9780813314198

Enlightened Racism : The Cosby Show, Audiences, and the Myth of the American Dream

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780813314198

  • ISBN10:

    0813314194

  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 1992-06-10
  • Publisher: Perseus Books

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Summary

The Cosby Showneeds little introduction to most people familiar with American popular culture. It is a show with immense and universal appeal. Even so, most debates about the significance of the program have failed to take into account one of the more important elements of its successits viewers. Through a major study of the audiences ofThe Cosby Show,the authors treat two issues of great social and political importancehow television, America's most widespread cultural form, influences the way we think, and how our society in the postCivil Rights era thinks about race, our most widespread cultural problem.This book offers a radical challenge to the conventional wisdom concerning racial stereotyping in the United States and demonstrates how apparently progressive programs likeThe Cosby Show,despite good intentions, actually help to construct "enlightened" forms of racism. The authors argue that, in the postCivil Rights era, a new structure of racial beliefs, based on subtle contradictions between attitudes toward race and class, has brought in its wake this new form of racial thought that seems on the surface to exhibit a new tolerance. However, professors Jhally and Lewis find that because Americans cannot think clearly about class, they cannot, after all, think clearly about race.This groundbreaking book is rooted in an empirical analysis of the reactions toThe Cosby Showof a range of ordinary Americans, both black and white. Professors Jhally and Lewis discussed with the different audiences their attitudes toward the program and more generally their understanding and perceptions of issues of race and social class.Enlightened Racismis a major intervention into the public debate about race and perceptions of racea debate, in the 1990s, at the heart of American political and public life. This book is indispensable to understanding that debate.

Author Biography

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.

Table of Contents

List of Tables
xiii(2)
Preface xv(2)
Acknowledgments xvii
1 Introducing The Cosby Show
1(14)
Cosby: The Case For
3(3)
Cosby: The Case Against
6(2)
Asking the Audience
8(4)
Synopsis of The Cosby Show Episode Shown to Respondents
12(3)
2 Television and Reality: How Real Is The Cosby Show?
15(20)
Talking About Reality
17(6)
The Absence and Presence of Class
23(4)
Cosby Contradictions
27(3)
The World According to Cosby
30(5)
3 The Success of Cosby
35(22)
White Viewers and Popularity: The Same and Different
36(2)
"They're Things That Happen Day by Day"
38(3)
"It Has That Kind of Airbrushed Quality About It"
41(2)
"It's Always Family Matters"
43(3)
"The Cosby Show's Black, and That Fits"
46(2)
Black Viewers and Popularity: "Thank You, Dr. Cosby, for Giving Us Back Ourselves"
48(2)
"When I Look at Them, I Look at Us"
50(3)
"What Kind of Question Is That for Black Folk?"
53(3)
Looking on the Bright Side
56(1)
4 Black Experience: Images, Illusions, and Social Class
57(14)
Black Images: The Case of the Disappearing Black Working Class
58(3)
Black Reality: The Permanent Underclass and Increasing Poverty
61(3)
The Race-Class Nexus
64(4)
Class and Social Mobility
68(3)
5 Class and the Myth of the American Dream
71(22)
Misrepresentations and Misconceptions
71(1)
Television and the "American Dream"
72(3)
Class Consciousness: The View from Above
75(3)
Class Consciousness: The View from Below
78(3)
The Displacement of Class onto Race
81(2)
Stereotyping: The Limits of Conventional Thinking
83(3)
The Fictional Creation of a Racially Just Society
86(7)
6 White Responses: The Emergence of "Enlightened" Racism
93(20)
The Insidious Return of Racism
93(2)
Definitions of Black: Color Versus Culture
95(3)
The Black and White Cosby Show
98(3)
Now You See It, Now You Don't
101(7)
Biology Versus Culture
108(1)
The Consequences of Classlessness
109(4)
7 Black Responses: The Hollow Images of Success
113(18)
The Bad News
113(4)
Race and Class in Black Situation Comedies
117(4)
Positive Images and the Search for Prosperity
121(3)
The Battle for Respect
124(3)
Clinging to the American Dream
127(4)
8 Conclusion: Unpopular Messages in an Age of Popularity
131(14)
Affirming Inaction in White Viewers
135(3)
Rethinking Stereotypes
138(1)
Moving Beyond the American Dream
139(6)
References 145(2)
About the Book and Authors 147(2)
Index 149

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