Okay, I know that almost every person of color is sold on the new ABC hit series “Black-ish,” but for me the show is far from anything I would deem remotely entertaining.
The only thing about it that gives me some semblance of joy is the fact that Tracee Ellis Ross has finally landed a role on a TV show that has officially survived the first season. Good for her! Nobody should ever work as hard as she has and not get something for it.
That being said, I am struggling with the reasons why so many of you are so in love with a show that for all intents and purposes lacks humor, credibility, and a dynamic premise. Anthony Anderson plays Andre, a successful Black advertising executive whose wife, Rainbow, played by Tracee Ellis Ross, an anesthesiologist, of mixed heritage. They both have four adorable kids and live a pretty comfortable life in Los Angeles, a feat that not many families today can boast of.
So what exactly is the problem? Dre, as he is fondly called, isn’t comfortable with some of the things that come with his enviable status. He is grasping to find a balance that equates his good fortune with the elements that should remain endearingly Black. So every episode we are treated to the various instances that test his ability to prevent his family from falling into the pit reserved for societal sellouts. The ones of African-American descent who abandon their Blackness once they hit the big time. His father, Pops, played with annoying laziness by Laurence Fishburne, constantly nags his son about the racial freefall inevitably on the horizon.
Here’s the thing, if “Black-ish” was at least bursting with wit and humor, I would give it a fair grade, but that isn’t the case. It is quite lackluster and none of the characters sport any charisma, not to mention the weak plotlines that are encased in waves of clichés and contradictions. But my main stance against the show is steeped in the very elements that inspired it. The contrived notion that if you lose that part of you that is stereotypically assigned to your race, that makes you less than and challenges your ability to legitimately “roll with your homies” since you have chosen to radically expand your universe.
It is nonsensical for the main character to think that his son asking for a Bar Mitzvah means that he is confused or trying to downplay his racial makeup. Maybe it means that his son is just a typical teenager, questioning the status quo and bravely exploring other avenues in a quest for his truth. Another scene in the first episode showed Dre’s promotion to Senior Vice President of the “Urban Division”, a position that he half-heartedly accepted because his new role implies that he is Black enough to do a good job, not necessarily that he is brilliant enough. But what if it means that he is the best man for the job? Couldn’t we use more people of color like Dre in positions of power, who can implement their genius in ways to help propel the betterment of their people? Why would this be seen as minus instead of a plus?
“Black-ish” has managed to amass a huge following, mostly because it shows a stable Black family living a good life and it reminds us of the good old days when “The Cosby Show” ruled the airwaves. The reasons why Bill Cosby’s gem worked so well are the same reasons why “Black-ish” fails miserably. The Huxtable clan had it good and they were unapologetic about it. Both Cliff and Clair had solid backgrounds, were well educated, had awesome careers, and expected their five children to follow suit.
They were clearly a Black family, but that description hardly came into play because there was no need for it. The characters were interesting enough and the show was sufficiently engrossing. There was no need to rely on racial hysterics to keep the attention of viewers.
The racial climate has evolved into a more overt sense of intolerance, and such it would be nice to have a show with a Black family that isn’t distracted with the notion that success automatically translates to being stripped of the basic components.
You can remain true to your culture while also accommodating the transformation that comes with being progressively aware.