The relationship between animated comedies from a Black perspective and TV has always been uncomfortable. Shows like “The Boondocks” relied on sharp observational humor to showcase their genius, while “The PJs” portrayed the Black Struggle in a clownish manner. Black animated comedies and characters have often had to rely on the spectacle of their identity to attract audiences, constantly overperforming their race. However, one new animated comedy called “Young Love” takes a different approach.
“Young Love,” created and directed by Matthew Cherry, focuses on millennial parents raising their precocious daughter Zuri on Chicago’s West Side. The show operates on a low frequency, seemingly doing very little. However, this is part of its uniqueness and appeal. Unlike other Black storytelling that emphasizes exceptionalism, Cherry’s approach allows the characters to be who they truly are, without needing to be extraordinary for recognition. The show aims to detach from industry conventions and provide a more authentic representation of Black characters and their everyday lives.
The beauty of “Young Love” lies in its appreciation for character and place, creating a more realistic depiction of a Black setting. The show moves beyond the surface level, exploring different locations like the salon, music studio, classroom, and home, giving each character a sense of agency. It draws inspiration from classic Black sitcoms, embodying the essence and storytelling style of shows like “My Wife & Kids,” “All of Us,” and “Everybody Hates Chris.” By staying true to its roots and paying homage to previous eras of Black television, “Young Love” offers a refreshing and genuine perspective on family, job instability, and familial responsibility.
Overall, “Young Love” breaks away from the usual tropes and performance-based narratives of Black animated comedies. It embraces a more grounded and relatable approach, showcasing the everyday experiences and struggles of its characters. The show acts as a counterpoint to the over-indexed Hollywood representation of Black storytelling, providing a much-needed authentic and nuanced portrayal of Black life. Cherry’s dedication to character development and the show’s connection to the history of Black sitcoms make “Young Love” a standout series in the realm of animated comedies.