'Mixed-ish': From the Screen to Reality

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting on your couch as ABC played on the television at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday, then maybe you’ve witnessed one of my favorite new shows: “Mixed-ish.” “Mixed-ish” is a spin-off of the television show Black-ish (a show I also highly recommend). The show dives into the childhood of the mother, Rainbow Johnson. As Rainbow narrates the show, she recounts her experiences as a biracial child growing up in the ‘80s. While the show may be placed in a different time, it still tackles social dilemmas that arise as a result of Rainbow being both biracial and a pre-teen. The show provides the insight of an adult who has lived through the experience while still explaining the perspective of a child. What results is a show that tackles complex issues while remaining humorous and light-hearted. If you watch closely, the show is a true reflection of the biracial and pre-teen experience.

“Let Your Hair Down” (Season One, Episode Three)

One of the first topics that the show tackles is the perception of African American natural hair texture. The show acknowledges how these perceptions have changed since the ‘80s while still focusing on the stigma that young girls may feel about their hair choices. In less than 30 minutes, the show is able to encapsulate the insecurity that many young girls face, regardless of their race or ethnicity. I felt like the show also captured how difficult it could be growing up with a parent whose hair is an entirely different texture than yours. Do you go to a traditionally white hair salon? A black one? Does it matter? The struggle that my mother had in learning how to style and take care of super curly hair was real. But the show acknowledged that learning curve in an entertaining way that made me feel like I wasn’t the only one who had encountered that experience or a similar one.

"Love is a Battlefield" (Season One, Episode Four)

I found this episode to be particularly interesting because of how different it is from my current experience. Throughout this episode, Rainbow attempts to trace back her family history and finds that it is more challenging to do on her mom’s side (African American) than her father’s (White). As the show mentions in its opening, today we have DNA testing, like 23andMe, that makes projects like this relatively simple. However, seeing as the show takes place in the ‘80s, their perspective is focused on the fact that such DNA technology is not available. I found this to be interesting as I watched Rainbow attempt to define a family and culture that was difficult to track accurately. While the show kept up its humorous nature throughout the episode, it did enlighten me about a social problem that I hadn’t realized existed before.

"Puttin On the Ritz" (Season One, Episode Seven)

This episode of “Mixed-ish” tackled the pressure that biracial families might encounter under the scrutiny of those outside of their inner circle. The show showcased how people may change their biases over time. As a result, “Mixed-ish” advocated for holding out hope for everyone. While I had not experienced conditions as harsh as those in the ‘80s, my father has told me stories of family members and friends who did not approve of their biracial relationship at first. However, over time, many of those naysayers changed their opinions. While the show did offer an optimistic interpretation of the social issues at hand, the rosy outlook was a refreshing change from the usual harshness that accompanies racially charged problems.

"When Doves Cry" (Season One, Episode 11)

If any TV show is going to honestly try to reflect the human experience, then at some point, they must incorporate tragedy. “Mixed-ish” did this in a historical and informative manner. In this episode, the show combines the disaster of the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger with the excitement of a teenage crush. The juxtaposition is interesting, to say the least. As Rainbow deals with strong emotions from watching the explosion of the shuttle, she also exhibits the resilience often associated with young people when speaking to her crush. The show focuses on the guilt that Rainbow feels as she entertains these opposite emotions. I found this episode to be fantastic as it went beyond racial issues and examined the problems that all people have. How do you deal with a tragedy? What does moving on and coping look like, and how does that relate to others? The show answered these questions thoughtfully while paying tribute to such a historical event.

"Pride (In the Name of Love)" (Season One, Episode 13)  

I generally consider myself to be good at history, but watching this show made me realize that my timeline of historical events is skewed. I never realized so many important things happened in the ‘80s. For example, the first official recognition of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a national holiday. This episode followed Rainbow’s family as they celebrated this new holiday in excitement. The episode reminded me of how historically important the holiday is in American history. Today, it seems easy to confuse MLK’s birthday with the few other Monday holidays throughout the year. But watching this episode helped to remind me of the significance of such an important day and a prominent man.

“Mixed-ish” is still in its first season yet in such a short amount of time, it has managed to cover a wide array of topics and social issues. This show has given me the assurance that other people can relate to the same experiences I have had. I have laughed, I have cried and I have learned along with characters I have only known for 14 episodes. Watching this show has reminded me that we are all more alike than we seem, and that is a lesson we all need to be reminded of from time to time.