Media Madness

The Reality of Television’s Black Family


A couple of days ago, while scrolling through my timeline on America’s favorite social network, #OOMF said that they were watching the Cosby show with their daughter…getting some tips on how to parent. I’m not exactly sure that was the quote, but close enough. That tweet reminded me of a time when I said, “When I have kids, I’m going to buy the Cosby Show DVDs and just press play.” I figured that if everything always worked out on that show, then my kids will learn the valuable lessons that were being taught and it would make my job as a parent a lot easier. However, it has come to my attention that there are plenty in the black community, in my age group, who think that the Cosby Show is unrealistic and does not represent the true black family in America. Really? Why is it not realistic? Well instead of defending the Cosby Show, I will challenge the realistic aspects of the black family that has been displayed through television over the years…well the ones that I can say I have seen. Then you can decide what’s really realistic or not.

Sister Sister– two long loss teen twin girls get meet for the first time, the mom and one twin move in with the dad and the other twin and they live happily ever after. I’m sure there are plenty of black people out there who are willing to let complete strangers move into their house, rent free, while putting up with major attitude from one of the people moving in…on a daily basis. That’s realistic tho? *go home Roger*

Family Matters– now here’s a show that featured two working parents, a few kids all different ages living under one roof with a grandma, a sister and her kid, all while living next door to one of the most annoying TV neighbors of all time. This show seemed completely believable and realistic….EXCEPT for the fact that the annoying neighbor was always in the family’s mix; damaging property, harassing the oldest daughter, etc. I’m sure your parents always welcomed the neighborhood kids, particularly the weird, awkward and destructive and stalking ones into your home….all the time. That’s realistic? Oh and whatever happened to the youngest daughter? Did they just send her to boarding school or something?

Fresh Prince of Bellaire – so if the first two weren’t realistic enough, I know this one has to be what the black family looks like in America. We have an affluent family living in Bellaire, on the same block as celebrities, former presidents, etc. Who, one day, decides to take in their teenage nephew who is from a rough neighborhood in West Philadelphia? He comes in, revolutionizes the high school, teaches the youngest daughter how to be cool, ends up being smarter than the only son in the house and oh yeah…is able to stay connected to his homeboy, who just happens to be annoying as well and always getting thrown out of the home. I mean what elite private school doesn’t let in teenagers midyear without credentials from their previous school? And of course there are plenty of black families living in affluent neighborhoods that are still grounded and not in professional sports or entertainment…completely realistic… Right?

Good Times– okay what I need to stress before we get started is that this was a great show; iconic in the community. With that being said let’s break it down. Two parents, 3kids, are living in a 3 bedroom apartment in the projects. None of the kids really worked… I mean JJ kind of had a job but it was never really known if his money went to helping pay bills, because all black kids living in the projects and are no longer in high school are encouraged to stay at home and not contribute to the final condition of the home. I mean but other than that, everything else was pretty normal even down to the annoying neighbor who also had a daughter. Pretty realistic tho, right? I mean who cares about being in a tough economic situation when at the end of the day all you have is love?

And then there’s the Cosby Show– Two parents, 5 kids, living in a town home on the east coast. The father, a practicing doctor, the mother, an established lawyer. Now usually that’s the issue folks have in terms of the show being realistic. There is no way you can have both parents have successful high paying careers. That’s the issue? I never saw an episode where the flaunted their money. Never saw an episode where the kids acted like they had money to blow because their parents were rich. I mean the kids got along, but they had issues at times…completely normal. The older kids were pretty close in age and they even had the oops kid (Rudy). They kept in touch with grandparents, put family first, and worked to make sure that their children stayed grounded. They supported their children’s endeavors, tried to teach life lessons, and even welcomed their children back into the home when they became adults (Denise and her family). But I guess the lack of drama, the lack of physical and verbal abuse, a family dynamic that was had accountability and respect for one another is just in capable of capturing the true essence of the black family. But more than that…why shouldn’t people, particularly in the black community, strive for this type of reality. Where people can make an honest living, enjoy their families, experience new things, and set an example where success is defined by your level of satisfaction and not necessarily your back account. Is that asking for too much?

I don’t know about you, but if the Cosby Show is not realistic enough, then I would much rather follow their lead and stay in the realm of fantasy. What do you think?

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2 thoughts on “The Reality of Television’s Black Family

  1. Completely agree on everything you said about the Cosby’s. I think the element of success and limited drama lead the black community to believe that the lifestyle portrayed is unattainable. Well done, Sir. Well done.

  2. I totally agree with this post. It’s always been strange to me that the Black collective wants strive for a better reality (Cosby) but then shout about unrealistic qualities of these shows and say something like Good Times is a a better representative of Black culture. Are we trying to do better or just stay the same? I’d much rather model my family after The Cosby Show or even My Wife and Kids than some of the over the top drama that’s all over tv today. Good post.

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