These days, TV shows that center the lives of women are prevalent. From shows like P-Valley and Little Fires Everywhere, women from various walks of life and perspectives are being showcased on the screen. However, just a few years ago, ensemble series focusing on women were almost unheard of.
TV shows like Sex and the City and Girlfriends centered the lives of modern women in cities like New York and LA as they navigated their careers, and love lives. When HBO debuted Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, it became one of the most discussed and timely shows of a generation.
In 2000, Mara Brock Akil debuted Girlfriends, a show about four friends, who just happened to be Black women, living and thriving in Calfornia. But was Girlfriends inspired by Sex and the City?
‘Sex and the City’ lacked diversity
While, Sex and the City is a beloved show and has earned critical acclaim for centering women and helping to put HBO in the map, in retrospect the lack of diversity on the series was glaring. In 2018, The Guardian reported that ‘That show was as white as it gets!’. The piece pointed out the all-white main cast as well as a slew of “racial insensitivities” that were sprinkled throughout the show’s run.
This including Carrie referencing her gold chain necklace as “ghetto gold” and Samantha’s wearing an afro wig following her breast cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy.
Though many Black women could and still do relate to Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda, there are hardly any representations of Black women. Akil looked to change that and she was able to do so with her series, Girlfriends.
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GRATITUDE // What does gratitude feel like after a week like this? After career achievements have come into alignment? After God allowed me a peek inside of The Plan for me? It feels like balloons, bubbles, stardust and fireflies…. I am still sorting thru the tsunami of love I have received this week celebrating my #NetflixDeal and #20thAnniversary of #GirlfriendsOnNetflix. Thank you for giving me my flowers while I can see them, enjoy them and smell them in this lifetime… it is JOY! This picture is of me on the night my first ever episode of TV was produced. I was a #staffwriter on #Moesha and my episode was entitled #TheJob. Such a full circle moment. #InTheLandOf #SmellingTheRoses
‘Girlfriends’ was inspired by Mara Brock Akil’s work on ‘Moesha’
Though Sex and the City was out by the time Girlfriends debuted, Akil was actually inspired to write the series based on her work as a staff writer on Moesha which debuted in 1996.
In fact, during the final season of Moesha, Akil was able to have the long-running series cross over with Girlfriends. In the episode entitled, “That’s My Mama” Maya (Golden Brooks) makes a cameo along with her husband Darnell (Khalil Kain) and son Jabari (Kendre Berry).
‘Girlfriends’ was inspired by ‘Living Single’
While Sex and the City was a much-discussed show when Girlfriends debuted, the drama series and sitcom have very little else in common. In fact, Akil was inspired by another sitcom, Living Single.
“[W]hen I saw Sex and The City, I didn’t see myself represented,” Akil told Vibe in an interview. “Also, the type of shows that were on for Black people were more like family sitcoms. I wanted to do sophisticated [shows] for young adults. Yvette Lee Bowser had Living Single, and I wanted to build upon that and do something sexier and edgier. I thought, ‘My friends are a lot like that’ and that’s what motivated me to create Girlfriends.”
Now, with broadcast TV, streaming networks, and cable, a slew of different shows about all women from various walks of life can exist.
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