When I hear people insist that the only healthy model of romantic relationships is one geared towards marriage, I know that it isn’t true. When I hear women freaking out about their age as a barrier to them finding true love, I know that it is not. Growing up, I had plenty of examples to prove it. When statistics report that Black people are less likely to get married than other groups, I know that part of the story is missing. It does not mean that our communities do not engage in meaningful and creative ways to love one another and build families. Queen Sugar knows this, too, and they show it in one of my favorite onscreen relationships.
As the surviving sister of the late Ernest Bordelon, Aunt Violet is the default matriarch of the family. She is unmarried and has no children of her own, but showers Nova, Charley, and Ralph Angel with the same affection one would give their own kids. The easy trope for Violet to play into would be that of the desexualized mammy — an older Black woman who isn’t eligible for love, romantic pleasure, or companionship. Luckily for us, the powers that be behind Queen Sugar know better. What we get instead from this character is a passionate love story that defies the conventions of traditional relationships in the best way.
Hollywood is Violet’s much-younger boyfriend. They have been together for years and love each other fiercely. This season their relationship is being tested by the demands of Hollywood’s job as an oil rig worker, which requires him to be away for months at a time. Last week’s episode ended with Violet and Hollywood flying into each other’s arms after an explosion on his rig made Violet fear for his life. This week, the close call has gifted them with some much needed alone time. With the stamina of a couple half their age, the two can’t keep their hand off of each other and spend a few days in a hotel to catch up. And in another act of loving compassion, Hollywood agrees to quit his job in order to save their relationship.
Violet and Hollywood’s relationship is not framed as an exceptionalist narrative of love after a certain age. It is normalized as one of the many alternatives to the fairytale that men and women should get married and have children by 40 in order to be successful at romance, and in life. It is a reminder that there is work to do at every stage of a relationship and that it is the love that you have for your partner that defines success; and nothing else.