Online dating behavior Reveals Real World Dating Bias
This week’s Grown-ish continues to bring the realness, this time confronting racial bias in the dating world. Zoey (Yara Shahidi) opens the episode citing some troubling statistics about popular online dating apps, where white and Asian women consistently outperform other women of color. In hindsight, it seems obvious that applications enabling society to rate each other would yield fascinating data about our culture’s preferences and biases. Alone with a phone and asked to make quick decisions about the relative attractiveness of a series of random faces, people get really honest. The stat that Jazz (Chloe Bailey) and Sky (Halle Bailey) are struggling with in this episode: 82% of black men show bias against black women on dating apps.
Over drinks at the bar — side note, these kids must have some really good fake ID’s because there is no one in this friend group over the age of 20 — Nomi (Emily Arlook) innocently asks “Is there a list?” when discussing men’s racial dating preferences. This is some intense stuff for a Freeform show. Jazz and Sky proceed to outline the hierarchy they see represented both at their school and in the media. And when the media is in your pocket 24/7, it can feel like the whole world.
As the twins explain the “rankings” as they perceive them, in trademark Black-ish style, a series of stills showcases black athletes and rappers dating lots of women, but none of them black. Aaron (Trevor Jackson) protests, “I couldn’t imagine not dating a queen,” but Luca points out that most of the “queens” in Aaron’s dating history are “Egyptian, not Nubian.” Grown-ish highlighting a character’s preference for light skinned girls feels ironic, because all of the series regulars on this show have light skin. While Grown-ish is undoubtedly one of the most — if not the most — diverse show on Freeform, there is not a lot of melanin in this friend group. This becomes even more glaring a few scenes later, when Aaron is shown talking to a notably darker girl than any we have seen on the show so far, in an attempt to confront his own bias.
Make It Work
Meanwhile, Zoey is spending this episode trying to focus on her studies, which this week are fashion. She’s paired up on a sweater-making project with Luca, who is proving to be a distracted and difficult team player. Luca is distracted by a screening of Black Panther, a zoo night in San Diego, egging and grocery store, and eventually drive-thru food — served in some really blatant product placement, it must be noted. And when Luca does finally settle in to work on the project, he has tossed out Zoey’s ideas completely and started over on a new design. “The realness always needs to bleed through every time” Luca lectures. Zoey recognizes that Luca pushes her to be better, although he does it in a gradious and self-important way. Zoey has a preference for men with strong personalities and opinions — Aaron, Cash, and now Luca — perhaps because her own are so amorphous.
Jazz and Sky’s conversation with Ana (Francia Raisa) and Nomi at the bar should be required viewing for all college freshmen. In Gen Z terms, the twins explain the pitfalls of their unfair dating situation. They remind the group that trends in makeup, fashion, and even plastic surgery have “everybody… always checking for the girl who looks black but no one’s looking for the one who actually is.” Jazz tries to explain to Nomi the weight of seemingly small things like sending a drink back. “When you do it it’s how you act, when I do it it’s how black girls act.” This is the heart of the struggle of being one of few or the only POC in any setting. When you are so underrepresented, your actions are equated with those of a larger group. This is the danger of tokenism — when one person is considered “enough” to represent an entire group it exploits not only that person but the other members of that group whose individual voices are not represented.
After a half-hearted attempt at hitting on a white guy (of course his name is Chad), Jazz strikes out and heads home to reconcile with her disappointed sister. Before she leaves the bar, Sky confronts a well-known campus player, asking him “What’s up with you and white girls?” The guy in question doesn’t have a good answer, pretty much because he can. “What I want is to have the same college experience as Ana or Nomi,” Jazz later confides in her sister. But at their predominantly white college, Sky reminds Jazz, they face issues they wouldn’t at Howard or Hampton. The episode wraps up with Jazz hitting it off with the guy Sky told off. While this tidy “put-a-bow-on-it” ending could read trite, the deeper truth is perhaps that when we call each other out on our biases, we’re able to move past them. Conversations like the one in this episode are uncomfortable, tricky, and can seem unworthy of the effort, especially in a social climate where one misstep can sick a crowd of Twitter pitchforks ablaze against you. But because Jazz, Sky, and their friends have these tough talks, a greater understanding can be if not reached, moved forward.
Grown-ish, a Black-ish spinoff continues its 13 episode season Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC Freeform.
In case you missed it, read the previous episode review here.
Photo and video credit: Freeform