The Los Angeles Times had a piece yesterday about the television and movie trend of the BBF–the Black Best Friend:
Julia Louis-Dreyfus has one. Sandra Bullock had one. So did Jennifer Garner and Katie Holmes. Jennifer Love Hewitt has had two. Calista Flockhart took hers dancing. Kate Walsh had one, lost her, and got another one with a different face but the same name. And Scarlett Johansson got her first one last weekend.
They’re stars who have all played lead characters who experience adventure with the help of their BFF (Best Friend Forever). But in many cases, these BFFs might more accurately be characterized as BBFs — Black Best Friend — played by an African American actress whose character’s principal function is to support the heroine, often with sass, attitude and a keen insight into relationships and life.
Rose Catherine Pinkney, executive vice president of programming and production for TV One and a former Paramount Studios executive, says “…[I]t’s a shame that studios also don’t have the courage to put these actresses in leads…Historically, people of color have had to play nurturing, rational caretakers of the white lead characters. And studios are just not willing to reverse that role.”
Sounds like the “magical black man” syndrome. Charming.
But the article is quick to point out that unlike movies or shows where black and white men are shown to be buddies, the relationship between women on screen follows a rather predictable formula:
BBFs vary in personality and looks, but many share the same qualities: They are gorgeous, independent, loyal and successful. They live or work with their friend but are not really around all that much except for well-timed moments when the heroine needs an eating companion or is in crisis. BBFs basically have very little going on, so they are largely available for such moments. And even though they are single or lack consistent solid relationships, BBFs are experts in the ways of the world, using that knowledge to comfort, warn or scold their BFF.
Oh yeah, and they’re usually the only person of color around. Way to go, Hollywood.