Yooooooooooo, man. Abbie and Jenny got me feeling mad hype, and Ima need y’all to excuse me while I let this shit out.
So Sleepy Hollow—in addition to giving us two thoughtfully-rendered, fully-realized black female characters—is doing major progressive work by connecting the Mills Sisters’ narrative to the larger, less localized tradition of the Sibling Rivalry.
This is important shit.
'Sibling Rivalry' may sound trivial, but when you consider what role this particular trope has played in Western narratives, you can see how groundbreaking it is to be considered a part of it—especially on such an Apocalyptic scale.
The classic, Biblical example, of course, is that of Cain and Abel. But we also see it in Gawain and Mordred (Arthurian Legend), the modern adaptation of Thor in which Loki is Thor’s adopted brother, etc. We get it with sisters, occasionally, too; for example, with King Lear’s daughters and
10 Things I Hate About You The Taming of the Shrew with Bianca and Kate.
Obviously—and folks have already pointed this out—the contemporary example is Dean and Sam Winchester on Supernatural (and hell, even Damon and Stefan on the Vampire Diaries).
But now we have Abbie and Jenny, and they are perfect, because their narrative follows so much of the tropy goodness (the one who has her shit together vs. the one who doesn’t, the believer vs. the unbeliever, the one who stayed vs. the one who left, loyal vs. unloyal, etc etc), but it also does some major fucking truth-telling when it comes to black lives in America (and I don’t mean to be essentializing here. We obviously all have very different and personal struggles that sometimes overlap, and sometimes don’t).
But yeah, I’m talking about the One Who Made It/The Sell Out vs. the Still in the Hood Hustling thing. We see this shit so much on black television—Forman and his brother on House M.D is the one that comes straight to mind. Lord, how many times have we watched that scene where the Good Son goes to visit the Bad Son in prison?
"I’M TIRED OF HELPING YOU OUT. I’M TIRED OF BAILING YOU OUT OF JAIL."
"YOU FORGOT ABOUT US. YOU LEFT THE HOOD AND GOT YOUR FANCY JOB AND ACT LIKE WE AINT SHIT."
Wait. if I’m not mistaken, wasn’t this on Elementary, too? Am I making this up? We find out Detective Marcus Bell (the black one, obvi) has a brother whose been in jail and is kind of just barely getting by?
So, anyway. I don’t mean to make fun. But it’s kind of a thing on (black) television. As it should be. Class differences in the black community make this storyline especially relevant. Field Negro vs. House Negro shit. There’s this idea that any black person who is successful has made it because they’ve sacrificed some part of their selves to become a part of the Bourgeoisie and White Supremacy.
So when this story-line was handed to two black women, I mean, y’all,they could’ve fucked it up forreal, but they didn’t, and I’m still trying to process that?
What I like is that both Jenny and Abbie are right. I know that I, personally, can’t hold Abbie accountable for “abandoning” Jenny, because she was a child, and she was right. We all know that if Abbie had corroborated Jenny’s story, they both would’ve been institutionalized. The net effect of Abbie’s silence was that one of them was saved. I am all about black women being here for their own survival.
But of course, Jenny suffered unspeakable trauma (yooo, getting forcibly institutionalized aint no joke) simply for speaking the truth. Of course she is bitter, as she has every right to be.
I keep wanting to think about this in terms of real-life examples. Like in terms of abuse. What if, for example, Jenny had come out out being abused, and Abbie refused to tell because she was frightened? I think it’s easy to blame Abbie in that instance, but the reality is that the only one at fault is the abuser, and children cannot “enable” abusive behavior. They cannot be held accountable. Fear is a natural response to trauma, and we can only ever work through it at our own pace.
All that said, Jenny is still locked up, and Abbie got everything good coming to her~for her silence. She got Corbin. She got to become a police detective. She bought into the system, and it worked out well in her favour. Jenny, on the other hand, refused that option, and look where it got her?
It shows the two options black women often have: shut up and take it and try to survive, or refuse and be subjugated.
So I’m just saying, that’s some honest shit right there.
But hold up, it’s the motherfucking Apocalypse? And it centers (and I’m using ‘centers’ loosely—obviously, and sadly, Jenny is only a side character) around two black women’s struggle for survival?
To sum up, black women are allowed to be black women, but also, hold up, part of the Western history and tradition we’re so often written out of? Sleepy Hollow is essentially canonizing us. Hell, according to the writers, we’re in the godsdamn Bible, prophesied to be witnesses of the Lord.
Our local, particularly black struggles can be relevant on a global scale? Well, shit. That’s new.