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MEDIA REVIEW: Empowering BAME individuals in the mainstream- what are you watching?

While black people are slowly starting to be presented more in the media, their portrayal may not always be a true replication. Historically, there has been very little documentation of the BAME community that doesn’t revolve around their sporting achievements, but we are seeing a steady rise in diversity within the media.

Netflix and Apple TV have taken a stand with two new titles that document the entrepreneurship within the black community. ‘Self-Made’ and ‘The Banker’, based on true stories, shine light onto the compelling achievements of black individuals. With both titles making a strong entrance onto the platform, here’s why they act as more of an empowering reality, as opposed to standard entertainment.

Written by George Nolfi, ‘The Banker’ follows the life of Bernard Garrett who wants to pursue real estate but encounters racism that restricts him from a fair chance to succeed. Set in 1954, the film documents the clever trickery of Bernard, along with his co-investor Joe Morris, who climb their way to the top of a demanding industry. The pair convince a white man, Matt Steiner, to pose as the front of the company to amplify their chances of receiving sales. It should also be noted that the pair use their experience and enhanced knowledge to train the young white man into helping their company thrive. It is common for black intelligence and achievements to be suppressed, but ‘The Banker’ shows how two individuals fight for success in a world that is so heavily controlled by a regimented society. The pair are able to fight the system and testify the need for black people to receive the same opportunity to prosper as whites do.

The Banker - Image Credit Apple TV

‘The Banker’ helps to provide not only a true sense of reality but also actively empowers the BAME community. It shows how strong willpower can determine a greater outcome.

Additionally, ‘The Banker’ helps to provide us with a sense of reassurance that the odds can be defied, no matter how harsh the barrier in front of equality is. The journey that both Bernard and Joe undertake is far from simple, with a vigorous road guiding them. Although the pair are able to achieve their goal, it is clear that work still needs to be done to fight the divergence in both the 20th century and now the 21st.

Colourism is still a big issue in today's society, with the ‘fair-skinned’ privilege often acting as a constraint against darker-skinned individuals.

Another title making a profound entrance onto streaming platforms is ‘Self Made’, produced by black film director DeMane Davis. The four-part series provides a fictionalised portrayal of Madam C.J. Walker’s stimulating journey to becoming Americas first self-made millionaire. Walker developed and marketed a line of cosmetics and hair care products, catered for black women. This was crucial as many manufactures didn’t advocate the need to provide products for black men and women. Walker actively fought for black rights and also donated to many charitable sectors.

Played by Octavia Spencer, the character of Madam C. J. Walker in ‘Self Made’ documents the compelling strive to succeed as a black woman in America. The battles of both sexism and inequality play a huge role in this show as Walker, formerly known as Sarah Breedlove, must defy the unjust views against female entrepreneurs.

Madam C J Walker. Image credit: Scurlock Studios

In the show, Walker exclaims that ‘When one of us looks good, we all look good!’ – with black people receiving a negative light, Walker ensures that she stands for the community while also uplifting fellow black women. By setting a very courageous example, Walker takes on the weight of lifting the community by showing how resilience can defy all odds and lead you to a fairer chance within society. Likewise, Walker ensured that she prioritised the worth of black individuals by hiring more than 20,000 workers for her company.

With very few white characters in the show, the racism Walker also receives is rather internalised. She fights the lack of diversity in products that stray away from the ‘mixed’ black beauty standards.

Colourism is still a big issue in today's society, with the ‘fair-skinned’ privilege often acting as a constraint against darker-skinned individuals. Walker’s main competitor in the show is a light-skinned black woman who will alternatively be granted a fairer chance in the industry.

With this being said, how do the two titles impact our lives - despite being set decades ago? The truth is, these issues are very much real in today's society. The narratives paint a clear idea of how unjust rules and ideals can affect people in their everyday life. Although we have come a long way from the extreme division in equality, we still have not reached the end of the road. ‘The Banker’ and ‘Self-Made’ provide a sense of reassurance that we are on the right path.


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