This post is useful, not only for Sleepy Hollow, but other shows. I’m talking about Abbie specifically. But what I have to offer is also a commentary on love, and the depiction of marginalized characters.
A writer of color who used to work on Sleepy Hollow once insisted that contrary to what fans thought, the people behind the show weren’t opposed to interracial relationships. To support his argument, he pointed to the fact that they gave us Joenny (Joe + Jenny).
In Google, Joenny gifs are hard to come by. Meanwhile Ichabbie…? *sigh*
So when it comes to Crane and Abbie, what gives?
On Twitter, Roberto Orci mentioned a decision to be “chaste” in an attempt to avoid disrespectful tropes relating to Black women in relationships. This is a bit of a response.
I appreciate the producers’ concerns. However, I would like to urge them not to be so preoccupied with doing a character justice, that they forget she’s human.
As a Black woman, it’s true: I exist in a space where racism and sexism collide. However, that doesn’t mean that this space should be removed from the fullness of human experience.
In some ways, the Mills sisters have been written like normal women. Take the scenes with them at the local bar enjoying a beer. In those moments I’ve nearly squealed, “That’s something I would do!” (Maybe I need to watch more TV. I’m just not used to seeing Black women on my screen in a blue-collar setting, with a drink.)
There are other things that have felt realistic to me–costuming, dialogue, the ability to kick ass...
Those examples are a part of why I’m confused. If Sleepy Hollow is able to get certain things right about Abbie, how could their portrayal of her in a relationship be so tone deaf?
I used to believe the writers were a bunch of immature dorks who thought Abbie had cooties–or worse. Now, I realize they avoided giving her a relationship with Crane because they were afraid to get “it” wrong. Nevertheless. The “chasteness” that producers have employed isn’t respectful. It’s been insulting.
When approaching the writing of Black women in love, I need the show’s writers to think: How would you write a relationship for the average woman with Abbie’s characteristics? (I’m referring to her personality and lifestyle.) Why should her being Black make any difference? (There are factors worth considering when writing a Black woman or an interracial relationship–like having to deal with bigotry. I’m not referring to those. I’m thinking of the general picture.)
Promising and refusing to deliver on love for Abbie with Crane has done nothing more than mock the show’s audience. There are times when a television romance seems forced. There are also times when a relationship is a natural next step in a couple’s evolution.
Consider Sleepy Hollow’s timeline, and the characters’ rapport. Given those, I think a show about a couple who shared the same race would have had them dating by now. Hence, hesitating to follow up on romantic innuendo out of concern about offense when depicting a Black woman isn’t wise. It looks like a cop-out, whether intended that way or not.
Normally, I’d advocate this for simpler reasons, but under these circumstances, let me make a recommendation: If someone’s feeling insecure about writing relationships for characters of color, then hire writers of color. Or for God’s sake, talk to us!
I remember an old interview where one of Sleepy Hollow’s producers was asked about the program’s (first season) diversity. His reply suggested that it came naturally to him–it reflected his reality. If that’s the case, why don’t the producers ask friends and colleagues what they think of Black people in love on TV? I’m sure they’d get an earful.
(I know some of the show’s creatives are reaching out to fans, and I appreciate it. But they would have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they’d listened to us sooner.)
Lastly, I’d noticed someone on Team Sleepy Hollow mentioned that he’d been taking in our ideas, including those about “romance”. And no, that wasn’t a typo. “Romance” was mentioned. I’d wanted to shoot him one of these:
That type of talk suggests Sleepy Hollow’s people may have a plan that depends on whether or not Nicole Beharie (Abbie) returns. If that takes place, and intimacy is, finally, pursued, I hope we’ll finally get to see Abbie and Crane not only battling bad guys, but juggling the ups and downs of a relationship. Again, I don’t know every show out there. Yet I think their romance would be a one-of-a-kind.
I’m not asking for an apocalyptic, less-cheesy Hart to Hart…But then again, maybe I am.
Lord knows. The way things have been, Abbie Mills really does deserve better.
Want more of my thoughts on Ichabbie, and Abbie as a love interest?