PAUSE with Sam Jay is a wholly different type of talk show.
During the interview with Sam Jay, after the screening, she explains that all of the talk show participants are friends of hers. The scenes dart between informal and semi-staged interviews. The show is a half an hour collage of these interviews, which follow different elements of the Black queer experience. Sam Jay speaks with friends who are astoundingly ignorant about gay people in conversation with Black queer friends. PAUSE concludes by reenacting the homophobic legend of a naked basketball games staged in the Hollywood Hills.
Sam Jay is primarily concerned with the Black queer experience. An experience she calls, “Niggasectionality.” As a black person, it’s hard for her to relate to gay culture, which characteristically reflects white queerness. Although she acknowledges homophobia in black culture, as a Black queer woman, she pushes back on the narrative that Black people are somehow extra-homophobic. She goes as far as to say that she is actually more comfortable in straight black clubs than in queer clubs, which are predominantly white. This sentiment is immediately cheered by the other queer people of color both on screen and in-person during the screening.
The parts of the show where Sam Jay eschews gay culture for black culture draw applause from the crowd. It’s important to ask why race is more of an essential identity than something as taboo and persecuted as sexuality. Gay people were not allowed to exist in the western world for the last fifteen-hundred years, but in the United States this shared experience doesn’t erase race. This country was founded on principles of white supremacy making the Black-white divide primordial. This division even affects Sam Jay’s perspective behind the screen. She describes the feeling of being in disbelief that HBO not only gave a Black, gay woman this show, but also that they extended trust to her creative vision. In response to the last question of the interview Sam Jay says, “I feel like I snuck into the club, so I’m just drinking bottles until they throw me out.”
Last year, Ibram Kendi published a piece in TIME magazine, proclaiming a new Black renaissance. Abbot Elementary about Janine Teagues, a Black woman, is being renewed for a second season on ABC. Ziwe, another black woman who started her show on Instagram live, was offered her own show on Showtime. I May Destroy You is another HBO show about a Black woman’s experience dealing with intersectionality and rape culture. All of these bluntly address race in ways which confront white people. I highly recommend all of these shows, in all of their stylistic diversity. PAUSE brings a highly unique, funny, and intelligent addition to what Kendi has accurately proclaimed “the third great cultural revival” of African Americans, a revival that will feature queer Black voices at its helm.