I don’t think Millienials can fathom how dope Living Single was. Don’t let David Schwimmer’s offhand, backhanded compliment fool you! Living Single was created by the brilliant Yvette Lee Bowser (SisterLee Productions); what is even more dope is this show came about during the same time of Martin, and as a Dif’rent World was still a thing, and the Cosby Show as about to end. Queen Latifah said last month during her appearance on the Late Late Show with James Corden David Schwimmer’s ignorance by reminding the viewing audience the producers of the show Friends (David Crane and Marta Kauffman) when asked what type of show they wanted to put on NBC said they wanted Living Single!
Don’t believe me? Listen to what the Queen herself said here.
What David Schwimmer said set off such a firestorm because it was the worst kind of erasure perpetuated by white supremacist culture: believing that you did something first–when you didn’t. Ever. The show was such a hit because it reflected life as BLACK AMERICA knew it was! I knew professional Black women that started businesses like Khadijah; my mother was just as bougie as Regine; Maxine reminded me of the type of woman I wanted to become; everyone knew a Sinclair! This wasn’t far fetched to see–it was happening around Black children everyday! For those of us that didn’t see that type of power daily, it was an example of what could be achieved. Don’t even get me started on the dynamic between Max and Khadijah! Check this:
Two successful Black women, not in competition with each other, pushing and supporting each other–and best friends? Man, as a 13-year-old girl with dreams of writing for the New York Times, or thought of starting her own magazine–to see a woman that looked like me, doing what I wanted to do? That was–immeasurable. And as an adult, I know how rare that is.
Rachel and Monica could never know what it would mean to be a Black girl trying to be ‘in 90’s kinda world, I’m glad I got my girls.’
Erika Alexander in her essay retort to his comment, let’s him and all those that feel like him, “What you don’t know about Black people can harm us.” Erasure is harmful. Erasure from media his harmful. Erasure from the social arenas is harmful! Casual erasure like David Schwimmer demonstrated just shows how necessary visibility is! How Essential it is!
I mean Living Single has been off the air for 22 years. Yet, it’s impact is still felt by people old enough to remember how dope it was to watch it every week! What folk are not going to do is pretend Living Single didn’t exist to make Friends seem like a better show, or an original concept! We aint finna ever do that! I was way more invested in Maxine making partner, way more invested in Sinclair and Overton being together and Flavor not losing circulation, losing staff making its deadlines!
Rachel and her haircut (which was like one Regine’s old wigs!) couldn’t give me that.
Representation matters. Visibility matters. History matters. Media representation always matters. In seeing what I could become, no one else could tell me what I needed to become. And the rumors are that Yvette Lee Bower is developing another show! See! I love all of of this! And if Black Girl Magic be real–and it is!–this will be successful too!
David Schwimmer can keep his apology. What he can do, is binge the show’s five seasons; realize that dynamic between Ross and Rachel has a root in how Maxine and Kyle/Overton and Sinclair related to each other! Then, have NBC run FOX the money to really pay the Living Single cast!
[First image from cheatsheet.com and (2) Wikipedia]