Nashville, Please Don’t Dress Up the Black Girl and then Give Her No Place to Go

Write
February 12, 2014

Dear Nashville,

Don’t turn my girl Zoey into the token—and thereby annoying and dispensible—black person. Give her a goal, a conflict, and reaction that any reasonable person would have.

So she decides she wants to be a backup singer. I can get behind that.  She goes to audition and the gatekeeper tells her that she needs a headshot and a demo, but she doesn’t have those things because she’s never auditioned before and doesn’t know what she’s doing. I can get behind that, too.

But if our protag wants to be a backup singer and lack of headshot and demo are keeping her from auditioning for the role of backup singer, what should she do? That’s right, immediately go out and get a headshot and demo.

She’s already pressed out her hair. That shit alone took an hour, minimum, and needs to be immortalized. And her just-coming-into-his-own-as-a-producer friend Avery would be happy to put together a demo for her.

Are these the most thrilling and gripping of activities? No. But she’d be doing something towards achieving her goal. And it would provide just another excuse for the photo shoot montage and singing session that you, Nashville, are known for. How are we supposed to believe our girl can sing and root for her to get her big break as a singer if she never once sings during the entire episode?

But Zoey doesn’t go out and get a headshot and a demo. Instead, she goes home and lays around on the couch—messing up her hair!—and feeling sorry for herself.

This does not make her a sympathetic protagonist. It doesn’t make her any kind of a protagonist. It makes her the only character on the show who is coming across as totally lame, as well as the only character who happens to be black.

20FeetStardom

I am not feeling the love here.

If you’re going to move forward with this whole backup singer thing, I suggest some storylines and actual conflicts specific to her character:

  1. The whole preacher’s daughter trying to break out of the constrictive “good girl” box
  2. The gospel music vs. secular music battle
  3. The girl with the powerhouse voice playing backup to a mediocre but more commercially viable lead.

Watch 20 Feet from Stardom to get some real world inspiration on what to do with this character.

Now, if Zoey had gotten her gorgeous pressed-hair head shots and her Avery-fairy-dusted demo and then gone back to the audition place all confident and optimistic, only to have the gatekeeper tell her, “Sorry. You’re just not the right fit for us,” now, that’s a conflict I could have related to.


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