“#blackAF” is the newest show by Kenya Barris, the creator of “Black-ish,” “Grown-ish” and “Mixed-ish.” The show has a “Curb Your Enthusiasm”-style plot, where it follows Barris playing himself and is based on his real-life family.
The premise of the mockumentary-style show is that Barris’ 17-year-old daughter Drea is trying to make a documentary about her family as a part of her NYU film school application.
Just like the other shows he has worked on, the show is unapologetically black and proud of showing its blackness. It doesn’t shy away from race analysis or jokes and experiences that only black people can relate to.
Unlike other shows centered around a black family, such as “The Bernie Mac” show or “Martin,” this show tries really hard to prove it is a black show. There was one moment where they cut to a random clip of a Pusha T music video for no reason other than to show that the family knows who Pusha T is.
The soundtrack also leaves much to be desired. They play popular black artists, like 50 Cent and City Girls, but during a scene where they are at brunch. It’s like they found a playlist of popular black music and just pressed shuffle. There is no thought or care put into these cultural references and they try to fit in as many as possible and it really seems insincere.
Barris’ other shows are about people that are relatable to everyone because they are middle-class, everyday Americans. This one is very focused on the first world problems that come with being rich. Most of the time, it seems very out of touch and lacks any self-awareness.
It seems like the writers want the audience to take all the over-the-top, out-of-touch behaviors of the characters as funny or as Barris poking fun at himself. In reality, it just comes across as ego-stroking.
When Barris complains about having to constantly go shopping or being fitted for Valentino sweatsuits, you don’t know if it’s supposed to be a joke or not. Even if it is supposed to be a joke, it’s just not funny.
This is a problem in the characters as well. They are often “jokingly” mean to each other, but the stale and serious delivery of these jokes just makes you feel like they seriously dislike one another.
For example, the jokes and arguments that go on between Barris and his wife are just mean and there is nothing funny about them. Barris straight-out said that Joya was a bad mother and it was meant to be taken as a “joke.”
Though this family obviously has a lot of privilege and wealth, and they are flashy and not relatable, they do still face a lot of hardships because they are black and that should be acknowledged. In one episode, they talk about how there is always pressure to look your best because they have always been taught that presentation equals acceptance.
The show does have a good amount of thoughtful race analysis. Episode five included a very meta discussion of what it’s like to be a black filmmaker.
In this episode, Barris is questioning if he should care about what critics say about his shows and he has a very insightful conversation about it with Tyler Perry.
Perry says that he doesn’t care what critics say because those institutions are mostly white and he doesn’t make movies for them. Whether it is bad or not doesn’t really matter, as long as they are reaching their audience and making them laugh and feel proud of their blackness.
Perry’s analysis really speaks to “#blackAF.” Even if the plot, characters and pacing aren’t the most well done, it doesn’t matter. Its purpose is to represent black people and the black experience. His shows are a step in the right direction and though this show may have its problems, it is still very culturally significant and important.
Gladi Suero is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.