The landscape of animated comedies from a Black perspective has been complicated. Previous shows like The Boondocks, The PJs, and South Park’s portrayal of Token Black have had an uncomfortable relationship with TV, relying on the overperformance of race to win over audiences. However, Young Love, the new animated comedy created by Matthew Cherry, takes a different approach. Set in the west side of Chicago, the show avoids the noise of cultural performance and focuses on the everyday lives of millennial parents raising their daughter Zuri. Cherry’s intention is to detach from the formula of exceptionalism often seen in Black storytelling, where characters are special because of their unordinariness. Instead, he presents his characters as who they are, allowing for a more realistic and relatable representation of Black life.
Young Love expands on Cherry’s previous work, including his Academy Award-winning animated short Hair Love. The show follows Angela, a hair stylist with confidence issues, and her husband Stephen, an up-and-coming music producer with money problems, as they navigate parenthood and their own personal challenges. The series embraces character and place, offering a more realized Black setting as it takes viewers from the salon to the music studio to Zuri’s classroom and back home. It also pays homage to classic Black sitcoms, with storylines that touch on topics such as job instability and familial responsibility. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, Young Love embraces the wisdom and influence of previous shows, providing a familiar yet fresh perspective on Black family dynamics.
Overall, Young Love stands out as a unique animated comedy that breaks away from the conventions of its predecessors. Matthew Cherry’s creation offers a more grounded and relatable depiction of Black life, focusing on everyday experiences rather than the pageantry of identity. By detaching from the formula of exceptionalism, the show allows its characters to shine as who they are, creating a more realistic and refreshing representation. With its appreciation for character, place, and the legacy of Black sitcoms, Young Love brings a sense of nostalgia and familiarity while also offering a new perspective on contemporary Black family dynamics.