The post Why We Need More Free-Spirited TV Characters Like Denise & Freddie appeared first on Black Girl Nerds.
There’s no better feeling than seeing someone like you on the other side of the television screen, especially as a black girl coming up in the 90s and 2000s. That has and always will matter in black culture. To my delight, black women are reclaiming their place to reign on the small screen from the fierce (Cookie, Empire); the flawed (Olivia Pope, Scandal) and the flamboyant (Rainbow, black-ish).
Platforms like these with pivotal lead roles peels back the layers of black women in terms of their nature and essence that continues to thrill with unique stories and voices. It’s important to portray every kind of woman like us with golden individuality with color and soul. Two of my personal favorites to stand out from the rest, Winifred “Freddie” Brooks and Denise Huxtable, emerged from two groundbreaking shows of the 1980s, The Cosby Show and A Different World and changed the game.
I loved whatever didn’t fit the norm. Denise (Lisa Bonet) and Freddie (Cree Summer), in my world were the quintessential carefree black girls of prime time television who broke the mold and brought art to identity with their respected roles. From middle school I was a binge watcher of reruns, I felt a kindred spirit with the two free-spirited characters. I loved how they were written with the unwavering ability to remain true to themselves.
They shined whenever they came on screen and I waited with anticipation, appreciating seeing girls like me (even fictionally) declare of self-awareness when others felt it was bizarre and as I was becoming a teen, I gravitated towards visuals like that. I told my dad my favorite Huxtable and he responded jadedly, “Of course she is.”
I’m just naturally unconventional much to his keenness of my kookiness.
Denise was the wild child of the Huxtables who stood out purposely yet perfectly and I believe that’s why the character remains beloved. I loved how everything about her clashed with her conservative upbringing and she followed her own tune. Even if that tune involved watching reggae videos on the couch with a guy as her dad watched in confusion. “And I say eh now!” I identified with her, even when she seemed all over the place and undecided of what to do yet wanting to explore everything. My college experience in a nutshell.
In A Different World came Freddie, who I call “Miss Poetic Justice,” an offbeat yet soulfully expressive student activist with a head full of wild natural curls and an adorably playful voice. She was Afrocentric, passionate, fierce and always stood for what she believed in and didn’t hold back no matter what.
Not even for an over the top live enactment of her African studies essay in a classroom or created a hilarious radio show to give advice to Hillman students in a ridiculous West Indies accent. Freddie stood amongst Whitley, Kim and Jaleesa who all represented elements of black identity and womanhood. It was refreshing to see black women of all walks of life and to see yourself in some way manifest itself on a show that still leaves resonate over 20 years later. Fans still marvel at the dynamic of these fictional characters that they connected or identified with in one way or another.
That’s what’s magical about creating a reflection with representation the right way. That’s how I felt watching Lisa and Cree bring their roles to life on shows that changed the dialogue towards black culture.
I’d live vicariously through their unapologetic nature to be authentic even when no one else “got it” when I wasn’t freely confident in my own skin. She wore her identity proudly. I think because of women like them influenced that more young girls were inspired to channel the essence of who they were and not to blend in. Case A: the fabulousity of the Afropunk festival.
In a time of where society promotes superficiality and reality TV’s stereotypical depictions oversaturated that we need more images, true narrations and diversity with free spirited voices on for another generation and mirror the multi-dimensional experiences and expressions of black women. This impact is what drives me to create my own space to continue the path to connect with more individuals so like me, can lock eyes with someone on the small screen, and see them.
Ashley is a writer and creator of the “ashlemonade” blog, detailing her experiences of adulthood and learning to take the lemons in her life to make lemonade along the way to her dreams. She’s written for xoJane.com. Follow her on Twitter: @ashlemonade