The Bougie Black Girl’s Mount Rushmore

Does she make the mountain?

Does she make the mountain?

For anyone who still doubts Olivia Pope is the patron saint of Bougie Black Girls, last night’s episode of Scandal is all the evidence you’ll need to change your mind. Watching her is like playing a game of Bougie Black Bingo. Every two minutes you get a new opportunity to check off a new section.

Lives in D.C.? Check!

Is a daddy’s girl? Check!

Has a “team” and speaks about “brands” and “branding” and “brand management” and how “brands will make her dance”? Check!

Gets visibly wet when men say things like “I can’t win without you” to her? Check!

May be a functioning alcoholic? Check!

Basically, although she’s a fictional character, she’s an easy choice for the Bougie Black Girl’s Mount Rushmore. But she’s just one person. A Mt. Rushmore needs four people. Who’d be the other three? Of all the women Bougie Black Girls love, emulate, stalk, and occasionally fantasize about, who’s the most deserving of a spot on the mountain?

Let’s see.

Michelle Obama

rs_634x1024-131209084539-634.michelle-obama-barack.ls.12913

An easy choice, FLOTUS flower bomb basically has the Bougie Black Girl’s dream life. Limited power and access. A Gilt-inspired wardrobe. Beautiful daughters named after yoga poses. Brunch dates with Beyonce. A corporate husband with a name Blacker than the Blackest Black barber shop owner.

Lupita Nyong’o

No one in the history of Bougie Blackness has risen faster than the beautiful burgeoning actress. This time last year, no one knew if “Lupita Nyong’o” was the name of an actress or a Korean nail shop with takeout BBQ. But now, after her star-making turn in 12 Years a Slave and stunning appearances on literally everyone’s red carpet (Seriously, I’m considering buying a red carpet from Target tomorrow just to see if she shows up.), she may be the only person in Bougie Black Girl history with an approval rating at 126,000%.

Beyonce

131213113831-03-beyonce-horizontal-gallery

Despite being regular Black, Beyonce is the Bougie Black Girl’s creative and sexual muse, using her music as an excuse to release repressed sexual urges, turning “game nights” into “awkward public twerk contests featuring NSBE board members and certified public accountants.” Also, her insistence on never, ever, ever, ever, ever sitting down is the main reason why Bougie Black Girls never seem to have enough chairs in their apartments.

***Honorable mention: Issa Rae, Ashley Banks, every character Nia Long and Sanaa Lathan have ever played, Melissa Harris-Perry, Shonda Rhimes, Claire Huxtable, Angela Nissel, Angela Bassett, Mae Jemison, post 1998 to pre 2008 Oprah Winfrey, Eve (not Eve the rapper, but Eve from the Bible)***

Did I miss anyone? Or rather, is there anyone else who should be on the mountain?

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Being Mary Jane’s Biggest Problem

BET NETWORKS GABRIELLE UNION

So, I know what you might be thinking. You saw the title to this, and you likely assumed this’ll be another piece criticizing Mary Jane’s sexual behavior and/or calling Black women bed wenches for following the show. This is not that.

While some people tend to gravitate more towards shows that reflect their lives, my favorites have either been about antiheroes (The Sopranos, Mad Men, etc) or people whose lives are much, much different than mine (The Wire, Hannibal, etc). So I know it is possible to enjoy a show without wanting to emulate the people the show is about. Oh, and I actually like Black women. So much that I’m marrying one.

So yeah. This is not that. It’s something else.

For obvious reasons, Being Mary Jane is often compared to Scandal. Both shows are centered around very successful, very powerful, and very beautiful Black women who, despite their billion dollar wardrobes and trillion dollar homes, make five dollar dating decisions. Both lead characters are surrounded by impossibly attractive and impossibly smart people, and both characters seem to inhabit a sterile, Bougie Black dystopia masked as a utopia.

The shows are so structurally similar that Gabrielle Union apparently was considered for the role of Olivia Pope. She (obviously) didn’t get it. Which was unfortunate for her. But fortunate for fans of Scandal. Because if she did, the show may not have lasted a year.

Despite the writing, the outrageous plot twists, and the dozens of eccentric characters, Kerry Washington is Scandal‘s fulcrum. Olivia Pope does some legitimately terrible things on the show, but there’s something about Washington’s portrayal of her that still makes us root for her. Perhaps we don’t want her to succeed, but we do want her to be happy. And much of this is due to an inherent…something Washington the actress has always exuded, a something that compels you to pull for her. I say something because I really don’t know how to describe it. But whatever it is (and no, it’s not the lip quiver), Kerry Washington has it.

Gabrielle Union, unfortunately, does not.

I’ve watched three episodes of Being Mary Jane. And before Being Mary Jane, I’ve seen at least a half-dozen movies she’s starred in. I’m not claiming to be a Gabrielle Union expert, mind you — I’ll save that title for those who’ve seen H-E Double Hockey Sticks — but I’ve seen enough. Well, enough to know that, for whatever reason, she just does not connect. You watch her and you don’t really feel or think anything other than “That’s Gabrielle Union over there.” You don’t root for or against her. You just see her, acknowledge she’s very pretty, and try to pay attention to the words coming out of her mouth.

I don’t think she’s a bad actress at all. I don’t even think Being Mary Jane is a bad show. But with a show that forces the audience to wrestle with the lead’s moral ambiguity, you need someone more naturally compelling. Someone who makes you want to know what makes them tick. Someone who, when they share the screen with a costar (Robinne Lee, in this instance) doesn’t always make you wonder how much different — and how much better — the show would be if the actresses switched roles. It may not be as popular. But it would be a little sexier, a little less literal, a little more sly, and a little better. Now, though, it’s a $500 North Face with no lining. Kerry Washington turns Scandal into orange juice. Gabrielle Union makes Being Mary Jane a pulp-less orange.

And, before you go there, this feeling has nothing to do with Union’s well-publicized personal life. I’ll admit, there is an irony in watching Mary Jane Paul grapple with an, um, “nontraditional” relationship while we watch Union do the same thing, But this lack of connectivity is something I’ve always felt when watching her act. I also know I’m not alone. When I spoke to Maya about it, she called it a “dimensionlessness.”

Of course, it’s possible she’s aware of all of this, and just doesn’t care. And maybe Mara Brock Akil was also aware, and chose her specifically because the lack of connectivity and/or personality makes it easier for viewers to place themselves in her position.

And, maybe I’m just thinking too much about this, and should probably just stop watching the show.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Why There Will Never Be A Black Male Olivia Pope

columbus_short5

You know, I do sympathize with those annoyed by how Scandal (and, more recently, Being Mary Jane) seems to dominate the conversation in Black digital spaces. I can imagine it being even more nerve-wracking for people who have no interest in either show. Thing is, the place they have in our cultural zeitgeist is less about the show itself than the fact that, while people may not know an Olivia Pope or a Mary Jane Paul (or aspire to be either), they represent a version (well, an extreme version) of an archetype very many Black people seem to relate to: the “successful woman who seems to have it all together, but doesn’t.” Ultimately, the meta-conversations about these shows allow us to talk about ourselves without talking about ourselves.

Yet, the conversation is incomplete. There is another archetype. An archetype that seems to cause much of the angst our other archetype struggles with. This one is found in the same cities, the same Twitter timelines, the same offices, the same lounges, and even (occasionally) the same beds as our Pope-ly protagonists, but they don’t receive nearly as much cinematic or conversational deconstruction. This lack of attention isn’t due to a lack of interest, though. People (and by “people” I mean “Black women”) are very interested in what is going on in the head of the “single and successful Black male” what drives/motivates him, why he makes the decisions he makes, where love and commitment fall on his personal needs hierarchy, etc. But no one actually wants to see it on screen.

I can imagine it now…

It would star someone relatively young and realistically attractive like Columbus Short or Rob Brown or Derek Luke. The show would be set in D.C. or Chicago. He’d be a lawyer or an engineer or something. He’d have a nice loft. And, while the show wouldn’t just be about his dating life, his dating life would be a big part of the show. He’d date. A lot. Some wouldn’t even be dates. Sometimes it would just be 11:32 pm “hey, do you want to come through?” texts. On Wednesday nights. Sometimes there wouldn’t even be a “hey, do you want to” attached to “come through.”

He’d always be very nice to women. Well, “nice” in that he didn’t talk bad about them, he remained (somewhat) chivalrous, he had many very close female friends, he’d always be affectionate and attentive to them, and he’d make a point to let everyone know how much he loves sistas with natural hair. But the niceness is only a surface niceness. He claims to feel bad when women he “dates” catch unrequited feelings for him, but he actually only feels bad when forced to confront their feelings. Worst of all, he knows what he’s doing. He’s too smart not to. He’s just selfish. Very selfish. He wants to settle down, eventually. When he meets the right person. At least that’s what he tries to tell himself. But he’d continue doing what he’s doing, with no real end in sight.

and no one would watch this show.

Actually, let me rephrase that. We’d watch. But everyone would hate it. Black men would hate it for misrepresenting us and/or airing our dirty laundry. Black women would hate it because, while it’s easy to mock the Stevie J’s and the Peter Gunz’s of the world (and the women who deal with them), a show featuring their urban and educated counterparts would hit too close to home. Black people (collectively) would hate it for reinforcing the hyper-hetero sexual stereotypes about Black men. White women would hate it because, if it were to mirror the life of a real actual single Black man in D.C. or Chicago, he’d date nothing but Black women, and they (White women) would be pissed for not being included. There’d be a thinkpiece a week at Jezebel devoted to it. White men would hate it because…well, I can’t think of any reasons why they would. They’d probably love it.

I’m joking (well, kinda), but I don’t think I’m that far from the truth. Pretty much every other oft-discussed piece of the Black population has been explored in some way on TV. Upper class families. Working class families. Single women. People in the hood. Young parents. Young couples. But none from the perspective of a single and successful urban Black male who dates Black women. (That last tidbit disqualifies Kevin Hill and House of Lies)

And, to be perfectly honest, I don’t think I’d want to watch it either. Sure, I’d watch to be a part of the conversation. And to nitpick stuff the show didn’t get “right.” But I’d probably cringe the entire time. Or, more likely, I’d vacillate between cringing and jumping on Twitter, Facebook, VSB and everywhere else I write to defend all the indefensible shit the main character was doing.

Of course I’d be telling on myself if I did that. The show would be far from a mirror image of my life — it would be much too extreme for that — but I’d see enough of him in me and other guys I know to be compelled to comment. Of course I’d deny the connections, though. And I wouldn’t be wrong. I mean, it’s “just entertainment,” right?

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Sidepieces Are Having The Best and Worst Year Ever

MjAxMy1lNWM5YmZjYjkxN2ZiMmZiIf you’re Black or know Black people, there is a really good chance that you’ve heard, used, or listened to some wayward soul use the word sidepiece at least once in the past week. To hell with “selfie”, in the urban world, the word of the year for 2013 is “sidepiece”.

Sidepieces are everywhere. They’re in songs. They’re on television making a living as a sidepiece. There are entire shows dedicated to it (Scandal) where literally EVERYBODY on the show is a sidepiece of some sort. There are other shows like Love & Hip-Hop where chickens BRAG about having to take Plan B because she’s letting her ex (who is now married) dump off in her on a regular basis. Somewhere in America, a man lives with a woman who he’s not married to while being married to woman he doesn’t live with. Yes, his wife somehow manages to be his sidepiece. That takes a special brand of talent and f*ckery. Truth is stranger than fiction.

I know a cat who even has Sidepiece Sundays. Nevermind the fact that this sounds like a dope name for an event, but le hombre actually practices this by giving his sidepieces time on Sundays. Basically, sidepieces have become accepted members of society. Now don’t get it f*cked up…NOBODY wants to be a sidepiece. I think there’s still a better than 50 percent chance that 60 percent of the time it works every time that most sidepieces don’t know they are the “other person”. But the other half of the second third of me thinks that context clues are a motherf*cker and refusing to read the tea leaves is a choice. Memes abound and there are canons both to the left and right of them.

To that end, sidepieces are really having a stellar year. I mean, for the longest, they were nobodies. They were home-wrecking trollops enabling cheaters to stick and move for little more than extra cheese on a burger. Make no mistake, sidepieces can be dangerous. That’s usually how folks get f*cked up in the game – they tell their sidepiece too much and she has enough information to make waves, something that is especially easy to do in today’s social media “hey look at me I was here, here, here, and here” heavy environment. In some ways, its kind of amazing that anybody would cheat nowadays given the fact that everybody seems to want attention and credit for…well, something. And sidepieces are no different. While they may not be the queen, they usually want to be the queen and while not pressing the issue, will, force the issue a time or two with strategically placed pictures and appearances. See, sidepieces usually have nothing to lose and if they know they’re a sidepiece they’re usually willing to go the extra mile to embarrass me and you, your momma and your cousin too.

Which is why the popular cultureness of sidepieces is also the worst thing that could happen to them. Sure they’re winning by getting some notoriety and recognition in the hierarchical food chain of relationship shenaniganery; completely with proper deference and significant social media presence. However, the disdain for these individuals has also reached a fever pitch. See, while women like Kerry Washington have managed to turn sidepieces (she is a sidepiece on Scandal, this is not debatable) into notable personas, we also kind of HATE her characters ability to be SUCH a sidepiece. She’s textbook and nobody likes textbooks. The ability to seek, locate, and destroy those who are sidepieces is also easier than ever.

That chick is liking too many of your man’s pictures on IG? Is she RTing your boo too many times? Is he on your girl’s FB page too frequently? Because sidepieces know they matter nowadays, they want recognition, but they really just want to bring down the house of cards. If you are a sidepiece you know that everybody hates you. Especially if you get found out to be one.

The main bullet point here is that sidepieces/chicks/dudes/of rice have made the leap. Betty Wright tried to told you. Pleasure P was willing to be boyfriend number 2. But now, sidepieces are legitimate members of society eligible for ID cards like illegals. I saw a sidechick try to sign up for a health plan under Obamacare but the site kept going down on her…which, well, too easy drill sargent too easy.

So what say you, are sidepieces having the best year ever? Or the worst? Or is it the best AND worst chick ever?

Boyfriend number 12 checkin’ out.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. GIVE IT TO ME BABY aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

10 Black Men I Just Can’t Trust

uptown-peter-gunz

Peter Gunz and Rowan Pope are perhaps the two most hated men on TV right now. At first glance, they don’t seem to have much in common. (Well, much in common besides a preternatural ability to ruin their daughter’s lives.) But, a close glance reveals a trait linking them both. Actually, you don’t even need to make a close glance. Just look at them and you’ll see.

Two grown ass Black men. And not a facial hair between them.

Look, I get that some Black men just can’t grow any real hair on their faces. I don’t think there’s a name for that affliction, but if there was it would probably be paulpierceidits. I also get that some—presidents, news anchors, strippers, etc—have to cut it off for professional reasons. But, for Black men who fall outside of those categories, “an intentional lack of facial hair” usually equals “this n*gga takes showers with no curtain.”

Anywho, a Black man with an intentional lack of facial hair is definitely a Black man I just can’t trust. Here’s a few more.

The Black Man with two first names

I’m not saying that every Black man I’ve ever met who goes by two first names—i.e. K. James Jenkins, John Michael Johnson, K. Bill William Williams, etc—is a self-important prick I wouldn’t trust with a bag of counterfeit bitcoins, but every Black man I’ve ever met who goes by two first names—i.e. P. James Jenkins, John Michael Johnson, F. Bill William Williams, etc—is a self-important prick I wouldn’t trust with a bag of counterfeit bitcoins.

The Black Man who dresses like a White man

Unbunch your panties. “Dresses like a White man” doesn’t mean “looks nice” or “wears suits that actually fit” or “knows his kids” or anything like that. No, “dresses like a White man” means “it’s 15 degrees outside, and this n*gga is at the store with a f*cking Levi jeans short set and some chancletas.

The grown Black Man with the dress shoes that point up

Let’s just say that if you try to shake my hand with your Catholic school confirmation ceremony-ass dress shoes looking like this…

article-1387604-0C14B3CE00000578-810_634x430

…I will spit in your eye. And then I will run. Because you probably have a couple felonies. And you won’t catch me. Because if you try to run, you’ll stab yourself in your shins.

The Black Man who gets mad at other Black men for not effing with another Black man

I get it. You don’t think peeing on 12 year olds is that big of a deal. Fine. I’ll still invite you to the BBQ. You’ll have to eat with a plastic spork, and your food will be on a paper towel instead of a paper plate, but you’re still invited.

You know how to get yourself uninvited? Have the audacity to be mad at me for my decision not to eff with guys who pee on pubescents.

And, speaking of that…

The Black Man who uses the White man as his basis for morality

If the words “well, White people still supported ***insert celebrity’s name*** after he did ***insert some random effed up sh*t***, so why can’t Black people still support… ” ever oozed their way out of your mouth, kill yourself. Tell me where you’re going to be buried first, though, so I can dig up your grave three months later and pour orange Kool-Aid on your corpse.

The Black Man who’s the only other Black man at a work event but refuses to talk to you

64% of the time, this is the exact same Black guy with the jean shorts in the frigid weather.

The Black Man who, instead of just admitting that he’s cheap as hell and was raised by a flock of pigeons, gives you a thousand word long constitution about the economy as the reason why he doesn’t tip

Also commonly known as the “prisonsmart” Black Man

The Black Man with the perpetual bluetooth in his ear

I haven’t done any type of study or survey with this population, but I’d bet 60% of them look like they smell like honey Jack and ginger ale. And 60% of that 60% are named “Tommy.”

The Black Man who promises to make a list of 10, but since he could only think of nine, writes about himself for the 10th

That’s it for me, people of VSB. Did I miss anyone? Are there any other Black men (or Black women) no one should ever, ever, ever trust? The floor is yours.

(Oh, and those with Tumblrs, make your way over to the reason why they never should have given you n*ggas money.)

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)