Although television creator Kenya Barris has had major success with shows like “Black-ish”, “Grown-ish”, and “Mixed-ish”, the 45-year-old has faced criticism in the past for his portrayal of Black families. More specifically, the families are typically upper middle class and the women tend to be of a lighter complexion.
Barris is facing similar criticism with his new Netflix series “#blackAF”, considering his wife is played by Rashida Jones, who’s the daughter of Quincy Jones and Peggy Jones. The kids in the show are also very light skinned including Genneya Walton, Scarlet Spencer, Justin Claiborne and Ravi Cabot-Conyers. The show centers around the oldest daughter Drea, played by Iman Benson, who’s of a darker complexion, and she’s creating a documentary about her family in order to get into film school. Although she narrates a lot of the show, the plots tend to focus on the father figure, Kenya Barris who supposedly plays a slightly exaggerated version of himself. He is constantly questioning what it means to be a successful Black creator with money in the show.
Although the show has its funny family dynamic moments, many people on social media still felt a disconnect with Barris’ portrayal of a Black family. Folks had comments about one of the daughters easily talking back to her parents. Some T.V. critics also noted how the affluence of the family still gives them a privilege that disconnects them from the other specific problems typical Black Americans faces.
But even more than all of this, the light skinned casting still remained the primary issue.
“#BlackAF with no dark skin people,” one user tweeted. “I’m over the somewhat dark skin dad, light skin mom, and mixed kids narrative that is supposed to represent the black family,” wrote another user. “Kenya Barris literally writes the same narrative, but with different actors/actresses . He really tried it with #blackAF.”
This is not the first time Barris has faced some criticism over his casting choices. When the casting for “#blackAF” was first announced last year (then called “Black Excellence”), Twitter also gave the creator backlash for the mostly light skinned family.
He responded in now deleted tweets.
“I’m…not gonna make up a fake family that genetically makes no sense just for the sake of trying to fill quotas. I LOVE MY PEOPLE,” he wrote. “[And] everything I does [sic] reflects that love. But to cast people like some kinda skin color Allstar game would actually do more harm than good.”
The executive producer continued that he “hardly ever react[s] to social media but this cut me a little.”
In response to the casting of “Black Excellence” a.k.a. “blackAF”, Barris finished by saying, “These kids look like my kids. My very Black REAL kids & they face discrimination every day from others outside our culture and I don’t want them to also see it from US.”
Despite the criticism, it’s clear Barris will still have his audience. Some people on social media argued that there’s other content out there featuring dark skinned representation and people can just easily opt out of Barris’ content.
“I think y’all fail to realize that every time Kenya Barris makes a show he continuously bases it off his own family which is why these shows all look the same,” one user wrote. “Stop expecting that man to switch it up, if you don’t like it just don’t watch it.”
You can check out more critical to mixed-ish reactions to the show below.