Student Thoughts: Black queer characters no longer superficial pons

Darius Dupins/Staff Writer

 

Denise, a character played by writer, director and actor, Lena Waithe, on Netflix’s critically acclaimed show, Master’s of None, and Titus Andromedon, played by musical theater star, Tituss Burgess, in Tina Fey’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt are just about as refreshing as an empty canteen in a hot, dry desert.

By now, both actors and character names have revealed themselves in one way or another; Waithe, a co-producer of 2014’s Sundance darling, Dear White People, writer for several television series including, Bones and How to Rock. As for Burgess, he’s a Primetime Emmy and Critic’s Choice Award nominee for his role as Titus Andromedon. The roles these actors play may be refreshing to most but these characters are real people to the black, queer community and our allies.

Waithe’s character in Masters is a girl I already know. She’s cooler than thou, confident and her interest exceed well past Timbaland boots and Da Brat. My favorite aspect about this character is that she isn’t coming out nor is she coming of age, which is the usual story arch of queer women and men of color. Denise is very proud of who she is and is comfortable in her sexuality. Though Denise isn’t a representation of every black lesbian it’s very inspirational, if you will, that there is an honest depiction of a queer woman of color.

The only time television audiences were introduced to a queer woman of color was in the early 2000s during season four of Sex and the City, when the series’ confident, self-proclaimed “try-sexual,” Samantha Jones, has a brief lesbian relationship with a Brazilian artist. Though ground-breaking for its time, this depiction of a lesbian relationship was unusual as up to this point, Jones’s body count had only included an array of men, but suddenly she was a lesbian. The show’s writers made a sloppy effort in showing a lesbian relationship without it being superficial and explaining the fluidity of sexuality.

Tina Fey’s follow up to 30-Rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is about a bubbly, optimistic white woman in New York City stuck in the 90s after being abducted by a doomsday cult-leader. Fey, along with her writers, introduce viewers to Titus Andromedon, a black, high-strung, aspiring Broadway star, best friend and unlikely roommate to the title character, Kimmy Schmidt. Andromedon’s purpose may appear as secondary, just to follow the usual GBF (Gay Best Friend) trope, yet he gets just as much screen time as Schmidt and their relationship is more symbiotic than it is co-dependent as we’ve seen before in shows such as Will and Grace. Andromedon needs his counterpart for extra cash to pay rent and Schmidt needs Andromedon for room and board.

As “refreshing” as critics think Andromedon is to television, they think his character isn’t as politically correct as he should be. The thing is, they’re missing the point. Andromedon is real!

“I just find it hilarious that people are trying to arrest us for doing the opposite of what everyone thinks we’re doing,” Burgess said in an interview with the Huffington Post. Besides, Fey wrote the role of Andromedon specifically for Burgess and he thinks the whole controversy is “ridiculous.”

“Either [Tina Fey] has my apartment tapped, or do I just seem like so desperate that [auditioning for The Lion King 20 times] is something that I would do,” Burgess said in an interview with NPR.

While I enjoy these characters respectively, there’s nothing fresh about them but it’s great that a mass audience has been introduced to two new characters that are more than a magical, black personality. With Waithe continuing to work behind the scenes with two upcoming pilots, Twenties and The Chi and Burgess in the process of writing his own musical that he’ll star in based on a movie Whitney Houston starred in and the upcoming season of Unbreakable premiering in April, these two stars will continue to master their craft while remaining unapologetic, realistic and unbreakable.

 

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of FIU Student Media Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

 

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