Gina Prince-Bythewood’s choice to center these themes around a young Black couple shouldn’t feel as revolutionary as it does. But when you consider that “universal” is too often conflated with “white,” Love & Basketball feels like such a turning point in the romance genre. It was certainly a turning point for me because, for a moment, Black love and romance, as told by Hollywood, weren’t mutually exclusive.
Sex positivity, for instance, is frequently presented in an oversimplified, inaccurate package of rampant promiscuity and generally assigned to a side female character, like a free-spirited best friend or sister. Meanwhile, the main character frequently serves as the antithesis to said behavior who is later rewarded with “true love.”
Because he doesn’t display the same aggressive temperament (he’s actually rather sweet and nurturing) nor does he have a similar function as the rest of the group, his value is regularly questioned and his masculinity is nearly erased. Walsh broaches this issue in the second episode of the series, “Frozen Yoghurt,” when Egan flippantly claims that the famous bag is full of lip balm: “Everything you say to me is emasculating.” And it’s true!