Still Star-Crossed Review: TV Mainstream Meets America's Reality

The cast of the new ABC show Still Star-Crossed.

 

Last Monday night, ABC premiered Still Star-Crossed. It’s a Romeo and Juliette-esque period drama based off a book of the same title by Melinda Taub, telling the story of what happens after the lovers kill themselves. The show first caught my eye a few weeks ago back when I found myself scrolling through my Instagram feed and spotted an attractive interracial couple, both dressed in gorgeous period clothing, followed by screen grabs of some of the other cast members in scenes of upcoming episodes. I discovered it was a new show from Shonda Rhimes’s production team, and given my love for Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder, I put a reminder in my phone calendar to make sure I caught the first episode when it aired.

Though I ended up missing said premier I did catch up on the show via the ABC website, and sat through the 45 minutes of commercial free bliss. Taking a transparent viewpoint, the costumes were just the right amount of theatrical and authentic, the colorblind casting was a welcomed surprise, and the production design were all spot on. (The film major in me gives mad props to the production design and art department). On the flip side, I’m not sure if it’s because it was the first episode or due to the fact that the show isn’t my go-to genre, but I found the plot to be slightly rushed and hard to follow, just because there was SO much going on that needed to be established: the overarching storyline of Romero and Juliet and showing their deep love for one another and their untimely deaths, the setup of the main characters, and establishing the time period and location. With that being said, I still gave the show a B and resolved to be ready when the second episode premiers.

Interested in how others reacted to the show, I took to Twitter and Google too, only to be slightly surprised and disheartened to find that the ratings weren’t very strong. I even stumbled across articles calling the show a “misstep” and a “flop”. In hindsight, I realized that I shouldn’t have been surprised. Still Star Crossed stars a strong, black, dark-skinned, leading actress who plays Juliette’s cousin Rosaline, a flushed out, complex character who is also caught in an impending love triangle. Read: she is desired by two men, both things almost unprecedented on a major television show network.

I ventured to Tumblr to see what others in my peer group had to say, and after reading post after post of the excitement and love showered towards the show, I was inspired to write this article. What pushed me even more to do so was the conversation I’d had with a close friend of mine after watching the first episode. Though she had good intentions, the comment she made about Still Star Crossed, bothered me and I couldn’t figure out why. It wasn’t how she said it, but what she said, going a little something like this:

“Hey, have you seen that new Shakespeare show?”

Instantly I perked up. I knew exactly what show she was referring to. “Yeah!” I said excitedly. Our conversation took a turn when she mentioned her own pet peeve about the show: if a period drama is being portrayed based off history/ historical literature, it needs to be historically accurate.

I cut in to gently inform her that the show had been colorblind casted, in a similar fashion to the Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella version starring actress and singer Brandy. I then went on to say that I thought it was kinda cool. I kept to myself how I thought it was really awesome to see people who looked like me, in all different shades of brown starring in prominent roles that I’d never see otherwise. In fact, I'd also been inspired to write a script for an all-black cast filmed version of Pride and Prejudice (one of my favorite books).

I also mentioned to my friend that the show wasn’t based exactly off of the Shakespearean play, but off a novel. She nodded in understanding, but I could tell she still wasn’t fully onboard, even after I pushed for her to give the show a chance anyway, seeing as we’re both Shonda Rimes fans.  

Here’s my point: it’s 2017 in America, and even with the progress we’ve made to be more inclusive in the entertainment industry, I can’t help but remember that people still have race issues, and if you pay any attention to the news, I shouldn’t have to explain further. For some people, there’s something troubling and upsetting about having a young, beautiful, black woman who’s the leading role in a show, and one that could be as big as the Game of Thrones franchise if people would only give it the chance. I honestly fear that Still Star Crossed will get canceled because it doesn’t have the support or fandom base to carry it through. All I can think about are the other shows that come to my mind, Dear White People on Netflix, and Star Trek: Discovery, that star black women in the main roles, and were met with opposition with claims of reverse-racism and outrage for the first, and blatant racism and sexism towards the second.

As a black girl, representation matters and it’s a knife to the gut when things like this happen in entertainment and media and instead of experiencing a mixture of joy and pride. I’m sick with worry that it’ll be taken away from me. With all this being said, I knock on wood and I hope to God that the new Shondaland show lives to see more than one season.

 

Photos 1,2, courtsey of Pixlebay