All That Glitters Gets Older
The L.A. girlfriends, Joan Clayton (Tracee Ellis Ross), Maya Wilkes (Golden Brooks), and Lynn Searcy (Persia White) are just as glamorous as ever in Girlfriends: The Final Season. However, the series that was once dubbed “the black Sex and the City” for its insistent sexual themes is now almost devoid of characters who wish to capitalize on their sex appeal. Comfortably situated in their 30s, the women of Girlfriends are simply not as randy as they once used to be. (For more on the sexuality of Girlfriends, please see my PopMatters review of Girlfriends: The Seventh Season.) As they return for an eighth and final season, it appears that Joan, Maya, and Lynn are getting older.
In Girlfriends: The Final Season, growing old is characterized by career success, engagements, marriage, and pregnancies. Aging also seems to correspond with a decrease in sexual activity. Despite the show’s decline in sexual content, however, there are still a few episodes that manage to humorously interrogate the characters’ sexuality.
“Adopt to Adapt”, for example, finds Joan missing her fiancée, Aaron (Richard T. Jones). A member of the National Guard, Aaron has been unexpectedly called to Iraq. When Joan confesses to honorary girlfriend, William (Reggie Hayes) that she has been fantasizing about other men, William refers to Joan’s longing as nothing more than an “itch”. This sets the stage for repartee on the benefits of “self-scratching”. Signaling, perhaps, a mellowing of character, Joan, who had no problem with “self-scratching” in the past, now finds herself unable to do so.
That the girlfriends aren’t as spry as they used to be is also the subject of “Save the Last Dance”. In this episode Lynn calls her friends out for being “old” because, rather than going out to party, one prefers to stay home and watch It’s Hip to Knit on television while sipping chamomile tea, and the other looks forward to a good night’s rest followed by an early morning excursion to Costco. To remind us of the characters’ more youthful days, the episode is full of ’80s and ’90s pop culture references, such as Morris Day, Taylor Dane and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In the end, Joan and Maya decide to meet up with Lynn at a nightclub and spend most of the night snacking on french-fries, while laying on a divan located in the middle of the dance floor.
Girlfriends: The Final Season also continues the series’ established tradition of touching upon political themes. Topics this season include the US occupation of Iraq, adoption, and going green, to name a few. There are, of course, requisite references to racial politics, as well. In “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find Out What it Means to William” William, who is partner in a law firm, is faced with subtle discrimination in the workplace. After his pregnant wife, Monica encourages him to stand up for himself, William decides that he will go one step further and quit.
Back at the office, however, William neither stands up for himself, nor quits. Though it’s clear that William is acting as a responsible father-to-be who doesn’t want to risk his family’s financial security, the resolution might cause some to wonder if William is a sellout. In any event, the message is that though much has changed in terms of race relations in America—despite socioeconomic advancement—African Americans still endure indignities on account of race.
In another racially themed episode, “What’s Black-a-Lackin’?”, Lynn comes down with a case of the biracial blues. The episode, which originally aired in February 2008, might well have been a reference to the 2008 presidential contest and conversations regarding the racial identity of candidate Barrack Obama. Lack of black authenticity is a charge commonly leveled against biracial black people, and it was certainly leveled against Obama during his campaign. In “What’s Black-a-Lackin’?”, Lynn is also found to be not ‘black enough’.
With her music career in full swing, Lynn has landed a record deal with Dirty Girl Records. Once signed, however, Lynn is contrasted with R&B singer, Chrisette Michele, who makes a cameo appearance as Dirty Girl’s newest talent. While Michelle’s recording is “fast-tracked”, Lynn’s career is put on hold because the company’s white executives are not sure how to market her biracial identity.
After the Writers’ Strike, Girlfriends: The Final Season was canceled. Consequently, there are only 13 episodes on this two-disc set. The special feature, “Away Game”, is the first episode of the television series, The Game, which revolves around the lives of NFL women. The brainchild of Girlfriends’ creator, Mara Brock Akil, The Game is a spinoff from Girlfriends: The Sixth Season. The Game stars Tia Mowry as Joan’s cousin, Melanie Barnett. Melanie is engaged to Derwin Davis (Pooch Hall), rookie NFL player for the fictional San Diego Sabers. The Game premiered in 2006.