The pilot of Black-ish is a complete miss. It reinforces negative stereotypes about black people and has a rather ass-backward view of what a black family is, or should be. In fact, by the time the show made it to the fist bump barely two minutes in, I was already so neck deep in stereotypes that it was nearly enough for me to say fuck this and throw the first thing I could at the screen. The program doesn’t only reinforce stereotypes, but aggressively defends them. It’s so bad that Black-ish comes across as an angry, foolish tirade, essentially saying black people are losing their identity and things like urban music, big butts and hip-hop dance crews are exclusively for black people. Not only that, but it’s an absolute outrage other people are becoming involved with them.
But, hey, excuse me; none of those things really have anything to do with being black. Being black is having a community behind you who loves you unconditionally, fighting for equality and what’s right, and overcoming years of injustice. Nothing can change that, especially something as meaningless as Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke being considered urban artists and Kim Kardashian being the first person who comes to mind when you think of a big ass. (Ugh, did I really have to say that? Come on people.)
While I suppose you could argue some of those things are small facets of black culture, why is it a problem that they are getting mainstream acceptance to the point where we don’t think twice about people from other cultures getting involved with them? Isn’t that in a way what many of our forefathers have dreamed about: A world where black and white are no longer segregated in their own silos.
Now that we’re getting closer to the dream, to turn around and bitch about it is silly at best and infuriating at worst. Not only does it not make sense, but to use that as a premise of a show alienates a lot of people outside of the black community (and some within as well). It’s almost as if the series (or at least this episode) wants to set the civil rights movement back 50 years. If you think all that’s offensive on its own, that’s just a tiny slice of the idiocy of the pilot.
The main character, Andre Johnson (Anthony Anderson), works at a marketing firm and gets promoted. His dad (Laurence Fishburne) argues that he should’ve taken a job at a black firm because he would’ve been president by now, but his wife (Tracee Ellis Ross) argues he should’ve stayed where he is because he’d make more money (and he’d break down barriers). So I guess the take away here is you should segregate yourself to go further in your career or struggle with the mainstream and try to break the glass ceiling. Oh boy…
The next scene has Andre getting angry and disappointed in his son, Andre Junior (Marcus Scribner), for wanting to try out for field hockey and choosing to go by Andy instead of Andre. So what is wrong with being a black hockey player? Also, how on earth does going by the name Andy mean disowning your culture and background? Overreacting much?
Other atrocities include Andre being ogled at by other black people as almost a god for being promoted, Andre treating white characters differently, (either as an “honourary brother” or not) and lower management (“diverse” or “us” as the show put it) being separated from upper management (“not so much” and “them”). Imagine the shitstorm if ABC did this sitcom from a white perspective, especially if a white character intentionally treated black people differently.
Oh, but wait, there’s more, much more. Andre is shown with a closet full of basketball shoes and baseball caps, the family has an argument about fried chicken, two family members high five for knowing what Obama’s first goldfish’s name was, Andre argues with his biracial wife if she’s really black, Andre argues with his wife if OJ was really guilty of murder and Andre reaches in for sex when his wife repeatedly says no.
While this pilot was a disaster mostly because of the premise, I think there might be hope for the show if it lets up off of its being-black-means-this focus. It has a good cast and I suppose some of the characters could be fun, it’s hard to say for sure though because this episode was so focused on bashing your head in with what it means to be black. It is very possible this series can wind up somewhere else totally enjoyable and fun like what happened with Don’t Trust The Bitch In Apartment 23, Happy Endings and Cougar Town. They similarly had very rough starts, so I suppose it may be worth a revisit in a few weeks to see if things have changed. This pilot though…ABC, you should know better.
Episode Reviewed: Pilot
Black-ish premieres Wednesday, September 24th at 9:30 p.m. on City and ABC
(Featured Image: Screenshot via iTunes)