Enlightened Racism: The Cosby Show, Audiences, and the Myth of the American Dream (Cultural Studies Series)

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ISBN-13: 978-0813314198
ISBN-10: 0813314194
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Based on an extensive study, funded by Bill Cosby himself, of audience responses to The Cosby Show , this provocative book reinforces criticism that, despite the show's great popularity and positive influences, it promotes the dangerous myth that blacks who don't "make it" have only themselves to blame. The authors, who teach in the department of communications at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, interviewed 52 focus groups, learning that viewers involve themselves deeply with the show and often see it as reality. White viewers can identify with and accept TV's Huxtable family as "nice" blacks; black viewers appreciate the show's lack of racial stereotyping. However, the authors argue, The Cosby Show 's images of the black upper class--like most images broadcast in recent years--hide and distort how most blacks live, thus relieving white viewers of responsibility for such inequalities. Neither blacks nor whites interviewed think clearly about class, the authors say; thus, our society cannot think clearly about how race and class intersect. While the authors' class analysis can be simplistic, their overall argument is convincing.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Sut Jhally and Justin Lewis are associate professors in the Department of Communication at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Both have written extensively on media and popular culture. Sut Jhally and Justin Lewis are associate professors in the Department of Communication at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Both have written extensively on media and popular culture.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Westview Press (June 11, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813314194
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813314198
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,192,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JW on November 6, 2013
Format: Paperback
Although one might think a book about a TV show would be pretty lightweight and superficial, this book will definitely defy your expectations. The authors explore the Cosby show and the attitudes and concerns of both white & black audiences regarding it.

The primary objection to the show is that it presented a guilt-free experience for white America; they could see a professional black family and believe that racism was over and any African American family could accomplish what the Huxatables achieved. But of course, that's not true for the vast majority of black families. There are more and more black attorneys and doctors and they do occasionally marry each other but the majority of black workers are in non-professional jobs or unemployed; they're struggling, trying desperately not to drown when the strong current is running against them.

The authors believe that white audiences are relieved to see such a nice black family; it alleviates their racially tinged worries about crime and the rage of the impoverished and maltreated. Not only does it assuage their fear, it makes them forget their responsibility to eliminate discrimination and prejudice. The idea that racism no longer limits the lives of black people in America is absolutely erroneous. Check out the statistics on unemployment, high school graduation and college graduation, homeownership, income levels, and incarceration rates: the racial disparity is undeniable.

Proponents of the Cosby show argue that the program showed that there are black professionals and happy, functional African American families. The Cosby/Huxtable family is the proud standard bearer for black families, proponents maintain, and an opportunity to build tolerance in the white community.
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