Blackish, The Bluest Eye, and the Idea of Identity

ABC’s hit sitcom, Blackish, is about a black family living in a suburban neighborhood. The main character, Dre Johnson, has it all: a great job, a beautiful wife, Rainbow, four kids and a big home in a classy neighborhood, but as a black man, he begins to question whether all his success has brought too much cultural assimilation for his family. He realizes that his family does not seem to know that they’re black, or at least Dre’s definition and experience of being black. With the help of his father, Dre begins to try to create a sense of ethnic identity for the members of his family that will allow them to honor their background while preparing them to embrace the future.

All of Dre’s efforts are done in a comedic way, but it is hard to ignore the identity struggle in this sitcom. Identity is represented by gender, nationality, race, ethnicity, and class amongst other things. This identity is affirmed by people, especially children, seeing themselves in books, media, or other forms of pop culture. The last prominent, mostly-black cast, television show was The Cosby Show, which debuted over 30 years ago! This is a problem with today’s television. Most of the television shows available depict an all-white, middle to upper class cast. This gives children of color no role models to look up to, and thus these children will face trouble validating their own identities.

This idea of identity also connects to our reading of The Bluest Eye. In the first chapter, Claudia’s only desire is to dismember the dolls. She does this in order to understand what makes them so desirable to those around her. She does not identify with the doll and thus develops an urge to connect with it. When she doesn’t, she begins to resent the white doll. Claudia explains that she feels guilty about these urges, so she hides them behind a fabricated love for Temple and the baby dolls. This fake love, however, eventually turns into genuine worship of Shirley Temple as she desires to be like the icon. In the same way, Dre feels his children are trying to identity with white culture instead of celebrating their black heritage. This conflict is the basis for the hit sitcom and therefore is still very prominent in today’s society.

1 thought on “Blackish, The Bluest Eye, and the Idea of Identity”

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I’m so curious why being white is so has been so idealized in beauty culture. It’s becoming more diverse now in terms of skin colors being represented in fashion, but having smooth skin, straight shiny hair, big eyes, a tiny nose, and pouty lips are pretty universally understood as the most beautiful look. I wonder sometimes if it all goes back to who colonized who. Whoever asserted the most power got to set the standard for beauty. If Africa had taken Europeans to be slaves for them, would white people all wish they were black, and see themselves as not beautiful? I wonder this because when I was young I had the doll Josefina. I wanted so bad to look like her – I wished my hair was black and my skin was dark and tanned like hers. So what I’m saying is I think my behavior would’ve been the same no matter what was given to me – a black doll, an Asian doll, an Indian doll – so something isn’t perceived as beautiful because it actually is but because someone implies for you that it is. But whether or not we have control of who that someone is, is probably not our choice when we’re young.

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