This Unexpected Show Is Tackling Rape, Consent & The N-Word, All In One Season

Photo: Matthias Clamer/NBC.
The Carmichael Show is one that is constantly pushing boundaries with its plot lines, week after week. But for those who are unfamiliar with the underrated comedy NBC, it's surprising to hear of a major networks series approaching the complicated issues of sexual assault, consent, assisted suicide, the allegations against Donald Trump, and use of the n-word. Phew. And that is just in the first few episodes of the show's third season, which premieres Wednesday night with an episode focused primarily on rape and consent titled "Yes Means Yes," explained show co-creator and star Jerrod Carmichael in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
Carmichael, who plays the main character Jerrod on the series (a sort-of version of his real self), revealed to EW the premise of the season 3 premiere which is kickstarted by one of Maxine's (Amber Stevens West) friends who posts on social media about her sexual assault. That conversation about consent becomes a subject of debate with the entire family, which Carmichael felt was crucial for the series. "The line of consent is such a topic on college campuses — in the world in general," Carmichael told the magazine. "What consent means is evolving, and rightfully so. We’re trying to curb any problems and any tragic events from happening. But when we talk about where that line is — when we talk about how it’s evolved and hearing a verbal ‘yes’ — guys realized that what it is on paper and what it is in an actual situation where you’re with a young lady or a young guy, a lot of times they don’t match up. We wanted to write an episode around the confusion, the not knowing, the ignorance. Bobby says, ‘Oh wait — by your definition, then I’ve made a huge mistake.’ It’s an episode around the evolving definition of consent."
The main purpose of the episode is to eliminate any murkiness when it comes to the subject of consent, because it is should be very clear to everyone that, as the title states, "yes means yes." That's it. "We wanted to contribute a little bit more clarity of not only the definition, but men and women’s feelings around the matter because it is such a delicate thing,” Carmichael explained. "Like anything we talk about, we want to handle it with care. We are aware that there are far too many victims of sexual assault every single day, and we just wanted to have a very specific conversation about it. It’s women talking about their fears and men talking about their fears — and it’s the things that we feel enlightened or ignorant on."
Beyond that, Carmichael also teased the topic of Trump in a later episode, and how they were able to get away with including a line about the president's past. "People were really cautious because we don’t want to say anything that’s not true about anyone — and you can’t, it becomes a legal issue at some point,” he said. “I think we kind of teed it on the line. I think we ultimately got to the honesty of it."
And lastly, that n-word episode, "Cynthia's Birthday," is sure to fire off many a reaction piece. He tells the site that the word is said six times. "The family has a discussion about who should say it, who shouldn’t say it, the pain around it, how it affects us, the benefit of trying to stop someone from saying it," he says. "It’s a full discussion about that."
The Carmichael Show airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.

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