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We Need to Acknowledge Vanessa Morgan’s Comments About Black Characters Being Portrayed as ‘Sidekicks’

Riverdale -- "Chapter Sixty-Five: In Treatment" -- Image Number: RVD408a_0565.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl and Vanessa Morgan as Toni -- Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW-- © 2019 The CW Network, LLC All Rights Reserved.

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Vanessa Morgan is fed up with how black people are portrayed in the media. 

And she should be. 

Morgan, who plays Toni Topaz on Riverdaletook to social media to say she’s “tired of us being portrayed as thugs, dangerous or angry scary people. Tired of us also being used as side kick non dimensional characters to our white leads.”

“Or only used in the ads for diversity but not actually in the show,” she continued, adding, “It starts with the media. I’m not being quiet anymore.”

https://twitter.com/VanessaMorgan/status/1267086887535153152?s=20

We’ve seen many African American actors assume the very roles she mentioned, but one that stood out in particular was “sidekick” as it described the 28-year-old star’s character on The CW. 

While Toni’s on-screen girlfriend, Cheryl Blossom (Madeline Petsch), is far from one-dimensional, Toni often lurks in the shadows until it’s time to prop up Cheryl. She rarely gets any screen time without her other half, she has no storyline outside of her relationship, and she’s lucky if she gets a few sentences in a scene. 

This isn’t a fault of Morgan’s castmates, who she defended writing that her role “has nothing to do with my fellow classmates/friends. They don’t write the show. So no need to attack them, they don’t call the shots & I know they have my back.”

Toni Topaz has been reduced to a sidekick through absolutely no fault or her own, and being sidelined is not a reflection or her acting. And yet, she’s the one suffering, even noting that she’s the lowest paid regular on the series. 

To truth of the matter is, Toni has been underutilized in a series that should be tapping into her potential as one of the only few women of color. 

For this reason, Morgan has made it her mission to evoke change: “To my black fans, I have now made it my purpose to fight for us. To the six-year-old me who had no role model that looked like me on TV. This is for you. We aren’t your token black non-dimensional characters. This is being black in Hollywood. I will fight for YOU.”

https://twitter.com/VanessaMorgan/status/1268231377679417347?s=20

Toni isn’t the only character suffering as the writers seem to struggle to find story arcs for many characters outside of the core four, but it happens more often to the female character than it does to someone like Kevin Keller or Reggie, two characters we’ve seen the series attempt to integrate into the storyline as much as they can.

This isn’t the first time the series has struggled to write storylines for a woman of color as the same thing happened to Ashleigh Murray, who plays/played Josie McCoy on the series for several seasons. Despite having her own musical group in high school, Josie and the Pussycats, there never seemed to be a compelling storyline for Josie, the character which many argue was the strongest, most realistic, and most grounded. It was a shame, and thankfully, the TV powers that be pushed her towards the Riverdale spinoff, Katy Keene, where she gets the shine equally amongst her diverse counterparts. That series is still led by a heterosexual white woman, but the representation on the series far outweighs that of Riverdale.

Katy Keene Mama Said Review

Katy Keene/ The CW

Murray has gotten to shine and be included in the cast the way she’s always been meant to; she’s no longer a sidekick to meet a quota.

Murray supported Morgan writing, “These are the ways we can implement real change. The beginnings of concrete conversations and plans of action that will mold our future for the better. We are not asking for special treatment. We are asking for equal treatment.”

Morgan’s statements came on the heels of a since-deleted comment that claimed Murray was written off the series because she was a “diva” who refused to share the screen with others. 

“You don’t know what the f** you’re talking about and don’t talk about my friend like that. Another thing i hate BLACK women being called DIVAS for sticking up for themselves. Maybe the show should write for her like the white characters,” Morgan responded. 

The problem extends way past these two Archie Comic shows, however. It’s become all too common for shows marginalize black characters… The Vampire Diaries’ treatment of Bonnie Bennett (played by Kat Graham), one of the few character’s of color on the series, is a prime example. 

Bonnie was technically a “core character” but never got the core character treatment. She was a strong-willed, selfless, and badass witch, but she was reduced to a character that was constantly forced to make sacrifices for her friends, put their needs above their own, and carry their pain.

A moral compass, fixer, and the only woman bold enough to call out Damon Salvatore, Bonnie had the potential to have some of the best and most powerful storylines, and instead, they always revolved around her besties, Elena and Caroline. It wasn’t about Bonnie as an individual, it was about how Bonnie could help them achieve greatness.

Bonnie was always the loophole, she lacked proper character development, and for a series that thrived on ships, she barely got a love interest until the very end. And even then, he was killed off leaving Bonnie to suffer in silence… again. 

Bonnie Bennet

The CW/ The Vampire Diaries

Bonnie held her own, but she never got her own.

We’ve seen this play out in other shows like Dynasty. Jeff (Sam Adegoke) and Monica Colby (Wakeema Hollis) could make great antagonists for Blake Carrington, and there is a lot of family drama to dig into when it comes to the Carrington’s and the Colby’s, but instead, they are reduced to having limited storylines that are constantly getting dropped and downplayed. The lack of direction was so evident that Monica has taken a hiatus from the series. 

Even shows that are getting many issues right seem to fumble when it comes to representation and characters of color. 

Season 3 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina started on the right track with Prudence (Tati Gabrielle) and Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) venturing to New Orleans to seek out help from a Haitian Voodoo Priestess in New Orleans. MarySue writes it best explaining that the scenes set up the exploration of African traditions before sidelining the storyline completely and watering down the character of Mambo Marie. The series aims to be inclusive, but it reduces its impeccable talent from Prudence, Ambrose, and even Roz (Jaz Sinclair), who is turned to stone for a lot of the season, seem to be there, to being sacrifices that allow white characters to shine and become more powerful. 

Prudence and Ambrose

Netflix/ Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

It’s 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained more momentum and support than every before (tragically, due to the a heartless death of George Floyd, a black man, a the hands of a white cop), and while it may not seem like empowering black characters is something that tops the list of priorities, it should be. Representation starts at home and on our TV screens. 

It’s past the time to make necessary changes in storytelling. 

People want to feel represented, they want diversity, and they want relatable characters on shows that are well-rounded and representative of our societies. There’s no excuse.

And yes, there’s room if you write for people of color as human beings who are just as worthy of good storylines as their white counterparts. 

Morgan’s voice was heard by Riverdale and Katy Keene creator, Roberto Aguirre Sacasa, who apologized and vowed to “do better,” and “honor her and the character she plays.”

“Riverdale will be part of the movement, not outside of it,” he wrote. 

The intention should have been there from the beginning, but progress is progress. Let’s hope he keeps his promise. 

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Lizzy Buczak is the founder of CraveYouTV. What started off as a silly blog in her sophomore year at Columbia College Chicago turned her passion for watching TV into an opportunity! She has been in charge of CraveYou since 2011, writing reviews and news content for a wide variety of shows. Lizzy is a Music Business and Journalism major who has written for RADIO.COM, TV Fanatic, Time Out Chicago, Innerview, Pop’stache and Family Time.

La Brea

What Happened to Levi on ‘La Brea’?

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La Brea Season 2 returned from its midseason hiatus on Jan. 31, but fans were quick to point out that one major character was missing from the double-dose of episodes: Levi Delgado (played by Nicholas Gonzalez). 

Immediately after the episode aired, questions began to pour in with fans asking what happened to Levi and if we’ll see him again.

The answer—maybe….possibly. After all, anything is possible on La Brea, right?

As for what happened to Levi, well, if you’ll recall during the La Brea fall finale, Levi and Eve (Natalie Rea) parted ways in 1988. Eve’s heart has been torn between Levi and her estranged husband, Gavin (Eoin Macken) for quite some time, especially after it was revealed that Gavin’s visions—the one that led to their split and pushed her into Levi’s arms—were real all along. This caused a lot of guilt for Eve, and that guilt eventually played into her decision to leave Levi behind and follow her family back to 10K B.C.

In the final moments spent in 1988, Gavin’s mother informed him that they had to go back to 10K B.C. to upload a virus that would shut down the portal that was causing catastrophes like the sinkholes, including the one set to open in Los Angeles in just a few days. 

La Brea The Hunt Review Season 1 Episode 3

LA BREA — “The Hunt” Episode 103 — Pictured: Nicholas Gonzalez as Levi Brooks — (Photo by: Sarah Enticknap/NBC)

Of course, if they damaged the time machine, they would never be able to leave 10K B.C. again, which meant everyone had a pretty tough choice to make. Except for Eve, who didn’t really have a choice. Choosing to stay behind with Levi meant that she would be turning her back on her family and potentially never seeing them again. All her kids have ever wanted was the family back together, so her decision was made with them in mind. While I’m sure on some level, she also considered her relationship with Gavin, she ultimately made the jump back to keep her family intact. 

And that meant leaving behind Levi, who decided he was going to stay in the ’80s and make a life for himself. If you think about it, it was the only decision that made sense for him considering there was a slim chance of living a decent life in 10K B.C. And it wouldn’t be wise to go back down there and risk your life with a woman who was one foot into the relationship and one foot out. It would be a huge sacrifice to make for Eve without any guarantee that they’d end up together. 

Both Levi and Eve seemed in agreement that their romance was over and they parted ways graciously. 

At the time of the finale, fans were under the impression that Gavin, Eve, and co. were going to destroy the time machine, which meant destroying any chance of ever seeing Levi again. This was a permanent goodbye in their eyes. 

However, once they got back down to 10K B.C., Gavin couldn’t go through with uploading the virus after seeing a vision of Eve dying. His father, James, convinced Gavin that he had a way to fix the portal so that they could use it without causing any more harm to the environment, which also meant that he had a chance at saving Eve from death in the prehistoric ages. Gavin’s love for her has always been very evident, so it’s not surprising that he chose this route. 

But his decision also keeps the door open for Levi to return down the line in future episodes.

If there is still a portal to travel between time periods, Levi may not be out of the game just yet. 

It’s unclear how or why he would come back to 10K B.C—maybe he’ll come back with more information about the sinkholes and portal, maybe he’ll return after feeling guilty for leaving his friends (Gavin included) behind, or maybe he’ll miss Eve so much that he takes the leap at the first chance he gets.

It’s even possible that Eve finds a way to communicate with him while he’s in 1988, which would keep him around but not in the same time period. Talk about a long-distance relationship.

The point is, I wouldn’t count Levi out just yet. The actor was a huge draw for the show, and while not everyone loved his romance with Eve or the love triangle, I don’t think they’d write him off so quickly, especially without giving Eve and Levi proper closure. If it really is over, Eve needs to be sure of her decision, and again, she only chose to return to 10K B.C. for her family. 

There seems to be a hint about Levi’s return with the upcoming episode, set to air on Tuesday, Feb. 14, called “The Return.” The title seemingly alludes to Levi’s return, but the synopsis makes me think that it’s a surefire guarantee. 

“A ruthless enemy holds the clearing captive, threatening to kill a beloved survivor if their demands for an unexpected item aren’t met; Gavin and Sam lead the rescue attempt, aided by an old friend whose return holds more questions than answers.”
 
Who could this old friend be? Does Levi swoop in to save the day?
 
And then there’s the teaser trailer which shows a man coming through the portal… and it definitely looks like Levi. 
 
We’ll have to tune in and see! 
 

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Featured

6 Sexy Shows to Watch for Valentine’s Day

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6 Sexy Shows to Watch for Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day can be celebrated in all sorts of different ways. 

Some people bake cookies, others go out for a romantic date, while some do a fun activity with their significant other. 

However, this is the first Valentine’s Day under COVID-19 restrictions, which means that you likely don’t have as many fun and romance-filled options as in years prior. 

That’s where TV comes in! Regardless if you’re spending February 14 with a significant other or your besties, these are some of the sexiest and steamiest shows to watch on the day that’s all about celebrating L-O-V-E (for friends, family, significant others, and, most importantly, yourself!) 

 

Bridgerton

Romance, scandal, drama… Bridgerton has it all! Dubbed the Regency-era Gossip Girl, Netflix’s smash hit and most-watched series is a brilliant and entertaining period piece with enough sex scenes to make you blush. And Regé-Jean Page isn’t bad on the eyes.

 

Emily in Paris

Emily in Paris, which was just surprisingly nominated for a Golden Globe, hails from Sex and the City creator Darren Star. It’s an airy flick about a millennial named Emily who travels to Paris for a dream job and becomes enamored with the City of Love and the men that want to show her all that it has to offer. 

 

Modern Love

Falling in love requires you to be open, honest, and vulnerable. The American rom-com anthology web series, based on a weekly column published by the New York Times, explores themes of love (romantic, platonic, friendly) with a star-studded cast. The 30-minute episodes are standalone and easily digestible, which makes them the perfect viewing on a night like Valentine’s Day. 

 

Younger

What happens when Liza, a 40-year-old single mom, decides to be 26-years old in order to re-enter the working world and falls in love with not one but two very different men? An exciting journey through the world of publishing and heartbreak. As Liza tries to find herself, she does everything in her power to hide her true self from those she’s become most intimate with. It’s another whip-smart Darren Star creation!

 

Good Girls

Two sisters, Beth and Annie, along with best friend Ruby find themselves embroiled in a dangerous life of crime after robbing a grocery store. Beth, specifically, falls victim to a crime of passion with one sexy “gang friend” that pulls her further and further into his world. 

 

Elite

If Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars had a baby, it would be this Spanish-language drama. A private school becomes the scene of a murder after a clash between the rich and poor students. There’s plenty of sexual tension and unexpected turns as detectives try to narrow down the list of suspects. 

** Article originally published in February 2021**

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The Resident

Is Bruce Greenwood Leaving ‘The Resident’?

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After The Resident Season 6 Episode 9, many fans have been wondering if Bruce Greenwood, who plays Dr. Randolph Bell, is exiting the FOX medical drama.

While there has been no official word about a potential exit, it’s a fair question to ask considering the nature of his most recent storyline. 

In the latest episode—which aired on November 29—Bell, who found himself as the target of Governor Betz’s smear campaign, finally admitted to himself, and to his wife, Dr. Kitt Voss, that his MS is progressing. 

After Bell exposed Betz’s corruption while trying to secure funding for Chastain, Betz decided that the only way to teach him a lesson and make an example out of him was through revenge. Betz ordered a hit piece on Bell that painted him as a dangerous doctor to Chastain, which, in turn, tainted the hospital’s image. 

Of course, while some parts of it were true at one point in Bell’s career, it was largely exaggerated and sensationalized to paint him in a bad light, and it didn’t take into account all the work Bell has done to become a better man and doctor.

The stress of all the negative press caused Bell’s MS to flare up, triggering a variety of symptoms like a high-pitched ringing in his ears, seeing double, and dizziness, which made him realize that he was pushing off the inevitable.

This time around, instead of operating when he shouldn’t, he acknowledged that he no longer felt confident in his abilities, nor did he trust himself to perform any future surgeries. When he told Kit that he needed to go back to the clinical trial, it was a shock, but ultimately, she was supportive because she knew that’s what he needed. 

But what now? How will The Resident keep incorporating Bell’s character into the storyline? Will we just see him communicating with Kit from the trial in the same way we did earlier this season? Or will he slowly get phased out and written off? 

The trial could prove to be successful again, and all of Bell’s worries could have been for nothing. After he prioritizes his health and the whole thing with Betz blows over, it’s possible we could see Bell return to surgery for many more years—back to his previous glory. 

Losing Greenwood would be a huge blow to the series, especially since he’s been part of the series since its inception, however, it remains unclear which direction The Resident will go with this storyline.

Hopefully, we’ll find out in the upcoming season 6 finale, which is set to air on December 6, but as of right now, there’s no indication that Greenwood is exiting the drama.

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