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The TV Shows That Lean Into Black Wealth

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Several recent TV shows focused on Black characters share an obsession with “cash and glamour,” the historian Tanisha C. Ford writes in a new story. Peacock’s Bel-Air (a reboot of the ’90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), Fox’s Our Kind of People, and OWN’s The Kings of Napa remind “viewers in nearly every scene that African Americans, too, have generational wealth and sophisticated taste.”

These shows are, Ford continues, “fluent in the language of ‘Black excellence,’ or the long-held belief among African Americans that they must work twice as hard for half as much as white people receive.”

But though they may, for some, “provide welcome escapism from a world rife with anti-Black violence,” the series “also feel out of step with the cultural zeitgeist and with an audience that has been showing signs of Black-excellence fatigue for some time.”

Historically, as our staff writer Hannah Giorgis reported last year in an Atlantic cover story, Black TV writers and producers have had to tell stories that fit what white executives deemed “authentic.” Two writers told Giorgis that during the season they worked together on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, they were the only Black writers on the show—which had been created by a white couple. One of the writers, Felicia Henderson, “recalled that much of her job amounted to answering a single question: ‘Is that what Black people do?’”

As a kid growing up in an “all-Black environment” in Detroit, the contributing writer Jordan Calhoun found himself reflected in a character he merely imagined was Black: Piccolo, from the anime series Dragon Ball Z. That “coding” of fictional characters is the subject of Jordan’s new book, Piccolo Is Black: A Memoir of Race, Religion, and Pop Culture, out this month, and an edition of his newsletter, Humans Being, from last year, in which he wrote: “Those characters helped raise us. We found a way to make ourselves feel powerful within a media landscape that treated us as small. We felt strong because they were strong.”

Explore the week that was. Our senior editor collected images of a jousting tournament in England, a goose (and its human) in Turkey, and more.

Read. Our latest Books Briefing newsletter compiles some great reads about the inner lives of animals. And a new book by the historian Anne Gray Fischer explores the deep roots of sexual policing in America.

In the mood for a short story? Try Keith Ridgway’s “The Boy.”

Or catch up on our latest dispatches: In Brooklyn, Everywhere, Xochitl Gonzalez argues that unequal citizenship for Puerto Ricans should matter to all Americans who care about democracy. In The Third Rail, David French explains how Governor Ron DeSantis’s attacks on Disney are also attacks on the First Amendment. Nicole Chung spends the latest edition of I Have Notes considering the cosmos with a scholar who blends science and art. And in Unsettled Territory, Imani Perry remembers the Milwaukee preschool that gave Black kids like her a high-quality education when the city refused.

Watch. The Northman, now in theaters, is a gritty Viking story that lures you in with its earnestness.

The season finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race airs tonight. “What queer cultural entity can boast this prominence, constancy, and longevity?” our critic Spencer Korhaber asks.

And this time of year, there’s always a baseball game. Sports are great because they’re pointless, our happiness columnist argues.

Listen. In the latest episode of the Experiment podcast, the reporter Jessica Bruder speaks with activists who are prepared to take abortions into their own hands.


Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox.



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