I shouldn’t even be writing this article as someone who bounced on Sleepy Hollow in the middle of Season 2.
Why did I leave?
Well, I saw the “switch-up” coming when a slew of new writers were brought in for Season 2. Once they made their lack of regard for the black female lead character (and the actress herself) apparent, I saw no reason to stick around. Prior to their actions, it was evident that Abigail “Abbie” Mills, played by Nichole Beharie, was a vital character. She was a co-main lead, and she made an excellent “straight man” to Tim Mison’s Ichabod Crane.
However, what the show runners didn’t realize, or perhaps chose to ignore, was that “Ichabbie” would immediately become a thing thanks to the great chemistry between Mison and Beharie. Maybe if Sleepy Hollow had cast a better actress in the role of Katrina Van Tassel, or not made her some shadowy and inconsistent background figure for much of the first season, her presence in the second season wouldn’t have felt so forced…especially as show runners unapologetically attempted to push Abbie into the background to make more room for Katrina.
Things went so far off the rails producer Mark Goffman was run off the project and the character Katrina was killed off. Problem solved? No, because “shipper wars” and Mark (alone) were never the problem. If they were, I wouldn’t be writing this article right now.
The actual problem is that Sleepy Hollow was never created with the intent to draw the majority of its viewership from black (and especially black women) viewers. The producers refused to see Nicole as a star, and it showed during the Season 2 commentary debacle. Who the heck purposely leaves a show’s lead actress off of freaking DVD commentary?
Sadly, that incident alone was proof of just how little regard the producers had for the actress and her character’s popularity. It wasn’t until after black women viewers flexed their collective muscle that it seemed like Season 3 would allow the show to get back on track.
At least, that’s what I was hearing. As I said, I had no intention of watching Sleepy Hollow after dumping it; I already knew it was just a matter of time before the other shoe dropped and the writers showed their hand.
That happened tonight. Abbie Mills, after finally being allowed to briefly be a sort of love interest to Ichabod Crane was then inexplicably killed off. It’s enough to make you want to vomit — especially if you’re remotely familiar with what down with The 100’s Lexa.
I don’t want to hear about how “Beharie was leaving the show anyway” and how this made her character’s death inevitable. Nicole’s departure was made inevitable by the god awful and unforgivable way she was treated throughout the three seasons this talented actress was attached to Sleepy Hollow. I applaud Nicole for having the gumption to say, “Enough is enough!” and walk away before things got any worse.
I’m only sad she can’t make her feelings fully known without risking being blackballed, a tool often used to keep powerless groups in line in Hollywood — even while actively treating them like third-class citizens.
Since the streets aren’t exactly paved with roles for black women actresses, Beharie’s decision to leave represents a huge risk. Knowing this, I can only imagine how upsetting her treatment must have been behind the scenes for her to fight so hard to get away from the show. I certainly doubt the producers will ever acknowledge their role in her departure. Doing so would require giving a damn about the cornerstone of their series in the first place, and they’ve failed to do so time and time again.
Unfortunately for Fox and the Sleepy Hollow’s show runners, the deliberate failure to care about black women actresses and audience members is something that’s about to bite them in the rear BIG time.
Some producers continue to underestimate the power of black women TV viewers. It’s very cute to watch these people court their viewership, often by dangling the “interracial relationship” carrot. Once they see their series as established, these producers then throw black women viewers and their ratings power under the bus.
Yet, it’s never safe to anger black viewers; they happen to watch more TV than any other racial group. When they decide to leave, they leave hard, and shows have been decimated in their wrathful wake.
Since this isn’t a series finale, and the show runners claim they have “more stories to tell,” allow me to laugh out loud at the egotistical assumption that the writers can just off Abbie Mills and then go on to have a successful fourth season run. Ratings were shaky as it is, and they really think this will be the move that brings the series success?
Um yeah, good luck with that!
I wonder if they’ll go the “replacement black woman” route if the ratings situation proves especially dire. Since black ladies aren’t interchangeable non-persons, further insulting the intelligence and dignity of an audience they’ve clearly been in a rage to get rid off certainly wouldn’t bode well.
In any case, stick a fork in Sleepy Hollow now; the series is D-O-N-E!
Dear Fox, I know you guys hate black women when we aren’t in shows that feed into negative Jezebel, Sapphire, or Mammy stereotypes, but maybe you should learn to like us. At least, if you don’t want our collective absence to tank shows like Sleepy Hollow harder than the Titanic hit the ocean floor.
Just a thought.
[Image via screen grab from Television Promos/Fox]