When a show prides itself on deconstructing pop culture, talking about politics, and providing a strong message to kids, it has to be really careful, because there's very little leeway for making a mistake — be it a bad episode, an unsteady theme, or even just a poorly considered guest star. "Richard Youngsta" was mostly a normal episode of black-ish, with Dre realizing that his advertising instinct, which he always thought was perfectly pitched toward black people, is really peddling stereotypes that appeal more to white audiences than black ones. But even though Dre learns his lesson, it's hard to ignore that Chris Brown being cast on black-ish was a huge blow to the episode's own message about being responsible with televised depictions of black culture. (Bustle reached out to Brown's reps for comment but has not yet received a response. ABC declined to comment.)
When Bow and Ruby dress down Dre for making a sexist commercial, it's hard to ignore that they specifically cast an artist who plead guilty to a felony assault charge in 2009 after he physically abused his girlfriend Rihanna. That's not to say that Brown is bad in the role — he's actually fantastic, delivering a performance that's a mix between his own musical persona, Lil Yachty, Future, and two of the Migos. But did he need to be in the episode? No, and they could have easily cast a different artist. Just because Chris Brown knows how to dance and deliver a comedic line doesn't mean he was the only choice. Isn't having him on the episode kind of like Janine's glee at "Put some Uvo on it!" come to life?
In a weird way, casting Brown as the deliverer of the "Put some Uvo on it" tagline, which quickly becomes an albatross around Dre's neck, half works in a meta way, and half fails completely. Hearing your kids parrot Chris Brown should be disturbing to any parent, the same way Dre worries about Jack pouring Uvo on Diane. But in the end, when Dre presents a commercial that poses Brown's character as aspirational, the episode winds up suggesting that a depiction of Chris Brown that's positive is OK. Only having him adhere to stereotypes is wrong. I wasn't the only viewer who had some concerns about Brown's appearance. Many people took to Twitter to voice their complaints.
I thought Chris Brown was canceled. Why is he on #Blackish? 😶— Dara Adeeyo (@DAdeeyo) March 30, 2017
Chris Brown was in last nights episode of #Blackish - therefore it is automatically the worst episode this brilliant show has ever broadcast— Ciarán Lincoln Dunne (@ciaranLD) March 30, 2017
Why is Chris Brown on Blackish ? 🙄 I'm irked— Sista Girl💜 (@kthanks_) March 30, 2017
But not everyone was against Brown. There were plenty of fans excitedly posting on Twitter about his performance as there were those who were surprised to see him on the show. But I think specifically for an episode that was all about the role of sending responsible messages and images into the world, that should have extended to the guest stars in that episode.