#BlackAF has been renewed for a second season. This is such great news for me, I was confused when Lainey told me cause my biased mind had already renewed it before it was actually real. I made my allegiances to this extremely messy show back in April, here. Now that it’s come back, it’s fascinating how the press around it and showrunner, producer, and star Kenya Barris’s comments have been a self-fulfilling prophecy, particularly from everyone’s favourite episode five, “yo, between you and me...this is because of slavery.”
The show is a success, and Black critics largely aren’t happy with it. My opinion is that Kenya hasn’t engaged enough with the strongest arguments against the show, but by now we should know that that is a part of his character. He doesn’t completely ignore our cries for better wigs and some kind of coherent plotline the way Tyler Perry does, but he engages in critique the way Kenya on the show does: the primary marker of success is ratings and a bottom line. And as a TV/movie writer and producer, he seems to feel justified to do so. There are all kinds of arguments we can get into about what standards we hold Black art to, and wherever you land on the debate, Kenya is unflinching in his opinion that his stories matter.
On critics, Kenya offered the “Awards Chatter” podcast these absolute gems:
"The idea that people criticize me for it being so close to Black-ish?...I'm like, 'Go f-ck yourself, dude.' I would do it again. Writers tell their stories in their voices. This was a version of my story. It's important to tell over and over and over again, because it needs to get hammered into the idea that we [Blacks] are part of the fabric of this country in a way that you're not seeing. I would not do anything different.”
This interview was a wide-ranging one, and touched on Black-ish, #BlackAF, and his upcoming Juneteenth project with Pharrell Williams.
Back in April, Kenya did an interview with T.I. about #BlackAF here, that was…interesting. I hated what he said about colorism in this interview, because he doubled down on the bad tweets I’ll never forget:
“The one thing that I’ll say in terms of the colorism [is] this (show) is based on my family” and actress Rashida Jones is “playing a version of my wife, who’s biracial,” said Barris, adding that she did a “pitch-perfect job.”
This is just not enough, and I want to believe he knows that, and The Grio’s analysis of that interview is here.
We have to be serious about discussions of representation. Now more than ever is a time to recognize that Black people are not monolith, and should have a say at how we are represented to the “masses” through entertainment. I already critiqued Kenya’s representations of wealth and success and though the show did fall flat at times, and while others have serious grievances about the flow and storytelling, which is fair, and I understand why some Black people hated it, that is not enough to not watch it. And it shouldn’t be the case to convince others not to watch it either.
I take TV watching seriously and personally- it was bizarre that after reading my first review on the show, people sent me other reviews dragging it, pushing me to agree. I’m OK with the people who hate it hating it, but I’m not changing my mind (Nene Leakes voice). In fact, that made me even more interested in season two because I wanna ride this out and see how Kenya is going to deal with all this through the script.
A great discussion of #BlackAF and these ongoing tensions can be found here, at The Grapevine. In the meantime, lets continue to push for and showcase all Black art…or just the stuff that we like 🙃.