By Alexa Day
(OMG, I’m so late. I hope all of you had ice cream while you were waiting!)
I don’t remember where I was when I found out Sleepy Hollow had killed off Abbie Mills. I do remember that I responded with a shrug. It’s not that I’m not grieving. I’m certainly not happy about this. But I’m not surprised.
Truth is, I didn’t start watching Sleepy Hollow for Nicole Beharie. I started watching for John Cho. I can refuse John Cho nothing. Sleepy Hollow killed John Cho off (the first time) at the end of the pilot. You see how they do.
By then, I was all about Abbie Mills, though.
It took a really long time for things to go wrong.
Abbie Mills and her fellow Witness, Ichabod Crane, had amazing chemistry right from the start. He didn’t understand a whole lot about modern life, but he was a strong and steady male influence in her world, where family and friends rarely stick around for long. An easy affection started to deepen into something else.
I was really looking forward to Something Else. I wanted this in large part because of how well the writers handled John Cho’s character, Andy Brooks. You want to see someone absolutely destroyed by unrequited love, obsession, and the eternal consequences of his actions? Watch John Cho act the hell out of that role.
I figured the writers knew how to handle Something Else. Sadly, it gradually became clear that the Sleepy Hollow writers and Powers That Be were willing to move heaven and earth (and other dimensions) to prevent Something Else from happening.
Katrina appeared at the front of a long line of More Appropriate Companions. When that soured, Betsy Ross was shipped in from God knows where, as someone who had apparently dated Ichabod in the past. It looked to me like the writers were actually really excited about pairing Ichabod with a feisty, independent, lady bad ass — they just didn’t want him with Abbie. Nor did it seem that they wanted Abbie with anyone else.
So. The female lead on a major network television show is just not supposed to have a love interest. Certainly not the male lead. Wonder why?
Because she’s black.
I complained about this with Magic Mike XXL. There’s really no reason for such an important character as Rome, in such a sexual movie as Magic Mike XXL, to be left in the corner. Except that she’s black.
Hollywood has no problem at all marginalizing black female characters. For many, many years, characters who look like me have served a single purpose.
They’re here to help the white characters.
Here’s one now.
Look, here’s one more.
And now there’s Abbie. I saw the writing on the wall when Ichabod stood over her hospital bed and reassured her sister, Jenny, that Abbie would pull through. She was so, so strong, he said.
Of course she is. She’ll have to pull through and be strong if she’s going to keep helping out, right?
But seriously, I knew this was the end of Ichabbie because I knew that in Hollywood, the strong black woman never finds a companion. That’s not why she’s in the story.
I worry sometimes that you all think I’m the only person angry about this. Please be assured that I am not.
Orlando Jones, whose departure from the series is its own story, raises a brow here.
Colleague Sasha Devlin.
Rebekah Witherspoon tweeted at some length, but this is one of the real takeaways.
The Washington Post sees it. Take note, especially, of Nicole Beharie’s now-deleted report that she wasn’t even included in the first incarnation of DVD commentaries.
The final insult is the suggestion that as a Witness, Abbie’s “spirit” might return one day. An awful lot of people wonder what shape the spirit will inhabit.
Actually, that’s not the final insult. The final insult was that the writers crushed Jenny’s hope for love and happiness by killing Joe (her mentor’s smoking-hot, super tormented son), too. Those two were just lovely for each other — their baggage matched — and the writers actually made her the instrument of his destruction.
Hope lies at the bottom of Pandora’s box. And there is hope here.
It looks like this.
Someone does know how to write a relationship that looks like the one Ichabod and Abbie should have had. A few weeks ago, I literally cheered when I saw the strong black woman start a romantic relationship with a popular television show’s male lead. I made a lot of joyful noises and a lot of joyful tweets, and loads and loads of fans are ecstatic that Richonne is real at last.
The rest of television needs to take notice.
I see a lot of people promising to right the ship by writing their own sci-fi and horror projects, projects that don’t put people of color first in line to be killed or marginalized. But should that long, long overdue job really be relegated to writers of color, whose projects are, in turn, often diverted far from mainstream outlets? Is there any reason in the world that Hollywood writers’ rooms can’t manage this right the hell now?
I left Sleepy Hollow a while back because I thought Abbie Mills deserved better. I know Nicole Beharie does. And while I’m optimistic about the rise of Richonne, I’m not letting anyone else off the hook.
It’s high time Hollywood was held accountable.
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