Race issues in the 1980s (The Cosby Show). Education and Class.
The Cosby show is iconic of the 1980s in representing issues surrounding black culture and stereotypes of the 1980s. The show seemed to encourage black people to break the race barrier and cultural stereotypes and live the life they wanted to. "Of all its legacies, the one most noted when discussing The Cosby Show is its depictions of race and class. Nothing like it had been seen before on television, and nothing has had its level of impact since".
At the time The Cosby Show targeted many race issues in many of its episodes. Its popularity in comedy meant it was able to get the messages it made across to a wide audience of viewers.
At the time it was made the show tackled many different issues of race in many different episodes.
The show focused around a wealthy Black family in America, which straight away tackled the common feeling of black families being less fortunate than white American families. The show spoke against many common racial stereotypes of the 80s and flipped them on their head, encouraging African Americans into education and to pursue a good career.
Here are a few of the issues it tackled and what episodes they can be found in:
"A Shirt Story" (season one, episode 5)
In this episode the meanings portrayed are ones of what hard work can get you and what you should be entitled to. The real focus of the episode is what a good education, a degree and a good job can get the younger people of America and that they should not rely on parents money to get the things they want. This episode really speaks out the the African American children of the 80s and encourages them to pursue education and a good job.
"Hillman" (season three, episode 25)
"Encouraging black kids to go to college was one of Cosby's greatest passions, and that message saturated the show throughout its run. Beyond merely demonstrating how Cliff and Clair's advanced education was instrumental to their class mobility, Cosby practically turned the show into a commercial for historically black universities". The Cosby show seemed to be heavily set around the ideas of race not determining educational rights and that black children could achieve just as much as white children, no matter their financial background. The show broke down the class barrier separating poor and rich black families and suggested they could all achieve the same.
"Period of Adjustment" (season seven, episode 4)
By this time in the show the theme of normalizing rich children and encouraging black children to go to college had been thoroughly used by the writers in all the ways it could be used. But by introducing a character called Pam and showing her struggle to adapt to a lifestyle completely different from her own it breaks down the class barrier as she is accepted by many of the children and young adults in the tv series. The show focused heavily on education for black children, normalizing rich kids and what they are entitle to and breaking down the class barrier between African American from the rich to the poor with this introduction of Pam in season 7.
At the time the show spoke to many of these issues and offered an alternative for African American children, but what legacy does it have today in terms of these issues. The article that is the main focus of this blog task suggests that the Cosby show has many legacies to live up to and can still be used today to tackle issues of race saying that nothing had such an impact on tv before and "nothing has had its level of impact since". The show was very effective in its messages because it was funny, and it is this light-heartedness that has given it such a legacy. It can be seen as not only tackling issues of race but can be seen as inspiring styles of stand up and other sitcoms that tackle race and class issues today.