The Black Best Friend (BBF) is a figure common in Western literature and, particularly, film and television. The BBF is often a nondescript, unremarkable character who serves as a sidekick, accomplice, or colleague to the main characters who are the focus of the story.
The Black Best Friend’s purpose is thought to be to create diversity and inclusion, and be more reflective of the ethnic make-up of many Western societies. This is supported by the fact that the BBF doesn’t have to be black; the Asian Best Friend or the Hispanic Best Friend is also shown. Whatever their specific ethnic background, the BBF is always the only non-white character or one of few in a larger cast, and always plays a supporting role to white star of the piece.
While the apparent reason for the inclusion of the BBF in popular culture is to create diversity and inclusion, just by being present the BBF highlights the difference between themselves and the main characters. In a crowd of all-white characters, the BBF seems like the odd one out and is more noticeable as a result. The most glaring characteristic of Black Best Friends, however, are their lack of character development.
The BBF, being merely an accent to the main character, lacks any true personality. Often the character’s background and interests are simply excluded from the story, or given little attention. In these cases the character is made to be as similar to the main character as possible — other than their physical appearance, they are portrayed as “just like everyone else”.
Other times the character is a walking, talking stereotype of their racial or ethnic group. Thus the Black Best Friend is often bossy or uses improper English, the Hispanic Sidekick is sassy and has an accent, and the Asian Friend is good with math or electronics and socially awkward.
The Black Best Friend or Nothing?
From one view, the Black Best Friend and related figures highlight the lack of interest and thought of creators of popular culture in characters who don’t fit the majority population. On the other hand, at the very least, with the BBF there is some representation of non-white groups — it is a start. The alternative for the present seems to be to completely exclude minority groups from popular culture.
So is the Black Best Friend better than nothing at all? If the Black Best Friend ever evolves to become a whole, not-so-stereotypical character with their own thoughts and interests other than serving a secondary role to the main character, that could come to be the case.