Web Series Provide the Diversity TV Fails to Deliver

As the discussion of women of color in media continues to unfold, Hollywood continues to stagnate on hiring diverse people to work in front of and behind the camera. But in the age of the Internet, future writers, producers and actors have an alternative to being turned down by a TV network: making their own show. Web series provide people who have been marginalized by Hollywood the space to create and control their stories. The medium has come a long way in terms of quality and popularity since the days of Lonelygirl15. Compiled from other recommended web series lists and through my own preferences, here are some great web series featuring women I’d like to see on TV.

Twenties

When Twenties went viral back in 2013, a lot of people marketed it as the ‘Black version’ of Lena Dunham’s Girls. Twenties, created by Lena Waithe, is a standalone pilot presentation about Hattie (Courtney Sauls) who is trying to shirk away the responsibilities of adult life as much as possible. If anything, it’s what Girls should have been; realistic dialogue with realistic life situations for millennials. In the course of four episodes, main character Hattie gets evicted from her apartment, undergoes an intervention about unemployment with her friends and learns how to insert a tampon. That kind of catastrophic, spontaneous train of events is an accurate description of life in your twenties. The Youtube diaries she records provide an authentic inner monologue that is hard to create in screen form. Twenties was picked up by BET, but has since been stalled in development. It may be a while for the show to come to fruition, as Waithe just signed a deal with Showtime for a coming-of-age drama.

I Love Lucy and Bekka

The first episode of I Love Lucy and Bekka starts off with Lucy giving Bekka feedback on her singing talents while sitting on the toilet. That kind of intimacy and honesty sets the tone for this series, as the episodes revolve around the conversations they have as roommates. From ruminating on the similarities of porn and The Bachelor, to reflecting on deaths of Facebook friends, the twelve episodes cover all possible subject matter that exists in the human experience. I Love Lucy and Bekka was launched as a Kickstarter campaign by Rachael Holder. Unlike many web series, this one has some star power: Gina Rodriguez stars as upbeat Bekka, and Kristolyn Lloyd plays her straight-forward roommate Lucy. Filmed before Rodriguez’s success with Jane the Virgin, Holder describes how the two began working together in an interview with The Daily Dot:

“She and I both went to NYU, and I met her at a party where she said to me: ‘I heard you write funny things. I want you to write funny things for me.’”

And so they did. In the end, everyone wins.

Strolling

Strolling is a truly enlightening gem of the internet. Created by British director Cecile Emeke, Strolling is a documentary-style series about the black/African diaspora in European countries. Each episode takes place in a different town or country and features locals talking about their experiences. On the show’s website, it describes the discussions ranging from “feminism, sexuality, gender, race and politics to philosophy, art, history, capitalism, war and poverty… and everything else you can think of.” It sounds heavy, but it’s presented in a way that is understandable and interesting to watch. The series has gotten press coverage from the NY Times, BBC and the Washington Post.

Cecile Emeke is also the creator of the web series Ackee & Saltfish, a narrative about two friends living in London while their neighborhood is being gentrified.

Riley Rewind

Written, starring and produced by Youtube sensation Anna Akana, Riley Rewind is a story about Riley (Akana), a high schooler who discovers she has the ability to turn back time. Or, as told through Riley’s awkwardly charming wit, she “kind of…sort of… has the ability to travel back in time. No big deal.” For a web series, Riley Rewind does a lot of things at once: comedy, drama, action and of course, the science-fiction elements of time-turning superpowers. The word “sci-fi” may turn some people away from the series, but I would classify it as a dramedy with sci-fi influences. As someone who doesn’t like time travel plots, I was still able to enjoy it. There are superhero allusions and comic book graphics, but more importantly there are human elements of compassion and wanting to make the world a better place. Plus, the relatable experience of being weird and over-stressed in high school always makes for good comedy.

Of course, these are just a small selection of shows in the wide world of web series. If you have any recommendations of web series you like, post in the comments below!

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