The Unicorn Scale: Grown-ish
Grown-ish brings the eldest daughter of the Black-ish’s Johnson family from ABC to Freeform. Zooey Johnson is joined by a group of friends including Nomi Segal. Segal introduces queerness with her first scene, when she picks up a fellow student for a hook up in the ladies’ room. Later, in that same episode, she shares with the group that she is bi.
Nomi arrives at college secure in her queerness—but is challenged by how others perceive it, and how she perceives the queerness of others. Grown-ish earned a second season pick-up, early in its first season run. But, let’s see how that first season scored for bi viewers…
Let’s dive below the spoiler line to find out.
What I Liked
The show is an engaging and engrossing portrayal of the college experience. The first season approaches a plethora of lived experiences, including having a main love interest of Zooey’s be a man with femme flairs in his fashion. The majority of the main cast are Black and Non-Black people of color, with the exception of Nomi.
Nomi is a white Jewish woman, openly bi, and the niece of the dean. Midway through the first season, Segal arrives at a crowded college bar with a new friend. When a guy tries to pick Nomi up she lets him know she’s not available—actually, she’s on a date with the woman standing next to her. He attempts to buy them both a beer to apologize, and Nomi’s date brushes him off—hard.
After he leaves, Nomi points out her date’s intensity, and her date explains she “just hates straight guys with the whole lesbian-fantasy thing.” Nomi pushes back on threesome-shaming and clarifies she’s bi. Her date promptly scoffs with her lipstick and calls Nomi’s sexuality a phase. Her bigotry and leaving prompts an instantly iconic line from Nomi—”It’s LG—B—TQ. Respect the letter, bitch!” Segal is confronted with a scarce storyline—in which we see a bi character dealing with the frequent real-life harm of biphobia from within the LGBT community.
All the while, the rebuffed dude is nearby. And it turns out, he’s not straight like Nomi’s erasive date proclaimed—he’s also bi. And cute! So now they’re dating. Later in the episode Nomi is counting all the ways her dude is caring, including, and not limited to, the hangover care package he brought her after a particularly liquid night. He accepts her as she is, her friends like him, and he gets up early to bring her a giant cheeseburger. What could go wrong?
Turns out it isn’t what could go wrong, but what already is. Dave casually mentions he’s bi, and Nomi’s record scratches. Just after she’s subjected to someone calling her sexuality a phase, she asks him if his is. And though it takes longer than it did with her early date, she eventually leaves Dave. We see another rare storyline here. Nomi has internalized biphobia along with toxic idea around masculinity. She rejects Dave because he’s bi, and they both struggle with her hypocrisy. As she develops as a young adult in season two, I hope the show will return to this arc.
What I Didn’t Like
Our introduction to Nomi is early in the first episode plays a little too into oversexualized bi tropes. She’s being distracted from class registration with a same-gender casual hook-up in a bathroom. There are other ways to establish a show’s dedication to positive portrayals of women’s pleasure and sexual agency, and the bi character is the only character to be introduced with a sex scene. Nomi names her bisexuality later in the episode, which is thoroughly effective in telling us she’s queer without resorting to hyper-sexual tropes.
The first season of Grown-ish gave us multiple rare bi-centered storylines amongst thirteen episodes and a decent size cast. The show also gave us two explicitly bi characters, including that all too rare bi guy. Both bi characters have experiences with biphobia. I have high hopes for the twenty episode second season, and am giving the first one