How Sci-Fi And Fantasy Television Shows Fail Black Female Characters

From Thought Catalog

Sleepy Hollow
Sleepy Hollow

TV audiences embrace diverse casts, even in white, male dominated genres like fantasy and science fiction. Witness the fandom of women characters on television shows like Jessica Jones, Person of Interest, Sleepy Hollow, and the most recent season of Netflix’s Daredevil. Therefore, Fox network should not have been surprised when Twitter rocked with outrage over the death of Abbie Mills (played by Nicole Beharie) in Sleepy Hollow. The whole mournful cry echoed the disappointment fans expressed (and arguably still have) over the death of another black female lead character, Joss Carter (Taraji P. Henson) in Person of Interest.

According to social media, some of this fan love materialized specifically because women of color played these roles. Undoubtedly, Abbie Mills and Joss Carter helped to retain some of the viewership when the plot lines of their respective shows became confusing and bloated. Carter’s limited time on Person of Interest may (or may not) have been planned from the beginning. And Mill’s departure, given the story (we’ll get to this) from season one, sadly could have been predicted. The point of contention, therefore, is not why the characters were killed off, but how.

The storylines of Abbie Mills and Joss Carter particular exemplified the doubling down on media tropes:

1. When major characters of color get a special talent or skill that makes them “exceptional”, they somehow only choose to use their talent to deliver white folks from evil – not themselves, or their people, no matter how dire their own predicament (Magical Negro).


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