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MIDTERM PROJECT: MEDIA'S MISREPRESENTATIONS OF BLACK FAMILIES

Have you ever thought about the portrayal of Black families through media images based on race and class?
Well, believe it or not throughout many years, it is clear that America suffers from social inequality, and as a reflection, television has been a critical impact on society’s views, actions, perspectives, and even culture. From time to time, television’s hegemonic approach subliminally sends stereotypical negative images of Black people that reflect the mainstream popular culture. On the contrary, shows such as The Cosby Show and Prince of Bel-Air, both very incredibly popular and comical, went against traditional stereotypes of Black families by displaying their upper-middle class family lives in distinct ways.

Jhally's and Lewis Ideas
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Authors Jhally and Lewis, from the article Enlightened Racism reinforces criticism on the audience responses to The Cosby Show that, despite the show's great popularity and positive influences on both African Americans and Whites, it promotes the dangerous myth that African Americans who don't reach economic success have only themselves to blame. Jhally and Lewis also fully analyzes the separation of Black viewers appreciating the show's lack of racial stereotyping and finally representing as a symbol of integrity of the Black race and how some White viewers may respond to it as cultural threat. Their views were also primarily about how society should reconsider ideological and economic conditions caused by media stereotyping. Jhally and Lewis' (92) also had idead about how people seem to forget about class issues and how it plays a vital role in racial inequities as well. (p133)

The F R E S H P R I N CE vs. The Cosby Show

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The very prominent show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was about a wealthy family living in Bel-Air, California, receives a gift from their cousin in Philadelphia Will Smith arrives as The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. His mother wants him to learn some good old-fashioned values from his successful relatives. But Will hsatters the sophisticated serenity of Bel-Air with his streetwise common sense, but tries to cope with his new rich family. In my opinion the only aspect that The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air andThe Cosby Show have in common is the same sense of loving family. Most Importantly, they both are very daring, risk-taking, and creative with breaking out of the demeaning and traditional sterotypes placed on as upper-middle class Black Americans in society. On the other hand, both shows about two different families with similiar achievements are very diverse based on their culture, professions, actions, perspectives, etc. as shown below:

  • Cosby's Black & White connected audiences vs. Inner-Cities & Wealthy external image 8280-denise_head.jpg
  • Theo's Behavior vs. Will's Buffoonery
  • Cosby's Incorporation of Black Culture based in home (jazz,blues,art,etc) vs. Phill's low-key Black pride
  • Denise's Identity vs. Claire's Airheadedness
  • Children Chores vs. The Use of the Butler Geoffrey
  • Cosby's Depletion of Racism vs. A realistic view and seperation on Class and Racism in Fresh Prince
  • Cliff Huxtable as a father figure vs. Phill's profession/status being more prioritized

WHAT ARE PARA-SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS?

Para-social relationships are when people subconciounsly connect media personas to real life situations based on behavioral involvement, motives, attitudes, activity on cognitive, affective, etc. This is a perfect example that relates to Fresh Prince because the audience can easily connect with Will as child to friend, being that his character is someone comical, free-spirited,etc. A para-social relationship can also be used in Fresh Prince by anyone no matter what age can simply have an ideal marriage, family, status, or even personality wise later in life. The audience who views shows and make interactions are usually being encouraged by the media persona's conversational manner, interpersonal style. "Media production techniques also allows the viewer to react interpersonally to television persona and feel they 'know' the characters the way they know their friends."

Therefore, it is clear that The Cosby Show and the Fresh Prince are not only very popular, warm-hearted shows to connect to whether Black or White, but also very distinct when displaying upper-middle class Black Americans in various ways based on culture, status, actions, motives, etc. The Cosby Show reveals a more humble state of mind while raising children with morals, teachings, etc., while Fresh Prince shows how wealth is played up much more throughout the whole show. In my opinion after analyzing both shows and reading Enlightened Racism, I highly agree with Jhally and Lewis' (92) views. Basically, yes, white viewers may find it unusual because of it not being a typical plot, or it being dangerous because its reinforcing a myth, and it becoming a cultural threat, however if it is not offending that specific race, further examination is pointless. I believe that The Cosby Show was a heroic symbol of the Black race as a relief from the disturbing views of stereotypical images on television over many years. (p.138) It was finally what African Americans wanted--some of the successful, sensutuve, and intellectual faces that they haven't seen on television.

WORKS CITED

Jhally, Sut. Justin Lewis. (1992) Enlightened Racism, Westview Press

Camella,Christine. Parasocial Relationships in Female College Student Soap Opera Viewers Today. <http://people.wcsu.edu/mccarneyh/acad/Camella.html>

Carlton Learns About Discrimination retrieved from <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQtDXxXyPYQ>
Hilary Prepares for an interview retrieved from
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlRBshGivig>
Golden Anniversary Part 3 retrieved from <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfDbQIz-K5c>
Will Smith Dances retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vq9ecOPbD1U&NR=1