Stop recycling Waters ill-informed Huff Post Blog to assuage your further ill-informed opinion of the show “Black-ish”
Whew, had to get that off my chest.
Now on to my critique of “Black-ish” on ABC…
There is a lot to celebrate and critique with this show.
The title is a red herring on purpose. So can we please stop using “I don’t like the title” as an excuse to not watch the show—but then talk very loudly about a show that you did not watch. #ByeFelicia. I just lost about five Facebook friends because I said I liked the show, because I watched the whole show, and they watched the title and didn’t like it. Yes…It is nuanced— but not nuanced enough. But definitely more nuanced than you give it credit for, starting with the title. However, I know it will lose viewership steadily because of that title. Nevertheless, Waters in the Huff Post Blog article addresses many ideas that the show answers— but does not address those answers.
For example, Waters missed that this is a critical comedy.
Waters misses a lot of stuff. To Waters, it’s just not funny. And I get that. I also perceive that Waters can’t think past his own perception of what he thinks the show should be, to see it for what it is.
Waters missed that the kids were seven and therefore only knew one president. The show raises the idea of how important is it for them to know he is the first Black president, and why didn’t they know this? Well, they are seven…he is THE (only) president. This is an idea we talk about ALL the time in my circle of friends. “Why do you keep refering to him as the Black President?” is a real part of the discussion surrounding President Barack Obama’s identity and how Black people (and everyone else, but I want to talk about Black people) identify with the President.
There are some well-placed conundrums that Black people deal with on a daily basis that the show tries to address. They do a mediocre job of addressing them, but this article is not a good critique of what the show actually does.
Here are my three major critiques of the show
The advent of the ‘scary black man’ is not over.
To portray as much and that there are benefits to that state of being (like getting a damn parking spot at the store) on primetime television is irresponsible. Especially in light of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and many other ‘scary’ black men who die because of how they look and how the dominant culture sees them. Further, portraying that black men’s ‘go tos’ were big butts and R & B only serve to perpetuate the perceived socioeconomic gap between the black-haves and the black-have-nots. If you “make it” (especially in a career outside of rap, R&B, and sports) you no longer use those markers as your prime way of identifying because it has been taken over by White people, it seems. Wait—what? It was a poor stab at discussing the real problem with cultural misappropriation that is happening with the likes of Iggy Azalea— and how much black people support those who caricature Black life and reduce Black life to their version of shucking and jiving for a profit. It’s blackface without the actual paint. That idea is seductively insidious in a scary kind of way.
They did a good job with the idea of being ‘black’ versus ‘blackish’ and the existential crisis that Andre goes through, feeling that he is not being black enough (yes, that is really a “thing”) because he ‘made it’.
But the show moved too quickly to resolving the conflict in a comical and fantastical way that does not connect to anyone’s real life black experience and almost ceases to be critical.
The show moved to the not new idea of a ‘bro mitzvah’ as one of its solutions to the cultural dissonance that Andy and his father experience after failing at an African right of passage ceremony. Now that in itself is critical. As Black people, a return to Africa is not always the correct answer to deal with cultural dissonance. This show is unique in that it presents its version of a ‘cross-cultural’ remedy for that. But the attempted cross-cultural response is half-baked.
The ‘Bro Mitzvah’ idea was actually portrayed earlier on ‘How I met Your Mother’ and while the circumstances were a bit different, I am cracking up at how much belly-aching is going because a “Black-ish people show” re-appropriated the cultural expression vs. when a “White people show” did a similar re-appropriation . I hear no belly-aching about this (but I suspect I know why…that’s for another post). It’s a very interesting knee-jerk reaction to say the least. I’m not surprised at how many Black and Black-ish people don’t like the show. But I am surprised at how thin and brittle your lazy critique of the show is. Many don’t like it on the word of Waters in the Huff Post Blog section (and the NY Times article as well) and didn’t even take the time to critique what was happening on the show.
Our critiques of the show are not substantial and do more harm than good in the conversation on Black life in the US.
We forget that this is someone’s experience (sort of). The caricature and buffoonery are real. So is the point of the show— that many of us experience cultural and ethnic dissonance when we start from the bottom and arrive ‘here’— wherever ‘here’ is. In this case a nice LA neighborhood with three kids, a wife who is a doctor and a promotion to the SVP of the ‘Urban Division’ at the firm.
I love all that cultural complication.
We need to deal with that and what this show represents. But not by not watching it. And I’ll watch again so I can provide appropriate critiques of the show…because well I watched it…and that gives me the tools with which to offer a proper critique.
(If you didn’t get my not-so-subtle message here, I think you are silly for not watching the show and then offering black-power critiques like the one in Huff Post, Black and Black-ish people…[and allies])