by Terisa Thurman
This is a grandiose idea but stick with me on this:
I don't know how many of you are writers out there but I know many of you can appreciate movies, literature and/or stage plays and with the fairly affordable methods of producing and distributing such works I would like to try to inspire you towards creating a new fictional character archetype for Black Women.
Archetype: (from Greek archetypos, “original pattern”), in literary criticism, a primordial image, character, or pattern of circumstances that recurs throughout literature and thought consistently enough to be considered a universal concept or situation. -Encyclopedia Britannica
WHY DO WE NEED AN ARCHETYPE?
I don't know about you but I'm over the neck rolling, finger snapping diva persona. That character was and still may be funny (or offensive); specifically, I remember seeing her on In Living Color, but I don't think that any black woman anywhere has done that without mockery since, like, 1998. Yet, people still mock me today with that and believe me I act nothing like that! The Neck Roll, Snap was funny but I feel like that's the only fun archetypal image people have of Black women which is so outdated! Maybe that's part of the reason why it's difficult for Black actresses to find roles. (Not the whole reason but partially). We need a new appealing character that people will latch onto when they think of fun Black Women.
I suppose some of you might be thinking: NO STEREOTYPES but Hollywood works on types. Producers who invest in movies need to picture the film before it’s made so they can feel confident in their investment. It’s easier to do that when there are set concepts they can grasp easily. Having an archetype is one way to sell and market your film to investors because it puts a clear image in their head. Furthermore, audiences want to know what they are in for before they'll go see a film; especially when ticket prices are rising and duration times reaching well over two hours.
EXAMPLES OF ARCHETYPES
You have seen these characters over and over again since mankind began to tell stories. In the first picture we have Gru from Despicable Me. He comes off as a nerd but is all heart once you get to know him. He's a Lovable Loser Type. Actor Steve Carell plays this character in live action film repeatedly, most memorably in The 40 Year Old Virgin.
In the second picture we have Seth Rogen and the ensemble cast of This is the End. They are all different versions of the Man Child. Iron Man's Tony Stark is yet another version of The Man Child.
Sandra Bullock & Melissa McCarthy are the Opposite Buddies type which we've seen before in films such as Beverly Hills Cop. And there are more, such as the Christ-like figure (Man of Steel; Aslan from Chronicles of Narnia).
WHO IS THE NEW BLACK ARCHETYPE
She's a Black Girl Nerd of course!!
Archetypes have rules. The Lovable Loser is terrible with the opposite sex and because of our name BGN she's already a nerd which entails qualities similar to the Lovable Loser. But let's make her a bit more dimensional; let's say she's Meg Griffin meets Janelle Monae meets Three's Company.
Our girl is a little bit of "Shut Up Meg" on the outside mixed with the quirkiness and originality of Janelle Monae on the inside, swaddled in the miscommunication in every episode there ever was of Three's Company. So, normally people ignore the heck out of her but on the inside she's bursting with personality and when she tries to communicate with strangers it is often misinterpreted and things go horribly wrong. Have fun with the many ways she can attempt to communicate but gets interpreted in the wrong way and perhaps in the way people ignore her.
Here's an example of the ways archetypes share the same principles but are alternate interpretations: take the Opposite Buddies Archetype; In Beverly Hills Cop it's Axl Foley and Sgt. Taggart vs. Melissa McCarthy (Mullins) and Sandra Bullock (Ashburn) in The Heat. Same archetypes, different interpretations.
TREND THE BGN ARCHETYPE
It's no coincidence that Greek Yogurt is trending like crazy. One yogurt company makes it then the next yogurt company makes it and they are all advertising it. It could be supply and demand or it could be they are planting the Greek Yogurt seed in your head an now it has become in demand. You may say, that doesn't work but repetition is key. This is a trick used in advertising and even song writing (i.e. the hook)...watch this clip from Easy A...
We may not be a corporation with millions to spend on repetitive advertising but we are a community. There is power in numbers. So, writer's please use the Black Girl Nerd in your next web-series, film, play, story, etc. She can be your lead, your sidekick, make a cameo, whatever. Let's make her a thing!
Trend the BGN Archetype, Trend the BGN Archetype, Trend the BGN Archetype, Trend the BGN Archetype, Trend the BGN Archetype, I gotta pocket, gotta pocket full of sunshine.... ;)