5.05.2015

Telenovela Sisters: Azie Tesfai on #JanetheVirgin

Remember how I always said I didn't trust the CW? Despite the admittedly amazing season they've been having (Reign not included), I still don't trust the CW. I still feel they fucked over Maggie Q, Tiffany Hines, and Lyndie Greenwood (and even Bianca Lawson) on Nikita. They turned Iris West into a snorefest on The Flash.

I won't even bring up what they did to Kat Graham (and several other POC) on The Vampire DiariesThat's been covered extensively.

So instead we'll talk about Eritrean-Ethiopian actress and fashion designer Azie Tsefai.  Miss Tsefai portrays Detective Nadine Hansan, a recurring character on Jane the Virgin, the only show on the CW that's almost completely beyond reproach.

Here's my beef with the characterization of Nadine Hansan:

Issue #1 - She's recurring.  She plays the partner of Detective Michael Cordero (Brett Dier), who just so happens to be one-half of the OTP (as in him and the titular Jane).  We see her once every so many episodes, often for a few minutes.  It's so random when she shows up that you almost forget she's a part of the cast.

As beautiful and as talented as this woman is, I think she deserves more screen time and a more developed storyline of her own.

Issue #2 - She gets "used."  Here's what I mean.  Remember when I was analyzing Mandy Lang from The Following?  Near the end, I quoted Den of Geek, whose writer pointed out that Mandy - a fascinating, complicated character in her own right - was demoted to serve as a plot device for two other characters.  That happens to Black women a lot on TV.  We often don't get fleshed out; we get used.  We're often demoted from portraying actual people to merely serving as devices.

Nadine's no different on Jane the Virgin. When Michael and Jane break up, guess who he rebounds with?  While they're on the job, no less!  What are they trying to say?  That Nadine was pining for Michael this whole time, for a relationship we already know is never gonna be?  Or that she was happy enough just to be his cum-bucket for a day?

Apparently the uproar around characters like Martha Jones taught these people nothing.   Black women are sick and tired of being the rebound, the consolation prize a person turns to when the women they really want - Caucasian, Asian, Latina, what have you - don't want them back.  I've said it a thousand times before: we're not a substitute for women.  We don't simply exist for other people's convenience, to sate their bodies and egos at whim.  We're not exactly thrilled to see Black actresses used as sexual tokens who get some lighter-skinned woman's leftovers, only to be casually disposed of...again, at whim.

Issue #3 - Nadine's a traitor.  This goes along with the whole "getting used" theme.  After being gone so long I thought Tsefai wasn't even on the show anymore, she's brought back out of the blue and just long enough to reveal that she's been tipping off the other side.  Michael is furious, of course, because Nadine's the reason he's hit so many dead ends.  She pleads with Michael that her family (whom we've never seen or heard) were threatened and so she had to comply.  We find out later that Michael covered for her, but we already know that no good ending can come from this.  Not for her anyway.

Fashion Tips from Moi

Fixing this is simple, really.

1 -  If you don't actually want Azie Tesfai on your show, let her go.  Let her move on with her career in peace.  Write off her character and call it a day; gigs like these don't do Black actresses many favors anyway.  Sure they pay rent and provide some minor exposure, but that's about it.

2) If you don't want to let her go, then go into damage control mode, starting with that lapse of judgment where Nadine slept with Michael.  Clear that up STAT.  Make it clear she doesn't want him, and only did it 'cause she was dealing with her own stuff.

3) Give her, and then expand upon, her own stuff (duh).  Show flashbacks as to how she was contacted by Sin Rostro (main villain) in the first place, and let us meet this family of hers that was supposedly threatened.

4) Reduce Petra Solano's (Yael Grobglas) screen time and give it to Tsefai.  Don't get me me wrong, Petra and her mother are hilarious, but Petra is a repetitive, non-evolving character with a one-track mind.  In short, she's difficult to give a shit about.  See, that's what happens when you give us rich, white, skinny, blue-eyed blondes with men fighting over them and falling at their feet - the audience tends to shrug, figure they've got it made, and then move on to the characters who actually have something to cry about.

Seriously...you could write Petra off the show tomorrow and people would miss her about as much as they've missed Nadine.

5) Don't make Nadine yet another villain.  This show is already so full of bitches, its quota runneth over.

13 comments:

  1. I thought it was ridiculous that she couldn't have been a legitimate love interest. Of course, if she had pursued either Michael or Rafael (or hell, even Rogelio) she should probably not be involved in a work relationship with them. And she doesn't need to be treated like an NSA when they characters clearly have legitimate love interests on the show. Michael has had one, an ex-girlfriend, aside from Jane. And now she seems to built up as an antagonist or written off the show. Pretty much all black characters on this show have been antagonists or sexual fodder for white characters. Roman and his "brother" got somewhat better treatment, being involved in a somewhat interesting story arc. But both of them are now officially off the show. I'm with you, if they don't know what to do with the character or don't really want to use her then they should just let her go on to better things.

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    1. I thought it was ridiculous that she couldn't have been a legitimate love interest.

      I know, right? Why the resistance to making her a "real" character?

      Delete
  2. The CW just seems to do an absolutely horrible job with black female characters. Like the woman could be the female lead on her show and she may not get involved with the main plot until damn near the end of the season.

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  3. I have some good news. As you may know, Hannibal will be returning in June. Rutina Wesley has been cast as Reba Mclane, a notable character from the source material who had a special relationship with a major serial killer and survives. Oh, and did you consider covering Home? I think Rihanna did a pretty good job even though her character's backstory could have been fleshed out a bit more. Oh, and Rutina is going to be one of the main characters on a new show called Broad Squad. Last thing I saw her in was a movie called 13 Sins. Low budget but entertaining. Oh and she is giong to be in a movie featuring Michael Ealy and Sanaa Lathan called The Perfect Guy. Set to be released in September. Not sure if it will be any good.

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    Replies
    1. I happen to like Rutina a lot. I'mma have to check her out.

      And by the way...this blog is now accepting volunteers to contribute to our Black Girls' Night Out series.

      Delete
    2. Really?? I'd love to submit a piece. :) I would be interested in writing a follow-up to your Bonnie piece, reflecting on season 6 and hopes for season 7. And I could also write on Iris West. I'm still pretty miffed about that whole situation, especially fandom and their denial of racist backlash. But let me know the guidelines for submissions and if you are interested in certain characters or shows.

      Delete
  4. Sleepy Hollow got a new writer, a black Canadian woman. So people are somewhat hopeful for season 3.

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  5. The Originals now has a "black" Rebecca, there is a new spin off of the Flash coming out with a black Hawkgirl and with Elena gone maybe Bonnie will get some real spot light on TVD. So maybe CW will get better?

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    Replies
    1. The Originals now has a "black" Rebecca

      Huh? Elaborate.

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    2. I think she's referring to the black woman's body that Rebekah is residing in. This is maybe the second or third time a black woman has housed the soul of a member of the Mikealson family. I feel iffy about it since most of the time the host eventually dies.

      Delete
    3. Yeah...I'm not down with that either.

      Delete

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