Over the last two seasons, ABC’s Black-ish has established itself as a powerful comedy delving into issues of racial identity. During that time, the show has not shied away from controversial topics; the February 24th episode titled “Hope,” was no different. The episode tackled police brutality against black people, a hot topic that many believe could only be done justice by Black-ish. The show manages to balance a serious topic with comedic elements making the episode accessible, yet poignant.
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Black-ish centers around a multi-generational black upper-middle class family in a predominantly white neighborhood. The family is comprised of Andre “Dre” Johnson and his wife Rainbow “Bow” Johnson, their teenage children (Andre Johnson, Jr. and Zoey Johnson), their young children (Jack Johnson and Diane Johnson), and Dre’s parents (Pops and Ruby). The three-generations present important dialogue from many points of view. There isn’t just one single point of view for black people, there are many.
In the episode, the family watched a news program covering an incident of police brutality. Bow and Dre discuss how they should present the situation to their children, particularly the younger ones. While Bow would rather not have “the talk” with their younger children to maintain their innocence, Pops believes the police are thugs and Ruby wants them to know “the real.” Dre states he is against the police until Bow reveals he is on first name basis with the police that patrol his neighborhood. After all, he does have a shoe collection that needs protecting.
Jack also offers comedic relief. After presenting a statistic about the shooting of unarmed suspects, he misunderstands the phrase, thinking that the victims are missing limbs and therefore unable to hold weapons. The comedy is purposeful, in Variety‘s article Tracee Ellis Ross explained,
It’s one of the beauties of comedy — because you’re not getting punched in the face with something, you’re busy laughing, and all of a sudden you get to think about something in a different way.
The show reflects the reality of American society. The current landscape of entertainment reflects the lack of inclusion in American society. A new study from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism states,
22% of shows and movies evaluated fail to depict on screen one Black or African American speaking character. Black-ish uses its platform to present an important topics of conversation repeatedly.
It’s also important to note that The Walt Disney Company, owner of ABC, received a high score for inclusion in the study.
Disney succeeds in representing women and underrepresented characters on screen,” illustrating the significance of “hiring practices behind the camera for writers and show creators that approach balance.” Black-ish‘s writers are half minorities and half-women, making it the perfect program to do the issue justice.
Ultimately, Black-ish isn’t about getting at a clear conclusion. While the Johnson family decide to attend the rally, they do so because they have hope for change.
We’re not about trying to answer a question. We’re trying to explore issues through the family and make you laugh,” Ross said in the article. “Honestly, that’s really it- the show is entertainment.
As the episode said, “It’s a whole lot of black, a whole lot of white, but mostly gray.” In this melting pot, we must find the gray- the hope, unity, peace, and change. A program can’t fix society, but it can bring up important dialogue.
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