Power, the recently premiered Starz drama, is only two episodes in and people already feel some type of way about it (if you haven’t seen the show yet there are plenty of reviews to help you decide if it’s worth your time). What I want to focus on here is not the show as a whole but the leading lady, Tasha St. Patrick.
Brought to life by Naturi Naughton (Notorious, The Playboy Club), Mrs. St. Patrick is a character that I was particularly excited to learn more about. As a Black woman who loves to see Black female characters on screen, I was thrilled to see the various sides of Tasha St. Patrick. Critics have already thrown the character under the bus for her seemingly limitless love of power and her desire for her husband to maintain his kingpin status.
Of course my immediate reaction to those critiques was to defend Tasha and reflect on the character’s portrayal up to this point. Although I can see where the critics are coming from—it’s easy to come to these conclusions with what we’ve been given in two episodes—I believe the character will be revealed later in the series as more nuanced than most reviewers give her credit for.
With the introduction of characters Olivia Pope and Mary Jane Paul in recent years my standards are set pretty high for how I like to see my sisters portrayed on screen. I’ve come to experience the full spectrum of emotions when dealing with these fictional characters—from compassion to disgust, from disappointment to pride—and yet I’ve accepted them because they felt real and they had multiple dimensions.
In the first two episodes we have yet to experience the complexity of Tasha St. Patrick. What makes her tick? What drew her to Ghost? Why does she love the dark side of the law? Why did she choose to be a housewife to a known drug kingpin over her own pursuits and dreams? Did she have other pursuits? It’s clearly too early in the series to tell if we’re going to get more development of Tasha St. Patrick, but I want to throw out into the universe a few things I want to see happen with the beautiful yet troubled mob wife.
First, I want her to get out of Black woman trope territory. With her unexplained love of money and seemingly endless desire to please her man so that she can maintain the life she’s accustomed to, St. Patrick is dancing pretty safely near the Jezebel image—a sexually uninhibited black woman who threw herself at every man she came in contact with. Particularly in the scene where she gets so frustrated at being ignored by her husband that on the ride home she masturbates in full view of the chauffeur who is somewhat of a mentee to Ghost.
We also see an appearance of Sapphire–the inexplicably angry and emasculating trope that has been used to dismiss the voices of Black women for almost a century now–when Tasha lambasts Ghost for wanting to leave the drug game behind. She centers her entire argument for him not going straight on the loss of income such a change would cause. The only reason we don’t completely believe she’s a money-hungry shrew is because she admits to her best friend that the balling lifestyle she’s become accustomed to isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Another hope is that we the viewers come to love Tasha. I want to love Tasha the way I love Olivia and Mary Jane. Even when they make decisions I don’t agree with or let their emotions get the best of them I still love them because they are vulnerable and they remind me of the Black women who raised me.
I want background on Tasha. I want to know why she thinks the way she does and why she believes the life she has is the one she was meant to live. I don’t want her to simply be the girl who was with Ghost shooting in the gym but who he never quite loved as much as he did his high school girlfriend—who basically left him without looking back, keeping his love for her in her back pocket. Basically I don’t want her to be Mellie—who we had to wait three seasons for any type of serious character development and, even still, most only pity her at best.
Lastly, I want her character to stand on her own and not just be Mrs. St. Patrick. I wouldn’t mind her making a few mistakes and making a few rash decisions as long as she does them for her and not just to spite Ghost. That’s what made the masturbation scene so uncomfortable; her sexuality was reduced to something that was simply a tool to get back at her soon-to-be unfaithful husband.
I understand that the show is centered on James “Ghost” St. Patrick and in no way am I begging for the show to be solely about Tasha. Yet, it is very possible to have deep and fantastic development of secondary characters (Orange is the New Black you the real MVP for that one) and I hope that we get to see a well-rounded leading lady in Tasha St. Patrick.
I’m excited to watch what happens with Tasha St. Patrick throughout this and the next season. I will be watching Power with a critical but hopeful eye.