'black-ish' Mentioned the Race Card in a Joke That Stands Out as Funny, But Relevant
After a Thanksgiving hiatus, we've got some more black-ish, and as ABC has been advertising, it's still the "number 1 new comedy!" of 2014, and I think it's been performing admirably as a freshman comedy, even though this week feels like it relies on a few outdated tropes that feel a little bit too sitcommy and had one big moment — when Dre mentioned "the race card" — that stuck out considering how things have been in the news lately. Bow is awesome and I would have expected her to be a little more confident on the baseball field, and to acknowledge that the rules of "being a team" by her standards were a little confusing. Of course, I would have also expected Dre, as a human adult, to already know that those rules are, especially since the team thing was his idea.
And while we're nitpicking (because seriously, even the worst episodes of this show go by quickly and enjoyably), I didn't love the way the kids behaved this week, because their strength is when Dre and Bow are tougher on them than typical sitcom kids. Jack and Diane continue to be adorable, but should be used sparingly. Unfortunately, Zoey is still a weak spot comedically, but Marcus Scribner is getting better week after week. He even made that lame Marvel shoo-in mention pass by with a mere eye roll rather than a full "ughhhh."
The maybe-sorta-racist announcer was maybe my favorite gag so far in the show, and the coded language was put together perfectly by the writers to hover between the poles of "totally normal," "kinda suspect," and "amazing wordplay." But that subplot does contain one big joke that on many days wouldn't bother me, but in the light of the focus being placed on racial issues in America lately, it felt a bit off. Is that fair to black-ish? Honestly, no, it's totally unfair to judge black-ish by current events unrelated to the episode or the show in general. But if we've learned anything in the last few weeks, it's that there are certain people who will use anything as justification against equality for people of all races, and that includes a goofy joke on a sitcom that's still figuring itself out.
Anyway, after all that preamble, the joke that felt off was Dre's fantasy about "the race card." The jokes were pretty good ("African American Express" said as pompously as Anthony Anderson delivered it was a gem), but the idea that black people use and abuse "the race card" is just the type of thing that's hard to joke about when there are people in real life accusing black people of "pulling the race card" as a means to shut down dialogue around racial issues.
I'm rooting so hard for black-ish — and am so happy by America's instant embrace of it as a family comedy — that sometimes when it goes for an edgy joke, it's hard not to wince a little and cross my fingers that no one uses it as a reason to lambast the show. And that moment, while innocuous, might incense the prejudiced and the hopeful but cautious fans like me alike. And I'd hate to see one of the only mainstream shows interested in taking on matters of race and culture in a humorous way be taken down for it.
Image: Giphy (2)