“The love between all the characters is uniquely palpable and it warms my heart to watch.”
Title: Queen Sugar
Episodes Reviewed: Season 1, Episodes 1-6
Creator: Ava DuVernay 👩🏾 🇺🇸
Writers: Natalie Baszile 👩🏾 🇺🇸 and various (diverse, with women and PoC)
Reviewed by Li 👩🏻 🇺🇸
This family drama is well-written, beautifully shot, and relatable. The cinematography is solid: earthy textures and muted color palettes are as rich as the show itself. I’m taking a point off for its borderline soap-opera quality and small habit of starting plot devices it doesn’t see through; however, Queen Sugar is still less cheesy than, say, This is Us, without sacrificing any of the emotion. I’m finding myself deeply invested in this flawed, complicated, and beautiful Bordelon family. The love between all the characters is uniquely palpable and it warms my heart to watch.
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? YES
Most of the main characters are women, and so they get a lot of air time. Meanwhile, the male characters are equally round. Originally airing on Oprah’s OWN network, Queen Sugar knows its target demographic and serves them well, without pandering.
* I kept track of female vs male voices for S01E03 and the spread was 48% Female vs 52% Male (13:11mins vs 14:19mins)–impressively close to the United States ratio of 50.4% females to 49.6% males. Well done, Queen Sugar.
Queen Sugar focuses on a black family so they are the predominant ethnicity, albeit in a wide array of beautiful hues. Meanwhile, they stay inclusive by featuring a Latina and a white male in recurring roles, while a quick flash of Asian fishmongers made me smile, seeing them portrayed warmly and outside of stereotypical roles.
A couple things the show has done really adeptly: they made an interesting decision to have a young boy, Blue, carry around a doll as his favorite toy. The nuance of this is treated with sensitivity, as his extended family voices no concerns over what could be seen as “effeminate behavior”; yet in one scene we see Blue’s father, Ralph Angel, gently discourage his son from bringing the doll to school, showing complexity in what it means to be a good parent. Do you let your child be himself, or do you try and protect him from the outside world by adjusting his behavior?
The second thing Queen Sugar does to get this high score is feature an openly bisexual character. Overall, I took off half a point for lack of fleshed out LGBTQ storylines. As of episode 6, the two hints at the issue so far are underdeveloped.
Mediaversity Grade: A- 4.63/5
Queen Sugar is such a compelling show. It isn’t perfect, with the writing swaying a smidge too soapy for me, but if you can overlook that then the strong performances of all the actors will draw you right in. Even better, due to the show’s diverse makers, an equally diverse end product has been deftly served up. I haven’t found any reason to get distracted by offensive representations or bad stereotyping, which only allows me to further enjoy the world of Queen Sugar.