What Is Going On With The Black Nanny On Black-ish?

Photo: Kelsey McNeal/ABC/Getty Images.
Black-ish is giving Bow’s pregnancy all the meaningful attention that it deserves this season. In last night’s episode, she is still trying to hide her pregnancy at work for fear that it will interfere with her plans to make partner at the hospital. In her interview for the promotion, she gives an impassioned speech insisting her pregnancy won't affect her ability to do her job, detailing her firm plan to return to work in six weeks, and explaining how pregnant women can “do it all.” However, when she finds out that her nanny, Vivian, is also pregnant, Bow does not display the same amount of grace and understanding she wants to hospital to extend to her.
That Bow’s nanny is a Black domestic worker should be lost on no one. Black-ish, perhaps unintentionally, highlighted the ways that pregnancy has different ramifications across class backgrounds. Sure, Rainbow is worried about what her pregnancy means for her promotion, but there is no doubt that she will still have a job once her baby is born. The same can’t be said for Vivian, who unknowingly faces termination. Not to mention the fact that Bow sees Vivian’s pregnancy as a sign of unprofessionalism. It’s a complicated narrative with an ultimately feminist message.
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Outside of pregnancy, however, Black-ish’s handling of gender felt weird and sloppy last night. When Ruby and the Johnson kids think Vivian's been stealing from the family, Junior is the only one who defends her. This is clearly a result of his crush on her, which is evidenced by a series of photos that he has taken without her knowledge. They include a shot of her bending over and another of her cleavage. Zoey calls his collections “stalker photos” and Ruby offhandedly remarks that they’re proof that he won’t be able to “live near a school,” alluding that he might be a sex offender. Other than that, no one seems to be particularly bothered by his behavior. It appears that the family accepts it as a symptom of his teenage social awkwardness.
Social awkwardness is not an excuse for sexual harassment. Taking arousing photos of someone without their knowledge or consent is a violation of their privacy and a form of sexual harassment. That Junior is the child of Vivian’s employer adds another layer of power imbalance that could prove disastrous if this were a real-life situation. As could Dre’s need for Vivian to be attracted to him in the service of his own ego.
I was surprised that Black-ish seemed to gloss over these details as funny anecdotes. For an episode that feels so feminist elsewhere, it still rings a little tone-deaf. Here's to them getting it right on a future episode.
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