Tweetable Takeaway: Junior becomes a big-r-republican with an even bigger-d-democrat Dad in an episode with a surprising amount of brains. Tweet
Airtime: Wednesday at 9:30pm on ABC
By: Brett Salinas, Contributor
I never really subscribed to the idea that civilized folks should never engage in conversation about religion or politics. Mostly because, generally speaking, a cogent dialog is just another way to form more educated educated opinion. But the idea that a personal belief is locked, fixed, or unwavering, just doesn’t jive with me, like at all. Us humans – I hope you don’t mind if I speak for everyone here – are ever-evolving beings, so why limit discourse on any topic, let alone the complicated and loaded world of politics, if it helps you uncover a better understanding of your own convictions?
BLACK-ISH, a show very much predicated on the liberty of speaking freely about your feelings, opens a dialog (opens it WAY up) to race and politics this week. And with some guts and some brains behind it, “Elephant in the Room” packs a nice, conceptual wallop amidst the laughs this time around, and all in all, it really kind of works.
Launching headfirst into a nice inciting incident this week, Dre discovers that Junior is rubbing elbows with a bunch of young Republicans at school, going so far as to joining a club for his conservative contemporaries. And as an African American, that’s just an unforgivable anomaly, like Lena Dunham at the BET Awards or something. Even Rainbow is incensed that her ideologically errant young boy has veered off so far to the right. EVEN RUBY joins the cause. But the boy is so quickly and deeply entrenched in conservative politics that talking him down from this ledge is going to take some time
But since the show made us wait almost eleven minutes without any kind of heterosexual courtship, we learn that Junior is ingratiating himself with the GOP’ers to get on the good graces of girl, Hillary (oh right, it’s Network TV), who is black. And for Dre, this comes as a relief, with a heaving sigh at the assumption that the conservative streak is only an act. But as things go on, Junior becomes a machine of right wing due diligence (think Roseanne, when DJ discovers church), and some of his arguments extolling the virtues of being Republican actually back Mom and Dad into a rhetorical corner. But, with a pious scoff, it’s maintained that “being a black Republican is something [they]just don’t do.”
But Rainbow, who makes such a concerted effort to an “open-minded” liberal, suggests that she and Dre go over to this girls’ house to meet her parents. And while excruciatingly buttoned-up, they turn out to be lovely – and very wealthy – people. But well enough is seldom, if ever, left alone with the Johnsons, and the proud parenting team ends up in a (one-sided) screaming spat with these nice people when they spout the gospel of their politics. Frankly, I’m on team Rainbow here, because ANY woman in 2015, republican or otherwise, who says mothers who put their work first are selfish, need to be taken down a peg or three. But it becomes clear after this little skirmish, that Junior’s best interest isn’t really the thing that Dre and Rainbow are striving to perfect. It’s their dogma that’s really on the table here.
After some Ruby-advised reverse psychology, Junior eventually ditches the whole republican thing in pursuit of a new girl, but conceptually, the episode deftly unpacked some interesting concepts. Sure, they may have laid them out on the floor for the viewer’s own personal assembly, but “Elephant in the Room” hit the nail pretty neatly on the head here. The show excels in being able to bandy about ideas that seem clunky or missing-the-point in the beginning, but unravel in a sly, satisfying way. And ultimately, it beautifully instills an ethic of tolerance, despite being so ostensibly rooted in clichés and prejudices.
On the other side of the A-story, little Diane launches a plan to get Zoey new glasses so she can finally buck her “Gurkel” moniker (Girl + Urkel) and pass it along to her elder sis. But when Zoey’s new glasses steal Daddy’s attention away from her, Diane scraps the plan and breaks the specs to slide back into the spotlight…which still doesn’t work. And while it seems fiercely out of character for Zoey to play so much into her dad’s silly jokes, it makes for a cute, serviceable subplot. And farsighted Zoey slamming into a wall is just good, broad comedy (so to speak).
Luckily, it looks like season one is skidding into home plate with a triumphant grin on its face, hopefully landing on a strong reunion with Pops for next week’s finale. And now that season two is officially green-lit, giving twenty-some-odd more episodes for Black-ish to prove it’s worth its salt as a sitcom, we’ll have at least one thing to look forward to come September.
If Brett isn’t kissing a cat on the face, watching Roseanne reruns, or eating at least one slice of pizza too many then he’s probably writing.