Disclaimer: includes spoilers
In honor of Black History Month, here is a list of TV show episodes, TV shows and movies that feature Black protagonists, without being focused exclusively on Black trauma. These are not historical dramas that profit off of Black stories, nor inspiration porn, nor feel-good movies for white saviors. These are simply fun, lovely or scary entertainment with Black leads. They range from romance to survival, to horror, to sci-fi and more. All opinions presented are my own, not from Buzzfeed or PopSugar articles (no offense to both). I hope you will enjoy these just as much as I did!
TV Show Episodes
1. Tales from the Loop – Season 1 Episode 6: “Parallel” (Amazon Prime)
Tales from the Loop is a wonderful show set in nowhere, Ohio. The “Loop” is a mysterious technology site that creates the magical events in this show. Each episode encompasses mellow, tender, sci-fi themes and teaches us something about humanity. While the characters are all connected to one another, each episode focuses on a different protagonist. Episode 6 introduces a guard who works at the Loop. He is an avid bird watcher and records enthusiast, but feels like something is missing from his life — someone to enjoy it with. After fixing a broken-down tractor, he is propelled into a parallel world where he sees a different version of himself living out a seemingly perfect life, with the perfect man. How will he reconcile with his newfound feelings?
2. Black Mirror (Netflix)
1. Season 1 – “Fifteen Million Merits”
Black Mirror is one of my favorite shows of all time. “Fifteen Million Merits” is a great introduction that encapsulates the best of this show as one of the most enjoyable episodes. Plus, Daniel Kaluuya is a babe and such an amazing actor. This episode is set sometime in the future where humans must ride a bike to power energy and make enough coins to be set free. The protagonist meets a woman who inspires him to help her pursue her dream of becoming a singer, but a devastating twist happens when she becomes a tool for the entertainment industry. He then works overtime to be able to perform at the talent show, and delivers a brilliant soliloquy of human emotion — only to find himself trapped in a slightly bigger box at the end.
2. Season 4 – “Hang the DJ”
Okay, I have watched this particular episode about four times now because it is the only one that has a happy ending. This episode is romantic and creative, blending together alternative realities with heartfelt affection. It is the perfect episode to watch with your partner or on a date.
3. Season 4 – “Black Museum”
I highly recommend this episode, particularly if you have watched the other Black Mirror episodes, because it contains a lot of easter eggs. The awesome Letitia Wright is the protagonist, navigating a museum full of collectibles with a story behind each one.
1. The Great Pretender – Season 2 (Netflix)
This is seriously one of the best animes ever, and one of my favorites for sure! Obviously, I recommend season one as well, as it features a diverse cast of complex, hilarious characters who commit exciting, intelligent crimes and scams. However, the second season features a Black woman who is revealed to be “the one who got away” of one of the main characters. She is a mastermind who loves adventures, adrenaline and high-risk heists. But behind her facade of not giving a care in the world, she deeply adores her fellow heist partners. (Also, her character design is gorgeous. The glossy pearly hair and luscious lips, yes!) It is heavily hinted that she will become the main focus of season 3, so I am pretty excited for that.
2. Lupin (Netflix)
French gentleman scammer … count me in! Lupin is cunning and extremely likable. He is the archetypal Bond-like character who always has one more heist before he can return to his family.
3. Westworld (HBO Max)
Westworld is similar to Black Mirror, except it is continuous, albeit non-chronological. Westworld is the name of a park filled with lifelike robots to enact the fantasies of paying visitors. One of the protagonists, a Black madam from the wild west, Maeve, codes herself to be intimidatingly intelligent and agile after gaining consciousness of her reality. She goes on a journey to reunite with her daughter and to live in the real world. Another Black protagonist, Charlotte, functions as the acting CEO who owns the park. Both characters deal with the reality that their love for their family is seen as a weakness, and fight to prove them wrong.
1. The Girl With All the Gifts (Hulu)
Have you ever watched a zombie movie and thought, “well, maybe the zombies should just win, you can’t really fight natural selection!” Then, this is the movie for you. I liked this movie so much that I annoyingly texted all my friends to watch it. Melanie is a young Black girl who attends a school for … special children. These children are the mutations of the zombie fungus: they were born to moms infected with the fungus and formed a symbiotic relationship with it. The adult humans are terrified of these kids, even though these children are undeniably the future of this world. Melanie is extremely smart and lively, and navigates the outside world, creating a future for herself and others.
2. Sorry to Bother You (Hulu)
Alright, who else is tired of seeing LaKeith Stanfield act in boring, typical movies? Raise your hands. This unique satirical film is perfect for Stanfield’s acting abilities and personality. He is a corporate wage worker who stumbles upon a huge huge secret after horsing around. His relationship with his girlfriend falls apart, a revolution ensues and he is questioning his own reality. This movie is full of bittersweet and hilarious twists.
3. Sweetheart (Netflix)
If you are into survival-after-shipwrecking-on-an-island-with-a-mysterious-monster, you will like this movie. Jenn is a creative warrior battling with two annoying white acquaintances who take advantage of her generosity — not to mention, a powerful sea creature out to eat them all. Will she make it and ditch the fake friends as well?
Stuff I Want to Watch But Have Not:
These are some romance movies that I have been recommended, but have not gotten around to watching them yet. Who wants to watch-party these with me, hmm? I just cannot watch romance movies by myself.
- Malcolm & Marie (Netflix)
- Lovebirds (Netflix)
- The Photograph (HBO Max)