Freeform’s Grown-ish Explores College Life from Diverse Perspectives

May 3, 2019

Diversity and representation have always been desired characteristics in Hollywood.Yet, it hasn’t been until recently that many shows with diverse casts have been put into production and broadcasted on the big screen. Fortunately, the shows focusing on the lives of ethnically diverse characters have been premiering on primetime with stellar results, including Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat. Due to the success of Black-ish, a spinoff called Grown-ish premiered in 2018, representative of the increasing diversity on primetime trend. Grown-ish’s main cast includes an ethnically diverse group of college students and many key issues in society are brought up throughout the show. Therefore, it sends the right message about the importance of diversity and raising awareness about social issues.  

 

Photo: Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash 

 

The premise of Grown-ish revolves around Zoey Johnson from Black-ish and her new college life at Cal U. College is for learning inside and outside the classroom, and Johnson is often seen making mistakes and learning from them during her experiences. A central point of the show is to emphasize the transition into adulthood and freedom, and Johnson’s stressful college life at Cal U becomes bearable with her circle of friends. The group is ethnically and philosophically diverse, consisting of Nomi Segal (Jewish-American), Vivek Shah (Indian-American), Ana Torres (Cuban-American), Luca Hall, Aaron Jackson, Sky Forster, and Jazz Forster (all African-American). Because of the different ethnic backgrounds of the main characters, Grown-ish has one of the most diverse young casts on primetime TV.

 

The sitcom has received positive reception from audiences and critics alike, and does wonders for diversity in an industry where minorities are underrepresented. Diversity on screen is always welcomed, especially to those who come from different ethnic backgrounds. The perspectives shown from diverse characters on screen can relate to ethnically diverse audiences.

 

In addition to diversity, Grown-ish raises awareness about topics such as consent, relationship infidelity/drama, sexual orientation, empowerment, and having a safe space. In many instances, Johnson and her group of friends have serious and open debates about the aforementioned topics and sometimes sit down to discuss these issues. The group is tight-knit and in each other’s business, but in a caring way. This is evident in an episode when a consent policy called the Enthusiastic Sober Consent policy is introduced, and the group has an open discussion about its consequences.

 

Furthermore, since Grown-ish’s premise is about college and the target audience is likely high school and college students, the show touches on relatable topics to young people, such as effects of social media, transitioning to adulthood, realizing and learning from mistakes, personal growth, and finding out who you are and what brings out your passion. One of the messages of the show is that college represents a time when you are still finding yourself, so it’s okay to explore your interests.

 

Building off topics relatable to young people, there are several instances of romance in Johnson’s group, and the show does a good job depicting the ins and outs of modern relationships. Aspects such as relationship status confusion, social media in relationships, and signals to understand what is a friendship, relationship, and possibly a “situationship” are touched upon.

 

Overall, Grown-ish stresses many important themes such as unity, friendship, dedication, passion, and love in a social media dominant age in which contempt can be spread as easily as love, simply with the click of a button.

 

Grown-ish is currently in its mid-season hiatus for season two, with the mid-season finale having premiered on Wednesday, March 6. The remainder of season two is slated to premiere on the channel Freeform on Wednesday, June 5. The Freeform app also allows all episodes to be streamed on mobile devices. Grown-ish has successfully been renewed for a season three, which will likely premiere sometime in 2020. The renewal sends a positive message about the reception that a diverse cast receives.

 

Grown-ish is inspiring and provides a voice of awareness. It emphasizes the importance of unity regardless of viewpoints and skin color. It also depicts the importance of friendship in the life of young adults navigating the twists and turns of adulthood. Johnson and her clique coexist in the small bubble that is Cal U, but each person’s perspective of college life is shown differently. If more shows like Grown-ish are made, aspects such as diversity and awareness can shine brighter in an industry all about the spotlight.

 

Rishi Patel is a senior majoring in Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. He has written as an intern for SPORTalk and Study Breaks Magazine. He also loves to write fiction, non-fiction, and poetry as a hobby to expand his writing prowess. He hopes to work as a writer/editor when he graduates.     

 

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