HBO shows redefining ‘Black girl magic’

Photo courtesy Screen Rant

HBO is paving the way for diversity with its plentiful amount of Black woman-led shows. In a Hollywood world filled with racially ambiguous recurring characters, it is necessary to see HBO fill the void of Black characters. Netflix is frequently under fire for its lack of representation of dark skinned Black women. It is also important that these aforementioned characters are not written in the script to simply serve as the best friend or love interest of the main non-Black character. For example, consider “Clueless,” “I Am Not Okay With This” or The Vampire Diaries.” Characters like these often do not receive their deserved recognition or character development. 

HBO original shows like “Insecure,” “Lovecraft Country,” “I May Destroy You,” “Watchmen” and “Euphoria” feature a Black woman as the protagonist and most of them are directed by Black women, with the exception of “Watchmen” and “Euphoria.” HBO sketch comedy series “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” written and produced by comedian Robin Thede, also falls under this category of having a Black woman as the protagonist.

Uncle George, Atticus and Leti in episode one of “Lovecraft Country.” Photo courtesy CNN

“Lovecraft Country” is the newest to join the HBO streaming team, and the show actually just had its season finale on Sunday night. In the show adaptation of the novel by Matt Ruff, “Lovecraft Country” follows a traveling trio on the search for one of their missing relatives. Not only does it take place during the Jim Crow era in 1950, but the trio also encounters deadly monsters. It doesn’t have a confirmed second season yet, according to an interview by Deadline with Misha Green.

“Nothing is official yet, but I envision a second season that carries on the spirit of Matt Ruff’s novel by continuing to reclaim the genre storytelling space that people of color have typically been left out of,” Green told Deadline.

Lovecraft Countrycrafted its own genre by mixing sci-fi, history and horror.

Regina King dons her vigilante suit in “Watchmen.” Photo courtesy NY Times

Similar to merging the themes of horror and history, Watchmenbrought attention to the events of the 1921 Tulsa massacre with its protagonist Regina King. The award-winning limited series aired on HBO from October to December 2019. Besides the topic of racism, Watchmenis unapologetically derived from a comic book and does not attempt to hide it. A second season is still possible, but it is not likely without the creator Damon Lindelof being involved.

Written and created by the star of Chewing Gumand Black Mirror,Michaela Coel crushes her performance in HBOs I May Destroy You.The storyline intertwines the horrors of sexual assault and manages to keep a comedic note. HBO gave Coel the opportunity to blossom and develop this show after turning down Netflix when it offered her an enormous lump sum of money with zero copyrights.

Michaela Coel in “I May Destroy You.” Photo courtesy Vox

Film enthusiast Nana Ana Marfo believes it is necessary for HBO to produce shows like these with Black women breaking barriers.

Its very important to see women that look like me with my complexion,Marfo said. I believe that HBO goes in-depth into the different scenarios of a Black person, especially since a lot of white people have this general idea of what Black people are. 

Filmmaker and student Allen Simpson also applauds HBO for its diverse quality of shows.

“HBO has been proactive in focusing on quality over quantity,” Simpson said. “Netflix has kind of developed a cookie cutter formula where they can churn out shows that follow a very similar formula with similar types of characters that end up looking the same. HBO has shied away from that formula, instead focusing more on having a wide range of shows and content that everyone can enjoy. I feel as if they’ve given their show-runners more freedom when it comes to casting and being a lot more diverse. HBO has many shows that relate to a wider audience, and they aren’t afraid to put a Black face in front of the camera to represent that show.” 

Issa Rae on “Insecure.” Photo courtesy HBO

Issa Raes Insecurewas one of the first shows on HBO that depicted the life of a Black woman and the overall joys of Blackness. Whether it is the representation of Black female friendships, seeing Black love without a forced racially ambiguous character on television or the setting of sunny Los Angeles,Insecuretakes the cake on HBO. Rae confirmed the shows upcoming season five on Twitter.

Simpson also mentions that his cousin, who recently graduated from Syracuse University, is one of the many inspired by work like Raes that empowers Black women to expand their creativity in the film industry.

 “When I last talked to [my cousin], we talked about ‘Insecure’ and how Issa Rae was able to do so much with her show on her own and how she represented the average Black woman on television,” Simpson said. “It inspired her to go into the film industry and help produce shows like that and give voices to other Black artists. I know there are probably thousands of others who felt something similar watching her show, or one of the other numerous shows that have a Black woman lead.”

Zendaya and Hunter Schafer in “Euphoria.” Photo courtesy Hollywood Reporter

One of the newest and well-known series on HBO is Euphoria.The teen drama has an action-packed storyline that follows a group of high school students through their experiences with sex, love, drugs, friendships, addiction and trauma. Zendaya is the leading lady with her character Rue, and she recently won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Although many have addressed the lack of dark skinned Black women in the show, fans are hoping for more diversity in season two. On Monday, the show recently announced two special episodes would be airing this December.

Filmmaker Domonique Harris enjoys watching these HBO shows in her leisure time and can find more confidence through them.

 “I adore seeing dark skinned women being loved in many different ways,” Harris said. “I love seeing them be valued and having a voice that can’t be muted. I like seeing how they’re taking care of them being shot in lighting to compliment their skin and their hair may be natural. HBO doesn’t shy away from that. It’s nice knowing being black is enough.” 

It is clear that HBO is providing Black women the space that they deserve to creatively roam and conquer television. Besides their quality plot lines, each of these shows has been praised for their exceptional, hypnotic soundtracks. You can subscribe to HBO Max and view these shows and more here for $14.99 or a seven-day free trial.