The Importance of Angela Moore...
... And the revolution of her relationship with Shawn Hunter, as well as the importance of interracial dating, and its depictions in our popular culture.
This article is under the assumption that you as a reader are familiar with the TGIF 90s "coming-of-age" show Boy Meets World.
Honestly, I don't even know where to begin. But I guess I first just have to say that if you are reading this, then can we all agree that Angela Moore was one of the most important black characters of the 90s, and the baddest baddies of all television time?
This Donna Karan purse borrowin', Shakespeare Sonnet readin', Vivaldi's Four Seasons listenin', Van Damme movie watchin' QUEEN swooped down into the very white Boy Meets World world, and captivated the heart of teen heartthrob Shawn Hunter. THE Shawn Hunter. Mind you, we black girl households spent FIVE WHOLE SEASONS watching Shawn bounce from white girl to white girl only to be floored when episode seven of season five rolled around, and Shawn is seen on a date with Angela ending his supposed two week relationship with her at the top of the episode.
Michael Jacobs. What are you doing to our hearts?
And THEN, to our surprise, they stayed in a "will-they-wont-they" main and canonical relationship for the rest of the series (until their bullshit breakup at the end but that's neither here nor there.) What is here, however, is that this interracial relationship on a popular television show was so goddamn influential and groundbreaking that it has us still talking about it. Or at least thinking about it.
Now, in this article I'm not glorifying the interracial dating experience as a "better" one. Not at all. It's just that often us black girls watching TV get dogged out so badly when it comes to canonical on-screen romances by show-runners simply not giving us anything. And since television is still a white dominated medium, our roles in these white lives are "side kick bestie" at best. (*cough BONNIE BENNET cough*) But somehow, show creator Michael Jacobs found Angela necessary and didn't at all shy away from the fact that Angela and Shawn were a strong item and the first true love of Shawn's life.
Angela Moore was a black girl in a white boys world and was completely UNBOTHERED and UNAPOLOGETIC. Unfortunately, yes, Angela was still a token on the series but in terms of the series letting Shawn and Angela exist at all, that was the shocker. But due to moves like these, I feel that Angela's presence helped shift and change the attitudes of our dating habits, and in this case, interracial dating habits.
On again and off again, these two. But we loved it so much.
Unsurprisingly, according to the 2010 PEW Research Center, "The Pew Research Center’s recent report on racial attitudes in the U.S., finds that an overwhelming majority of Millennials, regardless of race, say they would be fine with a family member’s marriage to someone of a different racial or ethnic group. Asked about particular groups to which they do not belong, Millennials are about equally accepting of marriage to someone in any of the groups tested: Roughly nine-in-ten say they would be fine with a family member’s marriage to an African American (88%), a Hispanic American (91%), an Asian American (93%) or a white American (92%)."
I'm not giving Angela Moore all the credit for this study, but the overall outward attitude for interracial dating has relaxed significantly from 1967, when interracial marriage was officially declared legal in the US thanks to the Lovings. Even the Willis couple on The Jefferson's was deemed controversial, and they appeared on the overtly racist All in the Family seriesin the 70s as well.
Fun Fact, that's Lenny Kravitz's mom.
But it seems that when it comes to black women on television, and their white counterparts as of late, there doesn't seem to be much progression. If Jacob's could safely establish this in the 90s, then why is it hard to keep this established today? Sure, we had Olivia Pope's scandalous relationship with Fitz and Jake (#TeamJake) on Auntie Shonda's Scandal. But that was crafted beautifully by a black woman herself. Whereas Bonnie Bennet and Abby Mills had every waking opportunity to dominate their series with the handsome white leading male, and yet were shafted in the end. And Michonne is of course poorly handled on The Walking Dead, and is observed to be "constantly assaulted and manhandled with seemingly very little concern shown for her well-being" (Movie Plot).
I'm not saying that Angela Moore's time was perfect on Boy Meets World. If anything, it ended up playing second fiddle to the main relationship of the show, Cory and Topanga... but so did literally EVERYONE, so I can't really complain. And what has always been clear for Shawn is that his toxic early upbringing to relationships made it hard from him to trust and be loved. How many times did Cory and Shawn fall out because of Shawn's emotional unavailability or inability to deal? But Jacob's made sure that Shawn as a character had an equal that could help keep Shawn's pain at bay, and even though we would have loved to see Angela permanently with Shawn, she courageously took time apart from him to avoid her own sinking ship in his fragility.
I would have paid serious money to have seen Shawn and Angela on a spin off series of their own, or would have at least appreciated that their relationship brought up in Girl Meets World had maintained its integrity. Alas, Michael Jacobs fell into today's pitfalls of the treatment of black female characters, especially when it comes to potential or teased interracial pairings of their leading white counterparts.
As far as I'm concerned, this is not canon.
Angela Moore was representation for me. She also let me know that it was ok for me to love that white boy that I had in grade school. (And yea, he ended up being my first). But I honestly wonder, if I hadn't seen Angela, would my first have existed in his white way? And since then, I've happily dated within and without my race, and I'm currently in an interracial relationship right now. But as many black men have comfortably stepped out of their racial bounds, and have sought out women that don't look like us, Angela Moore let us know that we could take that step too, and even potentially land another heartthrob elsewhere. And as for black female characters in television and in movies, Angela Moore, in my opinion, was well-treated, well-loved, and well-respected. She mattered.