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Since the era of Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement, black people were more visible and could be more outspoken — to a point, particularly if they were female. To illustrate this, sassy "Mammy" figures could scold the family they worked for and playfully berate their employers (so the authors could show that Blacks were not being oppressed). And because of the feminism movement, this was especially the case for black women. Combine these, and you get the sassy black woman. It started with the heroines of blaxploitation movies, like Coffy and Foxy Brown (both played by Pam Grier), and continued into the 1980s.
She's defined by her vivaciousness, humor and joie de vivre, and can make a good counterpoint to the more grim or snarky members of the cast. In complete contrast to her other variation, is not only a pleasure to be around, but is also so the go to girl for advice and help. These characters usually make good leaders, because though generally fun, insightful, they are still firm in decisions, trustworthy, and speak their minds. Also like the Spicy Latina, the character will usually be sexually liberated and have no qualms acting in a sexual manner, though usually in a less pronounced manner. The positive version is now portrayed a lot more than the negative version, mainly because of the Unfortunate Implications, that portraying black women in only this way had. It's also rather common for the positive variant to be the Only Sane Woman of a group, in which case her "sass" will be more like "exasperated sarcasm".
The odds that she's a Fag Hag are directly proportionate to her weight. Arguably the Distaff Counterpart to the Scary Black Man, though she can be quite scary herself when pissed off. Might also be a white character's Black Best Friend. Close cousin to the Spicy Latina.
There is a variation on this, more subdued but no less expressive: the regal Deadpan Snarker, who will often be well-spoken and articulate, with a more highbrow vocabulary and a regal, imperious manner of expressing herself, but still willing to toss subtle (or unsubtle) barbs and make herself heard. Perhaps the best known of this "African Queen" variation is the X-Man Storm.
Strong, Independent Examples That Don't Need No Trope! *snap*
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A fried chicken restaurant in Philadelphia invokes this trope by having the cashier be a sassy black lady who'll insult you if you take too long in ordering, amongst other things. The place has loyal customers, and tourists go just for the experience.
Implied in a commercial for Little Caesar's, where an off-camera woman (probably the one facing away from the camera) certainly has the right accent and attitude.
Man: No calling... no waiting...? THERE'S NO RULES! (starts taking off shirt)
Offscreen Sassy Black Woman: Put your shirt back on!
T'Challa's sister Shuri, and current Black Panther.
Vixen, even on her worst days is a sassy, level headed woman. Which led to interesting verbal conflicts with Amanda Waller, noted above, when they bickered at the time Vixen served in her Suicide Squad.
Queen Latifah in most of her roles. Hell, make that every female rapper who ever appeared in a movie.
Inverted in the start of Last Holiday. Georgia Byrd is shy and timid, and it's her petite (white) friend, Rochelle, that is constantly trying to push her out of her shell with antics like yelling her crush's name across the department store. Once Georgia's Character Development kicks in, though, this trope is in full swing.
Domino had a whole crew of bank-robbing sassy black women.
This was played deadly straight with the health insurance lady in 2004's Crash (played by Loretta Divine, another actress famous for this role). Granted, the way the racist policeman treated her, this wasn't "sassyness" so much as perfectly reasonable behavior. However, even the most enlightened viewer couldn't help but wince at the name "Shaniqua Johnson".
Wanda Sykes in any role she's ever played. She's a lot like this in real life as well.
Abernathy and Kim from the latter part of Grindhouse: Death Proof qualify, Kim more than Abernathy. And Jungle Julia.
The 2008 drama Fireproof has an entire posse of these characters working at the hospital. Of course, they spend an inordinate amount of time gossiping about the (white) heroine's love life.
Trixie's maid Imogene in Paper Moon is a subdued example; while she won't sass Miss Trixie to her face, she doesn't hesitate to perform small acts of subversion, such as recklessly tossing the bags right after Trixie warns her to be gentle with them.
Mammy from Gone with the Wind is awfully outspoken, especially considering the fact that she's a slave in the first part.
Lula in the Stephanie Plum novels is a fellow bounty hunter. She's a larger woman who wears tight, brightly coloured spandex, and tends to provide running commentary on what's going on. Her attitude can annoy Stephanie at times, but she's always there when the chips are down.
Older Than Print: Perhaps the most unlikely example of this is the eponymous Brunhild the Moor, official prosecuting attorney for the goddess Venus, in a 15th century German poem, Die Mörin, who spends most of the poem shamelessly abusing the author-hero, Hermann von Sachsenheim.
Ray Epps' wife in the novelization of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen fits this. Also a bit of a Crowning Moment of Awesome in that she managed to get the good guys a piece of very vital, hard-to-relay-without-getting-caught information under the guise of wanting her husband to pay for plastic surgery.
Kyra Davies from the Allys World series fits the trope, but is portrayed almost unwaveringly positively.
The Jeffersons: Florence Johnston (Marla Gibbs), who was outspoken and not afraid to speak her mind ... especially to her boss, George. Much of the humor came from the chemistry between Sherman Hemsley and Gibbs. To a lesser extent, Louise (Isabel Sanford) also stood her ground, particularly to George.
There was a Saturday Night Live skit about The View where "Barbara Walters" was calling out all the stereotypes that the hosts fit into. Star Jones was "a sassy black woman like I've seen on TV."
Maya Rudolph has been known to play this type of character. She tends to go beyond merely being "sassy" and just be downright rude.
Harriet Winslow, the elevator operator, in Perfect Strangers. Family Matters was originally supposed to be a show centering on her, since she was a particularly popular Sassy Black Woman. Itdidn'twork. Seems to be a family trait, because both Estelle Winslow ("Mama" Winslow) and Laura are textbook examples of the Sassy Black Woman Syndrome.
Heylia in Weeds. One episode begins with her busting Conrad's balls about something and segues directly into Nancy lecturing Shane. It's made clear that Heylia gives Conrad less space than Nancy gives Shane, even though Shane's eleven and Conrad's a grown man.
Two episodes of Frasier feature "Dr" Mary Thomas, initially hired as a part-time producer for Frasier's own show but whose witty interruptions, humorous asides and home-spun wisdom quickly come to dominate his show. Much mileage is wrought from Frasier's procrastination over putting a stop to this as he's terrified of being thought of as racist.
Clarice from Boston Legal - even though Clarice was just a persona (and costume) adopted by super-shy manClarence, Clarice was pretty much a stereotype of a sassy black woman.
Shirley in Community (when she's not overdosing on cute). Unlike most Sassy Black Women, she's quite well-rounded (especially for a half-hour Sitcom). Referred to as such in S01 E22 . "Oh No! Sassy Black Schmitty is out of the group"
Dean: Shirley. The voice. Can you make it more...I thought it would be more sssss...what's another word that means more "happy threatening?"
Shirley: The word he's looking for is "sassy." He better pray he don't find it."
From what little we see of Doakes' family (his mother and sisters) in the TV version of Dexter, they're all sassy.
One of the earliest examples on TV was Geraldine Jones, a recurring character played by Flip Wilson (in drag) on his 1970s sketch comedy show. She originated the expression "What you see is what you get."
Tasha Mack on The Game. In a rare display on this trope, she's repeatedly called out and mocked for her behavior. Though everyone who does is only doing it in jest, there is at least one example of her sassyness causing her multi-episode relationship to fall out. Tasha Mack is easisly the most negative version of this trope there is. Not only is she loud, she's also negative, jeolous, profane, ignorant, racist, over bearing, and generally a Bitch, as stated above.
Other Survivor alums of note include Sherea of China, Ghandia of Thailand, Candace of Tocantins, Yasmin of Samoa, and three-time competitor Cirie, though Cirie tends to be portrayed more often as friendly and sweet but quippy than outright sassy, and is also given considerable character depth.
Naonka of Nicaragua is one of the extreme negative versions, having taken an instant and vocal (to the Confession Cam) dislike to Jud (dubbed "Fabio" by his tribe, a male Dumb Blonde but a nice guy) and Kelly (who had her leg amputated at birth).
Mother and daughter Mary Lou and Ivy are both Sassy Black Women on Good Luck Charlie though Ivy has a bit of an edge on her mother since Mary Lou likes jigsaw puzzles and likes to sing "Row Row Row Your Boat" in German.
Cheryl, Kenan's mother on Kenan & Kel is fairly mellow but she shows signs of this in the episode where Chris moves into the house.
In "Kill the Messenger" we get a grandmother who's this.
Monday Mornings: One Patient of the Week from the pilot episode is an obese black woman, and very outspoken, sometimes downright rude. It seems she's a hypochondriac and a chronic complainer, but Dr. Napur, who is a surgeon and doesn't really have to deal with this case, pushes doctors into other tests or looking for possibilities. The sassy patient was indeed seriously ill. She thanked Dr. Napur for saving her life before the surgery, but was as outspoken and rude-ish as ever.
Belma Eugene Buttons and Tovah McQueen in the "Reality Check" sketch on Mad TV.
Liberty Washington from My Name Is Earl. Justified, as she is an Expy of her half-sister Joy. Liberty also exploits the trope: she is an aspiring pro-wrestler, and uses the trope as part of her Kayfabe persona. (Cue Crowning Moment of Funny when Earl is helping Randy to rehearse his lines by reading off Liberty's lines.)
Shirley from Mad Men, Peggy Olsen's new secretary who shows up in Season 7.
The band role of Scary Spice aka. Mel B of the Spice Girls.
Sister Chantelle from Bare: A Pop Opera The Virgin Mary who is also portrayed by her is played as this as well.
Sharmell Huffman, Booker T's wife, was this in her initial face persona. "Can you dig it, sucka" sounded so much better when coming out of her mouth. This made it all the funnier when, after Booker became King of the Ring, the two of them tried to pass themselves as Upper Class Twits.
Naomi Night on NXT season 3 who went so far as to call out Michael Cole. This was later flanderized at revived FCW in their latest effort to turn the fans against the popular wrestler, partnered with Tough Enough loser Cameron Lynn(previously described as a valley girl) for good measure. Never mind the attitude got Naomi over in the first place.
Jacqueline Moore, when she actually spoke, managed the cigar smoking, beer chugging, poker playing APA and joined in just as well. In TNA she was also with their carbon copies Beer Money Inc.
Jazz, who was inspired to become a wrestler after watching Jacqueline and was just as hammy and sassy.
Black Rose in the WWC, during her time she was with Booker T, Shelton Benjamin and Los Fugitivos anyway. Since being hand picked by Vinny Vince in the Pro Wrestling Syndicate La Rosa Negra showed heavy shades of it, having a put down or quip for almost anything that comes up, which at times have also been seen in her NWA run.
For that matter, Shelton's momma. She was pretty subdued when WWE showed vintages of Shelton's past growing up in a crime ridden area and his All American victories wrestling in the NCAA but when she became an onscreen character she was loud, boastful and constantly brow beat Shelton for all his shortcomings.
"The Queen Of Philly" Sienna Duvall, or back when she was really high on herself, Simply Divine. She loves her voice almost as much as she loves beating "divas" so expect to hear a lot of it.
The Kevin And Bean Show has Ralph Garmin playing a recurring character called Laquisha, a sassy, middle-aged black woman who reviews reality television shows. She basically expresses whatever Ralph's actual opinions are on the show, skewering the banal production and idiotic people, but with a funny voice.
ToeJam & Earl III features Latisha, who's a Sassy... Blue Alien, which is close enough, since she's from a planet whose hat is Funk/Hip-Hop culture.
Sagitta Weinberg/Cheiron Archer from Sakura Wars can be this at times.
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream has Ellen, whose sassy vernacular creates considerable cognitive dissonance in an incredibly bleak game about the end of the world. When confronted with a disembodied jumpsuit taking on the identity of her former rapist, Ellen calls him a "muthuh" and punches him out, to considerable Narm effect.
In Baten Kaitos OrginsHalf of Guillo's voice is composed of one, the other half being a Samuel L. Jackson sound-alike. This works rather well for Guillo's near constant snark.
Jade from Mortal Kombat can be a variation of this, especially in the ninth installment.
Especially towards the end of her run on the show, Loretta often came across as more "bitchy" or "surly" than "sassy". Donna (Tubbs) Brown, Cleveland's new wife on The Cleveland Show, is a considerably better fit. (Donna's daughter Roberta also fits the trope sometimes, but not always.) Donna justifies her behaviour, explaining that the circumstances of her life made this an inevitability.
Trixie in American Dragon Jake Long.note Odd bit of background on this one: the executives tried to tone her down, but most of her characterization came from her voice actress, Miss Kittie. The execs didn't have the sheer Balzac it took to ask a black woman to act less like herself to her face, and dropped the issue.
The Muses in Hercules fit this trope: especially Thalia, the short comic relief.
Lana Kane of Archer Sassy? Yup. Black-ish? Yuup. Can snap your neck with her man hands? Yuuuuuup!
Lance gets one of these as a driving instructor in Sym-Bionic Titan when he is trying to get his license. Hilarity Ensues as he has to not only keep her happy, but deal with the gang leader harassing him in the middle of the test, then the Monster of the Week trying to kill them. However, she has nothing but praise when Lance manages to survive all this and keep her alive in doing so, and passes him.
Mammy Two-Shoes of Tom and Jerry illustrates what this trope was like in the 1940's. Values Dissonance abound. (In the shorts show on T.V. now, they at least dub over her voice, making it more of a current example, just barely.)
Roger: What's goin' on? I can't hardly see! Hey Easter Island, move your fat head!
They made fun of the sassy black woman in the workplace stereotype. An overweight black woman named Lorraine, displays all the negative stereotypes in an extreme sense, resulting her throwing acid in Francine's face.