Black Families on TV: A Look at Sleepy Hollow

Sleepy Hollow Cast

Sleepy Hollow Cast

Sleepy Hollow is one of my biggest reliefs of the season. I thought it was going to be a trainwreck when I first heard about the show, but quickly that changed and I am more than relieved that I was completely wrong. Sleepy Hollow undeniably has become my favorite new show of the season. Other than the fact that the show is well executed it gets me excited for another reason. It has the largest black cast without drawing attention to the black cast. It is wonderful and a great step forward. I previously talked about how progressive it was to have Abbie be a black girl. Now the show has reveal that it is about more than just one black female lead, but also about the two prominent black families.

There are two family types on the show. The older family that includes just the daughters, having lost their family. The family unit is very clearly broken with their parents out of the picture and Abbie and Jenny barely speak at first. As the first season progressed, we have seen how the sisters are beginning to see why the other did the things she did. By the end of the season, we may see the tension between the sisters finally dissolve. Then there are the Irvings who are also broken in a way, but working to become whole. Watching Captain Irving do everything in his power to try to save his daughter Macey in the latest episode was heart wrenching. Despite no longer being with his wife or having custody of his daughter he will do anything for them. And Cynthia still wishes to help Frank Irving. She wants Frank to be a father to Macey again. The dynamic among the gamily is complicated, but well worth it.

Abbie Jenny Ichabod

Abbie Jenny Ichabod

What is so wonderful about the families in Sleepy Hollow is that they are families first and their race doesn’t even come into play. And that is a wonderful thing. The ability to watch these families without even recognizing that they are in fact black is something that many shows no longer do. Instead on many shows, the fact that they are black becomes the spectacle. Attention is drawn to it either to show apparently how different black people are from white people or to show just how much black people are like white people. Either way, the show is paying attention to their race, which is something that Sleepy Hollow doesn’t do. Aside from the rare call to attention for the sake of a joke  it doesn’t even matter that the majority of the cast is from a minority.

I can’t espouse how happy I am to see black characters being viewed just as characters, with the ability to take the lead. With Sleepy Hollow we get a black cast that isn’t glorified as a black cast, but as treated like just any other character. They aren’t relegated to sidekick roles and they aren’t portrayed as the other. We get characters that happen to be black and that is major progress.

What do you think of how black families are portrayed on TV?

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