Before we begin this breakdown, if you’re one of those people who don’t believe in colourism in Nigeria, Africa or the global black community then don’t bother reading any further.
To get to the heart of the desirable black woman trope we should first take a look at the three major stereotypes black women have been strapped with since the beginning of film and TV in US history. First, there is the jezebel, who not to be confused with the biblical figure, is the hypersexual, promiscuous temptress. Second, is the Mammy who is the maternal often asexual motherly figure. Usually played as a maid (in movies about the slave trade. Think Viola Davis in ‘The Help’ ), to white people literally and figuratively. Lastly, the ‘Sapphire’ who is pegged as the domineering emasculator of all who stand before her, especially with men.
These aren’t the only tropes that describe the black woman in white American media but understanding this foundation and where these tropes stem from, helps us see how other images of black women have come into being both negatively and positively.
There are many fleshed out examples of the desirable black woman trope, which on a surface level may seem like a positive attribute. However, upon further analysis, recent Tv and Movie content show there is something about the desirable black woman trope that has become innately problematic about each character.
If we look at 90’s black television (which can be considered a media renaissance for black people on film) you’ll see a lot of attractive dark skin black women (way more than you’ll find today). For example ‘Pam’ from ‘Martin’ is framed as loud, abrasive and aggressive. We are constantly bombarded with the notion that she is the angry one compared to her light skinned counterpart ‘Gina’. Additionally Pam is barely shown as ‘soft’ or sensitive that deserves to be respected and is only shown in one relationship (another character With Tommy ) that barely lasts a season. Although she is attractive and desired by SOMEBODY, she isn’t the character the show wants us to find the most attractive.
Another example of an attractive dark skin black woman is from a show I recently got into; Girlfriends! The dark skinned woman in question is Toni Childs, gorgeous, and bougie. Despite being full of faults she is shown as desirable, and actively sexual not just in a one off episode but throughout the seasons. She is the moment! The Main character! The One! However, at the end of the day there is still something about her that you shouldn’t like. The main character is very much Joan while Toni is her main antagonist for the six seasons she appears on the show. Even when Toni leaves the show on a bad note it sets the tone for who she was as a character; Her inherent and unavoidable toxic personality.
At the end of the day a desirable dark skin woman has to have at least one tragic flaw that pushes the viewer to question and potentially reject her desirability. Modern day TV and movie tropes of the desirable black woman argue that there is something rotten at her core, ultimately drawing viewers’ attention away from her as she isn’t supposed to be desired.
The desirable dark skin woman is built as strong, successful, sexy, mysterious, hardworking, etc. However, ultimately these positive traits are never taken into consideration as she eventually becomes subject to character assassination.
See also: Rico Nasty Anger In Black Music