Black Women: Wise Best Friends To White Women Everywhere

So there's this trend. It's been going on for a while. The lead in a television show — or movie — is a white girl with some sort of problem. And when she needs to talk, she turns to her BBF: her Black Best Friend. Today's L.A. Times details the specifics: The BBF's job is to "support the heroine, often with sass, attitude and a keen insight into relationships and life," writes Greg Braxton. It's easy to watch the BBF in action — just check out The Nanny Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Ghost Whisperer, Alias, Ally McBeal, Felicity, Summerland and Private Practice, among others.

Yes, it's great to have black actresses getting work. But why are they stuck in the ghetto of second banana? A former studio exec who now works for TV One, a network targeted to black audiences, says, "Historically, people of color have had to play nurturing, rational caretakers of the white lead characters. And studios are just not willing to reverse that role." Well, when you think about it that way, it's like Scarlett O'Hara had Mammy — the BBF is the new house negro. Sigh.

Actress Aisha Tyler, who was the first recurring black love interest on Friends, became a BBF on Ghost Whisperer. (She's since left to work on her directorial debut.) "But I don't know what the alternative is," says Tyler. "I think the more roles there are for African Americans, the better. This trend feels like a consolation prize, but at least these roles are available. A lot of ensembles are not diverse at all, so if it's a shot, it's a good thing."

So which is it? Should black actresses count their blessings and be happy they get cast? Or should they hold out for more substantial roles? And what's up with all the sassy advice? Is it offensive how these women are all basically playing the same part — which involves them always telling it like it is?

Hollywood Loves BBFs 4-Ever [LA Times]