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Prevalence Of The Web Show : How Creative Innovator Issa Rae Is Using the Internet to Explore Diversity

Updated on April 15, 2014

Like many young adults today, I have a love-hate relationship with the media. I poke fun at reality TV shows like the Kardashians and Mob wives. Yet I still stay up late on my computer reading up on the latest adventures of LiLo. While it's fun and funny to watch reality stars bicker, I prefer watching scripted shows that have some discernible value. While good shows are scarce, once in a while comes a show that gets me excited. Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl or ABG has become my newest obsession.

Awkward Black Girl is a web series that revolves around J, a young woman who hates her job and co-workers, and like the title of the show gives away, is awkward. She's the girl who waves at the wrong person, hates making small conversation with strangers, and runs away (literally) from conflict. In many ways J is like you and me. Except she's also Black.

The appeal of the show is that it's universal, yet the character remains true to who she is. Issa Rae, the creator of the show who also plays the main character, developed the show after sitting on the idea for several years. After reading an article asking "Where is the Black Liz Lemon?", she felt that America was finally ready for a fresh take on Black women in comedy.

Overcoming Stereotypes

Movies and television are replete with tired and outdated stereotypes of Black women. She is the loud wise cracking chick, the sassy Black friend to her white counterpart, a humbled maid, or church-going Bible holding wife of a preacher. Issa Rae's show came on the scene last summer throwing gasoline and setting fire to the aforementioned images of Black women in media; A proverbial viking funeral, if you will.

Her portrayal of J as an average woman with a normal job who finds herself in uncomfortable situations has broken down barriers and hopefully television executives will get the message. If you watch television you probably (or probably don't) notice the lack of diversity on shows. Lead roles for minority women is few and rare, especially in comedy. Perhaps executives believe that no one would want to watch a show centered on a Black, Asian, or Hispanic woman. Maybe they think that it would be hard to relate to her. If I can enjoy shows with male lead characters like Seinfeld, Arrested Development, and Louie, I think that men are just as capable of enjoying shows with female leads.

The first episode of Awkward Black Girl has over 1 million views, and the show won a Shorty Award for best web show earlier this year. For its second season, ABG will be funded by Pharell William's I Am Other Channel on youtube, so perhaps television executives need not worry about diversifying shows. On the other hand, now that shows are finding funding in other venues across the internet, will television become irrelevant?

Who says television is the only place for shows

It might take many years before television becomes a thing of the past. However, if more and more people feel that shows on television are not representing them, the Internet is an open, free domain. You aren't censored on the internet, nor are there big executives telling you how to write your show. It's you, your talent, a camera, and a billion eyes ready to watch what you have to offer.

The internet is rapidly becoming the go to place for fresh new talent to publish their videos and eventually turn them into a web series. Hulu has gone beyond streaming your favorite TV shows online. It has begun streaming original content and they have bigger plans to expand in the near future. Netflix unveiled an original show, Lillyhammer, this past February. And after several years of rumors going around that the cult classic Arrested Development was returning, the show struck a deal with Netflix and will be streaming episodes for an upcoming season next year.

Impact of Awkward Black Girl

While it's too early to know what long-lasting impact Awkward Black Girl could have for young women of color in television, it's exciting to be a spectator from the sidelines. I really hope that the show continues its success and that it does open doors for different interpretations of African- Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and everyone in between living in America. If not, at least Issa Rae and her fellow partners gave us a view of what could have been.

The show is funny, weird, and original. If you grew up in the 90's you will probably get the references to movies, songs, and hip-hop feuds. It might not be for everyone but watch the show with an open mind, and even if you don't understand the references, I'm sure you'll find something in the storyline that you can relate to.

"Awkward Black Girl" will be back this Thursday, June 14th, 2012. Watch the promo to get a taste of what you missed in the first season.

How likely are you to watch a show with a female lead of color?

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    • Maria-Arg profile image

      Maria-Arg 5 years ago from New York City

      Hi Sherry- Thanks for reading and commenting! The show really gets me laughing out loud at its craziness. Glad you got a laugh too =)

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 5 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      OMG, that was hilarious.