Episode Review: ‘Black-ish’ examines its internet privilege(s)

Two screens are better than one.

Being a wealthy black family in a predominately white world can be an exercise in compromise and contradiction. How much psychological comfort do you give up for convenience and financial comfort in a system that’s generally apprehensive of you and lacks the language or experience to overcome that apprehension?

In Wednesday’s (Jan. 4) episode of Black-ish, the show’s ongoing central conflict plays out via the metaphor of parenting in the age of the internet and immediate access to all of its horrors: Dre (Anthony Anderson) and Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross) are horrified after catching their ten year old daughter Diane (Marsai Martin) viewing porn on her laptop and worry that they’ve given up too much control for the sake of the omnipresent convenience of being online.

After an evening of spying on their family’s internet habits reveals more disturbing online activity (such as watching CNN.com’s beheading videos), Dre and Bow try a technological fix and install internet babysitting software that turns out to have no real way to differentiate the dark corners of the internet from valid homework research (again, beheading videos on CNN.com). Going fully analog isn’t the answer, either, as shown by Diane’s attempt to study history with her father’s set of World Book encyclopedias that end at Ronald Reagan and East Germany.

Fortunately, the Johnson family seems on the way to finding a happy middle ground after Dre’s mom (Jenifer Lewis) offers some historical perspective, recalling that she was at first horrified to find her son watching 80’s video vixens, but on second thought realized it was just a desire for knowledge about sex, which was a natural and not harmful impulse. This gets Dre and Bow thinking about understanding and healthy compromises, which materialize as family Dance Dance Revolution tournaments, followed by a dinner without any devices.

But is healthy compromise always possible, particularly when the parties involved are outside of a nuclear family?

When your new boss says she “doesn’t see color”

The answer there is less hopeful, as we see when Dre makes a more financially convenient choice in his professional life, opting not to open a discussion about the “toxic racism” of his workplace with a fixer, Rachel (Diane Farr) sent from the company’s board to deal with workplace culture issues. Rachel is a white woman, and it turns out she was only given a directive to address the office’s rampant sexism — however, she also seemed open to the discussion of toxic racism, and the possibility she raises the question again could provide a new, stressful complication for Dre and the Johnsons.

Blackish airs Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.