A “Twisted” Commentary On Black Women As TV Love Interests

I confess, as someone who doesn’t watch ABC Family (the programming is a bit “young” for me much of the time), the show “Twisted” was not on my radar. However, if you are looking for extremely swirl-friendly entertainment, this is probably THE most black woman, especially black teen, swirl-friendly show on TV.

A bit about the show:
The new ABC Family original mystery series Twisted centers on a charismatic 16-year-old with a troubled past, who recently reconnected with his two female best friends from childhood. He becomes the prime suspect when a fellow student is surprisingly found dead in her home.

Now, admittedly what drew my interest was a combination of the mystery and the treatment of the character of Lacey Porter, played by Kylie Bunbury.

While I do have issues with the show, such as some of the acting and the fact that the town sheriff is as dumb as a box of rocks, I was very happy to have happened upon this show for a few reasons:

1.) Lacey is NOT a side-kick or just the black friend set up to support her white BFF, whom is typically at the center of the love triangle.
Instead, she is at the center of her own love triangle between her boyfriend Archie and the male lead, Danny. Raise your hand if you can remember the last time a black girl was at the center of fisticuffs between non-blacks guys on television. I can’t really remember myself so I’ll say I’ve certainly never seen it. There is very much a tug of war going on for her affections and I imagine it’s only going to get more intense as the show progresses.

2.) Lacey is beautiful, graceful, popular, and smart. And nobody treats this like it’s strange.
Nobody thinks it’s odd that she’s the most popular girl in school. Nobody thinks it’s wrong that she’s paired up with the school’s star athlete. The fact that Lacey is treated as an attractive and ideal love interest is a BIG thing.
Does she get as much screen time as I’d like? No, but I understand that a major reason for this is that she has her own life and concerns. Lacey doesn’t have time to follow the lead male around (more on that later), and there’s nothing wrong with that. Moreover, Lacey represents the ideal of young, beautiful black womanhood in a way that I really haven’t seen in fiction before.

3.) Lacey/Danny as potentially the dominant pairing in this alleged love triangle has sent shockwaves through internet girl fandom.
You do not want to know how many chairs got flipped last night. Not by me, I was sitting in mine. But the idea that a guy could practically run away from Jo, the white girl lead, who has been throwing herself at him all night to see the black friend (?) that he’s been missing and then other steaminess ensues (did you see that gif?) has upset the reality of quite a few non-black women.
Twisted’s official Facebook apparently is being attacked with all kinds of racist nonsense by young women who should know better.
But they don’t, because white privilege means not having to think about how bizarre it is that there are no black teenage girls on American television who are the central character of any type of love conflict, nevermind cast as a truly viable love interest. It means being able to expect things to follow a certain narrative “because that’s how it’s supposed to be.”
What these persons are raging against is the fact that a girl can’t just show up and be white and automatically get her way romantically. Which has been the dominant storyline concerning teenage white girls in love. Usually the triangle involves a pretty white girl and men vying for her attention. Or if there are two girls vying for a guy’s attention, typically they’re both white as is the guy in question. Lacey’s role pretty much breaks that stereotype to such a degree that some people don’t know how to cope.
No matter how beautiful or popular this character is, her blackness is supposed to be the thing that ultimately acts as a “tie-breaker”, making it unfathomable that she could get chosen by the main guy. But it didn’t work out that way at all.

I feel like the show’s creators are going to play with the emotions of both Jo/Danny and Lacey/Danny “shippers” so I hardly think a series of passionate kisses this early on means anything is set in stone. But I do think what happened sent a signal to a lot of viewers about a new reality where a black girl can exist and be attractive and be sought after.
I saw a LOT of black and non-white teens pouring out feelings about how happy and relieved they were to see such a representation, and how T-I-R-E-D they are of being pushed out of the way to uphold an unfair and bigoted status quo.

4.) Lacey isn’t chasing; she’s running away.

A lot of young women were puzzled by how a guy could have a girl like Jo RIGHT THERE making her interest absolutely obvious all over the place and still run off to pursue someone else.
Either by accident or design, the character of Jo comes across very strongly and I can say that in reality, when women do this up front a lot of guys are less inclined to return the favor. Whereas the girl who is not easily accessible ends up being more intriguing.
Personally, I’m glad that Lacey is presented as a character with her own life, interests and conflicts. She doesn’t have the time or inclination to be all up under a guy, even if she cares about him. Though Lacey is at times susceptible to peer pressure, her needs and feelings come first. This actually makes people feel she’s “selfish”. Unlike the other female lead, she doesn’t drop her entire life and former best friend for a guy because “he needs her”. I think it makes her a very sensible and realistic teenage girl.
I also feel that “hard to get” quality makes her a very believable love interest. The fact that she is presented in such a light, rather than as being unable to say no to the guy is very refreshing. I love Olivia Pope, but she’s a very disappointing character in this regard.

So, basically this is a VERY IRR happy show with an ethnically diverse cast and setting. I will continue to support the show in part because of this character’s handling, and because I’m genuinely curious about the mystery involved.
But most of all, I’m really happy for a lot of the girls of color who have been following this show more intensely than a lot of us followed Scandal. Especially since lately a lot of these types of shows have utterly ignored the black teenage girl fandom.
I don’t think I really understood what it meant until I saw the commentary from a lot of the young teenage black girls. They finally have a character they can relate to or want to be like in Lacey. Especially young black girls growing up who are open to the idea of dating or loving someone who isn’t black, but have not had the chance to see such things so utterly normalized.
Hopefully Twisted will continue to grow in popularity (I strongly suspect it will), because I think it would help contribute to more positive representations of black women, especially in a romantic sense.

This is more or less commentary on a character on an ongoing show. I didn’t want to do a full-on review because I didn’t want to drop too many spoilers. It may deal with teens, but because it’s a show that’s heavy on interracial relationships and pairings, I figured I’d plug it. If you aren’t interested, maybe pass it on to your daughters, nieces, cousins and younger sisters?

special thanks to brucelynn <3