Sunday, February 15, 2009

Black Things I Love #8: The Cosby Show

When I was in college (1991-1996, the heyday of neo-black nationalism), it was de rigeur to be deeply suspicious of The Cosby Show. The family was too unrealistic, the argument, trying too hard to prove to white America that black folks were just like everybody else, too eager to ignore the realities of black life. I wasn't a nationalist, but I sympathized with others' frustrations with the show. The life of the Cosbys certainly looked nothing like my black life.

Watching the show now, with my own black family, is a very different experience. My life still doesn't look like the Cosbys', though it is significantly closer than when I was in college, but I can appreciate what Bill Cosby was trying to do. It's nice to be able to turn on a black show that isn't about blackness. I like that the Cosbys were matter-of-factly black, without apology or explanation. I like that it's show that, while not representing my life experiences, nevertheless represents my experience of my blackness.

And here's what else I like: the completely angst-free portrayal of a two-income household. I love that Claire Huxtable being a mother and wife and lawyer was treated as no big thing--just another part of being a grown up. Does the show completely gloss over the fact that having a successful career and five (!) kids is significantly harder than they make it look? Sure. But again, without apology or explanation, they gave us a woman who mothered her children well, had a career she loved and was good at it, and who had a husband who clearly adored her. Claire Huxtable was too busy living her fabulous life to navel-gaze about having it all. Where can we find that on television now?

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