Monday, February 27, 2017

Core Response: "Black-ish" what "The Cosby Show" should have been.

     I found the readings for this week very interesting especially considering how much they still resonate today. Particularly, I decided to look more into how The Cosby Show and Black-ish although have some similarities truly differ from each other.

 Acham (2013)’s discussion about The Cosby Show and its representation of race and what it meant to be Black in America, discusses how Bill Cosby’s successful sitcom created an ideology that was not completely representative of African Americans. The Cosby Show displayed a well off African American family with Cliff Huxtable, the patriarch of the family, his wife and five children living their everyday lives. Although the show is still till today one of the most successful sitcoms in Television history, the argument has always been about why the show lacked in displaying the political issues that African Americans were facing at the time. It created an ideology of black people being well off and not going through any racial tensions that was going on in reality (Acham, 2013). One may argue that the goal of the show was to create an escape for the African American people and show a black family in a positive light but, the criticism towards Cosby at the time whose main goal was to not “engage in the political and social realities about race” (Acham, p.110, 2013) created backlash. Obviously, this is not to say that some African Americans were not well off at the time and that Cosby’s goal was to show African Americans in a positive light and not place them into stereotypical roles which often mimicked and caricatured black people. However, majority of the black people were not part of that ideology and critics believed that these issues should have been addressed without creating an illusion.

Today, television shows that include people of color, do not shy away from the political issues that are going on in fact they address it. One comparison to The Cosby Show is of course Black-ish, the premise is pretty much similar a well off African American family with four kids (soon to be five). However, the biggest difference is the fact that the show does not shy away from the realities of what it truly means to be black in America no matter how well off and accomplished you are. It even also addresses issues that many other minorities face. The screening that we watched in class was the perfect example of addressing the political and racial issues going on today. Trump winning the election truly displayed how divided America is. The show dedicated an episode to the election results and led to a heated debate at Andre’s (Anthony Anderson) workplace, when Dre’s coworkers discover that one of them, Lucy admits that she voted for Trump. The debate pretty much displays the thoughts and views on the American people and shows the reality of life. The most powerful moment however, is when one of Andre’s coworkers asks him why he’s been so quiet and doesn’t seem to care. Andre goes into a powerful monologue that is not only eye-opening but honest and true. Andre says that his people (black people) have been suffering and going through injustice since his ancestors were brought in chains and forced to live in this country against their own will, he then discusses how much African American people have been suffering since then and still are now, that this is not anything new, it is just another obstacle that him and his people have to face and how some of his coworkers (specifically his white coworkers) have never had to face such social injustices. He then ends his powerful speech with “I love my country even though sometimes it does not love me back.” (Black-ish S3E15). The episode received critical acclaim especially Anderson who revealed the truth of reality through television.

What in my opinion is especially phenomenal about Black-ish in comparison to The Cosby Show is the fact that they are able to reveal the truth about being a minority in society without going against the grain in terms of the format of the show (which is comedy). There isn’t a specific ideology where there is a well of African American family and they don’t go through racial issues that people go through in their everyday lives. Understandably so, what Cosby was trying to do at the time was to create a positive representation of African Americans but what he was lacking/didn’t seem to get/wanted to avoid was the truth, which is that no matter how well of you may be as a minority, there will always be a tendency to face political issues that deal with who you are as a person and the effects that it could have with ones way of living.       


  1. This comparison also reminded me of an episode of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, which could be compared to The Cosby Show (even though it's run was in the early 90s while a majority of The Cosby Show was in the mid 80s). The Fresh Prince's storyline is sort of like season seven of the The Cosby Show, in that a poor black relative moves into a rich black family's home. However, with the Fresh Prince, the issue of race and racism is blatantly brought up. For instance, in an episode called "Mistaken Identity" Philip and Vivian go on a trip to Palm Springs in Mr. Furth's helicopter, while Will and Carlton drive Mr. Furth's Mercedes there as well. While trying to find the way, they attract the attention of the police, get pulled over and arrested for "stealing" the car. In this episode, Will must convince Carlton, who makes excuses as to why the police pulled them over, that the cops arrested them because they thought they stole it, "because they were two black men driving something other than a beat up old lemon". Will and Carlton's father eventually convince Carlton, and the audience, that even though Carlton has been protected by class and wealth for most of his life, he is still susceptible to the racism of the world, and that it exists. This is a way that the Cosby show could have shown the effect of racism even in the Cosby's well-to-do home.

    1. Yes! I haven't watched the Fresh Prince (which is a travesty) but I remember watching a clip of that scene, it was extremely powerful and moving. It was so interesting to see how Carlton was just completely unaware of the racial discrimination because he was well off. Definitely agree that The Cosby show could have something similar, they completely missed out for sure.