Black sex icons of film and TV
Black sex matters! Damn right it does, and thank you Cindy Shepherd for your recent article on the subject that still, weirdly, needs to be highlighted (wake up 2019). Your points on historical injustices are disturbing - but I am feeling positive about the stats on more recent attitudes towards interracial relationships. I’m now thinking I’m super glad I wasn’t around and feeling sexually empowered in 1968.
There has to be a link to the lack of coverage of black sexuality within the general media and on-screen in relation to our identities and sexual behavior. I know Generation Z has grown up with more positive sexual imagery of black people in their lives, but broadcasting is still unbalanced.
The TV series Game of Thrones is the perfect example. When a fantasy fiction drama is set in an imaginary world, populated by many characters that could have looked pretty much any way the directors wanted, and they still practically all ended up looking white …. you know things really ain’t good enough still.
In a piece last month about TV boxsets and erotica our not-so-esteemed, but very nice LVH colleague Venice Walsh (Hi Venice ...digital wave) covered ten programs in some depth, with barely a black body in sight. Why was that? I asked dear Venice; her response was that despite additional research, she struggled to find many TV series that featured spice and erotica involving people of colour.
Is this really true today and over the past ten years? And has it always been so? Can Cindy’s thoughts on how our identity influences our sexual preferences also be applied to what we choose to watch and remember also?
I convened a panel of family and friends (that hilariously includes my Mum and Nana) that spanned a range of ages, genders, and outlooks. I asked them for memories and thoughts, from way back and from recent years, of erotic scenes and characters on screen, that involved black actors and actresses. The panel was predominantly white. Here’s what they loved.
Sidney Poitier - To Sir, with Love
My grandmother told me with relish that she’d rarely dreamt more about kissing any other actor (black or white) than Sidney Poitier. The film ‘To Sir, with Love’ was a moving story about an inspirational teacher that was pretty much devoid of sex and blatant erotica. However, Poitier’s Mr. Thackeray was, I have on good authority, the stuff of school girls’ dreams. Considering that Sidney Poitier got even close to being an international sex god during the late 60s was an amazing thing at that time.
Lisa Bonet - Angel Heart
Any of you viewers fancy Zoë Kravitz from Big Little Lies? Well her mum Lisa Bonet was radiating sexuality on screen, way way way before her. There were the moody sexy sister years in The Cosby Show (let’s not dwell), but it was her blood-spattered role in Angel Heart that made her an unforgettable siren of the movies. In this psychological horror, Bonet plays alongside Mickey Rourke, and their wild, gruesome and graphic sex scenes remain lodged in the mind of many a male cinema fan of the era. (Including my two older second cousins who won’t stop banging on about it now I’ve asked their opinion).
Jaye Davidson - The Crying Game
Everyone needs to watch this film. It’s hypnotizing and totally current for today’s more interesting and gender-fluid open-minded times. The previously unknown model and actor, Jaye Davidson, plays the role of Dil, an enigmatic and erotic character, who steals the hearts of a British soldier and a member of the IRA.
Idris Elba - Luther
TV program: 2010 - 2019 Idris Elba has no sex appeal. Said no one ever. Amongst the many gorgeous turns, he’s taken on-screen is the critically acclaimed Luther, a television detective who can set a pulse racing, even whilst checking out a somber murder scene. Has there ever been a more delicious bite-size piece of TV erotica than when Luther becomes entangled with the psychopathic and flame-haired Alice? No prizes for guessing that Luther is Mum’s favourite.
Nathalie Emmanuel & Jacob Anderson - Game of Thrones
TV program: 2011 - 2019
Yes, I’m going GOT, because two of the very few black actors in this epic cast of thousands gave us some of the most romantic scenes and best sexual tension of the whole eight years. Anderson and Emmanuel as Grey Worm and Missandei are worth including in this list of black TV sex gods, any day of the TV schedule.
Kerry Washington - Scandal
TV program: 2012 - 2018
Forget the later episodes and just enjoy the start of this very watchable political drama about a crisis management firm working with the White House and other political players in Washington DC. The lead role of Olivia Pope is played by Kerry Washington who brings incredible sexual chemistry to the storyline during her dealings with the President. It might fizzle out halfway through but it fizzles majestically for a good while!
Taraji P. Henson - Empire
TV program: 2015 - 2019
Before the Jussie Smollet scandal and the poor script writing that arrived in Season 3, Empire was a rip-roaring tale of a record label dynasty, and a smoldering ex-wife just out of prison. The show features many an exciting sex scene between characters, but it’s Taraji P. Henson in her part of Cookie, a ruthless, sexually empowered woman, who steals the erotica show.