Does the Cosby Show challenge conventional stereotypes Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 5 January 2017

Does the Cosby Show challenge conventional stereotypes

From 1984 to 1992, The Cosby Show (starring comedian/actor/author Bill Cosby) aired on NBC television network. In the storyline , a black doctor and his family (his wife and five children) lived their everyday entertaining lives. Audiences worldwide watched daily to laugh and admire the African American family ; at the same time they began to ponder about the well-off family and what this said about the conventional black family to the world. Two models are most commonly used—“the weak family model” and the “strong family model”, says Wynona Bryant -Williams Ph. D Director “with nothing in between. ”

However it was the weak family model that dominated the social sciences literature until the mid 1980’s. (Williams) The Cosby’s set a high standard of the stability and lifestyle of the Black American family. A bold message to send, this also challenged the realism of American culture and how it depicted African Americans and their households. Small-time author Tiffany Frizzel had this to say: “To be perfectly honest, this show does not show typical life for the vast majority of this nation’s population.

There are not many white children in this nation that have a doctor and a lawyer as parents so that criticism lacks substance and social research. Cosby always kept the show somewhat light-hearted and sometimes shied away from some key issues of the time period, but keep in mind that his name was on the program and everything was written as if the characters were sometimes walking on eggshells. ” Apparently it was hard to accept that a black family did not have to struggle or stress. Why?

Even though the family still had their household disputes and their lessons to learn , the idea that this particular family of color was doing so well was hard to take and swallow. For many observers, The Cosby Show was unique in other ways as well. For example, unlike many situation comedies, the program avoided one-liners, buffoonery and other standard tactics designed to win laughs. Instead, series writers remained true to Cosby’s vision of finding humor in realistic family situations, in the minutiae of human behavior.

Thus episodes generally shunned typical sitcom formulas by featuring, instead, a rather loose story structure and unpredictable pacing. Moreover, the soundtrack was sweetened with jazz, and the Huxtable home prominently featured contemporary African American art. Several observers described the result as “classy. ” This project, of course, was not without its critics. Some observers described the show as a 1980’s version of Father Knows Best, the Huxtables as a white family in blackface.

The Huxtables’ affluence, they argued, worked to obscure persistent inequalities in America–especially those faced by blacks and other minority groups–and validate the myth of the American Dream. One audience study suggests that the show “strikes a deal” with white viewers, that it absolves them of responsibility for racial inequality in the United States in exchange for inviting the Huxtables into their living room. Meanwhile, the same study found that black viewers tend to embrace the show for its positive portrayals of blackness, but express misgivings about the Huxtables’ failure to regularly interact with less affluent blacks.

For the black family sitting at home watching the show however; it was a revelation long anticipated. This motivated and challenged families to grow closer together. Single, married, and divorced individuals all could view their expectations for their family and their futures based on the uplifting obvious message being sent. For the African American culture , this was an epidemic that needed to expand in the mindsets of everyone else in the world. As far as “Black America“ was concerned; this was an illustrious thing.

So what exactly is the difference between “Anticipated Black America” and “Conventional Black America”? E. Franklin Frazier’s “The Negro Family in the United” States “supplied a model for the study of Blacks which emphasized family disorganization and dysfunction… ,”2 describing the black family’s present condition of matriarchy, ineffective black males being marginal to the family, casual sex relations, and general dissolution of the black family to be caused by urbanization and the heritage of slavery.

Frazier’s work was used for the basis of Moynihan’s conclusions that identified “Black “matriarchal” mothers as responsible for the “breakdown” and “pathology” of Black families (who, he claimed, were responsible for high rates of illegitimacy, delinquency, and unemployment)3. On national renown search engine “Yahoo. com”, when the words “negro” and “black” are entered into the search bar ; words such as unemployment, equality, broken homes, proportion, and black community are given as “helpful hints” to further specify your search criteria.

This is not to say that yahoo alone is portraying this image. But it does conclude a point that this issue should very well be recognized. The mental attitude of the black family’s standards in present America are poor indeed when left up to some critics. Nonetheless, Black America is continuously upgrading and rebelling in all fields of education and occupation. Our greatest and highest recognized entertainers, scholars, preachers, political figures, and moguls are filled with African American people.

Many inventions are in existence today because of African Americans. A Black figure is currently running for president of the country! The Cosby Show does not challenge Black America as much as it motivates and really disciplines the mentalities and ethics behind us. The show’s head writer ,John Marcus, had this to say regarding the co-writer and star of the show Bill Cosby: “I think Bill knows that he has a power, and that he thinks of it very judiciously. He is conscientious and sensitive to the minds of people who watch the show.

And he is very respectful of their intelligence,” said Markus. ‘He sees that a more powerful tool in education is to entertain and engage the audience in a delicate manner rather than to hammer home a message. We want to educate black America, but we never want to Sermonize. ” (1990) It was never the intention of the show nor the writers behind it to preach about high time living to the black families of America. Yet, it was extremely obvious that there was luxury behind the hard work, and it’d all came from the benefit of great education.

In the series, Huxtable is a doctor married to an awfully attractive, independent minded, and intelligent woman who has become quite a successful and well established lawyer. His five children all attend school and his children eventually all attend college following after their parents, but with different career motives that they each discover throughout their development from children to young adults. The Cosby Show ’s family is fiction but based on a lifestyle that is meant to be lived and enjoyed by the Black families of America.

With the right motivation and the desire to become educated and to fulfill their selves , anyone of any race could very well live a full life without much struggle. The Cosbys did not live without flaws and disappointments. But they dealt with it as a strong and confident family with the continuous support and love of each and every one of their family members. This is a message that needs to be spreaded more and more everyday. The Black family can better themselves if they can get together and make a change to better their mentalities and their environment as well. Following the Cosby’s example; the Black family can succeed.

“If every parent in their community taught their children how to act and teach them the life lessons that they need to succeed. Wouldn’t that as a whole help the black community, one family at a time? ” This was the question asked in an online discussion about upraising of children in the black community. It begins at home. If we do not or refuse to maintain order at home, there will be none outside of our households. The Cosby Show displays for us that restrictions and rules set inside the house also better govern our black children as they are outside of the household or away from home.

By laying down the law in the house, the children were not as in as much trouble as friends and classmates. This distinguished them from the other children in other families on the show as well. With rules came responsibility. According to Senior Magazine Online, as humans responsibility is given to us automatically “because we are a part of society. ” It is also stated that “ It is in this area that we seem to be losing our children. ” The main focus within the Cosby family was, without any doubt, family. The family came first.

Before work, before friends, and before the personal wants of any individual; the entire family came together and worked together to make their home the joyous place it was. It was stressed as an importance that everyone was responsible in remembering birthdays, talking to their parents about their issues, and continuously seeing that a personal (perhaps assigned) chore was completed everyday. In conclusion, the Cosby Show is due many thanks and many praises. It stands, even today, as a landmark of hope and inspiration for the Black family.

Although there are many public voices that are motivating us to push forward and challenge ourselves to complete education and a fulfilling life; the Cosby Show had a powerful message that is not easily forgotten and forever appreciated. The family is the most important part of our foundation. When we look back at what helped us to grow, we should find our family.


2008 Discussion on saving the Black Community. <http://answers. yahoo. com/question/index? qid=20070209125845AAYhqrg. > 4 May E. Franklin Frazier (American Sociologist). The Negro Family in the United States. 1939

Interview with Head-writer of The Cosby Show, John Marcus. <http://www. medialit. org/reading_room/article344. html> (1990) Jhally, Sut, and Justin Lewis. Enlightened Racism: The Cosby Show, Audiences, and the Myth of the American Dream. Boulder, Colorado: Westview, 1992. Senior Magazine Online. <http://www. seniormag. com/caregiverresources/articles/caregiv Tiffany Frizzel quoted , The Internet Movie Database, http://us. imdb. com April Wynona Bryant- Williams Ph. D Director , ,<http://www. blackperspective. com/pages/mag_articles/sum01_blackfamily. html> erarticles/parenting/taking-reponsibility. htm

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