Written By Aspen, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series
I recently began Hulu’s relatively new show Woke. The story follows main character Keef Knight as he ascends on a journey of “wokeness” following an aggressive incident with the police. Prior to the incident the character was one of very few Black cartoonists and was quite complacent and even disbelieving of the racial injustices around him.
Now I’m only about four episodes into the eight-episode first season but I’ve taken a pause to think more about the show. One thing that I’ve really struggled with is figuring out who the show’s target audience is. The main character is angry, traumatized, yet also invigorated as he navigates his experiences. However, the comedic influence of the show doesn’t always allow for those emotions to shine through. It’s almost as if the show creators didn’t want the main character to be too emotional. They didn’t want to offend anyone by sharing the raw emotion behind a Black man’s realization of racial inequality in the United States. So instead when things get too serious, they will glaze over it with a joke or a talking trashcan to emphasize the impact on the character without fully addressing it. Which really begs the question:
Who the hell is the show for?
The show also relies on a lot of stereotypes amongst the characters to get certain points across. For example, the main character has a well-meaning White hippie roommate who witnessed Keef’s experience with police and therefore tries to be supportive but also grows uncomfortable with some of Keef’s new “woke” tactics. Keef’s relationship with him also seems to serve as a staunch reminder of the ways actions are perceived when done by Black vs. White people. Most notably, the roommate is essentially selling cocaine and marketing it as an energy supplement. Additionally, Keef’s other roommate is a Black man who is courting women by pretending to be celebrities, thus fueling the idea that people think all Black people look alike. Given that the main characters are primarily men, there is also an interesting interface with women. The fact that the main character blew off a Black woman in the first episode when she tried to make him aware of his platform as one of few Black artists in his field only to then need her help when he was overwhelmed by his own awakening was….irritating, to say the least.
Despite my criticism, I do appreciate the points that the show is attempting to draw attention towards. There is some good conversation to be had about the fact that the show intends to address gentrification, racial injustice particularly towards Black men, well-meaning White friends and family, interracial romatic and social interactions, and broader racial stereotypes. I appreciate the concept and the way the creators attempt to use comedy to address very serious topics, but it seems like these same creators have prioritized the sugarcoating of these issues in order to increase viewership and avoid offending anyone. However, I wonder if doing so has actually led to the show’s demise as it doesn’t seem to meet the needs of any one audience in a substantial way. Woke has so much potential but it really seems like the creators are still sleeping on this one.
I’d love to hear what other people have to say about it. If you’ve watched it or are planning to start, let’s talk about it!
– Aspen, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series