Tracee Ellis Ross and 'Black-ish' Take on Gender Roles, and Even an Imperfect Conclusion Can't Ruin Another Solid Outing
Every week, black-ish adds a little something new to its formula. A few weeks ago, it was a surprising sex-positivity, the third episode brought a look at weird cultural obligations — now, the show plows headfirst into marriage. First of all, Tracee Ellis Ross starred in Girlfriends for eight seasons and rarely got a chance this good to show off her comedy skills. And that's without her even playing the titular "Crazy Mom." If anything, she was more like "Stir-Crazy Mom," and she sold the hell out of her character's attempts to play it cool.
The premise was as simple as "Bow and Dre trade chores for the week," but there were a lot of well-made points. Nothing quite reached the unexpected highs of last week, but it was a more character based episode, so the jokes weren't as weird and we didn't get the benefit of a guest star.
But it's nice to see a TV family where both parents are breadwinners with high powered, high paying careers. So this isn't some regressive point about how women belong in the home while men need to spend all of their time at the office. And Dre isn't some Don Draper type, either — he's an engaged father who loves spending time with his kids, he's just needlessly competitive when it comes to the elementary school "class mom" type of stuff. I feel like this is the first time where the point of this type of story hasn't been that it's super hard to put in the effort to do stuff like this, and dads are too incompetent to figure it out.
And the expectation that Bow take on all of the miscellaneous extra chores despite also having a high powered career is a double standard that absolutely exists. Doesn't it feel like every little while there's a rash of articles about "dads getting more involved" or a Tumblr to fawn over men doing their children's hair or making them interesting lunches every day? This quote from Ross as Bow summarizes this phenomenon perfectly:
Moms do everything and nobody notices, and dads do one little thing and people go crazy.
As a person who inherited kitchen organizational OCD from my own mom, Bow's struggles hit very close to home (minus four children. And a husband). Wanting help with all those household chores, but only if the help is exactly the way I would do it, is a struggle. Relinquishing control is just as much of a challenge as getting motivated to do something that won't receive lots of fawning attention. So, the episode should have ended with Bow and Dre agreeing to split the chores up fairly and try to stop giving the other a hard time, right? …That's not quite how it plays out.
The only trouble with the episode comes in the conclusion, where they basically conclude that Bow should have to resume doing all of the small, stressful chores while Dre should go back to being wildly overpraised for showing up and doing anything.
That doesn't really sit right with either the rest of the episode or what I'm sure writer Gail Lerner (who as an executive producer of a network TV show must have her own work/personal life balance) believes is the solution. It's ultimately a worthy episode because it gives Ross so much to do and gives a working mother character so much to say, but there's a tiny grain of sand in what's otherwise another pretty good black-ish entry.
Image: ABC (screenshot); Giphy (2)