So what is a pilot presentation?
Because that’s what Twenties is. Creator and producer Lena Waithe has made it very clear that her latest project is NOT a webseries.
Hattie, the protagonist of Twenties, has a similar reaction when a friend calls her show a “video diary.” Unabashedly self-inspired, Twenties reminds me a lot of Girls, but about a queer black girl and her friends. This isn’t surprising considering Waithe said she was inspired by “An unhealthy relationship, Lena Dunham, and my friends” in an interview with Indiewire. She continued, “I didn’t write this pilot just because I wasn’t seeing myself on television. I wrote it because it was a story I needed to tell.”
Twenties is a pilot presentation because it’s a story still looking for a home, a place willing to bet money on American audiences watching a show about a queer black girl and her friends. As you might suspect, this is not an easy task.
“A lot of networks read the script and loved it, but they either thought there wasn’t an audience for it,” Waith said, “or that it already existed. Of course I became extremely frustrated because I knew neither of those things were true.” And thus, Waithe and a team of experienced producer—namely Queen Latifah, Shakim Compere and Shelby Stone—cobbled together pivotal scenes from the Twenties pilot to show, rather than tell, people what they were all about.
The Twenties pilot presentation comes in 4 parts, the 4 most important scenes from Lena Waithe’s pilot. Hattie is an aspiring entertainer determined to make herself a star via an online show. In part 1, Hattie records and episode of “Hattie’s Humble Opinions” and we quickly learn how Hattie presents herself to the world: a bubbly, entertaining, and insightful young woman well versed in witticisms and pop culture. We also notice she is being evicted.
Part 4 is a phenomenal climax to snippets of a great show. Hattie, shaken by life’s instability, breaks down on camera. Instead of talking about reality TV and spitting one liners, she allows herself to face the world unvarnished. Her desire to appeal is temporarily overshadowed by her need to express. In the end, it’s Hattie’s confusion and incompetence that appeals to people because people in their twenties are to various degrees confused and incompetent. In her moment of weakness, Hattie accidentally gets what she wants.
In a move I deeply respect, Lena Waithe is not asking for you to help fund her project. “I don’t want your money,” Lena said. “There’s no Kickstarter or IndieGoGo attached to this project. All we want you to do is commit to sharing Twenties with twenty of your friends. The more you spread the word the better chance we have of getting it on TV.” So now I’m sharing Twenties with all of you in hopes that we’ll see a queer woman of color starring in a network TV show.
Twenties isn’t just for gay black women, it’s for gay people, black people, any people who aren’t straight and white. I’m so sick of TV expecting audiences to only relate to straight white people. I’m sick of straight white stories being the only stories told. And I’m exhausted from being told that while LGBTQ audiences should relate to straight protagonists, straight audiences couldn’t possibly relate to a gay one.