I watched a lot of TV coming up. Playing outside was my preference, but I was also a latchkey kid, so on the days when I had to stay inside afterschool (and the days where I didn't feel like sneaking out) you would find me glued to the TV absorbing my favorite shows or playing Ninetendo. Because of this, pop culture/media had a heavy influence in my life.
Thank goodness I came up during the only time in our short film and media history, where there was a rich range of black characters covering the gamut of positive and negatve characteristics and roles with depth as well as roles that simply entertained.
Between The Cosby Show, A Different World, Living Color, Arsenio Hall Show, Living Single, Moesha, Martin, New York Undercover, South Central, Girlfriends; you could find something for your tastes. And that doesn't include the cornucopia of films that were also being released during this time. Again, what a perfect time to be watching television and going to the movies if you were interested in stories and characters that told your story in some way or opened your eyes to different perspectives.
Which brings me to this post. In honor of Black History Month I wanted to share a few fictional characters who have inspired me. Real or not, the mere fact that these characters existed has an influential place in our history, and definitely in my life. Here we go...
Rudy Huxtable (The Cosby Show)
Aside from being adorable and an incredible actress at such a young age, in my imaginary world Rudy Huxtable was my friend who just happened to live on TV. We were (are) the same age, and although my life was completely different from her television role, we shared similar interests: she wrote stories, I wrote stories; she believed she could be and do anything, I did too; and she was smart. We even went through the same awkward chubby stage at the same time.
What I appreciated most about Rudy's character is that she represented little brown girls in a way I had never seen before. She was bright and curious, but still silly and fun. As a little girl, seeing someone who looked like me and act as she did confirmed everything I already believed about myself.
You may have read this on Fly before but Angela, the art director/artist/art teacher in the film, had a huge influence on the career path I chose to take in my life. Before Boomerang I had no idea you could make money creating and designing things. Let alone be a black woman doing it. When I saw Angela pull out those brushes to paint her "blue people" I was in awe. I remember thinking, "she paints, too!" This character introduced me to graphic design, even though I had no idea what it was called at the time.
I saw this film just before heading off to college, before being exposed to more things outside of my suburban teenage life. Love Jones was my first real taste of artsy black folk who wrote and photographed for a living, hung out at open mic nights, and had freestyle jam sessions in their living rooms. Something about all that really appealed to me. I wanted to hang with them.
Nina was a struggling photographer in the midst of a bad break-up living in the cosmopolitan city that is Chicago. She was stylish, flirty, self-assured and smart, yet vulnerable. Nina had depth.
Again, the way the film presented her character was so different than anything else I had seen before.
Needless to say I had been exposed to a new world through her eyes in this film, and for the next year found myself writing poetry and going to open mic nights, and having the guts to perform a piece on stage. Soon after and beyond, I was (am) addicted to going to art-y parties, gallery openings and the like.
These are examples of how media and pop culture can influence us. When a range of stories are told from different perspectives we open up opportunities to people who may not be exposed to these things in their day to day lives. I am thankful for these characters (and the people who created them) for their wonderful inspiration.
Were you exposed to any characters that influenced a decision or impacted your life in some way? Do share!