Grown-ish Searches for A Safe Space

By Lindsey Mutz

Review of Grown-ish 1×11, “Safe & Sound”

ZEE is a site for Generation Z kids to share their thoughts and feelings about this strange, complicated world we live in, a world that largely excludes us from its popular narrative. So how fitting that Zoey opens this episode of Grown-ish by giving a shout out to her generation and ours: Gen Z. We are racially diverse, sexually diverse, socially conscious, and, as it turns out, hypersensitive.

The issues explored in this episode revolve around safe spaces. Who should have them, who needs them, are they helpful, do they matter? Safe spaces are places where like-minded kids can be themselves without fear of being judged, criticized or triggered. California University decides to shut down Hawkins Hall, the safe space for black students, after complaints were filed. And this is where the problem begins.

Zoey and their friends mobilize to protest the shutting down of Hawkins Hall, with Aaron taking the lead. He is the most furious about the decision, whereas Zoey is there for appearances and photo opportunities. Ana is there as well, and she and Aaron get to talking. Ana comments that she wishes there was a safe space for conservatives like her, and Aaron is horrified. He tells her to get out.

Then comes the most interesting and engaging conversation I’ve watched on Grown-ish so far. Aaron, Ana, Nomi, Jazz and Skylar’s discussion is nuanced, painful and beautifully written. Ana complains that people are allowed to openly hate on conservatives and that they are the most oppressed group on campus. Aaron, Jazz, and Skylar are quick to contradict her, reminding everyone about the oppression of black people, and Nomi jumps in, saying that she thinks gay people and Jews are the most oppressed. Then comes a heated argument in which Nomi and Aaron argue about which was worse: slavery or Hitler.

Zoey watches from the sidelines here, not wanted to get involved. She’s pretty passive about political issues, which actually works to the show’s advantage in that it allows the people around her to embody widely different political beliefs without it feeling like the show is making a statement. And yet, with this episode, it feels like it is. After an altercation between Ana and Aaron, all safe spaces are shut down, and only when Zoey convinces Dean Parker that safe spaces can co-exist peacefully does he reopen them.

Do conservatives deserve safe spaces? Some could argue that their safe space is the White House. But openly targeting a group with hatred or violence, no matter who or what they stand for, has never proven to work, and it certainly doesn’t work here. Ana and Aaron might not agree on much, but they are willing to listen to each other. The rest of us could take a lesson from them.

Featured image via Grownish Twitter.

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