Commentary: Where is "The Cosby Show" for this Generation?
By Marshall Bell
(BALTIMORE - September 21, 2012) - I have a confession to make. It’s a hard one to acknowledge, for in doing so I will also have to own up to my history as somewhat of a cynically inclined, you're-never-black-enough-for-me, radical, “hater”. And, while my love and appreciation for my people is as solid as ever, as is my belief in our right to demand justice, I’m older now. Today, I have a much more rational and pragmatic perspective on life, and accept that there are many ways to achieve the same goal. I’ve matured.
Okay, so here it goes: I must admit, as a young liberal-thinking, fire-brand, I didn’t really like The Cosby Show, and to be honest, still don’t particularly care for the blame-the-victim politics of its creator, actor and comedian, Bill Cosby. Back in the day, I viewed the show as an inaccurate and entirely unrealistic portrayal of the typical African-American family in America. It was my opinion, that Mr. Cosby, playing the role of the lovable, Dr. Cliff Huxtable, and Phylicia Rashad, in the role of Cliff’s wife, Attorney, Clair Huxtable, raising five bright, well-adjusted, rarely-in-trouble, kids, was just plain phony. Of course, I could not deny the strong role models these two characters presented, but was blinded by my own, far left of center, radical political philosophy.
In short, I could not relate to, nor identify with, Bill Cosby’s idealistic philosophy. I was a child with blinders on. Now, as an adult, The Cosby Show’s undeniable positive effect on our community’s sense of pride and self-esteem has become much clearer. Then, I did not appreciate the cultural benefits derived from the prime time airing on a major television network, a sitcom comprised of a talented and charming, all-black cast, led by a strong, responsible, African-American central male character. I do now, and wish there were more shows like it today.
The Cosby Show aired between September, 1984 and April, 1992. During its run, it consistently landed in the top five amongst Neilsen Rated TV programs. It achieved the rare achievement of both critical acclaim and public popularity. It launched the careers of a number of its characters and even spun off another highly rated sitcom, A Different World, in September, 1987, about the often humorous happenings of a group of kids attending a fictitious, historically black college.
These two shows are a part of television history, relegated to syndication on second tier channels on cable networks worldwide. In their place is found something entirely different: the majority-black casted, reality TV show; programs light on positive messages, and heavy on culturally destructive, negative imagery.
Today, at the office water-cooler, and in internet chat rooms and on discussion boards, the abhorrent and shallow behavior found on and promoted by wildly popular shows such as, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Love & Hip Hop and The Bad Girls Club, is all that’s talked about: Who cursed out whom? Who’s talking about another behind her back? Who just bought the latest Bentley? Silly and shallow, mindless, drama.
Coarse language, and crude and classless conduct is celebrated, and often, she (or he) who acts the worst on these programs, not only receives more face time, but may also have additional opportunities availed to them. NeNe Leakes, the breakout “star” of The Real Housewives of Atlanta and poster child for ignorant, on camera behavior, has spun her new found fame into a budding professional acting career. Acting a damn fool and showing ones behind, it appears, does indeed pay. And, whether we choose to believe it or not, she, and many others just like her, often serve as the role models many children (and adults as well), now look up to and admire, and unconsciously pattern their own behavior after.
Of course, to blame characters like NeNe Leakes and her ilk, alone, for the downward spiral of the African-American culture and value system, would be unfair. And, to suggest that there are absolutely no positive black actors and actresses starring on a variety of network programs, would be false, as well. She is not, and there certainly are...a few. Still, one would be hard pressed to identify a single, major network produced show, resembling in anyway, either in a dramatic or sitcom format, the family-oriented and culturally uplifting, Cosby Show.
The increasing proliferation of negative, Hollywood produced, reality TV programming, specifically targeting the black community, demands at least a modicum of balance. The African-American community is not solely comprised of fans of loud-talking, lip-smacking, in-your-face idiots. That, TV studio execs continue to feed the public increasing doses of these ugly stereotypes, is insulting, and belies the fact that we are more than some sort of single-minded, ethnic monolith. We are professionals and laborers, educated and skills challenged, liberal, conservative and completely disinterested in all things political.
We are all these things, and more, and demand to be respected for the various viewpoints and value systems we believe in. The constant deluge of silly, super-materialistic and shallow, violently aggressive, reality TV shows, suggests that there is only a market for this type of programming. This is completely false. We can and will support a good product. Whether sitcom, drama or otherwise, Black folks have in the past, and can in the future, support shows that do not seek to define us a nothing more than a collection of immature, classless and shallow cretins, but allow us to define ourselves.
Our moral foundation of our culture is in jeopardy of complete collapse. This generation is under constant attack from negative and destructive mass media forces. The children of today need to know that we expect more of them than the twisted values taught by a collection of value-challenged, Atlanta housewives.
Sure, lessons begin in the home, but value systems are either reinforced or degraded, depending upon external influences, of which parents and guardians have little or no control over.
We need help in the battle for the minds, souls and futures of our children. We need a 21st century style, Cosby Show.
What do you think?
1 comment(s) on this page. Add your own comment below.
I agree 100%; although I did love the Cosby show growing up. I found this article because I am online now trying to find decent television shows and programs for my children to watch online. Network TV has nothing. I wish there was more we can do to change this trend and give our children better options.