The second episode of Black-ish follows Bow and André as they try to connect with their teenagers. André catches son André Jr. (Marcus Scribner) in, well, a compromising position and realizes it’s time to tell him the frank realities of sex. As long as the frank realities involve proper application of cologne and how to impress a date, André is fine. When it involves actual, you know, sex stuff, he’s not so great. Maybe taking off his shirt will help?
Bow (who, yes, is from a hippy background! I knew it!) is bothered that teen daughter Zoe (Yara Shahidi) never confides in her. The funniest scene in the entire episode happens when Zoe simultaneously pours angst into whomever is on the other side of her phone (“It’s totally world-ending!”) while interrupting herself to tell her mom she’s fine (“Seriously, it’s nothing.”). But when Zoe finally does ask her mom for advice, Bow is so excited to be asked – and thrilled that she’s winning the best-parent contest against André – that she forgets to actually, you know, listen. She does what any good mother would do – sets out to trick her daughter into divulging the details of her drama again.
I thought Bow’s storyline was much funnier than André’s. It was fresh and new and relatable. While the whole sex-talk-discomfort thing is so overdone, it’s almost a cliche on parenting shows. Plus, it really bothered me that Bow had not one solitary bit of moral advice for his son, beyond finding the line between pimp and playa. It reminded me of Mollie Hemingway’s excellent piece 8 Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Sex. She points out: Mechanics aren’t the hard part. Transmitting your values is.
I don’t think that the black community want their kids to grow up and be playas, and that’s what dads teach their sons. I think dads who stick around, provide for their families, and are there for their kids know that being a playa is a road to heartbreak, misery, and poverty for their kids. If anyone knows that, it’s the black community.
Instead of black values, I think we saw standard TV sitcom values. As far as this storyline goes, it might as well have been an episode of Three and a Half Men. All sex is good, more sex is better, and anyone who tells you different is narrow. I would hope for something better for this show, a little more nuance.
The show did slyly insert one bit of black culture, almost in the background. As Bow and André are so focused on their teens, the younger twins Jack (Miles Brown) and Diane (Marsai Martin) notice that they’re not getting any attention. (By the way, Jack and Diane? Great names. Life goes on, I guess.) They try various schemes to get back into the parental limelight. As the episode progresses, Diane’s hair gets more and more unkept.
It’s not a big thing. She never even mentions it until the closing credits, where she complains that mom and dad are so distracted, they’re not even combing her hair. But it’s a wink and a nod toward the hair wars that repeatedly pop up with black children to which white people are usually blissfully unaware. I’d be curious to hear from African-American readers. Was that funny?
More on Black-ish
Episode One: Pilot recap
Episode Three: The Nod. In which Dre tries to instill in his son the special bond all black men share. Does not end well.
Episode Four: Crazy Mom. In which Dre takes over child duties from Bow. And succeeds. But not in a good way.