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TV Series Review

Black-ish’s Rainbow “Bow” Johnson , née Jackson, didn’t have a normal childhood. She grew up in a “hippie, judgment-free utopia where loved ruled all.” There was no racism or sexism, and everyone was truly equal. They held hands and danced in circles. They prayed together and ate together … and they were also arrested together when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives classified their commune as “a radicalized cult in violation of over 47 ATF regulations.”

That was 1985. Bow was 12 years old. And in the wake of that arrest, her life changed forever.

Not Everything Is Black and White

Although her parents didn’t face any serious charges, they had to leave their beloved commune home behind and start their lives over. Gone were the days of using “talking sticks” during family discussions and growing their own food in a garden. “I can’t wait six months to eat,” Bow’s mom (Alicia) tells her dad (Paul). But gone also were the days of not teaching their kids about the differences between races.

Thrust into a world of b-boys and material girls, Bow and her siblings (Johan and Santamonica) realize for the first time in their lives that being “mixed” isn’t normal. Their mother is black, their father white. As Bow points out, interracial marriages weren’t legal until 1967, making the Jackson siblings likely the first mixed-race children in their suburban neighborhood.

Love, Sharing and Pescatarianism

The show puts a heavy emphasis on family and supporting each other through the hard times. Alicia and Paul, after realizing how hard the real world was going to be for their kids, commit to preparing Bow and her siblings for success without giving up their values: love, sharing and pescatarianism among them. They adapt to their new environment and reassure their children that no matter what, they will all get through this together.

The Jacksons receive some help along the way from Harrison Jackson III (Paul’s conservative whisky-drinking, gun-toting father) and Denise (Alicia’s outspoken, peak ‘80s-culture sister). These two can be a little overwhelming for the Jackson parents at times (Harrison has a certain propensity for making off-hand racial comments and putting down his son, and Denise clearly wants her nieces and nephew to embrace the ‘80s as she has), but they ultimately have the Jackson family’s best interests at heart.

As a prequel spin-off to ABC’s black-ish, mixed-ish documents how the Johnson family matriarch went from being raised in a cult to becoming a skilled anesthesiologist. It mildly deals with some adult themes, such as drug use, and Harrison’s racial comments can be jarring and offensive. but mostly, it shows that underneath all the problems, Bow’s wildly diverse family was made up of flawed but deeply loving people. And it shows Bow growing up and trying to find her place in a world where nobody was like her, not even her parents.

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Episode Reviews

Sept. 24, 2019: "Becoming Bow"



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Arica Himmel as Rainbow “Bow” Jackson; Tracee Ellis Ross as Rainbow Johnson; Tika Sumpter as Alicia Jackson; Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Paul Jackson; Ethan William Childress as Johan Jackson; Mykal-Michelle Harris as Santamonica Jackson; Christina Anthony as Denise; Gary Cole as Harrison Jackson III






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Emily Baker

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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