“The Cosby Show”
2. How the Cosby Show depicted family:
What is the family structure?
The family structure of the Cosby Show was a nuclear family which included two parents, a mother and a father, and five children. Later, as the show progressed, some extensions of the family were added as the children grew up and entered adult relationships of their own. Most of the issues that arise on the show are family centered issues that tend to illustrate a close family dynamic.
What are the gender roles for the parents?
Even though the role of race would seem to be the significant issue discussed or implied on the show, some critics argue that it is in fact gender that is the main issue on the show. According to Slate, Clair Huxtable was a feminist matriarch who showed that a woman could have a successful career as an attorney while raising five children. Heathcliff Huxtable was a successful patriarch, however, by no means the sole breadwinner.’
How do the genders interact with each other (gender relations)?
Heathcliff’s role of a patriarch in the family is affected by Clair’s feminism and career-mindedness and can often been seen cooking dinner for the family, being the primary caretaker for the children, and taking on other roles which were traditionally reserved for the female parent. “If The Coby Show’s racial politics were merely implied, its gender politics were clear, pointed, and decidedly progressive. Everyone was so busy making a fuss over the show’s blackness that relatively few noted, at the time, that Cosby had smuggled proud and vocal feminism into the country’s most popular family sitcom” (Bailey, 2016).
Explain how the social class influenced the issues / problems and solutions that the family has:
The Cosby show featured and upper middle class New York African American family. Due to the class status of the family, the issue of race, which many would have assumed would be the focus of the show, is rarely addressed in the show although it debuted 30 years ago in 1984 (Bailey, 2016). Thus, the socio-economic status had a significant impact on the types of issues / problems that the Cosby’s experienced.
Explain how race influenced the issues / problems and solutions that the family experience:
Although race was highlighted in the show as the Cosby show was one of the first to feature an upper middle class black family in prime time, the family that is depicted is obviously affected less by race with regard to their problems / issues due to their socio-economic status (Avclub.com, 2012). Thus, race did little to influence the issues / problem experienced. Instead, race was used to show that the family had the same issues / problems as any other upper middle class family.
3. The Cosby Show family was similar to mine in that I grew up in a nuclear family with a mother and a father both present in the home. Unlike the Cosby show, however, I only had one sibling, a brother. Also, like the Cosby Show family, our family could be considered to be upper middle class. The interaction within the family was approximately the same due to the fact that my mother had a successful career and the gender roles were not as distinct in my family. In addition, most if the issues and problems / issues that our family experienced did not arise due to race and were not affected by race but instead socio-economic status.
4. One of the myths that The Cosby Show perpetuated is that women desire to get married rather young and start a large family in order to be perceived as successful in their female family life. Clair’s interests outside of work and fun side seem to be completely replaced with motherhood. The Cosby Show pushes on the view that this is normal and will bring a woman happiness. Another myth that the show perpetuated is that you really can have it all. The show depicts Clair Huxtable as a successful attorney who is raising five children with little to no significant problems balancing her time between her career and her family. In reality, five children should have seemed impractical for an attorney or career woman of her age.
5. The first myth can cause dysfunction due to the fact that it can cause young women to aspire to something that will not bring them happiness. Many young adult women today who grew up watching The Cosby Show were led to believe that they were supposed to grow up and get married in their early to mid-twenties, and start having kids in their mid to late twenties in order to be successful as a female in their family life. Many women today, however, may have found that this model did not bring their happiness. The functionality of the myth, however, is that it promotes strong black nuclear families to black youth
The second myth, that you can have it all with little problem can cause for the dysfunction of making those who are struggling to balance career and family feel like they are failing. Clair Huxtable has a successful career with five children and have time to be a good mother. This seems impractical in today’s world with the demands of a career and five children at her age. The second my, however, have a functionality component. It illustrates that black women should aim for having a successful career and a family in a way that suggest that the entire American dream is attainable to them. Thus, even if people fall short of having it all, they will still have more than they would if they had not aimed for it.
6. The Cosby Show promoted marriage and family to me. I believe that it may have glorified a large family and made me believe that was what I wanted, however, as I got older, I realized that personal time, the parents remaining young in spirit and having fun may have been missing from the show. Still, the show illustrated how a large family can be fulfilling and something to desire one day. The show suggested that marriage is a cooperative that does not have set gender roles. Each member of the cooperative should pitch in where he or she can to make the family work regardless of the traditional roles that each would play.
7. The assignment has taught me to examine the impact that television families have had on my perception of what family is supposed to be like. It allowed me to look back and see how Clair Huxtable did not play the typical female role. In addition, it helped me see that marriage and family may not be about playing traditional roles; instead, they may be based on compromise. I still do not accept the myth that women need to get married and start a large family to be successful in their family life. The myth that it is possible to have it all and make things run smoothly, I still buy into a little and hope that one day I can make this work. I will, however, hold a more practical view than that which is provided by The Cosby Show.
- AVclub.com. (2012). How The Cosby Show spoke to race and class in ’80s America. Retrieved
- Bailey, J. (2016). Thirty Years Again The Cosby Show Gave Us One of TV’s Great Feminists. Slate
Magazine. Retrieved 5 February 2016, from: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/television/2014/09/clair_huxtable_feminist_hero_the_cosby_show_wife_revisited_on_30th_anniversary.html.