Film / TVSex & Gender

a #metoo sitcom and that is not funny

October 19, 2018
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So… Amazon is developing a #MeToo sitcom starring Whitney Cummings and produced by Lee Daniels, according to Deadline.

Founder Tarana Burke was, understandably, deeply offended upon hearing the news. “To put Me Too and comedy in the same sentence is so deeply offensive and not because I’m uptight and I don’t see comedy in things. We’re not ready for a comedy and it’s just so offensive that you think in this moment when we’re still unpacking the issue that you can write a comedy about it. And that’s the type of thing I’m talking about. We have to get out in front of that.”

“The comedy revolves around the staff of the ombudsman’s office at a college that navigates PC culture and the #MeToo climate,” reported Deadline. “The lead character, played by Cummings, must reconcile the dissonance between different generations of feminism, and the struggle to reconcile our primal desires, and socially constructed identities with current ethical obligations regarding race, class and gender.”

Navigating “PC culture” in a time where political correctness is wielded as some sort of weapon against people (like #MeToo supporters) who refuse to allow bullying, harassment and sexual exploitation to be sanitized and rebranded as “locker room shenanigans.” Sounds promising.

Comedy can be a handy tool to unpack serious issues, but Burke is right: it’s far too soon be engaging with #MeToo, especially through the lens of comedy. Cummings (who was EP and showrunner on the Roseanne revival) and Daniels threaten to undermine a movement that still has a lot of work to do to ensure that sexual predators face real and lasting consequences for their actions. #MeToo also faces the challenge of doing the work for the people Burke set out to represent from the beginning: Black and Brown women.

Burke’s disappointment was evident but she was not surprised at the announcement because the media has made it clear on numerous occasions that it does not care about Black women. Burke added, “We know that there are people, whether they’re in entertainment or not, who are ravaging our community. We have to be proactive, unfortunately without the benefit of massive exposure. That’s our reality, but it always has been.”

Just like #MeToo was co-opted to serve “White Feminism,” Cummings and Daniels are repeating an age-old tactic of mining Black women’s creativity, labor and trauma for a medium of consumption that does not center us or give us credit for our work. As creatives that were so moved by the cause that they had to create a show about it, even they should understand that good intentions are not a justification.