Some say “Black-ish” Hurt Itself When it Cast Chris Brown

This week, Black-ish tackled some of the themes it tackles best: the importance of seeing yourself represented in popular culture, the double-edged sword of having to be a so-called “model minority,” and the complex web of expectations that comes with being anything other than white.

Those themes all come to a head when family man/advertising exec Dre (Anthony Anderson) tries to launch a campaign for a champagne brand that features an irritated black woman turning into a happy-go-lucky white woman. This commercial Dre creates also stars a potentially controversial rapper — who, as it happens, is played by real-life controversial rapper Chris Brown.

It is, to say the least, a confusing choice on Black-ish’s part.

Casting Brown — a man with a long record of abusive behavior — in the part of a cool famous guy whom everyone spends the whole episode trying to impress would be questionable enough on its own. Casting Brown as the linchpin of an episode all about double standards and oblivious men doing wrong by black women is astonishingly tone-deaf — and a major misstep from a show that usually makes a point of knowing better.

Since the beginning of Blackish, Dre has prided himself on being a strong black voice who will tell it like it is to anyone, from his family members to the clueless white co-workers grinning at him from across the conference table. He’s full of himself, but good at his job. He’s passionate, but sometimes hyperbolic in the pursuit of making a point.

In “Richard Youngsta,” Dre tries to do what he does best — and falls flat on his face.

While creating a commercial for Uvo champagne, Dre and rapper Youngsta (Brown) coin a singsong phrase, “Put some Uvo on it!” that’s supposed to demonstrate Uvo’s ability to instantly improve any celebration. (And it will immediately get stuck in your head, so fair warning if you decide to watch the video.)

The ad sees Youngsta pouring the champagne all over anything he thinks needs an upgrade. When Dre shows the ad to his family, his kids think it’s great, but his wife Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross) and mother Ruby (Jenifer Lewis) are horrified: Did he and the other giggling men who worked on it really not notice that they had Youngsta pour Uvo on an annoyed black woman and turn her into a smiling white one? Did it not occur to them that the ad might be a huge insult to black women watching it? To say nothing of the fact that, well, it’s just kinda dumb.

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SOURCE: Caroline Framke