‘Young Love’ Is The Unapologetically Black And Wholesome Content We Need Right Now – Review
Matthew A. Cherry’s Hair Love continues on in the Max spin-off series Young Love. What started as filmmaker Cherry’s Kickstarter campaign turned into an Academy Award-winning short film, Hair Love, and now it’s an animated series on Max. Cherry revisits the lives of 7-year-old Zuri Young Love (Brooke Monroe Conaway) and her parents, Stephen Young (Kid Cudi) and Angela Love (Issa Rae), a Black family navigating life in Chicago.
In Cherry’s Oscar-winning short film, Stephen (then voiced by Cherry) unsuccessfully does Zuri’s hair until the two watch a hair tutorial from Angela, who’s in the hospital completing chemotherapy, giving Zuri the perfect do. While the film was immensely successful, it was just a snippet into the lives of the Young Love family.
With Young Love, audiences are welcomed to witness Zuri traverse the trials and tribulations of grade school life, Angela’s return to a career as a hairstylist and vlogger after battling cancer, and Stephen’s challenging music producer ambitions. We also are introduced to a treasure of new characters, such as Angela’s parents, Russell (Harry Lennix) and Gigi Young (Loretta Devine), music industry hustler Star (Tamar Braxton), and Angela’s fellow stylists Gina (Sheryl Lee Ralph).
While Hair Love celebrates Black hair and parenthood, Young Love further dives into Black families and culture. Cherry’s latest creation takes us through his hometown of Chicago through the adventures of the Young Love family and does so through an unapologetically Black lens. From the characters’ dialogue and the music featured to the cultural references discussed, everything about it screams, “For us, by us.”
Speaking of cultural references, the show jokingly takes shots at influencers, the music industry, Black slang/AAVE, and even characterized versions of popular celebrities. But it’s all fun and games, as Black folks know how to take anything and find the humor and joy.
While Black culture is at the center of the show, Young Love also strives to highlight that Black people aren’t and never will be a monolith. Rather, we contain multitudes. From skateboarding to coding to entrepreneurship, Young Love shows that Blackness, and those of us privileged to claim it, can be and do whatever we want.
Aside from cultural references, what’s beautiful about Young Love is its depiction of family. The animated series feels like it pays homage to popular Black, family-focused sitcoms, like Family Matters, Moesha, and Good Times, and gives audiences within and outside of the Black community an updated, inside look into how and what family can look like.
And while a look at this animated series might make you believe it’s for a younger audience (think Gen Alpha), Young Love is more than meets the eye. Animated shows can be quite clever with their storylines and dialogue, more so than live-action content. Young Love follows that same formula with topics on homelessness, starting careers over, illness, and relationships that make this new series fit for all generations.
Young Love’s wholesomeness is a bright light within an increasingly dark TV landscape. Following the traditions of animated TV series like The Proud Family, Young Love takes familiar sitcom storylines mixed with millennial flair to create something all its own.