There is no subject off limits for ABC's excellent comedy Black-ish. Over the past three seasons, Black-ish has delved into issues of gun violence, racial identity, religion, and, in a standout episode, the Black Lives Matter movement. Through the eyes of the Johnson family, viewers have been given perspective on politically charged subjects both large and small, and with the election of Donald Trump, Black-ish is about to become even more important.
In a recent interview with NPR, Black-ish creator Kenya Barris revealed his show changed the moment Trump was elected. By centering Black-ish around a middle class black family living in a predominately white neighborhood, Barris has had a unique platform to tell family stories that resonate on a political and personal level for modern Americans from the very beginning. Now that the country feels more divided than ever, Barris wants to delve deeper into the psyche of America as Trump prepares to take over the highest office in the land. For Barris, refocusing Black-ish to explore the reality of life for the Johnsons now that Trump is elected is not about simply playing to the show's existing, largely liberal audience, but finding a way to reach across the aisle and speak to Trump voters as well.
In a powerful quote, Barris explained how his writing room will approach Black-ish in the coming months:
"From Tuesday night to Wednesday morning, I think my show changed. I think that, you know, all of us came in here today and we felt like, you know, we're in third season, you know, we've had some great episodes, you know, that I really was proud of. You know, we did a gun episode and hope and we did a voting episode.
But this third season, we didn't want to become just a soapbox. So we sort of calmed down and we were like, you know what? We have to talk about things that people might not want to talk about openly. But we have to dig in deeper and stay later and have more real conversations and argue amongst ourselves more and really bring our emotions to the surface and really say things that people want to hear - have said. We have to do that more. We have a responsibility. It's not just TV for us anymore."
While Barris did not going into specifics on how he plans to have Black-ish respond to the real life political climate, the show has a built in counterpoint to Dre and Rainbow's liberal leanings in the form of Pops and Ruby. Dre's parents grew up poor and did whatever was necessary to raise their son, identifying with the sentiments shared by many Trump voters. They have always been quick to remind Dre not to forget his background, and their presence is more important than ever before. The push and pull between the middle class and the working class was one of the defining divides during the 2016 election. While Trump's racism and misogyny angered many Americans, others in the country believed Trump's lack of political experience would change Washington for the better, regardless of his personal behavior. While it might be hard to believe that people could willingly vote for a man who ran on a platform of racism and misogynistic behavior, it is important to remember many voters were far more focused on what they believed a non-politician could offer them economically.
Barris smartly points out all Trump voters are not crazy, or even motivated by Trump's disturbing rhetoric. The Johnsons are a family like any other family in America where Trump and Clinton supporters are sure to be sitting side by side at the Thanksgiving dinner table. The conversations you have with your Trump supporting family members in the coming months are going to be echoed across the country, and thanks to Barris, on your TV screen. The world needs shows like Black-ish now more than ever before. Understanding the other side is not easy, but if America ever wants to feel like a whole country again, then conversation has to start somewhere, and the Johnsons' living room is an excellent place to begin.
Images: Patrick Wymore/ABC; Mitch Haaseth/ABC