Americans live on a steady diet of reality television shows, social media, and Hip Hop music. Whether you are young or old, Black or White, you are being exposed to themes and ideas that the media wants you to see; but are these concepts really accurate? Are all Black people really as extreme as the characters chosen to be on reality television shows? Do all Black people talk about the themes and ideas portrayed in mainstream Hip Hop culture? The answer to these questions is obviously “no,” and a woman by the name of Ericka Harden is ready to tackle these issues head-on with her new YouTube show entitled C.A.K.E. The Series.
C.A.K.E. The Series is an interesting satirical narrative written, directed, and produced by Harden. It’s constructive, very witty, and refreshingly entertaining. The show is about four secret agents from an organization called Covert Action to Kill Extinction (C.A.K.E.) and their ongoing mission is to change the messages and images that media promotes to the general public. For their first mission together, the four agents target an up-and-coming Rap artist named MC Komodo who has hit the mainstream market and taken the Rap game by storm gaining an untold number of fans and supporters. Their objective is to use the rapper as an instrument of change in their plan to improve the Black image.
“I started this project with the intent of giving everyone an opportunity to get involved in improving the image of Black people in mainstream media. My main goal is not only to get people to talk about it, but to find solutions to these problems,” Harden says. As an actress, she said she sometimes finds it difficult to find roles for Black people that aren’t stereotypical, and this in a way sparked her interest to research racism and how Blacks were being portrayed in the media. “Every time I see a casting call for a Black person, they always have to be a gangbanger or a drug addict or overtly homosexual. You always had to be the extreme. So I was like, let’s just do the complete opposite and create these characters that are dynamic with a purpose.”
As reasonable as it sounds to cast Black people in roles that do not portray them as extremes, historically it seems to have been an earth-shattering concept. How often does one find a show where the roles of the Black characters are not stereotypical in some way? The answer to that is almost never.
“I feel in my personal life, all those characters portrayed on TV, I don’t really run into them, ever. It’s not my normal and it’s not a lot of people’s normal. But for some reason they are becoming the poster children of who [Black people] are. I want to show that there are more dimensions to who we are.”
Not only does Harden aim to tackle issues in the media, but she also wants to focus on other aspects of Black culture such as the natural hair movement, treatment of Black people in the workplace, and the ongoing “light skin vs. dark skin” feud.