The following review contains spoilers from season 1 of Grown-ish. Proceed at your own risk.
Just as its title suggests, Grown-ish is not for the fully grown. So in order for me, a woman whose college days are a little over a decade behind her, to understand the significance of this show, I had to think back. I had to remember what it was like living with my friends, balancing my school and social life, and of course living outside of what felt like the dictatorial rule of my mother. By tapping into my 2005 self, I was able to relate to freshman, Zoey Johnson, especially when it came to her dating life.
We watch as Zoey unsuccessfully tries to translate the popularity that marked her high school career to college. Her “cool” persona turns into awkward stumbling when she starts crushing on upperclassman, Aaron, who comes off as handsome, woke, and all around smooth. Eventually Zoey does starting dating Aaron, but that quickly falls apart when Aaron and Luca, her other love interest, find out about each other and break things off with the young beauty. In the end, Zoey ends up dating the top basketball player on campus, and Aaron ends up feeling insecure about it. What I find most relatable about this experience is how once Zoey gets to know Aaron, he turns from the sexy, somewhat mysterious and irresistible heartthrob, to a regular guy; he is goofy, has the typical moments of insecurity, and is simply not as smooth as she once thought.
We can read Aaron’s transition not simply as a shift in is character, but since the show is told from Zoey’s point of view, we see it as a change in her perspective. This shift feels true. We all remember that one guy who when we first met him, was just the most suavest, finest, brotha ever. Then once we got to know him, once our crush subsided, we were left a little embarrassed at how we used to fret over him. These moments are what give Grown-ish its signature. It really inhabits the world and voice of the college-aged. This is also apparent when it deals with issues such as drug use. Zoey’s unprescribed use of Adderall is shown and commented on, but not the extent that you think it would be. Instead of the show’s characters or plot line hammering the negative aspects of drug use, it allows the Zoey to figure it out on her own, to be grown-ish.
Another aspect that really captures the tone of the show is the cast. Twin track stars, Jazz and Sky, are played by Chloe and Halle Bailey. These real life sensations used Instagram and YouTube to showcase their singing talents and landed a recording deal with Beyoncé, and even opened for several shows on one of her tours. Fashion savvy, cool guy Luca, is played by Luka Sabbat, a fashion influencer and model with tons of social media followers. By including actors who represent the entrepreneurial spirit of the social media savants of this generation, Grown-ish demonstrates its commitment to speaking to its target demographic. The result is that persons like me have to channel our younger days in order to appreciate the show on its own terms. So while at times I find it a bit cliche, or desire a deeper examination of the issues presented, or simply am just not into it, I remember; this show is not for me, and that’s okay.