Black-ish has tackled quite a few serious issues this season: the N-word, gun control, racial disparities in health care, all with a spoonful of sugar. “Daddy’s Day” is no different. The lack of committed fathers in the American black community has become something of a running joke, the humor of which depends on who tells it and why. For many, the situation’s not funny at all, and single parenthood remains a much-debated subject any time someone wants to offer solutions to what’s “wrong” with black America. And so what we get in this episode is a show that doesn’t know if it wants to be the sugar or the medicine, with its overt lesson about recognizing fathers.
We open with a flashback of young Dre, walking into a room with a bowl of cream of wheat on a tray, exclaiming “Happy Father’s Day.” Ruby is alone on the couch, and for a quick second, it appears that this is a nod to the tension social media highlights when people honor their single mothers on a holiday dedicated to fathers. Flashback Ruby shoots that down when she snaps at young Dre for not remembering his father wasn’t home. Turns out Pops was a rolling stone and rarely home when he should be. Young Dre makes himself a promise that he will be a good father when he has his own family, anticipating all of the great Father’s Days he will have.
Unfortunately, Dre grew up to realize that the holiday plays second banana to Mother’s Day. Bow gets caviar-stuffed omelettes and massive bouquets of perfect roses for her special day. Dre gets a lone, cold fried egg and the same No. 1 Dad coffee mug every year. Dre and his marketing team come up with the idea of Daddy’s Day, a fall celebration that won’t be overshadowed by Mother’s Day. At home, Dre lays out his expectations of Daddy’s Day: high-quality gifts, including a soundtrack of love that incorporates his name into classic hits. At work, he and his colleagues prepare to pitch to Budweiser, hoping to make them the official sponsor, since Coke owns Christmas and Hallmark owns Valentine’s Day.
The Johnson family is reluctant to indulge Dre, but Zoey is being especially difficult. She’s no longer just a self-centered teen attached to her phone — she’s also sullen and rude, talking back to Dre in front of her new friend Rasheida, played by guest star Zendaya. Rasheida is clearly not from the same neighborhood. I fully expected her to end each sentence in a B-girl stance to complete the not-so-subtle clues that she comes from the ’hood. Just as I was wondering how she and Zoey ended up at the same school, Rasheida explains to Dre that she’s a scholarship student. And to complete the portrait of Rasheida as an “urban” kid, she admits she doesn’t have a father around. She jokes that in her neighborhood, if there’s a man in the house, it’s such an unusual occurrence that people call the police.
So … here’s a character with the kind of name to make Raven-Symoné cringe, who lives in a neighborhood where fathers are considered unicorns, has a scholarship to a prestigious prep school, and peppers her language with phrases like “Yo,” “that’s dope,” and “real talk.” Bow has a pair of bamboo earrings she wears that indicate a certain kind of hipness. Rasheida’s constant bamboo earrings seem to point to life in the ’hood. It honestly feels a bit lazy to have painted the character this way, even if a shared urban upbringing is what helps Dre connect to Rasheida. While Zoey rolls her eyes at her father’s presence, Rasheida believes he should be cherished. This recognition prompts Dre to ask Rasheida to be the face of Daddy’s Day.
Rasheida’s required racial ambiguity goes over well in the test commercial for the holiday, but Dre’s connection with her irritates Zoey. The final straw is when Dre decides to teach Rasheida how to drive. Zoey turns to Charlie for help, but ends up failing her driving exam because she drives like she’s drunk. Rasheida passes, and Zoey congratulates her for that and for not having a father. Rashida warns that not having a father around isn’t great, and Pops chimes in as well, saying Dre is such a good father, he would be considered a woman. If you weren’t sure if Zoey is a spoiled brat, it should be clear now, right? A fatherless teen and a formerly deadbeat dad both have to tell her in explicit terms that her father is a good man and deserves respect.
The tension between Zoey and Dre causes him to fumble the presentation for Budweiser. When he arrives home, determined to set things right with her, he’s surprised by a celebration of Daddy’s Day that she has orchestrated. She admits that Dre may be embarrassing, but at least he’s in her life. All’s right with the world.
While Zoey and Dre were dealing with their issues, Junior was being very thoughtful in recognition of all that Bow does as a mother. He wants to maintain the strong and overly affectionate connection between him and Bow. It’s a connection Grandma Ruby feels echoes her relationship with Dre, but Bow rejects that comparison, pulling away from Junior and declaring they will have a normal mother-son relationship that doesn’t include snuggling while watching movies.
- Tracee Ellis Ross’s gray dress and tan, laceless oxfords.
- “[Zoey] is beautiful and racially ambiguous. No one could be mad.”
- “You’re standing in a field of corn ’cause I’m all ears.”
- “A son is just a disappointing photocopy of yourself.”