Opinion: Netflix and pills — ‘#blackAF’ and the downside of popping Molly on TV

A promotional photo from the Netflix series "#blackAF."
(Courtesy of Black & Magazine)

The Netflix series #blackAF ended its first season this spring, but its episodes live on, accessible to anyone who wants to watch them on the digital streaming service.

It stars Kenya Barris, creator of critically acclaimed Black-ish (and its spinoffs Grown-ish and Mixed-ish), as a fictionalized version of himself. Barris and his co-stars in #blackAF uncover the “messy, unfiltered, and often hilarious world of what it means to be a ‘new money’ Black family trying to ‘get it right’ in a modern world where ‘right’ is no longer a fixed concept.”

In episode two of #blackAF, parents Kenya and Joya (Rashida Jones) decide to attend a festival where they seek to relive their twenties, deciding to go for a Molly do-over after a non-eventful first experience with the drug.

Though rich in satire, that episode — like the others — presents 2020’s African American family life as frenzied, hyper-honest and decidedly untraditional.

Maybe #blackAF’s aim is to get as close to reality TV as possible in its spoofing of Black Hollywood’s rich and famous. But even if it is just exaggerating faux-reality, uncensored drug use on the show still raises the question of how much responsibility media companies should bear when they jazz up their story lines with dangerous behavior for the sake of authenticity, comedic relief or dramatic effect.

“The responsibility we have as Black artists is the same as a doctor, a lawyer, a business leader or educator: To uplift our community,” said Rickerby Hinds, professor and chair of the Department of Theater and Digital Production at the University of California Riverside.

“And while that may sound like a cliché, it has proven to be the formula for the success of other communities,” said Hinds. “If we continue to ‘get mine’ and get out, then our communities will continue to be the most affected by negative issues.”

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