15 Shows and Movies That Go Against the Black Stereotype

Graphics by: Aryana Johnson

Learning about the racial injustices Black people have had to endure through shows and documentaries is one step to take toward being actively anti-racist. The next step is familiarizing yourself with films and TV shows that highlight Black people as beings beyond the typical Black stereotype. For every “mammy-like” Madea or “angry Black woman” Miranda Bailey character out there, I guarantee there is a show that portrays a Black man or woman as someone everyone can resonate with. Both of those characters are iconic in their own right, but how many times can we see these types cast before non-Black viewers believe that is the standard and Black viewers believe that is all we can amount to?

Not only were TV shows and movies starring a Black actor or actress limited when I was growing up, but the list for movies with Black characters who weren’t the stereotypically sassy, thug-ish, or “ghetto”—the list truly goes on—type were slim-to-none. In fact, in 2016, Vox took a look at representation on screen and found that gang members and other similar roles were disproportionately filled by Black actors. The study also found that out of all actors cast as a doctor or pilot, only 9% and 3% of those were Black. In conclusion: This is not a representation of real life.


How many times can we see these types casted before non-Black viewers believe that is the standard and Black viewers believe that is all we can amount to?


15 Shows and Movies That Go Against the Black Stereotype

If you’re not too keen on numbers, sit and ask yourself, “How many Black Disney princesses are there compared to white princesses?,” “When have we ever seen a rom-com where the Black lead gets the varsity football player?,” “How many seasons did ABC need to have before we got a Black Bachelorette? Bachelor?” To stand beside us is to recognize that Black people have the same aspirations, feelings, emotions, and desires as our white counterparts. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying some of the Black characters we have seen on TV, it is also important to amplify the fact that we can exist in the world as introverted, quirky, intelligent, gender fluid, artistic, and overall multi-dimensional human beings. More importantly, we are your honor roll students, doctors, lawyers, designers, dreamers, and hopeless romantics—and it’s time that we are recognized as such!

Although Hollywood is not all the way there as far as truly breaking away from those stereotypes, I’ve narrowed down a few TV shows and movies that have Black cast members telling a different Black story. 


1. Raising Dion

Where to stream: Netflix

Michael B. Jordan produced and is featured in this fascinating series as a deceased father to an adorable 7-year-old boy named Dion, who discovers he has superpowers. His mother fights to protect him from being exposed while trying to uncover the origin of his special gift.


2. Insecure

Where to stream: HBO Max

Navigating through the modern-day black experience, Issa Rae takes us through her life of breakups, makeups, and all-too-relatable moments of just trying to figure life out. Oh, and if you don’t have the Shazam app, we suggest you download it when you start watching this show because the musical score just cannot be beat.


3. Grown-ish

Where to stream: Hulu

Yara Shahidi nails what it is like to be a college kid handling new responsibilities in this spin-off of Black-ish. Zoey, the eldest of the Johnson family, experiences the growing pains of being independent for the first time. And figuring out how to balance school, finding love, friendships, and the trials and tribulations of adulthood.


4. Sister, Sister

Where to Stream: Netflix

Throwing it back to the ‘90s sitcom where twins Tia and Tamera, who were once separated at birth and adopted by different parents, run into each other one day at the mall. As their parents—who have never met before—decide to join forces and move in together, we see throughout this series that their sameness is only skin deep. Bright and perfectionistic Tia and boy-crazy and extroverted Tamera bring us along a six-season journey of growing up and what it means to be a family.


5. Black-ish

Where to stream: Hulu

Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson star as an anesthesiologist and advertising exec, respectively, raising a strong Black family in white suburbia. While they both grew up with different humble beginnings, the two bring up their multifaceted kids to revel in the privilege their parents earned, all the while maintaining their “Blackness.” This show is packed with hilarious banter between the family and tasteful depictions of their life as they navigate their way through a white-dominated America.


6. Pose

Where to stream: Netflix

This show will truly bring out emotions in you that you never knew you had. Not only does this show star a majority Black and Brown cast, but it also gives an accurate depiction of the complex experiences of LGBTQ youth in 1980s New York and what it takes to make it in the ballroom culture world. If that wasn’t enough, the characters also battle with rejection from their families and a society who deems them as less than.


7. Black Panther

Where to stream: Disney+

If you’re a sucker for a good superhero film, look no further. This movie is frankly one of the most important movies of our time, as it is centered on Black people not dealing with Black pain, suffering, and poverty but rather as rulers of a kingdom and creators of advanced technology. Black Panther is a powerful movie about a leader, T’Challa, who fights for his country, Wakanda, and his rightful place on this throne after his father’s death.

8. Candy Jar

Where to stream: Netflix

This is easily one of the most underrated rom-coms on Netflix! Jacob Latimore stars as Bennett Russell, an overachieving high school student with Ivy League goals, who finds himself in constant competition with his straight-A counterpart Lona Skinner. The two, who have always found themselves at odds, now have to work together on a debate team, and quickly go from enemies to lovers.


9. #RealityHigh

Where to stream: Netflix

Cady Heron—but make her Black. This Netflix movie tells the story of not-so-popular, dorky Dani Barnes who dreams of fitting in with her high school peers. When she starts getting the attention of a popular guy at school, Alexa Medina—the “Regina George,” if you will—decides to befriend her with the worst of intentions. This is a feel-good film with the “dorky girl transforms, then gets the cute guy” formula that everyone falls for!


10. Living Single

Where to stream: Hulu

If you loved the show Friends or even Girls, this show deserves the same adulation! Queen Latifah stars in this classic ‘90s sitcom about six Black young professionals living in Brooklyn sharing their all-too-relatable and hilarious experiences with love and their professional life.


11. Black is King

Where to stream: Disney+

An interpretation of Lion King supported by an all-Black cast and crew and directed, written, and produced by Beyoncé automatically gets an A in my book. This live-action adaptation and visual album tells a beautiful story about a young king’s journey of self-discovery and is a wonderful display of Black people and culture.


12. A Black Lady Sketch Show

Where to stream: HBO Max

A Black Lady Sketch Show is the first show with a writers’ room composed only of Black women and covers numerous themes such as sex, dating, religion, and anxiety. Each episode has five to six sketches, all of which leave me crying from so much laughter! We often don’t see Black women dominating the comedy scene, and this show is the perfect example of the idea that Black people can exist in every space and do so flawlessly.


13. Soul

Where to stream: Disney+

Not only is this Pixar’s first movie with a Black protagonist, but it also has a top-tier voice cast, including Jamie Foxx and Angela Bassett. I can confidently say I can’t watch this movie without crying and feeling re-inspired every single time. This is a beautifully animated story that everyone can resonate with about finding one’s purpose and living your life to the fullest.


14. She’s Gotta Have It

Where to stream: Netflix

Filmmaker Spike Lee has done an incredible job taking his first film and spinning it into a Netflix series. She’s Gotta Have It tells a story of a Black woman balancing work, her love life, and just life in general. This series perfectly captures a Black woman in today’s world and is such a breath of fresh air to watch.


15. Cinderella

Where to stream: Disney+

This movie starring singer-songwriters Whitney Houston and Brandy is an incredible adaptation of Cinderella that features a multiracial cast. Watching a movie about a Black princess was so important for me as a young woman, and even though it is a fairytale, it was a beautiful portrayal of a young Black woman being powerful and also getting to be “soft” and vulnerable. 


6 Black Women Authors Whose Books Will Help You Better Understand Blackness in America