The world of animated comedies, particularly those told from a Black perspective, has had a complex relationship with television. Shows like “The Boondocks” and “The PJs” have relied on the overperformance of race to engage audiences, using sharp observational humor or clownish depictions of daily life in housing projects. However, these shows often perpetuate the idea of Black exceptionalism, where Black characters must be extraordinary to be seen and valued. Enter “Young Love,” a new animated comedy created by Matthew Cherry, which takes a different approach. Set on Chicago’s West Side, the show focuses on millennial parents raising their precocious daughter, Zuri, and avoids the noise of cultural performance. It places a greater emphasis on character and place, creating a more realized Black setting and drawing inspiration from classic Black sitcoms.
“Young Love” is the follow-up to Cherry’s Academy Award-winning animated short film, “Hair Love.” The show revolves around Angela, a hair stylist with confidence issues who survived cancer, and Stephen, her music producer husband with money problems. Together, they navigate the challenges of parenting their daughter, Zuri, who is wise beyond her years. Unlike other Black animated comedies, “Young Love” doesn’t rely on exceptionalism. Instead, it allows its characters to be who they are, without the need for exaggerated or extraordinary qualities. The show also pays homage to the rich history of Black sitcoms by incorporating familiar storylines and capturing their essence.
By detaching from the formula of cultural performance and exceptionalism, “Young Love” offers a refreshing take on Black storytelling. It moves away from the over-indexed tropes found in many Hollywood productions, providing a more genuine and relatable portrayal of Black life. The show’s focus on character development and its appreciation for place gives viewers a more authentic and nuanced experience. Drawing inspiration from classic Black sitcoms, “Young Love” strikes a balance between familiarity and originality, creating a unique animated comedy that breaks free from industry conventions.