A couple months ago, a friend sent me a link to a web series called The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, calling it "one of the few pieces of media I've seen that claims it's catering to 'indie-minded' black girls and actually nails it." That's a tall order, but I was intrigued. And pleasantly surprised. I immediately liked the show's protagonist: a young, black woman named J who rocks short natural hair, is more likely to wear Chucks than high heels, and is a total social klutz. At the end of the episode, I was beaming. Not just because it was funny, but because I had found a show with a main character who reminded me of myself --- race and all. Tonight, the show's season finale will be posted on YouTube.
The lack of roles for black actors has long been a frustration among African American performers. But there's another problem: within those limited roles, a lack of variety. Where's the sitcom character who's quirky, not religious, who regularly hits up SXSW, and really loves Donald Glover? With Awkward Black Girl, series creator/writer/actress Issa Rae has killed two birds with one stone. She's created an opportunity for herself and other black actors to perform, as well as a three-dimensional leading lady that defies most representations of black women (New York's Diana Scholl called J "the black Liz Lemon."). And Rae is proving that's what audiences want: most episodes have more than 300,000 views and a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the series garnered over $56,000, nearly double the initial goal.
More importantly, Rae has accomplished all of this while writing a seriously funny show. Most of Season One's comedic fodder comes from J's struggle to choose between two love interests: her coworker crush Fred, and the awkward but clever White Jay (who's sort of the white male version of our heroine). But J provides plenty of laughs on her own: when she bumblingly stalks Fred, when she commits yet another a dance fail at a house party, when she accidentally puts a tampon on a bar counter while trying to pay for a drink. It's all very awkward and amusing --- and refreshing.
Video: The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl
(Advisory: strong language)