Monday, September 22, 2008

The Huxtables vs The Evans Family

"I can relate to the Good Times, the Cosby's on the sometimes ..." - Brand Nubian

They are the two most prominent black families ever on television. They existed in different eras and evoke different responses as to their reality, influence and greatness. The variance in opinions I believe is reflective of society's prejudice for affluence. I believe that both families were positive reflections of blacks in America. For those that disagree, you strengthen my belief that the affluence of the Huxtables sways your thinking as opposed to the facts of the matter. I also theorize that maybe the Evans family was too close to home for some of us.
Good Times ran from 1974 to 1979. It was about a black family of five living in the Cabrini Green Projects in Chicago. There was James, the father, a hard working but oft looking for work, disciplinarian who was the head of his household. Florida was his queen, she supported her husband, checked him when he was wrong but always let him be the head of the household. J.J was the eldest son and child. He was a kid at heart and sometimes mind yet immensely talented with the gift of painting; Thelma was the middle child and only daughter. She was a beautiful, intelligent girl who didn't get into trouble or situations (wink, wink). Last but certainly not least of all, there was Michael, an intelligent, militant young man who was pro-black and bound to go far in life. That backdrop should shed some light as to the positive imagery that this show put forth. Though they lived in the projects, the projects did not live in them. James never went outside the law for the easy money, never took his fustrations out on Flo or the kids, and most of all he stayed in the house. Flo stood by her man and encouraged him and let him be the man that he was. She didn't try to kick him while he was down or usurp the head of household from him. She taught her children about God (there was an episode where she told Michael's boss that he could no longer work there for fear of Michael adopting his boss' atheistic beliefs) and both she and James stressed education and were both involved in the political process as they served as campaigners for the politicains they supported. JJ had a gift and used it. He wasn't running the streets as many of our young soldiers in the projects do as if that was their sole purpose. As stated before, Thelma wasn't putting herself out there as many young girls do for love, money or whatever reason. Michael seemed to be the chosen one. In alot of families the youngest seem to be the one chosen (often by the knocks of life rather than parental decision) to reap the benefits of education and opportunity. The neighborhood I lived in growing up is world reknown, albeit for the wrong reasons, and I often tell people that I did not grow up in the "ghetto" or 'hood but in my parents house. The "ghetto" was just a place I had to pass through to where I was going and to get back home again. Good Times served as an inspiration and blueprint to blacks in the seventies that were facing the same struggles as the Evans family. Despite the temporary lay-offs, easy credit rip-offs, through all the scratchin and surivin' they had each other, kept each other, loved each other and even sat down and ate dinner with each other. So it is we who were and are lucky for Good Times because it showed the world the survivors that we are, the champions that we are because the Evans family refused to become a product of their environment or take the easy way out. They became the pride of the Cabrini Green Projects and alot of households in America as well. Nowadays it seems to many they are just another project family and it is that mindset that has many people living in the "ghetto" which is a state of mind. (The only difference between the projects and a co-op is the attitude of the residents.)
The Cosby Show is often hailed as the best representation of blacks on television. The show ran from 1984-1992. Cliff Huxtable was the patriarch and a doctor who was married to Clair, a lawyer. They had five children in the order of Sondra, a Princeton graduate, Denise, college dropout that married a naval officer and became a stepmom to his daughter, Theo, dyslexic C- high school student that went on to graduate from New York University, Vanessa, A-student that went on to college and then get engaged to a man closer to Sondra's age than hers ; finally there was Rudy the baby of the family until Olivia, Denise's stepdaughter came to live with the family in a somewhat upscale neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY.
From that backdrop you can see that education was an important value stressed in the Huxtable household as was family bonds as the grandparents were often around. Also, you can see that the parents had careers that afforded them more luxuries than James and Flo. However, if I recall correctly, none of the kids pursued their talents like JJ did (yes Rudy had the football episode and activities of Theo and Vanessa were mentioned but they were more of a "you did it once and gave up"; there was no commitment). As opposed to Good Times where both JJ and Michael were confronted with being forced into gangs I do not recall where any of the Huxtable children were faced with any such dangers (around this time there was a notoriuos gang in Brooklyn called the Decepticons). It wasn't until Erika Alexander was brought in as Claire's cousin Pam that sex factored in to the show. So it wasn't one of his kids, even though Theo was dating, and then Vanessa got engaged to an older man they did not meet until after the two were engaged. Cliff and Claire volunteered at a community center and Theo did so later as an internship but that was it. Whereas on Good Times, JJ gave lessons to kids in the community, Michael was pro-active in participating in the community as well. Aside from the careers of Cliff and Claire and the fact that four of the five children went on to college (Theo attending NYU was and still remains suspect; we can also assume Rudy would have went to college as well if the show did not end it's run) I fail to see how The Cosby Show was more positive than Good Times. Cosby did introduce many to Miriam Makeba, Dizzy Gillespie and other great African American people but with them being introduced as "friends" of the family it came off as cheesey.
In conclusion, they both stressed education and family but Good Times had more religion, everyday pressures, and discipline. The Cosby show had more income and therefore opportunities. I enjoyed the Cosby Show but I believe that Good Times had a more positive and realistic portrayal of blacks than the Cosby Show. If you think about it, Good Times avoided the imagery that we protested against that utlimately brought about The Cosby Show. Dad wasn't an absentee father, Mom wasn't strung out, son wasn't thugging, daughter wasn't hooking and knocked up, other son wasn't running around making babies and dipping out. So even if you continue to believe that the Huxtables are the best portrayal of blacks on television, Good Times served as the blueprint and inspiration. Which comes closest to your family?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Stand Up or Stand Down?

Recently in the news there have been discussions regarding NBA player Josh Howard's comments regarding the National Anthem and the fact that he doesn't celebrate it because he's black. I've participated in conversations on this matter and was told by another participant that they celebrate the anthem as a tribute to the blacks that fought and died in the struggle for rights and to lay the foundation for a better life for the next generation. In my opinion, the anthem embodies the right for a person to stand, sit or hum their favorite tune while the anthem is being played (I myself prefer to remain seated). What I wonder and choose to ask is, by celebrating the anthem which was not written with us in mind are we paying tribute to our heroes or are we slapping them in the face? Should a new anthem be written to incorporate the changes (to whatever degree, some feel change has been limited considering the state many of us are in today) that have come about since the original was penned?