While Black women are expected to nurture and take care of others, we aren’t allowed to be lonely for ourselves. We aren’t supposed to have our own needs. And we’re supposed to like it even without the expectation of anyone else providing emotional support for our benefit. Loneliness isn’t something that Black women are supposed to experience in our day-to-day lives while we are busy being superwomen for everyone not falling under the category of Black times woman. We’re most certainly not supposed to be introverts. So what happens when you find yourself a Black woman possibly in middle age coming to terms with loneliness in your life and reconciling it being an introvert lacking the skills to secure your social circle for your later years?
I first heard of this film when I still lived at home with my dad and had access to satellite television including the Reels channel where film critic Leonard Maltin had a show. If I remember correctly, he mostly liked the film and the performances of the two leads, Wyatt Cenac and Tracey Heggins. Honestly, I can’t see a film lover not enjoying this film. But I wasn’t able to see it back then in 2008. In fact, I only saw it for the first time a few years ago, probably around the time the film’s lead Wyatt Cenac left The Daily Show. I most definitely had the DVD by 2015 when I decided to include the film as part of my retrospective of Black representation in film 100 years after The Birth of a Nation.
Before we begin, I need to issue a content warning for anyone who might be a bit sex repulsed as this show contains a short discussion about sex and sexuality.
I love this film unironically. I find it genuinely funny with a heartwarming ending. And I also find a type of Black girl representation we rarely get to see in film. There’s so much I love about Jessica James that I decided this month I should try to unpack it. Maybe then I can stop watching it every day and stop immersing myself in this world that feels so much like an impossible aspiration yet almost heartbreakingly familiar. So here is an incredibly spoilerific discussion about The Incredible Jessica James.
Before I begin this episode, I must warn that there are possible spoilers throughout the essay. And also a content warning for some discussion of assault and possible domestic violence.
I rediscovered something from the favorite author – and also realized Kindred was no longer my favorite book. The Healing was, even more so than Corregidora. As I said, I still feel the same way about both these books, about the protagonists Ursa and Dana whose worlds were brought to life so beautifully in these works. But with The Healing, I began to figure out what it was I loved about Jones and why I felt drawn to her, why she felt like the writing foremother I needed to continue on my own journey. And so now, 20 years after the release of The Healing, I want to pay tribute to Jones and this work of hers that has become a guide for something I want in life as well as my goals as a writer.
*Please forgive inconsistencies in audio quality. I’ll get a new headset as soon as possible.
When I think about joy, I often conflate it with happiness or contentment, seeing them as the same thing without any clear distinctions in what they are or how they function. While I think it can be said that happiness is fleeting or intermittent and contentment is more of a constant, it’s difficult to place joy within or outside this spectrum. I think it might be fair to say that joy is synonymous with bliss or elation, at least interchangeable with each other at a basic definition. But maybe the distinction comes at the cause.