TV Review : Hulu’s ‘Queenie’ Offers a Brilliant Take on Navigating Your 20s While Birthing a Star in Lead Dionne Brown

Based on Candice Carty-Williams’ bestselling debut novel of the same name and adapted for television by the author, “Queenie” follows 25-year-old Queenie Jenkins (Dionne Brown, in a star-making performance), whose entire world is falling apart

Published Time: 06.06.2024 - 22:31:36 Modified Time: 06.06.2024 - 22:31:36

Based on Candice Carty-Williams’ bestselling debut novel of the same name and adapted for television by the author, “Queenie” follows 25-year-old Queenie Jenkins (Dionne Brown, in a star-making performance), whose entire world is falling apart. Following a massive blowup at her boyfriend’s mother’s birthday dinner, Queenie finds herself single for the first time in years. In the absence of a romantic partner, the assistant social media manager realizes that her career and familial connections are also hanging on by a thread. As she tries to navigate this new phase in her life, Queenie realizes she must face her strained relationship with her mother, Sylvie (Ayesha Antoine), and her own fragile emotional state to blossom into the woman she wants to become.

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“Queenie” opens in a gynecologist’s office in South London. As Queenie lies on the examination table, legs spread apart, she narrates her uncertainty and confusion to the audience as the doctors ignore her questions and concerns. Unfortunately, the racially tinged microaggressions Queenie encounters continue after the unsettling news she receives following her exam.Queenie’s thoughts and ideas are again cast aside upon reaching her workplace, The Daily Reader newspaper. Diving more into Queenie’s life, the audience finds a young woman desperate to achieve her personal, professional and romantic goals but lacking the emotional tools and proper coping mechanisms to do so. Smartly done, with witty, devastating dialogue, “Queenie” explicitly revolves around the hurdles that Black women encounter when navigating the world around them.

For years, Black women have lived with the Strong Black Women trope hovering over us.It’san idea that has done much more harm than good within and outside our community. Through Brown’s brilliant depiction and guided by showrunner and executive producer Carty-Williams (a rare role for a novelist), “Queenie”showcases the type of horrific damage that manifests not just in how the world perceives and treats Black women but also in the ways in which we understand ourselves. For Queenie, protecting herself when stepping out into the world has evolved into a disdain for physical touch, an inability to express her feelings, and her being drawn toward chronically unavailable men.

Still, the entire series isn’t cloaked in drama and hardship. Queenie’s connection with her Jamacian-born grandparents, Veronica (Llewella Gideon) and Wilfred (Joseph -

Marcell), is particularly delightful. After spotting her Playboy bunny Halloween costume in Episode 3, “From Virgin to Vixen,”their overly dramatic reaction is quite hilarious.Queenie’sclose bond with her precocious 15-year-old cousin Diana (Cristale De’Abreu) is also a breath of fresh air. Additionally, hearing Queenie’s narration throughout the show, which encompasses everything from her disgust over her new roommates’ lack of cleanliness and disappointing sexual encounters, are all ribboned in humor.

When Queenie makes frustratingly terrible decisions, the audience is willing to sit beside her because of the show’s realism. Not only does the series focus on rarely seen London neighborhoods, including the mural-covered streets of Brixton and its residents, but Queenie’s style (from costume designer Cobbie Yates) and her diverse friend group, including her bold and brash, purse-wielding bestie, Kyazike (Bellah), add a texture of authenticism to the story. This shines through despite the eight-episode season’s brisk pace.

As painful as it is to watch someone’s life implode around them, often as a result of their actions, the narrative never judges Queenie. Instead, it takes time to unpack how and why she’s struggling to stay afloat. Episode 6, “She’s Royal,”dials back to 1979. The chapter follows Sylvie’s coming-of-age, Queenie’s birth and the circumstances of her childhood that led to the mother/daughter estrangement. This section of the series gives the audience insight into Queenie’s familial and generational trauma as she begins uncovering the root of her inability to emotionally connect and express her feelings freely.

Heartbreaking but beautifully truthful, the specificity of “Queenie”makes it one of the most unique narratives about navigating one’s twenties on television. Dismantling the stereotypes generations of Black women have been forced to bear, the show resoundingly declares, as Sylvie voices in the series, “Being brave isn’t the same as being all right.”

All eight episodes of “Queenie” will begin streaming on June 7on Hulu.

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