“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” - James Baldwin
I thought of this Baldwin quote the second I read the synopsis for tonight’s episode. While the quote is fairly popular, most people don’t realize how pervasive and relevant the sentiment remains. “Good Dre Hunting” is an episode that not only sheds a light on the realities of black anger, but also the righteousness of that anger. While celebratory phrases like “Carefree Black Girl” or “Black Boy Joy” made the thinkpiece rounds last year, little is often said about justified black rage. In pop culture, the topic is often boiled down to a stereotype like the loud angry black woman, but Black-ish examines the topic with a nuance that has become trademark for the show in its third season.
Dre and Bow are angry. “Good Dre Hunting” makes it clear that they have every right to be. Dre has to deal with his boss’ constant racism while being paid less than a white subordinate who’s only worked at his company for three months. Bow, on the other hand, doesn’t just have to deal with the racist dehumanization of a coworker assuming she’s a nurse, she also has to face the added frustration of sexism. Facing these daily racist and sexist aggressions with no release is what causes the rage Baldwin describes. Dre may not have known his boss hired extra security to walk women to their cars the first three years he worked there, but what could he really do about it anyway? There’s no accountability or justice he can demand, so he takes it out where he can.
While Bow’s anger is often concealed, a quick montage of Dre’s outbursts from previous episodes helps to ground the character’s overreactions. By taking Dre’s anger issue seriously and framing it within the reality of living as a black person in a society built on white supremacy, Black-ish softens a lot of the elements that make Dre a grating or childish character. “Good Dre Hunting” works as a great counterpart to last week’s emotionally strong episode by giving Anthony Anderson even more space to move Dre beyond caricature. With a simple pause, Anderson gives weight to the stress of Dre’s abnormal childhood––a topic that’s usually limited to jokes around Ruby and Pops’ abusive relationship. Therapy allows Dre to explore his insecurities away from his role as the family comedian. While Dre quits therapy at the end of the episode, I would love to see it return for his character in some way.
It’s surprising that it took Black-ish three seasons to address the role of therapy in the black community. In the season two episode “Dr. Hell No,” the show explored Pops’ fear of the medical establishment when he had to have a minor surgery. That episode cites the Tuskegee Experiment as one of the sources of the black community’s distrust in the medical establishment and that same sentiment can be applied to therapy. Black shows exploring skepticism over therapy is nothing new––Insecure did it when Molly erupted at the suggestion of therapy––but, Black-ish moves the conversation beyond race. Dre points out that coal miners would never consider such a “bougie” amenity and he’s right.
It’s hard enough for the poor and working class to maintain their physical health, let alone their mental health. The difference is that even when black people like Dre reach the upper class, they still tend to hold stigmas against therapy and mental illness. That’s why Dre and Bow openly admitting their mental illness (in Dre’s case, severe mental illness) felt like such a great moment. An upper-class black couple openly discussing their mental illness and therapy is damn near revolutionary. As a black woman who struggles with my mental health and was told by my mother to “read the bible and take vitamin D like everyone else in the family,” it felt good to see Black-ish question the skepticism shared by people like Ruby and my mom. To be black in this country is to be in a rage almost all the time and Black-ish asks that we recognize therapy as an effective tool when it comes to dealing with that rage.
- Why does Diane need a carpet cleaning coupon? What is she up to? I have to believe it has something to do with Charlie’s disappearance this week.
- Episodes have been airing out of the order they were filmed. Am I the only one noticing Bow’s fluctuating pregnancy each week? I nearly forgot she was pregnant this episode.
- I love that the show has Dre embrace his anger as necessary and Bow gets the change she wants by openly being angry. Black-ish isn’t saying we shouldn’t be angry, just that there are times when anger is necessary and times when we don’t need to beat a kid on a school bus for staring at us.
- Bow needs therapy because of “the ghosts” of all her dead patients.
- Jack and Diane eagerly plotting their parents’ divorce was cute even though the show has done it before. It still feels like the twins have been given little to do in the past few episodes.
- “You know who else had it all locked down at 17? Your mom.” I like the dynamic between Johan, Zoey and Junior. It reminds me of hanging out with that cool, younger cousin or uncle that smokes pot around you and introduces you to cool music. Other than his interactions with Ruby, this is the best use of his character that I’ve seen.
- I have watched Ruby’s day-old Entenmann’s outburst probably 50 times already.
- “Somebody tryna stop my baby from eating food? Food makes you feel better.” Honestly, how do we give Jenifer Lewis a lifetime achievement award?
- Wanda Sykes continues to feel underused. She nails every line, but I’d love to see her move beyond the conference room like Charlie did.
- We all deserve zinfandel and a horse that will keep our secrets, but failing that, therapy is pretty great too.