Started watching Grown-ish from the day it premiered. Mainly because I’m a hardcore Yara Shahidi fan and love to see young POC prosper. Grown-ish season 1 and 2 have taken its viewers on a roller coaster ride, discussing issues from interracial dating, adjusting to college life and maintaining friendships. With all the subjects this show speaks about, I can already imagine what Kenya Barris has in store for us in season 3.
There are a number of things about this show that brings it to life and has you glued to the screen. You get to see into the lives of privileged college kids and their eye-rolling issues that you can’t help but be attracted to. What makes this spin-off of Black-ish so special, is that it is a modern tale into the lives of the POC that are part of Generation Z. The students in this show aren’t suffering and trying to manage bigger life issues, they’re just existing and doing what their white peers have been doing all along. For too long we’ve seen teen dramas centered around white leads with POC side characters that are considered disposable. Black and brown young adults haven’t had a light-hearted and positive portrayal of themselves that isn’t on Disney or Nickelodeon.
The show manages not to fall flat by relating these topics of dating, ambition and college life by intertwining it with the far from basic personalities that the actors portray. Although there is a lack of realism in the relationship between Aaron (Trevor Jackson) and Ana (Francia Raisa), their identities aren’t defined by their politics and values. The show reminds us that they’re just young adults trying to smash when given the opportunity.
Admittedly, the show struggled on its first season, mainly due to the lack of character development by Zoey (Yara Shahidi). Her character, which always seemed less interesting than her siblings on Black-ish, came across the same in college amongst her peers. However, in Season 2 we saw a major change. We began to see the intricacies of Zoey’s character and why she’s motivated to often make the choices she does that are otherwise considered questionable to the viewer. In turn, young black girls get to see a multifaceted lead with a likeness to themselves.
The show also found issues with colorism, the lack of dark-skinned faces on screen cemented by Hollywood’s favourability for the lighter shade. It cannot be skimmed through that this is one of the show’s unhealthiest habits, even with guest stars, darker shades never seem to make the cut. Although the show tried to address the colorism issue by discussing Aaron’s preference for lighter women, they used a darker skinned woman as a prop for him to prove that he wasn’t colorist. Only for her to get 2 minutes of screen time.
Even with that bitter taste, Grown-ish is still on my list of MUST watch television. Teenagers and young adults of color need to see people that look like themselves experiencing normal lives and relatable stories on screen to remind us that we are seen.