Entertainment is a way to start conversations and have discussions about divisive topics in a way that breeds empathy. It can go a long way toward helping some people feel seen in their experience and helping others empathize with an unfamiliar experience through a character—which can then help them empathize in real life, with their family, friends, or even strangers.
Whether it’s with Everything’s Trash, podcasts, or my book imprint, Tiny Reparations, I always want to show the totality of the human experience. We’re living in a time where there’s a culture of, “I’m right. The way that I choose to live is the only correct way to live.” But I want to challenge that by asking questions: What about this? What about that? What are you not considering?
We’re all flawed, we all make mistakes, we all have things that are lovable about us, and we all have things that are infuriating about us. If we could all just admit that we’re human, and that we’re going to be wrong about some things, and that life can be messy and tricky, I think we’d be kinder to ourselves and to other people. And that kindness, I believe, would start to break down the pervasive attitude of, “Well, I’m right, and I know how everyone else should live”—whether that’s with reproductive rights or any other issue.
Speaking of kindness, my show is based on my 2017 essay collection Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay, and I think the “but it’s okay” part is crucial. When I wrote the book, I really just wanted to say, yes, things seem hard and heavy and insurmountable (my pre-2020 self was adorable), but, listen, we’re all a part of the trash. We’re all in some way contributing to it, whether that be big ways or small ways. So if we can acknowledge that, then maybe we can finally roll up our sleeves and do the work.
And while the work is important, we should also make room for joy. For Black women, in particular, I know how tough life can be for us. How society has a very limiting understanding of what it means to be a Black woman. How we’re not respected and treated as equals, yet we’re expected to save the day. And we’re also expected to represent all Black women. I want Everything’s Trash, which shows all different kinds of Blackness, to help Black women feel seen and heard, allow them to laugh, enjoy themselves, and have some levity in their lives. There’s a lot of, “Hey, Stacey Abrams, do this or do that” type of pressure on Black women, but can Stacey get a night off? Can she have some fun? Can she feel good? The onus shouldn’t be on us to just fix everything.
No matter how hard life gets, I want people—all of us—to always laugh and never forget that it’s okay to feel joy. When you’re in dark moments in history, it can feel like, “Is it okay for me to feel good right now? Is it okay for me to laugh for 30 minutes? Am I not helping if I’m feeling happy?” But part of making things better—whether that’s reproductive rights or racial inequality or any other social justice issue—is the allowance of joy; the allowance of feeling happy. Because if you can’t feel it, how are you going to spread it? How are you going to create it?
I hope that when people walk away from the show, they will be kinder to themselves, they will be more accepting of their mistakes and their flaws, and they will feel more comfortable laughing at themselves and being vulnerable—that they’ll give themselves the authority to be their fullest self and extend the same compassion and acceptance to others. In other words, everything may be extra trashy right now, but it really is okay.