Facebook is going through a bit of an identity crisis right now. Because of this, for many of my friends and me, it’s become a last resort in terms of social networking. I keep it to make registering for other apps, like Tinder, easier. It’s a place to keep up with friends from high school that you would never hang out with in real life, see the true colours of bigoted extended family members (unfortunately), and have spam sent to you on Facebook messenger from your mum’s friends.
And even though it feels like they’re rolling out new features every week, not many of them make the experience of logging in any better. So Facebook Watch, an innovative venture that puts content in the same place that an organic community can grow around it, launched and grew right under my nose. My favourite offering on it is Red Table Talk, the intimate talk show hosted by Jada Pinkett-Smith, her daughter Willow Smith, and her mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris.
On each episode of the show, which premiered on on May 7, the three women offer an intergenerational approach to a range of topics, many of which are directly related to womanhood. Pinkett explained what it was like to embrace her stepson, Trey Smith, and learning to get along with his mother Sheree Zampino. In another episode about struggling with loss, Willow admitted to practicing self-harm when she was younger. Sometimes Norris, who may be the most in shape 60-something on Earth, hates her thighs. On the fourth episode, Gabrielle Union was a guest so that she and Jada could bury a 17-year hatchet that they don’t know how they ended up holding. This week, Jada explained why she allowed Jaden Smith to be emancipated at age 15. Each episode takes a positive, self-help approach to deeper traumas. There are tears and there are laughs, and I love every minute it.
Red Table Talk is the show that keeps on giving. First, it is putting Black women into the self-help space. Black women, while expected to do more emotional labor than everyone around them, aren’t often allowed to legitimise themselves as authorities on self-help. Oprah is an obvious exception to this rule, and Iyanla Vanzant’s antics on Iyanla: Fix My Life are over the top and sometimes caricatured. Red Table Talk lets Black women of all ages be experts on their own experiences in a way that also lets them help others.
And then there is the sheer star power of it all. Jada Pinkett Smith is not just a Hollywood mum of yesteryear filling her time. She is an award-winning actress, known for iconic films from Set It Off to The Matrix. She is married to Will Smith, who is arguably one of the most successful actors in the world. Her children, Jaden and Willow, are also child stars who are influencing generations of young people to be themselves. Red Table Talk sits all of them, minus Will, down to be vulnerable. I can’t think of any reality show that was ever granted this kind of intimate access.
The show has a struck a perfect balance between sensational and real. It’s inspirational without being cheesy. These are things that I can rarely say about the rest of my Facebook feed. Finally, Mark Zuckerberg has given me a reason to remember my password.