On January 3rd, Freeform unveiled it’s newest project, “Grown-ish”. Starring actress and social activist Yara Shahidi, Grown-ish follows her Black-Ish character, Zoey, throughout her journey through college and young adulthood.
After announcing the show, many fans of Black-ish hoped that the show would be a modern-day version of “A Different World” and use its platform to showcase an educated and diverse group of students, particularly African-Americans, in a relaxed an unstereotyped setting.
Even though the show has yet to finish airing its pilot season, it has already achieved immense success. Not only has Freeform greenlit a second season, but fans of the show are also honoring its storytelling and racial inclusion.
But is this inclusion enough?
Let’s take a look at the featured cast. Do you notice anything, initially? Now look closer. While the show can boast a diverse cast in terms of racial identity, the Grown-ish cast fails to showcase a large makeup of minority communities: darker skinned individuals. Within the 10 main cast members (2 of which are not shown in the above photograph), only one cast member has remotely dark skin, and the rest are either non-black or of a lighter complexion.
Does this accurately represent the African-American race? There are two sides to every argument.
One side of the argument would be that, regardless of the lack of darker skinned individuals, this show should be rewarded for its racial inclusion. After all, it is rare that we see African-American figures, regardless of complexion, shown with respect on cable television. Likewise, even though there is room for improvement, this inclusion along with the success of the show could pave the way for future parts for black people of all complexions and backgrounds.
While this is a compelling argument, there are a few reasons why this lack of inclusion is unacceptable.
First and foremost, we should not applaud television networks for showing black bodies on screen: this should be the standard.
Black people make up nearly 20% of the population, yet are disproportionately represented in film and television. Inclusion should not be celebrated at this point: it should be expected.
Secondly, if we want a diverse show to include black bodies, we should represent ALL black bodies. Yes, those men/women of a lighter complexion are a part of the black community, but they are not the only part. Also, many fail to accept that colorism has a huge hold on Hollywood in terms of diversity; even when an African-American woman, for example, is cast in a role, 9/10 they are of a lighter complexion.
We can do something about this by not only demanding more inclusion in media but also supporting true racial diversity in film and television. Black Panther, for example, showcased African and African-American people with a variety of complexions. The film was an incredible box-office success, and now it is present more than ever that people crave inclusion.
So for now, we applaud the success of Grown-ish, as it does make a strong attempt at providing racial inclusion to television screens nationwide. However, we hope that with the upcoming season there will be more of an effort to showcase those of a darker complexion in the show.
What are your opinions on this show? Let us know in the comments below!