by Madison Tyler
I can remember playing “superhero kids” as a child with my brother and cousins during our family get togethers. We would chase each other around pretending to blast lasers out of our hands and levitate objects with our minds. Looking back, I wonder if our games were an effort to live out the roles we never saw ourselves in on the big screen.
Today’s youth, however, don’t seem to have that problem. Raising Dion, a Netflix series produced by Michael B. Jordan, was released on October 4, 2019. The series follows single mother Nicole as she helps her son navigate his newfound superpowers.
Here are five reasons why you should be watching if you haven’t already.
1. Dion is Black Boy Joy personified.
Besides being convinced Ja’Siah Young is the cutest boy on television right now, the character he portrays is truly joyous. In one touching scene, Dion sings along and dances to Mary J. Blige’s “Family Affair” with his mom on a road trip to the family’s cabin. And, in one marvelous shot, Dion runs freely by the lake. Dion is sensitive and caring. Not only does he save a little hermit crab, but he has the power to heal others. With the power to literally create light out of thin air in his own hands, Dion surely brings #blackboyjoy to life.
2. Nerds and fans of the genre will appreciate the references.
Since Raising Dion is situated in the same reality as the audience, there are a plethora of references frequent viewers of comic adaptations and sci-fi will enjoy. Dion’s godfather, Pat, has the Stranger Things theme song as his ringtone. Dion regards Pat as his mentor just as Yoda is one to Luke Skywalker. There are also plenty of X-Men shout outs as well—fitting for a series that tackles issues of race. Speaking of race…
3. Black culture is organically woven into the story.
While many black shows center identity and social messages around melodrama or comedy, Raising Dion strikes a different chord. Instead, the show simply lets their characters exist, and their blackness is an inherent part of that existence. Nicole works at a dance studio inspired by the prolific works of Alvin Ailey. Dion wears a durag as a part of his superhero costume. Mark, Dion’s father, also wears a very black clothing item—a Morehouse sweatshirt. Rather than preach, these characters just live their black lives.
4. Michael B. Jordan (duh.)
Need I say more? Seriously though, Michael B. Jordan is as charming (and fine) as ever as a loving husband to Nicole and a supportive father to Dion. “A C.D.C. report issued in December 2013 found that black fathers were the most involved with their children daily, on a number of measures, of any other group of fathers — and in many cases, that was among fathers who didn’t live with their children, as well as those who did,” according to the New York Times. Although this is the case, black fathers have been depicted as absent and neglectful in the media. Raising Dion errs more on the side of truth and shows the often-ignored narrative of black fatherhood.
5. The story is truly original and breaks new ground.
Raising Dion is more than a superhero story. It’s fun, it’s entertaining and it’s action packed, but it’s deeper than it looks. For one, it pretty accurately portrays a hardworking, single mother who would do anything to protect her gifted (in more ways than the obvious) black son. We see her actively build a relationship with Dion founded upon mutual respect, trust, understanding, and love, even as she goes through her own grieving process and hardships. It’s not often the mother of a superhero plays an integral role in the story.
More than that, Dion is protected and given the space to be vulnerable. In one memorable scene, Dion says he can’t cry because he’s a superhero, but his aunt corrects him and tells him he can cry. Whereas series like the critically acclaimed When They See Us shows the resiliency of the human spirit in the face of a system designed to break it, Raising Dion is a necessary counter-narrative which creates a world in which a young black boy is constantly told he is special, that he matters, and that he is valued.
Raising Dion is quite simply put, exceptional. I look forward to season two.