Monday, November 9, 2009

It's BLACK !?

I really liked Dyer's article that we just read. Although it was a little dry at times, and seemed too much preoccupied with the three movies it described, I really enjoyed the beginning of it.
The first part of the Dyer article, talk
s about the normative whiteness as seen among the media. Dyer argues that the white actors on TV are not seen as white, but instead they are seen as "the natural, inevitable, ordinary way of being human" (p.141). the audience do not think of these white actors as being white, but instead they see them as the norm that can be applied to any and every human beings in the society.
On the contrary, Dyer argues, whenever there are any actors of color on TV, they are seen as something that is not the norm, something opposite of the ordered whiteness, and something that can only be applied to specific individuals/groups within the society. Dyer argues that "whiteness can be associated with order, rationality, rigidity, qualities brought
out by the contrast with black disorder, irrationality, and looseness" (p.145). So even though the Black actors would be casted in the same roles as the White actors, they would be seen as something extraordinary, and not as something proper and normal.

I was thinking about a different example of this, than Dyer gave (his argument is pretty dated, from 1988). And then I thought about sitcoms that talk about the struggles of different families-- something, that the majority of the population could relate to. And I came across 8 Simple Rules and The Bill Cosby Show. Both shows are similarly structured: both talk
about the families that deal with teenagers, and younger kids, and the problems that they create, as well as their parents who try to run the household, and raise their children in a proper way through teaching them some lessons.
But these two vary in one, great, detail: 8 Simple Rules presents a White family, while The Bill Cosby Show presents a Black family.

And I think that it is important to see how people think about these shows.

When asked, people often say that 8 Simple Rules is a show about this family where the teenage kids are the main focal point, and where the drama goes on constantly. Also, they say that they can easily relate to the issues presented in the show, if they have/are a teenager.

But then when asked about the Bill Cosby Show, people usually tend to say that it is a show about this Black family who is trying to focus around the lives of the teenage children in the family. But in this scenario, it is less likely for people to say that they can relate to that show, unless they are the people of color.

So what do you think? Does color really matter? And does it even make a difference whether a family is Black or White? I think not. But I also think that many people simply over exaggerate these stereotypes, thus causing their thinking to be affected by their preconceived ideas and experiences.


  1. I think that unfortunately, color still DOES matter, and in reference to your example about the Bill Cosby Show (GREAT example btw) I would argue that the reason why that show was so successful is because it adopted many white-middle class ideals. I was learning about this in my Gender and Comm class-and my professor's argument is that although successful Black families on television are seen as "the Other," we should take a step back to realize why they are so successful: it's because they adopt white stereotypes and do not illustrate the typical Black family stereotype. In Bill Cosby's show, the family contains parents who are a doctor and a lawyer, living in a suburban area, in a nice sized home, vs. the family being on welfare and parents working jobs that don't require a degree. It's unfortunate, but there is a lot of evidence to back up that this is true.

  2. Holtzman says on p.250: "The debate among viewers regarding whether the Huxtables were 'too white' was really a debate about class, and resulted in confusing both black and white audiences about race and class."

    Obviously the Cosbys are a very upper-class family, but there are plenty of upper-middle and upper-class black families (just look at our President!). This particular milieu of African-American society is rarely depicted anywhere, so our stereotype of the black family is like Courtney said, a family on welfare working crappy jobs. So we realize that our stereotypes about race are ALSO stereotypes about class. We wouldn't see a white TV family with a doctor and a lawyer as unrealistic, although such professional families are a very small percentage of American families, period, regardless of what race they are.

  3. Courtney... I absolutely agree with you.
    Alice.... Absolutely agree with you as well.

    I couldn't agree more that the reason why the Cosby Show was so successful was because it imitated the White families. But nevertheless, even though they didn't differ from the white families in anything, they were still looked at as the Black family.

  4. I totally agree as well! I think that another good example to note is the show, My Wife and Kids, which also depicts a middle/upper class black family who live in an amazing house in Connecticut. However, I think shows nowadays are trying to capture black families with more diverse backgrounds, which can be seen in shows like Everybody Hates Chris, where his father has to work 2 jobs a day in order to make ends meet and the apartment that they're living in is definitely not big or classy. I think t.v. has progressed in its portrayal of various classes of black families.

  5. hahaha.. I love Michael Kyle from the My Wife and Kids, and his ability to turn everything into a joke :)
    love it :)