Why the Netflix Show "#blackAF" Is Not Blackaf
Is #blackAF a Good Show?
#blackAF is complicatedly bad. The reason it is complicated is because the show tries to encompass too much. On the one hand, they are trying to break down black history. On the other hand, they are trying to break down a character who doesn’t need to be black.
The character Kenya Barris, who is played by the real life Kenya Barris, is presented as a man who came up from a lower income family and, through hard work as a writer and TV show creator, has reached a level of luxury that most will never enjoy.
The life he lives is what most people would call the American Dream. He has a large home, beautiful wife, and a house full of children, six to be exact. On top of that, he has a maid and a personal assistant.
My question to Kenya Barris would be what about any of that relates to the black experience?
Black people are not the only people that are born into difficult circumstances. A simple check on poverty statistics will show that 15.7 million white people fell below the poverty line in 2018. I am not a mathematician, but the statistics show that 8.9 million, black people are in the same boat which by doing basic subtraction means there are 6.8 million more white people living in poverty than black people.
So just coming from a low income family does not make the show inherently black.
Because of Slavery?
Is Kenya Barris a self-proclaimed asshole who curses at his children and openly contemplates leaving his wife for trivial matters because of slavery that took place 400 years ago? I think not.
The connections between Kenya Barris and his issues as a man (not a black man, but just a man) and the general history of black people presented in the show are complicated. It is complicated because there are no connections. The show is trying to force a narrative that simply doesn’t exist within the realm of the show, which can only be blamed on poor writing and story creation.
Often in the show, Kenya goes on these rants about black struggles, whether that be gentrification, the white gaze, black fatherhood, and others topics. Even some of the children acknowledge in the show that their father can sometimes talk someone’s ear off about black issues.
But just as the kids were bored listening to his rants, I was also bored as a black audience member. Not only was I bored, but more importantly confused, because these issues are not directly related to this man who lives in a multimillion dollar home.
These issues do not provide any high risk stakes for Kenya Barris. To be honest, there are no high risk stakes in this show outside of his own self-proclaimed mental crisis of whether he fits in with the predominantly white people around his industry.
Intended Audience Demographic?
As a single 25-year-old African American male who grew up in a middle class or maybe lower tier of the upper middle class family, I can confidently say that the story of Kenya Barris as it is presented in this show is not inspiring, not interesting, and just overall not it.
It’s clear that perspective is everything and maybe I am not the intended demographic in which this show was looking to reach. One would assume that a show titled #blackAF would be intended for black people. But based off of the basic African American history lessons given in the show, it seems it’s intended for people who don’t know anything about black history.
Or maybe this show is intended for black people who have reached a very high level of financial success like Kenya Barris. I have not climbed the mountain tops of success where I can be internally consumed with the black struggle, but yet never have to deal with the consequences.
Oops, my bad. Kenya, when I get there I’ll be sure to turn this show back on to pick up the pro tip gems you’ve left behind in this series about how black people should deal with first generational wealth. Until then, I'm going to watch black storytellers who actually know how to produce content for black audiences such as Jordan Peele or Issa Rae.
Honestly, this series would have been so much more interesting and compelling if there was less of Kenya and more of the actual narrator, who is the daughter Drea Barris played by Iman Benson.