Mel Porter

Black-ish: It's Funny Because They're Black

Devon Barrs | October 17th, 2014 | Visit the original article online

I suppose in that sense then Will and Grace was funny because half of the core cast was gay. It’s not their witty banter or the show’s ability to relate in terms of love, relationships, and heartbreak, but because of the fact that it is gay humor. Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

Several weeks ago, I was having a brief, non-indulging conversation with an acquaintance at work. It was one of those situations where I’d become intellectually detached from the conversation due to the excessive topic changing since the acquaintance seemed to be more interested in one upping me than actually carrying out in in-depth discussion. During this conversation, a commercial for the ABC show, Black-ish came on and the acquaintance turned to the television, cutting me off mid sentence, and said, “I hate shows like that.”

I wasn’t quite sure what she meant, so I asked her to elaborate. She proceeded to say that she hated shows that boasted on being funny based simply on the grounds that the cast was black, which brings me back to my initial thought. Is the sitcom, Will and Grace funny because of the fact that it featured gay people? The obvious answer is, no; during its eight season run on television, Will and Grace garnered a lot of love from viewers all over the country and just as much criticism. One of the sitcom’s biggest criticism was that the characters perpetuated stereotypes of the gay lifestyle rather than showed a portrayal of a group living that lifestyle. Simply put; not all gay men and women are the same.

Does Black-ish offer an accurate portrayal of the life of a black family, or does it stereotype?

in episode four, “Crazy Mom,” Dre (the dad) agrees to take charge of Rainbow’s (the mom) household duties for a week. For the most part, I paid no attention to the race of the family except for instances when it was brought up, like when Dre offered to help the kids’ teacher with a lesson about Harriet Tubman even when she states that she is a Doctorate in History because he felt as if he could offer more perspective as a black man.

This show definitely has a niche, but so does any series that hopes to have a full run on primetime television. The important thing for these shows is to be able to reach out to an audience by being relatable while avoiding the cliché. It is impossible to offer an accurate portrayal of the life of a black family, or a biracial family, or a white family because we all come from different walks of life and have unique experiences. For any show to have legs, it must at least acknowledge this. To skip around the fact that this is a biracial family would be like ignoring those tuning in to the show who come from a similar background. Different groups of people are faced with issues that are unique to them and it is imperative for a show like this to use that. Black-ish does acknowledge race, but it also acknowledges gender roles, and family issues.

There needs to be more diversity on television. A show shouldn’t be considered black interest simply because it casts a black family, and a show’s appeal should have the ability to span beyond the market that it targets. The media has the tendency to create misconceptions about certain racial groups, so it is important that there are different caliber shows out there that can portray, not stereotype, the various classes out there.

What I see is a series about a man struggling to find a sense of cultural identity in a predominately white community while raising a family. I understand that. I live in Utah; this state is pretty much white. I have no black friends and I find myself searching for my lost sense of cultural identity. All of those things that I took for granted are things that I now miss. When another black person walks by, I find myself nodding to them. Friends ask why and I tell them that its nice to know that I’m not the only one here. I find the show refreshing because of the way Dre reacts in certain situations and the realization that I do the same. Nonetheless, it’s not funny because they’re black… or blackish. I may be able to relate, but I may also be apart of that target audience. Black-ish has the potential to be a new age Cosby Show, not in terms of popularity or status, but in terms of the perspective it offers on life and family. The Cosby Show didn’t focus around the family’s ethnic background, but it did allude to it, but that certainly did not make it funny because they’re black.