Oprah has made one thing clear with the programming at OWN: She is heavily invested in Black love. The channel's lineup literally includes a docuseries called Black Love that sits down with Black married couples — some of them celebrities — to talk about what makes their relationship work. Watching people gush about how they met their significant others, what they love about each other, and the challenges they’ve faced that have made them stronger is both endearing and addictive. Love is also one of the foundational themes of the Ava DuVernay produced and directed show Queen Sugar. And no soap opera is complete with a bunch of messy love drama, so The Haves and The Have Nots fits right into this motif as well. The latest addition to Oprah’s celebration of coupledom is Love Is_, which tells the origin story of a modern-day “power couple.” The relationship at the center of this new show has become just as tweetable as the saga between Issa (Issa Rae), Lawrence (Jay Ellis), and now Daniel (Y’lan Noel) on HBO’s Insecure.
Currently four episodes into its first season, part of Love Is_ is set in '90s L.A. and tells the story of Nuri (Michele Weaver) and Yasir (William Catlett), two Black creatives who fall for each other quickly. Nuri works as a writer on a popular Black sitcom and just purchased her first home. Yasir is an aspiring director who is unemployed, late on child support payments, and homeless when he meets Nuri, the love of his life. However, Nuri doesn’t know any of this when they meet. In the present day, older versions of Nuri and Yasir (Wendy Davis and Clarke Peters) sit on a couch orating the origin story of the interesting courtship that led to their marriage. The show is basically a scripted version of OWNs Black Love.
Black Twitter is eating it up. Every Tuesday night, users are jumping on the #LoveIs hashtag to join the conversation. They swoon over the budding connection between Nuri and Yasir. They hold nothing back when expressing their disapproval of Nuri, a successful young Black woman, dating someone who is not financially supportive. They mull over the tragedy that is Ruby (Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing), the woman Yasir is dating and rooming with before he meets the one; some even going so far as to mock her when she wanted to get back together with him. Other commenters are frustrated with how poorly the show translates into dating today. Romance isn’t as romantic, the tolerance level for either half of a relationship not pulling their weight is much lower in our age of innovation, and the use of cell phones makes the pursuit of a lover far less dramatic.
To really understand Love Is_, you have to know its creator Mara Brock Akil. She wrote and directs the series that is based on her own relationship with her husband Salim Akil. Not only does Akil have the perspective of personal experience on her side, she has a track record of making shows that directly tap into the issues that Black women are the most passionate about. Akil worked as a writer on Moesha, and she created Girlfriends, its spin-off The Game, and the BET smash hit Being Mary Jane. Thanks to her expertise, Love Is_ is a damn good show, even if it is frustrating for millennials having a completely different experience with dating.
However, it doesn’t matter what circumstances, generations, or major networks influence them. Conversations about dating are always animated and engaging for Black folks. We are a community that is constantly swimming against a current of statistics and stereotypes that make Black love stories feel like stereotypes. Standing on a foundation of solid values about romantic relationships reveals more about us than our dating preferences. It’s a commentary on what it means to be Black people across the gender spectrum. We reaffirm our own understanding of Blackness when we say things like “I would never sacrifice my career for a man.” We revel in the opportunity to define Black love on our own terms. In that way, Love Is_ right on time.
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