The most memorable episodes of grown-ish’s parent show black-ish are the ones where it tackles a major cultural issue and makes it digestible for its audience. Think about the one where the Johnsons attempt to get a handle on the N-word, or work through police brutality. Season 3 “Lemons,” which reacted to Donald Trump’s election with shockingly fast speed, will go down as one of the sitcom’s iconic instalments.
Although spin-off grown-ish hasn’t shied away from The Tough Issues — tackling teen prescription pill abuse in the series premiere and following with conversations about class tensions, sexuality, and virginity — but it hasn’t exactly scrutinised anything down in the way black-ish tends to excel in. That is until “It's Hard Out There For A Pimp,” which takes aim at how hard it is to date as a Black woman, and breaks that topic all the way down to the molecules.
The episode opens with heroine Zoey Johnson (Yara Shahidi) narrating her way through a bar, where the rest of her friends are drinking the night away. The voiceover-worthy topic at hand? “The List,” as Forster sisters Jazz (Chloe Bailey) and Sky (Halle Bailey) will later call it, of eligibility. At the top of that hierarchy, as proven by actual dating app data, are Asian women, followed close behind by white women; at the very bottom, it’s Black women and Asian men.
This might all sound like a certain Master Of None episode you remember, and, well, it does. But, in the same way black-ish’s Very Special Episodes on race are meant to speak to its majority non-Black audience, grown-ish is being used to talk to its own millennial and Gen-Z fans. Tell me, how many high school sophomores do you believe enjoy watching the vaguely Italian cinema-inspired romantic travails of a 30-something-year-old indecisive man. The answer is likely none, but young people are watching grown-ish. So, this is exactly where they can learn about the pitfalls of The List.
Ever the truth-tellers, Jazz and Sky are the ones who complain about the unfair dating situation unfolding around them. Aghast, the twins realise every Black man around them is coupled up with at least one white woman, if not more. This wouldn’t be so bad if any of these available men also gave the track stars a fair shot, but none do. “Was there some event, some movie, some Drake song that said Black guys should stop dating Black girls?” Jazz rightly complains. But, the culprit isn’t the 6ix God, it’s that List.
The sisters explain that from where they’re sitting, white women (your Kylie Jenners and Minka Kellys) hold the top spot in cultural beauty standards, while white women with sexy accents still manage to surpass them. Next up are “extoic chicks,” which a phrase we need to eradicate from all languages known to man. This is when Ana Torres (Francia Raisa) demands to know whether Jennifer Lopez is considered attractive and everyone tells her to calm down. Of course J.Lo is bad.
While people try to poke holes in the Forsters explanations, the twins have literally all of pop culture and decades of Hollywood interracial relationships to prove they have a point. Also, a Black guy comes over to hit on Ana and only Ana in the cheesiest way possible, ignoring a smiling Jazz along the way, adding insult to injury.
So, Jazz, who prefers to date Black guys, decides to grab hold of her romantic destiny and make things happen. Sky finds her sister flirting with a cute white guy with the name Chad, of course it’s Chad, whose hobbies include watching Ozark and drinking summer ales. Has Jazz ever heard of summer ale? Nope, but maybe it’s time she tried one (“summer ale” is now the best euphemism for “white dude”). Sky is instantly annoyed her twin is jumping ship for someone she knows Jazz isn’t truly interested in. An unexpected argument erupts and Jazz tells her sister to kick rocks. As a college student, Jazz should be able to try out all the metaphorical microbrews and mango Cirocs her heart desires, and anything in between.
Sky, fed up with all of the nonsense going around, is finally pushed to ask a nearby Black guy why he’s with a white woman every time she sees him on campus. His explanation is “because I can.” We are all lucky Sky didn’t burn this bar to the ground.
Because the runner didn’t commit any felonies, she’s able to share a really sweet detente with Jazz, where they agree they just want the same romantic opportunities as their female friends with less melanin. It looks like at least one of the Forsters might get their wish, as Sky runs into the guy she called out at the bar the next day on campus. His name is Doug, he’s from Queens, and he has immediate chemistry with Miss Jazz.
- In a grown-ish rarity, Zoey had the B-story this time around. She and Luca had a fashion project to do, and, instead of just designing pocket quotes, Luca makes our heroine go on a sprawling adventure including Black Panther, petty crime, and zoo animals. Of course, the Luca-led resulting designs look amazing and the pair’s chemistry is off the charts.
- After all that work, it’s obvious grown-ish is officially #TeamLuca.
- Vivek (Jordan Buhat), decidedly less Baby Drug Kingpin than last week, seems like a Good Guy for saying Black women are at the very top of his List… until he obliviously admits his reasoning: he’s looking for a “dangerous” girl who might murder him. Apparently he believes Black women can slip into that “sexy as hell” role perfectly. Hero status revoked.
- Aaron (Trevor Jackson) also has an unexpected, awkward dating hangup. Once Vivek stumbles upon a photo of Aaron’s mama, it becomes clear every girl Aaron has dated is a creepy carbon copy of his racially-ambiguous mom.
- Before coming to this Oedipal realization, Aaron desperately tries to flirt with a darker-complected girl from Denver-by-way-of-Cameroon to prove he’s not a colourist. It’s cringe-worthy and we should all be embarrassed for him.
This week's Drone Class lesson: It’s the second week in a row our heroes have been too busy dealing with the sex-drugs-and-Wakanda portion of college to go to class. Who’s figuring out Charlie’s taxes?
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