Netflix’s ‘Uncoupled’ Is Diversity Queer Sitcom ‘Will & Grace’ Couldn’t Be

Growing up, I I didn’t have the verbiage to describe my sexuality, nor did I have characters on TV that I saw myself reflected in. Life would have been a little easier if there had been a performance that affirmed my existence and gave hope that my future held security and happiness. . With time and experience, I have found the words to express myself and my expectations for relationships, but not everyone will, without cultural images and representations of queer love that make us feel seen.

The new Netflix series “Uncoupled,” starring Neil Patrick Harris (as the recently heartbroken Michael Lawson) and Tisha Campbell (his colleague and tried friend, Suzanne), tells the story of a Manhattan real estate agent who gets brutally dumped by his 17-year-old partner. The abrupt breakup and crushing fallout happens from the very first episode, setting the tone for Michael’s journey of “starting over”: dating a gay middle-aged man in a big city, and all hell and healing. who accompany him.

As a gay black man, I often compare dating over 34 to deliberately participating in more exciting and vicious hunger games (the odds may or may not be in your favor). Watching Michael sail is both funny and poignant, but the plot isn’t the only draw. What strikes me most is how the series is reminiscent of “Will & Grace,” but more racially enlightened. Unlike its much whiter predecessor, “Uncoupled” features black actors playing recurring and meaningful roles.

After Michael’s confusing breakup, he is comforted by Suzanne, a moronic, black single mother who is sophisticated, cultured, and obviously comfortable in her own skin. Also among his entourage are Michael’s two friends, Billy, a Black TV weatherman played by Emerson Brooks; and Stanley, a voluptuous art dealer played by Brooks Ashmanskas. In each episode, the black actors actually get the main character’s energy on “Uncoupled” — and it comes to life.

Sean Hayes in Jack McFarland, Megan Mullally in Karen Walker, Debra Messing in Grace Adler, Eric McCormack in Will Truman in “Will and Grace”.

Suzanne and Billy’s prominence on the show goes against the unfortunate norm of black characterrs being employed only to sprinkle comic relief into the plot through minor roles. On “Will & Grace,” with few exceptions, the black characters were often devoid of any kind of substance and/or character development. Think, for example, of “Family Matters” mom Harriette Winslow, played by Jo Marie Payton, who made a few one-minute appearances on “Will & Grace” playing Mrs. Freeman, Will’s boss’s assistant. She is described in this “W&G” fan portal as “the sassy assistant”. Sigh.

On “Uncoupled,” the black characters are front and center and multidimensional. They show a breadth of darkness despite the overly sensationalist lens that Hollywood tends to use. I’ve had a lot of Suzanne and Billy in my life and seeing that displayed on screen was an affirmation and just, well, a more realistic queer-in-New York representation.

Although he doesn’t appear in every episode, André De Shields’ character Jack also resonated with me because he was an older black gay man who went through all the trauma and healing that we We faced and the past and came out the other side triumphant in many ways. Jack is single and lives in a house in Gramercy Park that I’m sure I would have to sell several organs and pieces of my soul to afford. He lived life. As an eldest, he has no regrets and wants nothing more than to live his life comfortably until his time is up.

“Will & Grace” attempted to incorporate a black elder by the name of linus in one script, but, alas, he was only in one episode for a good 10 minutes. If you’re not an avid fan, you’ll barely remember his presence. Jack’s character combats Hollywood’s racial erasure in several ways. He is a black homosexual who successfully reached old age, with wisdom and compassion to offer to the younger generation.

Black members of the LGBTQ+ community deserve to see themselves on screen, and not just as a fun sidekick. This representation can help do the healing work that their families may not be capable of. The black characters in “Uncoupled” are imperative when it comes to showing these kids that there is life outside of a world they’re used to. We need more accurate representations of darkness in full range because it gives hope in what still feels like a world that hates us. Could we finally turn a corner? May the odds always be in our favor.

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