitch” received national press on three blogs and I got an interview on one of the top radio shows in Memphis, TN.  We still have about three weeks left in the campaign and about $12,700 more dollars to raise.  Sometimes, I look at that number and think how in the world is that even possible.  Then I look at it again and break it down, “If 508 donated $25 in three weeks, I will make goal.”  It sounds less overwhelming when I think of it like that.

I actually considered “The Confessions of a Witch Bitch” my more “censored” work compared to “Tricks.”, but the title has proven to be a hit or miss.  I’ve thought about changing it to something bland, boring and filled with less charge and every time I consider it, a part of me loses interest in the project.  Being a woman of color who loves science fiction, thrillers, horror and fantasy does not win a lot of fans – initially, but I’ve always believed that if I produced strong work then it would speak for itself.

My associate’s words have been in the back of my mind since our conversation.   It triggered me, brought up feelings and memories about when I would be in meetings or having a conversation at a mixer and I would see the dismissive attitudes when it came to black women in cinema, outside of the power houses.  I would hear critiques about the latest Tarantino film, the up and rising stars like the very talented Emma Stone but when I would mention some of my heroes like Angela Bassett, Viola Davis, Sanaa Lathan and up and comers like Naturi Naughton or Yaya Docosta,  I would get this unfamiliar or uninterested stare.  Or if they would know them, it would be something casually mentioned and then quickly dismissed just to make me feel part of the conversation.  If they were really trying hard, Tyler Perry would even get thrown in there because that meant that they were “in the know.”  I am not blaming anyone, a person cannot help who they don’t know or take an interest in, I just noticed the patterns.

I talked to my sister about this and I was reminded of a study that came out a few years ago about how their aren’t enough black men to marry black women and how most of us will wind up alone.  This was rather haunting because the study came out at the time I was single and still emotionally recovering from a horrible break up.  Then another study came out from a dating site reporting that black women were the least desirable.  It seemed like report after report was coming out with this dismal reality as if they were intentionally trying to break our spirits.  My sister laughed and said, “If you really want to feel like crap, just go on Youtube and read some of the comments on channels created by black folks.” Is this really how the world sees “us”? I wondered.  Then I got angry.  “Well, fuck what the world sees,”  I said defiantly. I clung to the words my facilitator, an old jewish white man, told me, “Take statistics with a grain of salt.  Those number do not have to be your reality.”

I started wondering should I do the same with the statistics or rather projections Q.T. threw at me – take them with a grain of salt.  I’ve never been a person who was caught up on skin color, I am aware that racism  hatred exists, I just try not to get caught up in it.  When I saw that someone achieved something, I just believed I could do it too because that person showed that it was possible.  I did not know how much of factor my complexion, gender and body type would play in the things I wanted to do.  I just thought that if you were talented, worked hard, made the right contacts the doors would start to open and I honestly still do believe that.  I’m just more aware now of how superficial it is too.  I was taught that if I can see my reflection in someone else’s eyes, then no matter their ethnicity, we can connect.  My father told me if I got caught up in the illusions of race I would become very bitter and stuck.  I remind myself of that constantly when I want to go there and it is so easy to go there, but it also one of the most toxic places to be.

So how does a woman who is not a size 2, loves science fiction and fantasy get people to see to beyond her complexion?  How do I convince the women offended by the word “bitch” that, this is a way of de-shaming the word for me.  It is a term I’ve often been called because I go hard for what I want and it is a term used against women in the workforce.  And ultimately, how do I convince people that black women can in fact play super heroes (in addition to Storm and Catwoman)? Not only can we play super heroes, we can play virtually any character created with the same level of talent, drive and commitment if given the chance and opportunity. Kerri Washington, Viola Davis, Angela Basset, Sanaa Lathan,  and Queen Latifah (just to name a few) have proven that.

That’s when I decided that I was not going to try to convince anybody.  I was going to focus on what I was good at – performing and telling stories and telling them authentically.  I realized I’ve gotten as far as I have because of who I really am and  not by playing pretend.  I’ve always been edgy, always liked pushing boundaries and that has gained me a loyal following that is growing and many of my Kickstarter supporters have been people “black” and “white” because they get my work, they get me.  There will always be people out there who do not want to see a woman of color play a witch, a bitch, a fantasy character or see us at all, however, there are so many more who do.

So on the days I feel like giving up, I am reminded of an inbox message I received from a young, aspiring actress of color, “You’re playing a witch.  That is so cool.  I’ve never seen a black woman do that before.”  I think it’s about time.

To learn more about “The Confessions of a Witch Bitch” visit www.thewitchbitch.com.

 

Do you think it harder for women of color to play characters outside of “the norm”?  Sound off in the comment section…

 

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One Response

  1. Well stated.

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