I got this black chick that don't know how to act
She's always talking out her neck, making her fingers snap
She says, "Listen, Jiggaman, I don't care if you rap
You better R-E-S-P-E-C-T me"
, "Girls, Girls, Girls"
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*
open/close all folders
- 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!
Man:' (backpedaling) THERE'S ONE RULE!
- Amanda Waller
- One of Black Panther's Dora Milaje (personal bodyguards) was a Sassy Black Woman, introduced giving The Hulk a Character Filibuster about social injustice.
- 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.
- Natasha Irons, Vaporlock, Steel's niece.
- Ant, or possibly sassy girl, it is hard to tell.
- Misty Knight, mainly because of her no nonsense attitude.
- Anissa and Jennifer Pierce (Thunder and Lightning), the daughters of hero Black Lightning.
- Raquel Ervin, Rocket from Icon.
- Bumblebee from Teen Titans and Doom Patrol.
- Agent 355 from Y: The Last Man.
- Whoopi Goldberg in many of her roles. Sister Act for example.
- Any role played by Mo'nique. (Except in Precious, in which she won an Oscar for playing one VERY SCARY Evil Matriarch.)
- 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.
- The impound lot attendant in Dude, Where's My Car?.
- As has Set It Off (Including Latifah again).
- 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.
- Effie White in Dreamgirls
- The Chorus Girls from Little Shop of Horrors, and their Expies, the Muses in Disney's Hercules.
- The Dynamites and Motormouth Maybelle from Hairspray. Extra points since the latter is played by Queen Latifah in the latest film.
- In National Treasure, Abigail meets one while hiding from a goon.
- Possible early example: Annie the maid in It's a Wonderful Life, who certainly wasn't shy about speaking her mind. "I heard it; it's about time one'a you lunkheads SAID it!"
- Mammy, as played by Hattie McDaniel, from Gone with the Wind. She does such an awesome job as Mammy that she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar that year. What a character.
- Hattie McDaniel reprised that exact role for Song of the South.
- Jackie Brown, by Quentin Tarantino. The film is a throwback to movies like Coffy and Foxy Brown and also stars Pam Grier as the epononymous Jackie Brown.
- Rosario Dawson has been called by some the Y-Generation's Pam Grier.
- Terry from Angels Revenge.
- Dre's mother in the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid.
- Tyler Perry's Madea.
- Ronnie's wife in Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later.
- An odd variation, in Psycho Beach Party Chicklet's second Split Personality is one of these... even though Chicklet is a white surfer chick.
- DEBS has the team's leader Max.
Who's your best friend? Amy: You
are my best friend. Max:
And what did I say to you the very first day at the Academy? Amy:
That's my bunk, bitch
- Honey, Frozone's wife from The Incredibles.
- Maggie from Thir13en Ghosts, who spends most of the film being a complaining and ineffectual baby sitter but accidentally saves the day in the end.
- Most of character actress Jennifer Lewis' roles fall into this category.
- Jesus's girlfriend Chita in Next Day Air is this trope crossed with Spicy Latina.
- 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.
- Topsy and Cassy from Uncle Tom's Cabin.
- 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.
- Jessica in the Betsy the Vampire Queen series. Also the heroine's Black Best Friend.
- 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.
- Ardelia Mapp: Clarice's roommate at the FBI Academy in The Silence of the Lambs
- 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.
- 3rd Rock from the Sun further combines this with Sassy Secretary, and Nina is the result.
- Tara, the Black Best Friend from True Blood.
- Noah's Arc: Similar to the Lafayette example above, the feminine, outspoken, sassy Alex fits the trope flawlessly.
- Deputy Raineesha Williams from Reno 911!
- In Ugly Betty, Ignacio's case worker is a sassy black woman who falls in love with him, much to his chagrin.
- Mahandra from Wonderfalls.
- 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. It didn't work. Seems to be a family trait, because both Estelle Winslow ("Mama" Winslow) and Laura are textbook examples of the Sassy Black Woman Syndrome.
- Patti in Eli Stone (also a Sassy Secretary).
- Willona Woods of Good Times - the Trope Codifier.
- Helen of Drake & Josh.
- Nurse Laverne Roberts of Scrubs. (mmmmmmmhmm!)
- Invoked and discussed in "My Best Friend's Mistake" when Carla and Laverne lecture J.D. on why he is not allowed to give attitude.
- Rochelle, the mom, from Everybody Hates Chris. Tichina Arnold's character on Martin was pretty much the same.
- 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.
- Original Cindy on Dark Angel.
- The Chief from Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? is a non-Jive Turkey-ing version of this. Lynne Thigpen was good.
- Rosita from the 2008 Doctor Who Christmas special.
- Queen Nefertiti from the episode "Dinosaurs On A Spaceship" is a more regal example, but can hold her own with the Doctor and the Ponds in the banter department.
- Destiny in One Life to Live; one of the more positive examples as he was introduced as a Foil/girlfriend for Matthew just as he's going through a very grim plotline.
- Prosecutor Caroline Julian on Bones, in all her scene-stealing glory, is very much this.
- Saaaaaandra Clark on 227.
- Regina and Lovita on The Steve Harvey Show.
- Mercedes, of Glee.
- Bunifa Latifah Halifah Sharifa Jackson on MADtv
- The hosts of Reality Check and the mother from That's My White Mama.
- Rose, of LOST.
- 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 man Clarence, 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."
- Angie, Tracy Jordan's wife on 30 Rock, is one in spades.
- Marion Moseby's niece Nia in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.
- Roxy from Hannah Montana.
- Judy, Robert's partner on the police force in Everybody Loves Raymond, is an example of this trope.
- Monk had Sharona get a friend from her creative writing class to replace her temporairly while she was suffering from a murderer's plot to make her think she was crazy.
- Basically everyone on Girlfriends at one time or another, but mostly Toni.
- Mrs. Freeman, Will's boss' secretary on Will and Grace
- Aunt Viv on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, although more when she was played by Janet Hubert-Whitten than when she was played by Daphne Maxwell Reid. Never as much as her sister Helen, played by Jenifer Lewis:
Aunt Janice: (about her white fiance) I guess I was hoping...no one would notice?
Aunt Helen: Honey, who'd you think you was bringin' him home to, Stevie Wonder?
- Roz of Night Court partially subverted this, being, basically the Scary Black Woman. She was more of a Deadpan Snarker, but could be quite sensitive and shy compared to Cloudcuckoolander Bull.
- The Parkers are made of Sassy Black Women.
- 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.
- Maxine, Khadijah, and Regine, from Living Single.
- The black women on Reality Shows tend to be of this variety, especially those on MTV. It's hard to find black female roommates/contestants who don't fit this stereotype.
- Gladys from Road Rules: Latin America stands out in particular, as she was booted early in the show for fighting.
- Alicia Calaway from Survivor is a notable example. This famous scene pretty much exemplifies her sassiness.
- 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.
- Rocky onThe New Normal.
- Raven from That's So Raven though it got cranked Up to Eleven when she guest starred on The Suite Life as the same character. Loca from Alana's Girl Posse manages to be both this and a Brawn Hilda as well.
- Dr. Curtis Brumfield from Body of Proof is a Sassy Black Man.
- Dr. Lanie Parish is very much this.
- 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.
- Donna on Parks and Recreation.
- Teddy's best friend Ivy on Good Luck Charlie, and Ivy's mother to a degree.
- 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.
- Bloody Mary from South Pacific is an example of this trope before it became popular. She speaks in You No Take Candle, but she's very spunky!
- The character is supposed to be Polynesian rather than "black", but the role is often given to an African-American actress because in the US at least those are easier to come by.
- Queenie from Show Boat, originally portrayed in blackface.
- Maria from Porgy and Bess.
- Little Shop of Horrors has three of them, Crystal, Ronnette, and Chiffon, who serve as the show's Greek Chorus.
- Sophia from The Color Purple. She even has a song titled "Hell No!"
- Sister Chantelle from Bare: A Pop Opera The Virgin Mary who is also portrayed by her is played as this as well.
- In Shrek The Musical, Dragon's singing voice often sounds like one.
- 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.
- 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.
- Shelton's momma. She was pretty subdued when WWE showed vintages of Shelton Benjamin'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" in 2005, 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.
- Amazing Kong is silent more often than not in Ring of Honor, TNA and WSU, for sample, she was mostly silent. In many other promotions she only spoke Japanese. Her first and especially her HUSTLE gimmick were just goofy, but sometimes, such as in NWA\Zero 1, she was very much this trope, even starting a political campaign to get an NWA World Heavyweight Title shot, arguing that being a woman was the only reason she wasn't immediately considered. Her sassy black woman side came back out in SHINE after she saw Jazz get screwed out of a SHIMMER title match.
- Naomi Night in WWE's FCW revival. On NXT season 3 she 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.
- Black Rose in the WWC, during 2010 with Booker T, Shelton Benjamin and Los Fugitivos De La Calle 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.
- Epiphany was more of a cackling brute, condescending bully in Ohio Valley Wrestling or a no nonsense wrestler after a Heel-Face Turn, but became a straight as imaginable example whenever she had to deal with the antics of her boyfriend, "white kryptonite" Eddie Diamond, in public.
- 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.