by Twanna Futrell
The Incredible Jessica James gives us a black woman simply being herself, and no, she is not the comic relief or the sidekick. Jessica James is the best friend you met in college, or the Instagram friend you’ve never met in person, but you just know they’re hella cool. As I watched the Netflix original I saw my closest friends in her. Everything about her feels familiar and that’s what keeps your eyes locked on the screen throughout the film.
Jessica’s strong personality helps her navigate through the dating scene in NYC after a rough breakup. Tearing down Tinder dates with ease she says, “I would literally rather have my period nonstop, for a thousand years, than continue this portion of the conversation.”
She says whatever’s on her mind and it doesn’t come off as her being socially awkward. If anything, it just lets the audience know that she’s unapologetically black, and woman. It’s a sight to see, especially since we are often fed images of black women in film holding back for the sake of others’ comfort. Although the topic of race isn’t made a strong theme within the film, Jessica navigating through life without being sorry for it makes a statement in itself. Not only does it apply to her love life, but she is just as tough when up against the world of theater. Letters of rejection are posted up on a wall in her apartment like battle scars, but she still dedicates herself to her passion. And that’s the attitude you need to survive life in NYC. This city is cold, and for a black girl it can be even colder but black women have strength and courage embedded in our DNA. And it’s satisfying to see that determination captured on film so effortlessly.
Now although I’m here for all of this positive representation of black people on television apart of me gets skeptical when I consider the people behind the scenes. My skepticism stems from a new and not so new trend in which recent films/shows/music centered around black culture actually see our lived experiences as critical enough to be art. Or if our experiences are simply lucrative and "trendy." I question the integrity of these producers and wonder if they are as invested as I am in these narratives.
I would hope that the positive effects of this representation outweigh the bad. After all, as black people we need to see ourselves portrayed in a favorable light, hell we need to see ourselves portrayed in a realistic light. We need to be able to look at these productions like we’re seeing mirror images of ourselves.