RACISM + CINEMA
The Black Wonder Years is Making White Folks Mad
Seeing a Black version of a White classic series has some folks flustered. Let's unpack this.
White folks are used to seeing themselves on TV. Let's face it. Back in 1988, when the original Wonder Years series aired, mainstream American television focused on telling the same coming-of-age story. Boy meets girl — scratch that — White boy meets girl was the premise of dozens of series. Need receipts? We have shows like Leave it to Beaver, The Brady Bunch, Boy Meets World, and Dennis the Menace, to name a few.
Now, ABC's reimagining of The Wonder Years as a Black coming-of-age story, set in 1968, highlights a pivotal moment in American history. Finally, America can learn what it was like to grow up as a Black boy only a few years after the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act were passed into law. During this time, Black people experienced "White backlash."
You give me second class houses
And second class schools
Do you think that all colored people
Are just second class fools?
— Nina Simone singing “The Backlash Blues”
Rebooting The Wonder Years as a Black coming-of-age story is essential because it reveals a narrative America is not used to hearing. White people are not the only ones who experience nostalgia, and this story is a reminder that Black people have unique lived experiences and stories worth telling.
Now, let's address the white elephant in the room — White privilege. White people are so used to seeing themselves at the center of American television and cinema; some find it absolutely repulsive to see the other side of the coin. The irony isn't lost on me that Black people grew up watching these classic American television series that centered around the White experience.
Like many Black kids, I grew up watching the original Wonder Years series on Nick at Nite. I watched the main character, Kevin, fall in love with Winnie Cooper time and time again. When she stepped into the room, his hands turned clammy, and he started…