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Dear Netflix: Adapt These Queer Black and Multicultural Romances

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Jessica Pryde

Contributing Editor

Jessica Pryde is a member of that (some might call) rare breed that grew up in Washington, DC, but is happily enjoying the warmer weather of the desert Southwest. While she is still working on what she wants to be when she grows up, she’s enjoying dabbling in librarianship and writing all the things. She can be found drowning in her ever-growing TBR and exclaiming about romance in the Book Riot podcast (When in Romance), as well as on social media. Find her exclamations about books and pho on twitter (JessIsReading) and instagram (jess_is_reading).

A (somewhat) recent diversity audit reported on by CNN revealed that Netflix could use a little more Latinx content. That article also revealed that researchers had noticed that Netflix was low on content centering Native/Indigenous/First Nations people, content centering disabled people, and content centering LGBTQ characters. (Note: this research was on Netflix original content, not film and television acquired from other studios.) They’ve actually made significant progress featuring Black main cast members in their programming, going up from 16 to 22 percent in just a couple of years. Of course, some of those are movies like Set It Up or Love Guaranteed, in which one Black love interest is the only one for miles. Or if it’s an adaptation of a book, it’s one like Bridgerton in which the original material had no Black people as far as the eye could see. And when it comes down to it, while I enjoy those stories and all of the other love stories Netflix has thrown my way, I don’t find what I’m really looking for: romantic stories (complete with an HEA) centering queer Black folks. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there aren’t any. (Sure, they don’t come up on my random scrolling, but since my quest for romantic stories all about the HEA has made it so my algorithm is full of Korean and Filipino romances and romcoms… :shrug-emoji:) But for the most part, I can find one or two of those things, but not all of them. And they’re definitely not by queer creators. 

(And look. Sure. Ryan Murphy can basically get anything made. I’ve joked about it before. A lot of his properties have queer Black people in them. But there are definitely blind spots in his ideas, and honestly I just want Black creators involved from the top down when it comes to stories centering Black people. Especially queer Black people.)

So Dear Netflix: Please adapt these romance novels by and centering queer Black people. I promise, we’ll all watch the shit out of them.

Standalone Romance Novels to Adapt

cover of Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon

In Treasure, Alexis and Trisha meet at a strip club — in a meet cute to end all meet cutes, Trisha gives Alexis a lap dance at a bachelorette party, and then they run into each other in class. Romance and STEM ensue. This one is perfect for a feature; it’s not very long and can definitely be wrapped up in 90 minutes of excellent storytelling. 

Also. Campus romances are what the people want! We’re all marathoning Felicity and reminiscing about the days of dorms and crushes and classmates. This is the perfect time to give us a new college classic.

(P.S. once people get their hands on her Cowboys of California series, they’re going to be looking for more Weatherspoon. I know it. You know it. Be ready, or even ahead of the game.)

Things Hoped For by Chencia C. Higgins

When Trisha moves to Houston to make a new start, the last thing she expects is to fall into a relationship with one of the city’s up and coming underground artists. But the two women can’t get enough of each other, and hopefully that’s enough as Xeno’s star continues to rise.

A romance featuring a queer rapper/hip-hop artist? From Houston? I mean, hello? Perfect timing, Netflix. The original music you could come up with would bank you several cents from Spotify and Apple Music. Or something. 

Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon

We need more book club romances on screen, amirite? Jordan runs a romance book club. When he’s buying the next batch of books, he meets Rex, the new jerky bookseller with uninformed opinions on romance. But then Rex shows up at book club. 

I know, right? This is another one that would be a great feature-length production. It has whippy, smart dialogue and a story that could use the medium well. They’d have to build out some of the internal conflicts, but you know what? That’s what they get paid to do.

Romance Series to Adapt

The Spies Who Loved Her Series by Katrina Jackson

Pink Slip by Katrina Jackson

Starting with Pink Slip, The Spies Who Loved Her (and the spin-off series The Spies Who Loved Him) takes us into an agency full of very excellent spies and…well, the people they fall in love with. Sometimes, they’re part of the mission, while other times, they’re fallout. Some stories wrap up in one novel while others take a few different stories — perfect for a writers room looking for a long project to pull from for several episodes. 

While not all of the characters in these books are queer and/or Black, this universe was made to be serialized. And since Katrina is still writing them, we’re set to have something new pop up for a long time.  

The Brown Sisters Trilogy by Talia Hibbert

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Starting with Get a Life, Chloe Brown, the Brown Sisters trilogy takes us through journeys of love and self-discovery for each of the three sisters, Chloe, Dani, and Eve. (Oh my God. I just realized their names are alphabetical. Just now.) Each one could be a feature, a la To All The Boys, or we could go all out with 8-episode seasons. Shoot, bring the folks from Skybriar and Ravenswood in, too. Have one of them have a royal visit with Cherry Neita. Do it all, because Talia deserves it.

So technically, Dani Brown is the only one who verbally identifies as queer, but I’ll allow it, because these women deserve to be on the screen. This, a British property featuring Black Brits by a Black Brit, would be a great draw for the folks yearning for more British accents on their screens. (And honestly? Adjoa Andoh would be a great Gigi.)

The Dreamers Series by Adriana Herrera

American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera

This series of four books centers four queer friends from the Caribbean, all with different Black, Latino, and Afro-Latino identities. The first in the series, American Dreamer, is about a Dominican food truck owner dreaming big and making eyes at Jude, a local librarian who regularly comes to buy food and flirt. All four of the books deal with love, friendship, family, identity, and social justice.

And hey, let’s just throw Mangos and Mistletoe in for a treat. We need another cooking competition story up in here. 

The Reluctant Royals Series and the Runaway Royals Series by Alyssa Cole

cover of Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole

This is another series that does not feature a full cast of queer characters, but out of the five novels and two novellas, there are five Black women who verbally identify as queer, so let’s do this. (Also, Alyssa herself is queer, so anything she creates is technically queer, yeah?) Starting with A Princess In Theory, this series and its spinoff series introduces us to people with power learning how to deal with it, and other people figuring out how to get their shit together. It’s great for a nice, long series. With the location jumping (and the countries that don’t exist) featured in the longer novels, it might cost a little more than the other features, but we’ve seen what you can do, Netflix.

(Helpfully, A Princess in Theory has already been optioned by Frolic, so you just go…deal with them.)

As a bonus, how would you feel about doing with Meaty etc. what Hulu (and Samantha Irby, actually, lol) did with Shrill? Just a nice, ongoing series about a fat Black queer woman with a chronic illness and some maybe life goals, finding herself and maybe even falling in love (or at least, finding a partner.)

And while they’re Older YA, I could really do with the ace rep in two very different books:

  • A Sound of Stars by Alecia Dow, which would definitely need to have the author on board in order to skate the colonizer/colonized line as well as she does. And a big ass CGI budget.
  • If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann because yes. 

This is obviously not an exhaustive list, just a few things I’ve actually read that I’d love to see translated for a whole new audience. 

So yeah, Netflix. There are people out there making amazing Black queer romantic content. All that we ask, is that you represent them well, with dignity and honor. Don’t be HBO. We want happy stuff. Give it to us. It’ll be worth it. 

(But I was serious about Ryan Murphy.)

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