c) an overused trope
d) lazy writing
Included in my work writing for and working in film and television, I often get the chance to do coverage. For the two people who aren’t my industry friends reading this blog, coverage is what happens when a non-executive type like myself reads a script for an executive type and writes a synopsis and feedback on the quality of the script. This is often a script’s first step toward not being made and provides writers like myself with valuable info.
Do enough coverage and you have a head’s up on what’s being submitted so you can either jump on a good bandwagon or avoid a tired subject. Also, you get a by proxy education as you read what does and does not work. What does work, apparently, because I’ve read it about a million times in the 5 years I’ve been doing this is one simple fact:
RBP are sassy, mean and HILARIOUS!
I just read a script and since I’ll probably be sued for saying who it was for or what the script was or who the writer was, I’ll just say this and hope that s/he is reading.
One of the characters was described thusly: “SHAKWANDA, a sassy African American receptionist…” and then she went on to have every line be “oh, nuh uh!” “I do NOT need this today,” “you best leave me alone fo’ I cut you,” etc. This would be unremarkable except that with the exception of one glorious family script that for the same above reasons, I cannot name, every script with a black character that I end up reading is pretty much written this way.
There is some variation, of course. Sometimes the RBP in question is an athlete, sometimes an oversexed teen. But the character is always the same. They are not the hero, they are not the love interest, their lines haughtily punctuate the ends of scenes and their character arc only bends them from totally sassy, to slightly less sassy.
Needless to say, I am soooo over this.
I mean, c’mon. Just like I said in my open letter to Oprah, I have worked waaaaayyyy too hard for the only thing I need to be able to avoid are an accent and an attitude. I was born not talking that way. I would need the best accent coaches ever to figure out how to say grrrrl. And those years of ballet did not teach me to roll my neck. So help me keep my game up by keeping up yours.