Student Essay

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Television and Families: How the Cosby Show Challenges the Mythical American Family "Myths are beliefs that are held uncritically and without examination or scrutiny...bound up with nostalgic memory, selective perception and cultural values concerning what is typical and true about the family (Crosby 1985,[10]). The Cosby Show redefined what the American family was suppose to look like by challenging two key myths about the American family. Since the Cosby Show was not the typical white family of the late 80's and early 90's, it conveyed progressive ideals by challenging the historical myths of the monolithic family and the unified family experience. The Cosby Show was an American television sitcom comedy starring Bill Cosby, which focused on the Huxtable family, an upper middle-class African-American family living in Brooklyn, New York. The patriarch is Heathcliff "Cliff" Huxtable, an obstetrician, son of a prominent jazz trombonist. The matriarch is his wife, attorney Clair Hanks Huxtable. The two characters have five children, four daughters and one son; Sondra, Denise, Theodore (Theo for short), Vanessa and Rudy. By its depiction of an upper-middle class African American family, the show challenged the myth of the monolithic family. The concept of the monolithic family was the American family is white, middle class consisting of a heterosexual father as breadwinner, mother as homemaker, and children at home living in one-family house. This type of family was classically depicted in television shows such as Leave It to Beaver and Ozzie and Harriet. Until the Cosby show, this monolithic image of "the normal American family" was a stick against which all families had been measured. (Pyke, 2000:240) [12] The Cosby Show also challenges the myth of the unified family experience. This concept assumes that family members experience the family in the same way.

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