Wednesday, July 10, 2019

REVIEW: 'Grown-ish' - Doug Raises Concerns to His Friends About Vivek's Recent Actions in 'Strictly 4 My ...'

Freeform's Grown-ish - Episode 2.17 "Strictly 4 My ..."

Vivek is getting a little too comfortable at Hawkins, sparking a heated debate over whether Vivek has crossed the line into cultural appropriation. Zoey does a service project to style a high school student for her prom.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Freeform's Grown-ish.

"Strictly 4 My ..." was written by Jenifer Rice-Genzuk Henry and directed by Amy Coughlin

Everyone wants to feel loved and secure in their lives. They want a community of people to surround themselves who understand the world in a way that enriches their overall experience. It can be so difficult for those who feel victimized and abused because of their cultural identities. It can be so rewarding when someone finds a group of like-minded individuals who help them feel that love and security. However, this show aspires to talk about cultural appropriation in a way that shines a light on just how toxic the standards can be in the world. Ana doesn't really understand it. She feels that everyone should strive for individuality and be celebrated for it. Meanwhile, Nomi knows all about the fetishization of the black cultural identity but that still doesn't give her the right to tell her friends how they should react in any given situation about the subject. Everyone wishes to present as an ally. That can break down barriers and foster compelling conversations. However, most of this episode is about the friends debating whether Vivek is appropriating black culture from all of his time at Hawkins. Not enough time is spent on Doug actually voicing his concerns with Vivek and the two coming to a stronger understanding though. That's where all of this eventually heads. That's the most compelling component of this episode as well. It doesn't spend enough time on that specific conversation. Instead, it mostly wants to talk about things in the abstract while holding things at a distance. Doug has a problem and Aaron doesn't quite know what to think. They discuss in secret without actually involving Vivek in the conversation at all. There are certainly some troubling aspects of Vivek's personal actions here. And yet, it also comes across as if the show is exaggerating some components of Vivek's life just to make a point here. He is not as well-defined a character as the rest of the ensemble. Throughout the two seasons so far, he has mostly just been used as comic relief. He is a player always looking for a good deal. He is often the butt of the joke but that never derails his confidence. That's basically the extent of his personality and how much he contributes to the fabric of the show. Sure, it's still clear that he exists alongside these friends and doesn't stand out at all. It doesn't feel as if he walks in from a completely different show like Charlie, who has been absent for awhile but appears in the final scene here for a joke that doesn't really work. This show enjoys the connections it shares with Black-ish. But the effectiveness of the comedy varies on both shows. The tone of this world is different from the original series. It's not a show that goes for broad jokes and can make them work in any given situation. It's a show about having these conversations for an audience of peers who are also going through these experiences. However, Zoey is off in her own subplot where she barely interacts with her friends at all. It's important to know she is putting in the work to get off of academic probation. But she has absolutely learned the lesson about needing to listen to her client previously. As such, it's not a good story whatsoever. Meanwhile, things come to a satisfying conclusion with the main story that allows Doug and Vivek to come into sharper focus. But it's also not the most engaging conversation the show has ever had despite how meaningful the overall debate should be for these students.