Black People Are Tired Of Being The Stereotypical 'Black Best Friend' In TV And Movies

Photo: YouTube
Cher and Dion from Clueless

Most people remember classic 90s and '00 movies like Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You, or High School Musical.

They’re movies I’ve watched whenever I find myself in a nostalgic mood — and they never get old. 

And for a long time, I never thought anything was wrong with them — or that they were giving off terrible representation until I got older and started examining them closer.

And there was one trope that kept popping up over and over as I revisted some of my faves: the role of the “Black best friend.”

The “Black best friend” is described as a character archetype found in movies and TV shows that center around a white protagonist. Their sole purpose in media is to support, advise, and/or motivate the white character, while also trying to diversify — empitly, I would argue, but we'll get to that — that piece of media.

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Popular 'Black best friend' examples would be Dion Davenport from Clueless, Chastity from 10 Things I Hate About You, Chad Danforth and even Taylor McKessie from High School Musical, Rhodes in Iron Man, Sam Wilson in Captain America: Civil War, to name just a few.

These characters all have one thing in common: they don’t particularly have a significant role or an interesting plotline in these movies or TV shows. They exist solely to cater to the development of the white main character and are never given their own part where they can grow and develop themselves — which is ironic because these characters are often the funniest and most interesting.

Some will argue that at least Black people are booking roles in Blockbuster films and famous TV shows, and they’re not wrong; that's progress. 

The problem is that Black people are getting these roles at the expense of being a doormat for the white actors above them  and not given any real spotlight. 

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Seeing how little Hollywood cared about casting Black people as more than someone around to give advice and cheer on the white protagonist is the earliest memory I had of seeing how Black people are degraded and belittled in the American media.

It also shows just how deeply this system goes to keep Black people at the bottom of the rung.

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Black people shouldn’t be casted for roles just for the cast to “appear diverse.” They should be cast because they are talented. Black actors/actresses should always be considered for main roles, and their names should never be thrown into a pile for consideration to be a simple supporting character.

I want more movies where Black people are the stars of those cheesy coming-of-age movies. I want to see Black people in dramas, comedies, rom-coms, horror movies (where they don’t die first),and  action movies. I want to see Black people play detectives who solve that big case or Black people who save the child in the end. 

Black people deserve to be depicted as heros just as well as they're able to play that “nice best friend” whose only role is to make their white counterpart look good. 

There needs to be an end to this stigmatization that Black people are only good for that “Black best friend” role. 

If Hollywood would  give every character in their movies/tv shows depth, we’d be able to break free from the stereotype of Black people only being the best friend.

But not only that, these movies/TV shows will have much better content, and can become richer, more complex — and just as successful.

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Chicago. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.