"B.A.P.S" & How Netflix Approaches Race Representation

On April 29th, Netflix announced that the classic black film B.A.P.S. would be available to stream starting May 1st. The movie stars Halle Berry alongside Natalie Desselle as two entrepreneurs with a dream of owning a combination hair salon and restaurant. B.A.P.S is the first of several movies that will be added each month. This announcement comes after several Netflix customers noticed the lack of black films on the platform. Yes, Netflix has created it’s “Strong Black Lead” initiative in an attempt to create more black content, from movies and tv shows in genres such as horror and science fiction where black people are not often represented, to a podcast which is dedicated to praising actors who have stood out within our culture and community. It appears that Netflix wants to continue to challenge the way in we see black characters by getting ahead of the cultural shift and catering to more diverse audience by offering shows and movies featuring Black actor and actresses we all know and love

Also on April 29th, famed director John Singleton was pronounced dead after a stroke. Known as the gatekeeper of black film, John Singleton directed historic works including Boyz N The Hood, Poetic Justice, and Baby Boy where he reimagined black neighborhoods. With these films, Singleton humanized black characters who often were perceived as thugs or gangbangers and instead allowed viewers to see their complexities. Singleton’s characters, unlike many black films at the time, were not caricatures of themselves based on stereotypes. Men showed emotions other than anger, women were strong rather than submissive; these films not only represented the black experience but also allowed us to recognize ourselves within them.

Netflix increasing the accessibility to black films provides them with the opportunity to be recognized by a larger public who often disregards these movies as “black” and therefore unworthy of praise. This also allows previous audiences to continue to share these beloved movies with new generations. So often black filmmakers and actors do not gain the recognition they deserve due to producing exclusively black work. Award shows have historically excluded films created by writers and directors of color, only in recent years with the #Oscarssowhite and other initiatives has this begun to change.  Even when those few black actors who are recognized by the Academy and other honors careers are not impacted in the same way as their white counterparts. Lupita Nyong’o won an Oscar for best supporting actress in 2014, but it wasn’t until 2019 in Jordan Peele’s Us that she starred in her first lead role. Netflix should be commended for their continued work towards changing the narrative surrounding black film. I am excited to see how their work impacts the entertainment industry.