Grown-ish, Yara Shahidi, and the Allure of Nostalgia

College sucks. I mean, at least for me, it has been the worst experience of my life. I’ve jumped from school-to-school, on-campus to online, trying to find something that makes school tolerable for me and nothing has worked. I’ve tried two universities and two separate majors across my four years in higher education and all of it has, to put it plainly, sucked. I’ve been angry at the ways these institutions take my money for no reason, how they price gouge for textbooks, how they don’t care about students (I’ve had one actually helpful advisor out of five. OUT OF FIVE.), etc. My on campus experiences have been secluded (partly due to my own decisions, I’ll take the blame for that.) that’s led to depression and loneliness. And yet, after watching the first two episodes of Grown-ish, the Black-ish spin-off that premiered January 3rd on Freeform, I want the college experience.

I want to have a crew of 6 best friends who go out partying and pregame in my dorm and who have 2am study sessions in the on-campus library/Starbucks and tailgate at football games and sneak into frat parties and WHAT?! WHO AM I BECOMING?!

This isn’t the first time I’ve been nostalgic about the “college experience,” but it’s the most profound. I currently go to the University of Florida through their online program, but I’ve been an on-campus student during two separate semesters, both being awful experiences. Not because of the people I’ve met (Shout out to my Acting 1 and Beginning Costume classes! Hope y’all are well!), but because that environment is just toxic for me. I was nostalgic for the classic brick campus and bell tower before, leading me to move back for the Spring semester last year and go “Oh right, this sucks…why am I here?”

Grown-ish gave me the same effect.  The camaraderie the cast shares right out of the gate is infectious and it makes me want to have that same experience.

It brings up an interesting point about how powerful the drug of nostalgia can be. Look at the current political climate: We are all nostalgic for the Bush years because our current administration is led by a human circus peanut and his gaggle of buffoons. Yet, those years included horrible words against the LGBTQ+ community and, oh that’s right, A WAR. That’s where we are now. Nostalgic for a war.

Grown-ish gave me that personal nostalgia drug of wanting to relive an awful experience, which shows how perfectly it understands the college experience today. The 2nd episode revolved around adderall and was pitch perfect in its ability to show how it has become synonymous with the millennial college experience. It was laugh-out-loud funny, while also bringing up some great points. Why has adderall become some common? Is it causing better grades for students across the board? Would students be able to thrive without it?

My favorite part about the show just two episodes in is the lack of condescension towards young people and their ideas. This is a show from the viewpoint of students, not from the viewpoint of adults about students. It makes everything feel more truthful and more lived in.

Yara Shahidi, activism goddess walking among us peasants, was recently on The View. Her talking points were all eloquent and thorough and helped me understand certain buzzy topics, like the current protests in Iran (for those unaware, she is Iranian with family members currently in the thick of the protests.) However, everytime she made a great point that deserved applause from the audience (commonplace on The View), the co-hosts had to point out her age. Meghan McCain said, after Yara’s thoughts on the recent Tr*mp “Bigger Button” tweets, “By the way, that is a very good take for a 17-year-old.” After Yara’s informative thoughts on the Iranian protests, Whoopi Goldberg gave a congratulatory “go ahead!” I don’t think either of these women meant to come across this way, but both comments came across as condescending. A 17-year-old? With an opinion? THAT’S SMART?! Say it isn’t so!!!

Grown-ish is proud about the commentary it has on the millennial experience, the college experience, the black experience, etc. It should be proud, it’s speaking with voices we haven’t heard from yet on television and it’s so refreshing.

Grown-ish airs Wednesdays at 8pm EST on Freeform and I really suggest you tune in. It’s a fantastic comedy about what our generation deals with in college. Appreciate all it has to say, but if you’re getting nostalgic for the college experience, be sure to really consider it before you jump back into the real-life environment. Take it from one who has been there and back. Woof.

“Raven’s Home” Review/Freak-Out

July 21st at 10pm will stand as the greatest moment of my life. My heart was racing, I was a little shaky from excitement, it was a moment. It sounds over-the-top and cheesy, but it’s hard to describe (even though I’ve attempted to this week on the site) my absolute obsession with this show. Imagine your favorite thing of all-time leaving for a decade, then making a triumphant return. All the emotions.

So, the show began with a “Raven’s Home was filmed in front of a live studio audience.” voice over you don’t normally expect from Disney Channel, but was exciting. The laughter never felt recorded at any point, always felt organic.

Now, the actually 30 minutes flew by and were exactly what I wanted. My biggest worry was even though Raven’s name is in the title and the first billing in the opening credits, she wouldn’t get much to do. However, my worries were laid to rest mighty quickly. Raven gets equal time with her children, which is great. The first “crazy situation” was the perfect way to start the show off and to introduce kids who didn’t grow up on TSR to the concept.

The most interesting take-away is the family secrets brewing. I would never have expected Raven to hide her visions from her kids, but brings fun dynamic to the show. On top of that, Booker begins to get visions in the pilot episode and decides to not tell his mother. Psychic Drama Alert! It will interesting to see how long those secrets last and if their visions ever overlap (like the episode of TSR where two psychics, unknown to each other, save a girl from being hit by a school door.)

Booker and Nia, Raven’s children, are both great and I’m excited to see where the show takes them over the course of the first season. Chelsea’s kid, Levi, is exactly what you’d expect Chelsea to raise and he really holds his own against his mother, who is a comedic heavyweight in my eyes. Tess, the neighbor across the hallway, is also a fun comedic character who I’m excited to see get into more shenanigans,

Their Chicago apartment is wonderfully designed. Since Raven and Chelsea are both on a budget, the space is cramped. However, all the decorations look like a Pinterest user’s dream come true. Lots of DIY details really make the space great. Also, have we ever seen thee couch on a sitcom be a pull-out sofa?! Groundbreaking.

The writing was killing it all episode, making me laugh uncomfortably loud a few times. “Son of a Chelsea” is not only a genius line, but what Raven adds to it with her energy and inflection (“Boy, we gonna have to put a bell on you…”) made my laughing spree grow. Chelsea had some great moments as well, with “Raven, you can’t go to the gym! You’re wearing wedges they have no traction!”

I am so relieved and excited and overwhelmed at how good the pilot was and how strong the set-up is for the season to come. I’m thrilled to be back into the Baxter/Daniels fray and I cannot wait for more. Now, to figure out how to get a role on the show…

Raven-Symonè: My Idol

This week is Raven Week on disneyBOP! We’ll bring you a new post leading up to the premiere of Raven’s Home this Friday. This article originally appeared on LaughingPlace.com in December.

For those unfamiliar with my blog and writing, you may not know that I am 20 years old. (If this is the first article you’ve read by me, sorry for my abrasive tendencies, love of capitalization for emphasis, and my constant mentions of Bunheads.) Being a millennial and a child of the early 2000s, I grew up during the Disney Channel Golden Age. This, being a self given term, was when every sitcom was firing on all cylinders, every DCOM was an event, and when the stars of the channel were the biggest names in showbiz.

I grew up with a vast knowledge of Hannah Montana’s discography (It’s still there, too. “I Got Nerve” is her best track and I will fight you on it.) I grew up knowing Taran Killam before SNL (Looking at you, Stuck in the Suburbs). I grew up counting the hidden Z’s in Zenon: Z3 to unlock the bonus content online.

There was one person, however, that I grew up with that truly shaped me into the person I am today, and her name is Raven-Symonè.

That’s So Raven was the pinnacle of television comedy for me, and frankly still continues to be. The chemistry between Raven and her costars (I love you Anneliese Van Der Pol!) was the best Disney Channel has ever seen. They never seemed scripted. Their comedic timing was top notch, especially for a sitcom made for a demographic that doesn’t scream for impeccable line reading.

On the show, Raven showcased ability to be fantastic at verbal or physical comedy. It stills holds up, as well. Yes, she always has a vision and yes, she always gets it wrong. However, the variety of storylines they produced always kept the central idea fresh. The show was so successful, that Disney Channel allowed it to become the first sitcom on their network to reach 100 episodes. That is saying something.

On top of the successful series, she had The Cheetah Girls franchise, the Zenon franchise, a role in my favorite film of all-time (Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement) and many an album and single released.

When you hear comedians discuss who their idols growing up were, you always hear the same names. Carlin, Ball, Van Dyke, Pryor, etc. Raven is that for me. Some don’t understand how someone so young can still be an idol, but I truly believe Raven-Symonè single-handedly gave me my love of comedy.

Not only was her work on her own sitcom inspiring, but how she held herself even more so. She always is appreciative of her fame and doesn’t want to slack off. It is her job to perform and she does an incredible job at it. As someone who wants to get into the industry through comedy, it is a great message to carry around as I work towards achieving my goals.

On top of all that, we need to take a moment to talk about her music, because I am actually obsessed. I have a friend who will always play multiple Raven tracks in a row as we drive into Disney World now to get me excited for the day at the parks. Her covers are brilliant (“Superstition?” Great. “Grazin’ in the Grass?” Legendary. I sang that so much that my 2nd grade teacher probably still loathes me to this day. “Double Dutch Bus?” Don’t start playing it in the car, ’cause there isn’t enough room for me to flail from excitement.) and her originals are even better (“Backflip” is my all-time, go to jam. “Some Call It Magic” is the only song I ever requested on Radio Disney…and 2 years after it was released. #SorryNotSorry). Heck, I could write a 20-age dissertation on how the Disney Channel Stars’ covers would have failed without her riffing. (COME THROUGH, CIRCLE OF LIFE) She created an entire brand out of incredible comedy, fantastic music, and a genuineness and understanding of the business that led to my obsession and fascination with entertainment as a whole.

Why am I writing this now? Well, a few weeks ago, it was announced that That’s So Ravenwould be receiving a reboot. I was watching The View when she made the announcement and it was a lot for me to handle. She said the words “That’s So Raven 2” (or “Too”…maybe she was just citing the second soundtrack to her sitcom?) and I began to cry. This isn’t me exaggerating. I actually began to cry over the announcement.

I do hope that they allow Raven to shine on the sequel, even if the show will prominently feature her kids. While I adore Girl Meets World, Cory and Topanga are not a focal point. Raven deserves to continue to be the star, as her brand of comedy has been sorely lacking on the network and TV at large. I NEED her to get into her own shenanigans on the new show.

The show means everything to me. It’s a fantastic comedy, but also as the thing that kickstarted my love for the medium and genre. Here’s hoping I can work my way up to being on the show in the ultimate full-circle moment.

Thank you, Raven-Symonè. For teaching me how to be funny. For showing me true talent. For being an inspiration for decades. Thanks. For everything.

The Importance of That’s So Raven’s “True Colors” Episode

This week is Raven Week on disneyBOP! We’ll bring you a new post leading up to the premiere of Raven’s Home this Friday.

During my rewatch of That’s So Raven to prepare for Raven’s Home, I had the opportunity to view the “True Colors” episode. Airing in February of 2005, the episode focused on the past and present of Black History Month and the black experience in America.

The Cory plotline has him trying to write a school report on Black History Month. During an extended dream sequence, Cory meets the black icons and trailblazers of the past. It is a quick segment in the grand scheme of things, but a really important one for me as a kid. It was one of the first times I heard names like Bessie Coleman and Madame CJ Walker. In the normal elementary curriculum we are accustomed to hits the same highlights every year. Martin Luther King Jr. George Washington Carver. That’s about it. They invite around 10 different black figures who have changed the face of the globe into the Baxter house during Cory’s dream sequence.

The main purpose of the episode is to highlight racial discrimination in the workplace and how it still exists in a post-Civil Right society. Yes, you read that right. A Disney Channel sitcom tackled workplace racism and prejudice.

When Raven goes to apply for a job at the mall, Chelsea joins in. Raven aces the interview. Chelsea…completes it. When Chelsea gets the job, shockingly, and Raven doesn’t, questions arise.

A vision comes in and it shows the shop manager saying “I don’t hire black people,” and the air drops out of the room. From there, the show straight up tackles racism. It’s an important episode and one that opened up an important dialogue for kids across the country.

When the episode was released, I was in the 3rd grade. Up to that point, all discussions of Black History Month were in the past. Modern black icons were never discussed, nor was anything talked about post-desegregation. All events and people after that were ignored in school. So, even though I knew it existed, seeing a television show mention it in such a direct way was important and incredibly educational.

That was one of the first moments where my eyes were opened to the prejudices of people in the world and how racism still exists. It began an important conversation for a generation that wasn’t receiving it in school, all while still bringing the laughs. However, did we expect anything less from the show that tackled body shaming and culture-based bullying?! NO MA’AM.