There’s explicit sex talk, explicit queerness, explicit mentions of feminism. It’s fantastic, and it’s all held down by women of color, behind and in front of the camera.
I know we’re all looking forward to the end of 2016 for about a thousand reasons. Personally, I can’t wait to never hear the name “Billy Bush” again, and hopefully block it from my memory altogether. Today I’m adding another entry to the “why the hell can’t it be 2017 already” list: the premiere of new web series Brown Girls, written by poet Fatimah Asghar, directed and produced by Sam Bailey, starring Nabila Hassain and Sonia Denis. The trailer for Brown Girls dropped on Friday, and it looks like it’s going to be phenomenal.
Brown Girls will air beginning in February on OpenTV, a digital platform for women artists, queer artists, and artists of color. Though “diversity” is a buzzword in entertainment writing this year, as though the existence of anyone other than straight white people could be considered a hot new trend, it’s still challenging for marginalized creators to get their art into the mainstream, and OpenTV aims to “incubate art and artists [that] commercial television studios and networks cannot develop consistently.”
From the two-minute trailer, it’s already clear that Brown Girls will present more nuanced characters, relationships, and storylines than viewers are likely to encounter on prime time television. “I was getting super frustrated feeling like I never saw any shows or movies that felt like they portrayed my communities, my friendships,” said Fatimah Asghar, the show’s writer and creator. “I wanted a show that went beyond one-dimensional portrayals or tokenization of people of color, a show that showcased real friendships, struggles, and relationships that me and my friends have gone through. It’s rare to see shows where people are allowed to exist in their multiple, intersecting identities: queer and Muslim, black and femme, etc. I wanted a show like that.”
Before it even airs, it’s clear that Brown Girls will be a series that doesn’t flinch from the realities of its characters’ lives. The trailer opens with the two protagonists, Patricia and Leila, chastising a friend who has pinkeye: “You gotta stop eating dirty butt.” There’s explicit sex talk, explicit queerness, explicit mentions of feminism. It’s fantastic, and it’s all held down by women of color, behind and in front of the camera.
Most crucially, Brown Girls appears to focus on the friendship between Leila and Patricia. While depictions of female friendship are gaining ground in pop culture, these narratives tend to center white women and the relationships between them. “Friendships with women of color have literally saved my life,” says Asghar. “The show is loosely based off of me and my best friend, Jamila. My friendship with Jamila is one of the most important relationships that I have ever had. I really wanted to create something that highlighted that love, because I feel like friendship/sisterhood love is not talked about as much as romantic love.”
Yeah, so basically, this is the show we all need to cleanse our palates of the awfulness that was 2016 and start 2017 off right. Will we get more than one season? Asghar hopes so. “I think that there is so much there, so many more turns that I want these characters to take. There is a lot around class I want to explore, a lot around gender and sexuality, a lot around untraditional relationships—like polyamory. I’m really excited to see where these characters go.” I’m excited too!
Lindsay King-Miller is a queer femme who does not have an indoor voice. Her writing has appeared in Bitch Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, Buzzfeed, The Hairpin, and numerous other publications. She lives in Denver with her partner, a really cute baby, and two very spoiled cats. She is the author of Ask A Queer Chick (Plume, 2016).