Comedy, Blackness And The "Pursuit of Sexiness"

Comedy, Blackness And The "Pursuit of Sexiness"
 

If you haven't heard of web series Pursuit of Sexiness, you're missing out. Starring SNL's Sasheer Zamata and Girl Code's Nicole Byer, the six episode first season focuses on the two besties living in NYC and, you guessed it, getting sexy.

Comparisons to Girls are pretty inevitable, but truthfully, the show reminds me more of Comedy Central's newest show, the brilliant Broad City; which itself started out online. It's less "self-conscious, over-earnest examination of life and love" and more "shameless pursuit to get laid at all costs." It's raucous, funny, and completely bananas.

I'm not going to pretend that the stars' blackness doesn't impact my enjoyment of the show. It does. It matters greatly to me to see two dark skinned black women, one of them plus-sized, unabashedly take charge of their sex lives. Byer's character is delightfully inappropriate, spending the end of the pilot desperately trying to coax her date's penis into a satisfactory erection. Zamata's character spends the pilot dropping increasingly obvious hints that she's more interested in her date's financial prospects than his company.

For all the writing I've done about the lack of presumption of sexual agency for black women, it's incredibly refreshing to see two black women; women who look like me; move through their sexual interactions unencumbered by the racial micro-aggressions that most black women are far too familiar with. In Zamata and Byer's universe, neither Sasheer's natural hair or Nicole's body are obstacles that must be overcome. They are simply parts of the people that they are; mere footnotes that accompany their whole.

I also love the way that the show tackles the intersection of black female sexuality. Zamata's pretense at modesty and Byer's lack of shame are played for laughs, but not in a way that scapegoats their blackness. Byer's character in particular calls to mind an essay I wrote last year about Jill Scott's character in the film Baggage Claim.

 As terrible as that film was, (it was very terrible) I found Scott's characterization to be an fun subversion of the usual "oversexed black woman" trope.

 

"Normally, the idea of yet another hypersexualized black female character would irritate me, but this was different. We have very specific narratives for how we interact with black women in the media. We get the Jezebels, and we get the Mammies. The Jezebels are sleek, sexy and can't keep their legs closed. The Mammies are overweight and asexual; never the twain shall meet. But with Gail, we have a voluptuous woman, who is very sexual, and not even a little bit ashamed of it. It was refreshing for me to see a plus-sized black woman engage with men sexually onscreen, and not be the subject of derision."

"[...] There's no disgust, there's no incredulity. This man is depicted as being just as sexually interested in Gail [Scott] as we the audience might expect him to be in Montgomery; read, skinny women. I think that's the a huge deal, no pun intended. Too often, plus-seized women are excised from the pool of sexuality for no other reason than the fact that they aren't thin, when the fact remains that being overweight doesn't mean that your libido evaporates, or that you're no longer desirable."

Byer applies the same idea to her character in Pursuit of Sexiness, to hilarious results. I appreciate that the show doesn't make the women's size or blackness a caveat to their attractiveness or potential desirability. Not to mention, the show is fucking funny! But to be fair, I'm pretty corny and it doesn't take a lot to make me laugh. Check out the first episode below and decide for yourself.

But honestly, hilarious sexual exploits aside, what I love about this web series is the same thing that makes me love Broad City. At the end of the day, it's about two best friends navigating their early-twenties in a way that is relatable and hilarious. The two women are different enough to provide varying perspectives, but alike enough for their friendship to make sense. They alternately serve as the voice of reason, and get into completely pointless hijinks that serve only to reinforce the strength of their relationship. Like "fucking shit up" at a consignment store that won't buy their Los Old Navy clothing. They're silly and carefree and raunchy, and that means a lot to me as someone who doesn't often get to see representations of women who look like me and reflect my experience. It's also pretty fun to see that Kenan Thompson had to eat his hat on those ill-advised comments he made last year.

Honestly? I'm only annoyed that I didn't find the show sooner, and that both Zamata and Byer are now so thoroughly mainstream that they might not have time to film a second season!