Jay Z's All-Black 'Friends' Remake for 'Moonlight' Video Questions Diversity and Inclusion in Media
Jay Z continues to address black representation in media and more in his latest music video for “Moonlight,” off of his recent 4:44 album. Last month, Jay Z dropped the music video for “The Story of O.J.” from 4:44, which criticized Disney’s racist past through his animated visuals. A couple of days ago, Jay Z dropped the music video for “Moonlight,” which questioned diversity and inclusion in media through a remake of Friends, with an all-Black cast.
The music video starred many recognizable and talented, up-and-coming Black actors. Issa Rae from HBO’s Insecure, played Rachel. Tessa Thompson, from film Dear White People, played Monica. Jerrod Carmichael, from The Carmichael Show, played Ross. Tiffany Haddish, from Girls Trip, played Phoebe. Lil Rel Howery, from Get Out, played Joey. Lakeith Standfield, from FX’s Atlanta, played Chandler.
The music video, directed by Alan Yang, co-creator of Netflix’s Master of None, mirrored a scene from the episode “The One Where No One’s Ready,” almost identically. However, the music video served much more than just a recreation of Friends with Black actors. The video questions and brings black representation and positionally in media into the conversation. Friends aired on NBC for 10 seasons and took place in the incredibly racially diverse city of New York, yet there are almost no reoccurring black actors in the show, except for Aisha Tyler, who played Joey’s girlfriend, Charlie Wheeler, for nine episodes.
Living Single was a FOX show that aired a year earlier than Friends, in 1993. It featured an all-Black cast and follows the lives of six friends living in New York, similarly to Friends. Many may refer to Living Single as the “Black version of Friends,” when in fact, Friends is more like a white version of Living Single. Although both Friends and Living Single aired on major network television networks, the shows were treated much differently in terms of promotion and exposure.
"It's disappointing that we have never gotten that kind of push that Friends has had," said Yvette Lee Bowser, Producer of Living Single, in a 1996 LA Times interview. "I have issues with the studio and the network over the promotion of this show."
As the Friends scene fades out in the music video, Carmichael detaches from the set and slips into his own la la land as the Jay Z track drops. “We stuck in La La land/ Even when we win, we gon’ lose,” he raps, referring to the Academy Awards' fluke in initially announcing La La Land as the Oscar Award winner for Best Picture instead of Moonlight, taking the moment away from Moonlight's big win.
In that line, Jay Z is also essentially saying that even though positive things like Moonlight taking home the Oscar for Best Picture occur, Blacks and many other minority groups are still dealing with a lack of representation, misrepresentation, and stereotypical roles in film and other forms of mass media. And, even though segregation was abolished and deemed unconstitutional, the rise of mass incarceration as the New Jim Crow is becoming more and more problematic in America. We are still stuck in La La Land.
The music video was released on Tidal for its users on Friday (August 4) and will be available for all non-subscribers August 11.
Written by Kelly An