What is the shelf life of a black netflix series?
She’s Gotta Have It needed (a lot of) work, and I wonder if Netflix did not want to put that work in. For them, it seems, investing in white mediocrity is easier than investing in uniquely Black tales (see: 13 Reasons Why and Tall Girl juxtaposed with The Get Down and Seven Seconds)
If I were to guess at the shelf life of a Black Netflix series, I would say two seasons. Max. This means: no character development, no substantial storylines, and no closure. As a Black viewer and creator seeing this pattern, it sends the message that Netlfix may greenlight a Black story, but the buck stops there.
From the jump, there was always a disconnect between me and Nola Darling. Maybe it was the fact that every episode, I was reminded that this was a “Spike Lee joint.” That’s nice, if you want a man who openly supports abusers creating a show that heavily revolves around body politics (you don’t).
Admittedly, I did not finish hate watching Season 2 because a lot of the problems that I pinpointed in Season 1 resurfaced. However, despite the lack of range for many of the topics presented, the show did have some unique elements.
There was also the case of Shamekka’s butt injections. If that story had been told carefully, we could have talked about plastic surgery in a nuanced way that would not shame women who choose to have work done but instead paint a full portrait of the risks some women take when choosing to achieve a “perfect” body.
I could go on and on about the ways She’s Gotta Have It could have shifted the culture. However, as the African American proverb goes, it coulda…shoulda…woulda…but it didn’t. When looking at two other Netflix series, I see a pattern.
For example, Shaolin Fantastic’s experiences with abuse touch on the erasure of men from ‘me too.’ conversations. This storyline was important because some male victims, especially Black men, are reluctant to come forward because they being perceived as “weak” or being told that they “let” themselves be attacked.
Considering these things, I would have appreciated exploring this topic more.
Alternatively, we could have seen Mylene’s career trajectory; we could have dug deeper into Dizzee’s sexuality; we could have figured out how Zeke magically morphed into Nas. We coulda…shoulda…woulda, but we didn’t get the chance to do any of that.
I was fooled once with The Get Down.
Yet, Seven Seconds was cancelled after 1 season, as if that story was final. Like The Get Down, there were areas of potential development. We could have explored other cover ups from that racist police department (because that case surely was surely not a lone wolf case).
Alas, we were left saying, “coulda…shoulda…woulda” for the second time. I was fooled twice with Seven Seconds.
After Netflix released Tall Girl this week, it feels like the perfect time to finally put this article out (I’ve had this topic sitting in my phone notes for months). In the past few years, Netflix has demonstrated a pattern of divesting in Black stories but will greenlight a show that depicts height as some form of oppression.
Like I said earlier, it’s been time to divest in Netflix. As I ease my way over to Hulu, I leave you with a question: Can Netflix support a Black story beyond the drawing board? ~ ℝ