Black-ish, Season 1, Episode 10, “Black Santa/White Christmas”
Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 9:30 PM (EST), ABC
I was really looking forward to another holiday episode after the stellar Halloween one and the great guest appearance by Jenifer Lewis in the Thanksgiving one. She is back this week as Ruby, Andre’s mother. I was disappointed that their relationship didn’t seem as close this time around, and almost all animosity had disappeared between her and Rainbow. It felt to me like the show didn’t care much about continuity for people who have seen every episode. They wanted to tell these stories this week which required Andre to be off doing his own thing while Ruby and Rainbow bond, so they prioritized those story needs over the need to maintain the relationship dynamics between characters. It’s still an enjoyable Christmas episode, but it fell quite short of my expectations.
When Andre’s coworker Fred dies, he takes his Santa rendition with him. Andre is hoping he can break new ground as the company’s first black Santa Claus. He has a deep sentimental attachment to the character, but as usual, his yearning to play Santa is all about his selfish wish fulfillment and not the true spirit of Christmas. When his boss awards the position, at Dre’s urging, to someone “outside the box,” he goes too far for his liking when he chooses HR manager Angelica, a Mexican woman, to be Fred’s successor. He takes issue with the fact that she’s Mexican more than a woman. He’s easily able to sabotage her when he hears her “Ho ho ho” rendition, so he’s named Santa instead. Karma, and by that I mean Angelica, set things right by ensuring he’s not only the worst black Santa, but the worst Santa of any color. As Santa, he was supposed to run the toy drive. All of the kids leave the party disappointed. Dre comes to his senses and uses his kids to round up as many toys as they can from the store and distribute them by going door to door.
Meanwhile, Rainbow and Ruby are locked in another battle of wills about food. Rainbow wants to pass down her side of the family’s Christmas food traditions, but all the kids want is more of the same from their grandmother. When it turns out that Ruby has been ordering the food from a caterer to avoid the pressure and stress and cooking Christmas dinner by herself, she coerces Rainbow into playing along with her lie. In another hilarious Black-ish montage, Ruby and Rainbow turn the kitchen into a disaster area to make it look like they were really cooking all day. I felt like this silly scene would’ve been much more effective if the episode had begun where the Thanksgiving episode had left off, with a pretty insincere apology from Ruby to Rainbow not really changing much between them. Moments like this one in the kitchen are what really change relationships.
The race commentary in this episode came dangerously close to being too offensive to be funny, but saved itself by being so obvious with the payoff for the jokes later on in the episode. If they had tried to tackle the question of “can black people be racist?” with subtlety, I doubt it would have gone over well. Ruby first makes the comment that black people can’t be racist after making a blanket judgment about Mexican people. Then later in the episode, it’s revealed that she depends on a Mexican caterer to deliver the Christmas dinner so popular with her grandchildren. Dre also comes off as racist when he finds out that the new Santa at work would be a Mexican woman instead of him. He explains that the accepted “order” of minorities getting into traditionally white jobs such as President of the United States or Santa Claus is black, Mexican, then homosexual. This is undoubtedly an opinion held by some in the black community, but I wouldn’t call it the norm… which is good because it’s kind of gross. Andre gets away with the line because it’s clear you’re not meant to agree with him.
It was easy to see that Andre would screw up his Santa gig then make up for it with generosity, so I wasn’t very invested throughout. The kids had zero agency this episode, they were just alternately whiney and complacent. The show works best when the motivations of each individual character, especially the kids, are clear. I enjoyed some of the jokes, such as the autotune Christmas carols, but overall the episode felt flat and predictable by comparison to much more successful episodes.
- According to Rainbow, Idris Elba as James Bond would order his Hennessey shaken, not stirred. I died.
- “Santa was the first white man I ever loved, followed by a close second Terry Bradshaw.”
- “Who’s mama?”
- “It’s gonna turn my body into a wonderland of candy for children!”
- I loved it when Andre shot down his boss’s “I don’t see color” comment. That is quite possibly the most unintentionally racist thing I hear on a regular basis.
- “I’m putting my stank on Christmas.”
- “it’s a miracle! Jesus turned a turkey into ham!”
I enjoyed some of the jokes, such as the autotune Christmas carols, but overall the episode felt flat and predictable by comparison to much more successful episodes.