Entertaining shows that don’t rely on the struggle hook to tell a good story


We are more than the sum of our struggles. Yes, it’s important that the system of racism and inequality is constantly addressed and dismantled, but often when it comes to telling stories, these portrayals only seem to focus on a narrative that does get a little tiring.

A recent tweet I saw on Twitter expressed a desire to see more black mermaids, black women in space and black fantasy characters dominating pop culture.

And I get it.

When you look at the history of film and TV, the ones that have, in the past made huge impacts are movies like The Help, Precious and 12 Years a Slave.

There’s no doubt that those movies are incredibly powerful and have gone a long way in addressing uncomfortable and much needed truths, but these are certainly not the only stories we want to tell.

Image: Marvel Studios

Fast forward to 2018 and we got Black Panther. And suddenly we saw that not only was it a victory for more black representation in film and TV, but here was a nuanced story that not only highlighted the struggle, but didn’t rely on it as a sole point to tell a good story.

We got a super hero in Black Panther. We got a technologically innovative representation of Africa like we’ve never seen before and mostly we got a cast of characters whose stories were an excellent combination of hilarious banter, epic action scenes, an exploration of family bonds and brilliant CGI.

Yes, it touched upon colonialisation, but Black Panther proved to be a story that was more than the struggled that has defined us so many years.

READ MORE: Why we need more heroes like Black Panther on our screens

And it really got me thinking about how we still have a long way to go when it comes to creating the kind of story that’s not based on a singular narrative.

Thankfully there are some really good books, film and TV out there that have been steadily making progress – we highlight a few:

On the local front we have Happiness is a Four Letter Word

This local romcom is based on the book with the same name by author Cynthia Jele and actually proved to be quite a hit at the box office. The story follows the lives of three women who couldn’t be more different, but are each trying to carve some happiness for themselves.

There’s Nandi (hot shot lawyer on the verge of getting married), Zaza (glamorous trophy wife who indulges in an extra marital affair and Princess (commitment-phobic art gallery owner).

According to Channel24, the story isn’t solely about finding love and happiness, it’s one that is about the power of female friendship. It’s a feel-good and charming movie that will have you picking up the book afterwards (or vice versa)

Throwback to the 90s

Feeling a bit nostalgic?

I don’t know about you, but one of my absolute favourite classics was Family Matters. I mean, who could forget nerdy and oddly endearing Urkel (okay, okay, I’m not going to lie, he exhibited some seriously problematic behaviour) and the hilarious shenanigans that constantly formed a huge part of the Winslow family’s lives.

The family-focused sitcom focused on everyday family life and highlighted the struggles of growing up, making ends meet, while simultaneously just trying to have a good time.

The bickering between Carl Winslow and his pesky neighbour Urkel has always been a hilarious treat to watch, but what makes this heartwarming show so great and so timeless (if you ask me) is the charisma between the cast.

A feel-good family show that is still so worth watching.

WATCH: Sibongile Mlambo Talks About Playing a Mermaid

Black mermaids ahoy!

Siren is a relatively new mermaid thriller which, while not black-centric, features a diverse cast.

According to shadowandact.com, the story has a strong central focus on black women both inside and outside of the water and tells the story of what happens when a young and unearthly looking girl shows up in a small coastal town (once known for being home to merfolk) and causes havoc.

(Surprise, surprise, the girl is a siren and she’s not the sweet, fairytale kind)

We’re super excited for this especially because it also features Zimbabwean actress Sibongile Mlambo who plays a powerful mermaid named Donna in the story.

READ MORE: The real reason we're suckers for reality TV shows

Empire is more than a show that celebrates hip hop culture

One of the best and most nuanced shows that deals with a variety of topics, Empire is not just show that embodies the drama of hip hop, but if you’re looking for one woman to rule them all, Taraji P. Henson’s role as the formidable and fierce Cookie Lyon is the main reason you should be watching this.

With a take no prisoners attitude and ruthlessness to match, Cookie is a delightfully complex character whose fierceness is tempered by her love for her children.

She’s no perfect mother, but she’s protective and looks after her own.

But just in case you needed more reasons – the music is epic, the plot lines which delve into complex issues around health and hell, the hip hop culture and lessons you probably didn’t know plus messy but epic love triangles all make this a must watch!

Insecure - for anyone who needed to know that it's okay to be awkward

The popular show produced by and starring Issa Rae has become a worldwide hit – one that’s relatable, funny and a celebration of female friendship in all of its complexities.

Shout out to Issa and Molly who are complete friendship goals in the series.

Insecure is not just a series that relies on tackling social and race issues, but does so within the context of how everyday women are just doing their best to navigate love, life and everything in-between. It’s complicated, it’s lovely, it’s unapologetically black and knows how to juggle between being hilariously over the top and telling you that it’s 100% okay to be a little awkward and uncomfortable in your own skin.

The best thing about the show is that Issa, according to Charline Jao from The Mary Sue.com, has revealed that some of the show is based on her real-life experiences growing up in the south.

It doesn’t get more authentic than that!

WATCH: Our perfect wedding

Our Perfect Wedding – for the romantics at heart

One of South Africa’s best reality shows (yes they still count), this is an unadulterated celebration of love.

The show is super popular amongst South Africans  - seriously, Twitter makes it a point to tune in, hashtag and share their thoughts about the latest couple whose wedding journey is being broadcast. It’s happy-making and sometimes a little awkward (there’ve been plenty of moments that have made folk cringe and giggle), but on the whole, it’s a show that’s feel-good.

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