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Black Boss Lady

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There appears to be a growing trend for making the Da Chief the polar opposite of the old, white man he always was in the past. There's a new boss in town, okay? And the Cowboy Cop, or whatever smart-alec subordinate would need to watch out, because she ain't putting up with any of his crap.

The Black Boss Lady is characterized by being a Twofer Token Minority, both a woman and Black, in charge of probably mostly men in a stereotypically male profession. Right there, you know she's a badass because she must be so good at her job, that even any discrimination which might have been in her way due to either her gender or race was bulldozed flat in two-point-five seconds by her incredible competence.

Because the Black Boss Lady is good, or she wouldn't be where she is today. She's not afraid to take some risk if there is a decent chance of a worthwhile pay off. She presides over her organization with an iron fist, but she's also a Reasonable Authority Figure and will give the Cowboy Cop (or lawyer, or reporter, etc.) credit where it's due. At first she might seem like a hardass by-the-book type but inevitably they get used to each other, she reveals hidden depths, and the two give each other room to work and come to appreciate the other's strength.


When it comes to drama, her blackness is hardly ever mentioned, her femaleness being the main source of plot. This being so she won't have much of an Urban Accent or have many tropes stereotypically associated with blackness. She almost never slips into Sassy Black Woman, for instance. She's also usually very well-dressed, in a business skirt-suit or slacks (nothing even remotely risque), and it's not uncommon for her clothes to be somewhat masculine. Often she has managed to have her cake and eat it too (mostly) in that she has both a shining career and a family.

One could reasonably consider the Black Boss Lady to be the Distaff Counterpart to the Bald Black Leader Guy, though the main things they have in common are being black and being leaders (though there's technically nothing in the trope that excludes her from being bald too). Is also a subtrope of Da Chief, most of the time, though this trope isn't restricted to situations where she actually is Da Chief, she just needs to be the boss of whatever organization she's running, e.g. being a Stern Old Judge.



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    Comic Books 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the 1997 Contact, Angela Bassett plays the no-nonsense chief of staff to the president who is responsible for partially coordinating the roles of the scientists for contact with both the aliens, the press, and the president. She is always well-coifed and in a business suit, she plans the cover-up of how long Jodie Foster's scientist was actually out of contact and hence actually in space, and she is as firm and direct as she is competent and in control.
  • The Chief Judge in Dredd, whose meetings with the title character bookend the movie.
  • Carmen Ejogo as President Seraphina Picquery of the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
  • In Green Lantern (2011), Angela Bassett again plays the doctor in charge of research around the alien objects, technology, and biomatter. Despite tragedy in her background, she is competent and in control.
  • In HOUBA! On the Trail of the Marsupilami, Clarisse Iris is (not-so-)Intrepid Reporter Dan Geraldo's Mean Boss. All of her scene sets her up as a ruthless businesswoman.
  • Knight and Day: Isabel George, the CIA's Director of Counter-Intelligence fits this trope as she is DaChief, is impeccably dressed, and is a bit of a hardass. At the end of the movie, she explains to Miller (Tom Cruise), who is restrained in a hospital bed, that the agency will "transfer you to a secure facility tomorrow... for your safety". He stated earlier in the film that when agents say this to you it means that they plan to kill you.
  • In the Mission: Impossible Film Series, Angela Bassett plays Erica Sloane, the head of the CIA.
  • In Mr. & Mrs. Smith: Angela Bassett plays the boss of Brad Pitt's spy for hire.
  • In the Musicofthe Heart, Angela Bassett once again takes the lead, acting as the head principal of the school where Meryl Streep's music teacher gets a job.
  • Carla in My Super Ex-Girlfriend, who seems to have a quota of sexual harassment complaints to fulfill.
  • Appears in the Paul Verhoeven Starship Troopers film. Sky Marshal Dienes, a middle-aged white male, is replaced by Sky Marshal Tahat Meru, a Hawaiian. Her attitude and general demeanour speaks to this trope.
  • In 1986, audiences applauded when the captain of the USS Saratoga was revealed to be a black woman (played by Madge Sinclair) in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
    • She also played Captain Silva La Forge, mother of Geordi.
  • As noted above, Amanda Waller — played by Viola Davis in the DC Extended Universe — is the boss of Task Force X (nicknamed the "Suicide Squad"), a group of supervillains she assembles to do the government's dirty work in exchange for their freedom in both Suicide Squad and The Suicide Squad. If they don't obey her, she activates the bombs planted in their heads.
  • In the This Means War (2012), Angela Bassett - who seems to have cornered the market on these roles by and large! - plays the boss of the spy agency where Tom Hardy and Chris Pine work.

  • In Island in the Sea of Time and its sequels, Marian Alston rises from being a minor captain in the US Coast Guard who was about to be quietly retired (and whose command, she suspects, was largely due to her being a black woman rather than the Coast Guard's respect for her abilities) to the Commodore of the Republic of Nantucket's burgeoning navy.
  • Lucinda Washington, the editor-in-chief of the Chicago office of the Global Weekly in the Left Behind book series, and mother of Lionel Washington in the spinoff Left Behind: The Kids series. In the 2000-2005 Cloud Ten Pictures film series, Verna Zee filled the role of Buck Williams' boss, being a Composite Character version of herself and Lucinda.
  • Tortall Universe: Desk Sergeant Kebibi Ahuda from the first Beka Cooper book is this for the Jane Street Kennel.note  She gets Goodwin, one of the two best cops in the Lower City, to do what she says. When Beka is mocked for falling into a pile of fish the night before, Ahuda steps into the training yard and amply demonstrates that none of the other trainees are immune to such mistakes either. There's also her Badass Boast to a misbehaving criminal.
    "Here, I am Queen Bitch, and you will muzzle yourself."

    Live-Action TV 
  • This is a regular feature in series by Shonda Rhimes.
    • Miranda "the Nazi" Bailey in Grey's Anatomy, particularly in the early seasons when she is in charge of Meredith and the other interns.
    • Scandal: Olivia Pope.
    • Annalise Keating in How to Get Away with Murder, although she is much less polished than most instances of this trope.

  • America's Next Top Model is created and produced by Tyra Banks. She also serves as The Host and one of the show's resident judge.
  • Ms Janine Davies, the Human Resources Manager who is tasked with calling the boys at Caltech to order, speaking very plainly to them about behavioural lapses, and handing out disciplinary sanctions, in The Big Bang Theory.
  • Blindspot: Assistant Director Mayfair, the FBI higher-up with a mysterious past in charge of Agent Kurt Weller's team.
  • Lieutenant Laguerta in Dexter also fits the trope in everything except actually being African-American (she's Afro-Cuban though, so still black). At the start of Season 2, however, she was once demoted in favour of a female Haitian-American officer who proved unable to handle the job because of difficulties in her love life, which is something of a subversion.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The classic series has Brigadier Winifred Bambera and the new series has Captain Erisa Magambo, both high-ranking UNIT officers.
    • Liz 10 (Queen Elizabeth the Tenth), ruler of a future Great Britain relocated to a giant space whale in "The Beast Below".
    • "Hell Bent": The nameless Time Lord general, after her regeneration. (Since Time Lords name themselves, their name might actually be "The General," as much as the Doctor's name is, well, the Doctor.) She rocks a bald head, making her a Bald Black Leader Guy to boot! Well, not a guy anymore, but...
  • Downplayed by Helen from Drake & Josh, who is black, female, and the manager of the movie theater where Josh works, but is fairly incompetent and, even during her flashes of brilliance, consistently The Ditz.
  • ER:
    • A lot of characters answer to Dr. Angela Hicks.
    • The last season had Catherine Banfield.
  • Forever: Lieutenant Joanna Reece, Martinez' and Hanson's commanding officer at the 11th Precinct. Her culture and childhood come up in one episode about the true authorship of a jazz standard.
  • Colleen Manus, Regional Director for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida's state police, in The Glades.
  • Gotham: Capt. Sarah Essen, GCPD: The Captain of the Gotham City Police Department homicide squad and the boss of James Gordon and Harvey Bullock. At the beginning of season 2, she is promoted to Commissioner. Also Maria Mercedes "Fish" Mooney, a nightclub owner and mobster who leads a gang.
  • Hilariously parodied and discussed in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Dennis claims to be a master of impressions, so Dee challenges him to do C.C.H. Pounder (who, as noted by her many entries on this page, is one of the walking embodiments of this trope). Dennis repeats a line from The Shield—"GODDAMN IT, DUTCH! WHAT OTHER ERRANDS DO YOU HAVE US RUNNING FOR THE D.A.?"—and wins praise from Charlie, Mac, and Frank. Dee takes Frank to task, as he doesn't even know who Pounder is; Frank responds that, judging from the impression, her character is "a no-nonsense black broad from the precinct", which is a spot-on summary of the Black Boss Lady in fiction.
  • On Justified, when Chief Deputy Marshall Art Mullens is injured in the line of duty, he makes Rachel, the only black Deputy Marshall in the office, his interim replacement. It's made clear that he intends for her to replace him when he retires at the end of the year.
  • Lieutenant Van Buren, for many years Da Chief in Law & Order. Gets extra bonus points for being a full head shorter than every one of her detectives and still commanding their respect.
  • Luke Cage (2016): Inspector Priscilla Ridley, Misty Knight's commanding officer at the 29th Precinct. To a lesser extent, Captain Betty Audrey, before she's pushed out due to Rafael Scarfe's corrupt activities happening on her watch.
  • Lt. Tanya Rice, head of Dwight's Memphis city police squad in Memphis Beat.
  • Madeleine Hightower, the second boss the fictional CBI (California Bureau of Investigation) receives in The Mentalist.
  • Murderville: The tough, no-nonsense chief of the precinct, Rhonda Jenkins-Seattle, is a black woman played by Haneefah Wood.
  • In Odd Squad, the head of precinct #13579 is Ms. Oprah. She doesn't suffer fools gladly and is genuinely considered scary to some of the agents.
  • Roz from Raising the Bar, who is the cool, calm, and collected head of the PD's office and serves as a contrast to Balco.
  • Captain Claudette Wyms from The Shield. (C.C.H. Pounder again).
  • Sons of Anarchy: The DA. She typically hides her natural hair underneath a straight-haired wig but removes the wig when it's time to throw down.
  • There have been a number of black lady admirals and high-ranking officers on Star Trek: The Next Generation. None of them have been insane, either.
  • The Steve Harvey Show had Regina Grier as principal of the school the other main characters worked at or attended. Her secretary even frequently called her "boss lady".
  • Jessica Pearson, Harvey's boss and founder of the law firm in Suits.
  • On Supernatural, when Death is killed, he's replaced by the reaper Billie, a pretty, black lady.
  • Mrs. Frederick from Warehouse 13. (Also, every other role played by C.C.H. Pounder.)
  • Heylia James from Weeds definitely qualifies too.
  • Chief from the live-action Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? game show. Actress Lynne Thigpen was quite good at playing no-nonsense authoritarian types in general.
  • Without a Trace's Paula Van Doren, who unfortunately disappears at some point in Season 2 with nary an explanation.

  • The Adventure Zone: Balance: Madam Director Lucretia, head of the Bureau of Balance and the one who gives our protagonists their missions, is one of the few characters to have a canonically established ethnicity, described as a black woman in her mid-fifties with white hair. She's also a total badass and unquestionably the one in charge.

    Video Games 

  • Captain Safana in Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic. She's black, bald, and from the moment she gets introduced she makes it clear she takes flack from absolutely no one aboard her ship, whether they be royalty, priestesses, or wizards. And she's ready for the latter, carrying an anti-charm amulet making her immune to mind-control attempts.
    Captain Safana: Okay, listen up. Here are the rules on board this ship. I don't care if you're the kid of a sultan or a czar or a goddess. I'm in charge, I give the orders.
    I catch any of you priestess trying to "convert" my crew, you get out and swim.
    No magic gets practiced on board without express orders from me.

    Western Animation 
  • Professor Grace Granville in Big Hero 6: The Series is the no-nonsense dean of San Fransokyo Institute of Technology, and the authority figure Big Hero 6 most frequently interacts with.
  • Carmen Sandiego: The Chief of A.C.M.E. is an older black woman. Wears a snappy business suit and takes absolutely no attitude from uppity agents and crooks.
  • Zan Owlson in Ducktales 2017 is a black-coded owl lady who takes over as the new CEO of Glomgold Industries in Season 2. But after having to deal with Glomgold's childish antics along with the McDuck family's attraction for anarchic adventures, she quits and vows to become a better CEO. And by Season 3, she's the new mayor of St. Canard.
  • Grace Monroe in Infinity Train is the leader and prime founder of "The Apex": a cult made of trouble loving children who indulge in destroying the lives of denizens and the cars they reside in for their own amusement. She ultimately gives up the position after going through a season worth of Character Development and encourages her former subjects to reevaluate their lives for the better.
  • Amanda Waller, again, in the Justice League and Young Justice cartoons, as well as several animated films, as head of Cadmus and Warden of Belle Reve penitentiary respectively. From several other entries on this page, you might have already guessed that her voice comes courtesy of C.C.H. Pounder more often than anyone else.
  • The Principal in Sit Down, Shut Up.
  • Steven Universe has the current leader of the Crystal Gems, Garnet, who, despite being a non-organic being, is still coded as a black woman. And in Season 5, Nanefua, a Ghanaian Cool Old Lady becomes Beach City's mayor and remains in position for the rest of the series.
  • Bubblebee in Teen Titans (2003), a strong-willed and sharp teenage black girl, is made the official leader of the Teen Titans East Division in the end of Season 3.