Why Living Single is the Blueprint
The show marked its 20th anniversary last month. As much as we take pleasure in reliving the best moments of one of our favorite quartets, one can’t help but to think of the regression in black female representation on TV. We’re mostly left with Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) in Scandal. “In a 90s kind of world” black women had depictions of themselves on the tube, which at best made them proud and at worst at least didn’t cause them to shake their heads in shame. When Living Single wrapped its final season in 1998, Sex and the City debuted, later becoming a major hit for the network. Had LS not existed SATC may not have been possible.
In 2000 UPN’s Girlfriends filled the representation void of a circle of black female friends that had been missing since LS left the air. Girlfriends resonated with so many—lasting eight years—because black women were desperate for nuanced “positive” representation. Living Single and Girlfriends have left sad holes in TV for the 20something/30something black women living in big cities with big dreams.
One has to wonder if Living Single’s lack of recognition for being revolutionary TV as one of the first series of its kind for black women, rarely receives its just because it was a black show. The show’s tackling of issues like race, sexism, sexual harassment and love with a predominantly black female cast was wildly unprecedented. But the thunderous applause for SATC will convince you it was a completely new concept. A closer look at the types of characters on LS and SATC you’ll see they are (coincidentally?) similar.