The P-Valley Affect
Updated: Sep 19
Photo Cred: Dorothy Attakora_Gyan
I saved this post for Virgo season because Virgos are known for their perfectionism, and P-Valley feels like big Virgo energy (think: Beyoncé-perfect-work-ethic-type vibes. Though it also gives big Scorpio energy too, I digress).
Like the show, maybe don’t watch this if you’re not older than 18.
Even some of you grown folk are still too immature for this content and topic. You might find it and I, insulting or repulsive. Not sure what to tell you. Do what you need to take good care of yourself. Set some boundaries with me. Look away if you need. Turn me off, if you have to. I understand. Not personal.
If you haven’t watched P-Valley yet, it could be because you’re a broke girl like me that nobody likes, and therefore, no one is willing to share their streaming services password with you.
Or you’re a conservative prude and you know and trust yourself (good for you!). You either think you’re a) avoiding going to hell, b) avoiding an ulcer, c) dodging a heart attack or d) all of the above. You’re probably right on d. Keep trusting yourself. Stay away. The show is not for you, or the weak, or faint at heart (is that how you say it?).
I’ve been trying to articulate why I love P-Valley so much, but there are no words to describe what it does to me, or why it’s such an important work of art.
Then I watched the Wakanda Forever trailer (and not to compare the two), but for me, I realized that P-Valley does to me what the Wakanda trailer does: I get goosebumps. I’m in awe. Mesmerized. I’ve never seen anything like it in my entire life on screen (though it's not necessarily new either. Paris is Burning and Pariah came to mind, and I'm sure there are others that helped influence). Hyperbole, maybe. Dramatic, highly likely. Extra, always.
There’s something about how some artists tell our stories in ways that leave you breathless. At a loss for words. P-Valley does that, at least for me. If not for you, great. Thankfully there are over 7 billion of us, and not 1 of us is the same. Rejoice in that knowing and keep it moving.
Others have written about P-Valley, and well. Although not enough.
I’m here to infuse a nerdy affect theory-emotions research spin. How it makes me feel is the easiest way to capture its gravity in my life. Boring? Oh well. I am delivering it, after all.
I dare you to watch P-Valley without being affected. I just got a Ph.D. specializing in shame research and affect theory (you will hear about this non-stop after all I went through for that degree). I know what I say when say I’m for real about how the show moves me beyond thresholds.
As in to pause, exhale, moan, screw face, snap, clap, sigh, go numb, dissociate, tap in, feel. Zone out. I shiver. Get chills. Was silent. Left speechless. Couldn’t say anything. I talked to myself at other moments. Mostly, I needed to watch it again to process it. That’s some of what it means to be affected.
The word affect has its roots in Latin, French, and late nineteenth-century Middle English. How we respond to, feel, express, and are moved by emotions is one way to make sense of the word affect. At its core, it means to be moved or influenced to produce a change in some way and is popularly understood to mean to have an effect on, make a difference, feel something, have an impression on, or influence disposition.
Emotions are not the same thing as affect.
Emotions are responses to and by-products of being affected. What happens when you feel or express emotion can be thought of as affect. You get overwhelmed beyond your normal capacity. The moment produces energy moving in and through you, that’s too much. This is why trauma is a way of being affected. The textbook definition of trauma is too much too fast. P-Valley touches on my traumas. It retriggers things in me. It makes me want to cry. It rips me into the past. It ignites old wounds. Makes it hard to feel in the present moment.
I got so sad watching the Black Panther trailer. I wanted to cry. But I’m also a cry baby and people make fun of me for it. So, while I shouldn’t care, I sometimes will hold back my tears. Especially when I know it’s expected of me. That’s common to some of us. Where we act hard when we want to be soft. We fight back tears because to cry would look weak. Too soft. But Chadwick is so worthy of the tears. Because what a loss.
There is loss and grief that comes up in both P-Valley and the Wakanda Forever trailer, especially around death. We didn’t metaphorically lose our Black Panther. He was literally taken away. Chadwick transitioned. Is gone, though his presence is likely still felt by those who knew him personally. A loss many still mourn. He should be there. Being reminded that he’s not, and in that context, hurts.
I tweeted recently that grief is hard for me. I was taught that grief is the emotion, while grieving is the process of negotiating the multitude of other emotions that show up in grief. I think I got that from David Lewis-Peart's workshop on grief. I also saw a Twitter post recently that said that grief is not an emotion, but a process. In any case, grief is hard for many of us, myself included. I get why it wouldn’t be emotion and instead, affect.
Grief and other difficult and complicated feelings are interwoven all throughout P-Valley. But so are other contradictory emotions, like joy, and happiness. Pleasure and contentment. I celebrate life more than I mourn grief with these two pieces of art.
So few artists can thread that line and find balance. We tend to tip the scales, so one side is more than the other. But reversing, and tipping to the other side, in such a way that the binary collapses altogether, is genius.
Many aren’t sure what to do after there is no more binary.
P-Valley does what it does because it disrupts binaries. If you already don’t mess with binaries or understand how harmful they are, finding art that does away with them is exhilarating, freeing, and liberatory.
It feels so good watching P-Valley.
I mean feel-good communal joy, belly laughs, relatable moments, being seen, feeling heard, held, and cared for. Like you really thought about us, Katori Hall. You gave us your all. You went over and above. A++. This is excellence. We are not worthy. Thank you for representing us like this.
P-Valley makes you feel so good. As in pleasure. Yes.
You get so much pleasure from P-Valley. That scene between Lil Murda and Uncle Cliff. It makes you wanna do a wall slide and scream, “got damn,” like you real Southern like them, even though you’re Canadian and African.
It’s hot. It’s steamy. But it’s also so normal. So ordinary. So delicious. So, us. Well, I’m not active, so, so, you all.
But you rarely see Black people represented like that even though it’s really common. Mostly because there’s so much shame we’re supposed to feel just watching that. Shame shuts the whole conversation down, that we end up not having it at all, even when it should be had.
As someone raised Catholic, I’m supposed to feel ashamed for not only watching the show but liking it. I should be shameful to love it. God forbid the younger generations should find out I watch P-Valley and want to do the same. For shame. (Doing shame research saved me in many ways. From shame and projected shame of others.)
You see shame show up in the show. Between characters. Projected onto others. Internalized. Weaponized. Shame sure does make an appearance. Be it around sex work, sex, sexualized bodies, gay bodies, trans people, the pole, strippers, on and on. All the messaging society tells us is shameful, you’ll find it in P-Valley. Reproduced, perpetuated, and also, disrupted and done away with.
A heterosexual couple does what Big Teak and Lil Murda do, and they still clutch their pearls. Make no mistake. I’ve had people tell me that showing that level of sex on television borders softcore porn. I mean, I guess. If that’s what you call softcore or even porn at all. Folks who watch porn, or have watched porn, but have internalized shame will shame such scenes, as if they don’t have sex. The issue they say is sex is private and should remain private. Not viewed as art and displayed. I’m not having any sex, so I stay out of the conversation altogether.
Lil Murda and Uncle Cliff or Uncle Cliff and Big Teak, are actually really quite common. We know real-life stories. But we don’t talk about them. Cause, oooo, you better not go there. (Plus, outing people is problematic, violent, and wrong).
P-Valley does that Usher Challenge and says, “watch me.” IT GOES THERE!
I saw on Twitter the heterosexual boys were big mad over P-Valley. Had to let the world know they don’t like it. Or stopped watching it. That couldn’t have remained private?
It’s triggering a lot of people, myself included. If you’re already unhinged, this show will push you over the edge. Be warned. It’s not for the faint of heart or the weak. If your nervous system is not regulated, you will suffer watching this. It will hurt you. Your feelings will be hurt. You will get angry. Be repulsed. Disgusted. Intrigued. Fascinated. Turned on. You will find yourself hard, and likely not by choice. It just moves you.
The girls on the pole...
The Mercedes Experiences will have you reaching for a tissue. When she and coach’s wife get together. OMG. Find me a hotter scene on t.v. I’ll wait. He got so mad. He threw a tantrum and kicked her out without her money. His ego got so bruised. They captured real life so impeccably.
It’s an easy watch that’s hard to digest at the same time, for so many reasons. I have some critiques, but that’s not what this episode is about. Maybe another time.
I haven’t even touched on the class representation, domestic violence, single motherhood, strip club culture, or even suicide and drug overdose. I haven’t watched the last few episodes, because as I said, lone wolf life.
There’s so much happening in P-Valley, but it moves at my pace. Fast and slow. Neither. All. More. Less. I already want more.
Just like I want to watch Wakanda Forever now. November is too far away. I already want to cry in public now. Give us more of this representation. Visions. Visuals. Dialogue. Lighting. Effects. Melanin. Vulnerability. Excellence.
It’s too good.
You know when something hits different. You feel it. No matter what people say to bring it down because it makes them uncomfortable to feel the intensity. It’s intensities few can take. They get triggered too easily. They can’t handle emotions, never mind at such extremes. I was like that. Still like that.
We have to shut that type of art out and down. Ban it. Destroy it. Push again it. Talk bad about it. Discredit it. It’s too threatening for many. Simply put, they’re not ready, and might never be. It’s not their cup of tea, and never will be. Rather than agree to disagree, they need to be right, to win, to prove a point. No creativity. No imagination. Can’t see different ways of being, and want to gasp on to the old ways.
Make it Great Again they say. Take us to the good ole days. When all of this was underground and out of sight. We knew it was there and even participated in it ourselves, but shhh, don’t tell the next generations. We expect different of them.
That’s not how it works. P-Valley is here to remind us of that.
I don’t expect anybody to publicly like this, so, don’t bother. If you made it this far, thanks for the support.
Until next time, in solidarity.