THE STEREOTYPICAL CONNOTATIONS USED IN AFRICAN AMERICAN TELEVISION SITCOMS AND THEIR EFFECTS ON AFRICAN AMERICAN
Natriece LaRaye Bryant B.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 2002
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Sociology
This thesis for Master of Arts
Natriece LaRaye Bryant has been approved by
Bryant, Natriece L
The Stereotypical Connotations Used in African American Television Sitcoms and Their Effects on African American Society
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Candan Duran-Aydintug
By using different television sitcoms and theories from previous studies, the hypothesis in this research is that the negative stereotypes that run on television sitcoms have been used to portray the African American community negatively. While analyzing eleven primarily African American sitcoms running for 1970 through present day, the stereotypes that were placed into society will be shown by using the analysis of content that aired in the shows in the past years. Research will show that the stereotypes are not viewed by only African Americans, but the rest of society as well, this being the problem with why the stereotypical nature can no longer exist.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend its publication.
I dedicate this thesis to my husband, Kris, who helped me appreciate the value of learning and looking at thing from a different perspective. I also dedicate this thesis to my daughter, Taiya, who has helped me with the motivation that it took to write and complete this thesis. Thank you both for your continued support.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
2. REVIEW OF LITERATURE........................3
3. THE SOCIAL MOVEMENT........................21
4. THE START OF A NEW BEGINNING...............30
5. THE TELEVISION GHETTO......................39
6. THE 21st CENTURY TELEVISION MANIA..........45
7. CONCLUSION............................... 51
LIST OF FIGURES
3.1 GOOD TIMES.......................................24
3.2 THE JEFFERSONS...................................25
3.3 DIFFRENT STROKES................................28
4.1 THE COSBY SHOW...................................33
4.2 FAMILY MATTERS...................................34
4.3 THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR......................36
5.1 THE WAYANS BROTHERS.............................40
5.2 THE STEVE HARVEY SHOW............................42
6.1 EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS............................45
LIST OF TABLES
7.1 African-American Television Audience: Viewing by Daypart.54
7.2 African-American Television Audience: Broadcast Network..55
7.3 African American Cable Program Viewership Primetime......56
African Americans have played a major role in the development of our current day American sitcom. Sitcoms have been around for years, dating as far back as 946 when many of the connotations were skewed towards a Caucasian audience. Sitcoms are used for our amusement and sheer entertainment purposes. But what happens when our entertainment turns into real-life society. Sitcom stereotypes have been taken from the television and placed into society. Society will view certain ethnicities based on what they see on television. Every stereotype from the African American Mammy to the African American Dead beat Father have been forced into our minds and now dictate how we treat and view people on a daily basis. The thesis presented will look deeply into how society has been plagued by the Sitcom television media. The research will look at different African American Sitcom Television shows to emphasize how stereotypical the world has become. One would like to believe that the stereotypes from the 1970s have changed, but in reality they have taken on metamorphosis to fit present day society. The research in this thesis will provide detailed information about sitcoms in the 1970s through present day. Research will show that the stereotypes that were prevalent in the 1970s still remain in 2007. Content analysis done on television sitcoms from 1970-2007
will show that society has not come any farther than being able to sugar-coat reality. Sitcoms were used from 1970-present day to eliminate the outside racial influences as much as possible. Removing the 1960s from the content removed the Civil Rights era which had an extreme effect as to what was considered appropriate and what was considered unacceptable. Through the years, television sitcoms have molded our thought process into believing what we see on television to be an accurate representation of what is actually occurring in society. The content analysis will show that not only do sitcoms still portray African Americans in a stereotypical manner, but also those stereotypes are then indirectly placed in our society and used as indicators as to how African Americans are treated on a day to day basis.
African Americans have for years been portrayed as many different types of people in daytime television, namely television sitcoms. The article discusses how African American view the roles that they play in television as offensive and largely misrepresentative of what is truly present in society today when it comes to men and women.
The article by Abemathy-Lear looks at the five questions concerning how African Americans are represented in television shows. The five questions are (1) How are daytime serial used by African American viewers in their everyday lives? (2) What pleasures result from their interaction with the text? (3) How are those pleasures generated? (4) What meanings emerge from the text? (5) To what extent does African American culture influence their engagement with the daytime serials?
While conducting the research the major unit for observation looked at African Americans in 1989, 1990 and 1991 in Chicago, Illinois. The research was conducted on a voluntary basis for those that read the newspaper and saw the advertisement. In return, the interviewees consisted of 37 women and 7 men between the ages of 15 and 63 years of age. The levels of education and employment of the interviewees was not disclosed, but was said to vary.
When the interviewees were questioned, the participants gave answers questions that did not accurately show what they thought of daytime television and the African American population. Some responses consisted of there are not enough Black people. These types of answers do not accurately show or detail what is being viewed on television. Some of the major concerns from the participants ranged from the Whitewashing of African American characters and storylines, as well as the lack of diverse roles for African Americans (Abemathy-Lear, 831). The overall feels from the participants would lead one to believe that there were not enough African American characters or roles in the daytime serials. Participants were also asked if they would make changes to the roles in which African Americans play in the shows and some gave some vague and some detailed answers as to what changes they felt were necessary. Some changes that were suggested were to add more African American roles into the shows and others suggested that the roles that did already exist, be changed and not show assimilation into the White society (Abernathy Lear, 833).
Looking at the article, the suggestions that were given were not specific as to how change can be used to make people in society not take on the stereotypical beliefs that can be gained from the White-washed African American in the shows. Most people just made simple suggestions that the roles be changed, but gave no input as to how. The article in general seems vague yet points out that
there are people in society that feel that African American roles are not strong in daytime television. The fact that the participants ranged so much in age may have had something to do with the vague answers provided as to how change could be made.
The way in which the participant were selected also creates a bias because only those that read the Chicago newspaper would have access to participate in the event. Another bias was created when the interviewer was placed in the room with the participant, one on one interviewing may have caused for people to limit what they say in order to keep from offending the person conducting the interview.
The research fails to interact other participants with one another so that the participants may feed off one another for ideas and similarities in what is seen on television. Although some may think that interaction keeps the study from being considered valid, with this particular research, it is important to make sure views are heard and can be agreed upon and disagreed upon. To interact this particular crowd would have been important to show that people either agree or disagree with the stereotypes or ways in which the shows can be improved to represent the African American population accurately.
The study itself was used from another researcher in which the five key questions were used to show the relationship with the genre in question. The researcher attempted to utilize the questions originally presented by another study
to compare how views have either changed or remained the same, yet at the same time did not stick to the same questionnaire as originally placed into the research. Had this been done, the research may have been used to show that the opinions of the African American community have either remained the same or changed dramatically.
Coltrane looks at how advertising on television in the 1990s has come to show difference in how minorities are portrayed in society, yet how the stereotypes still exist in the advertising world as well. The analysis was done on shows that aired on television from 1992 until 1994. The main focus of the study is to show how minorities are still disproportionate to Whites on television and how stereotypes in society come from what is seen on the shows studied.
The hypothesis of the article was that White men are shown as powerful white women as sex objects African American men as aggressive, and African American women as inconsequential (Coltrane, 363). Coltrane looks at how the images that we see on television and in media become part of our cognitive understanding as to what actually happens in the world. For example, African American men are portrayed as aggressive, so is that why some women refuse to walk through a group of African American men on the street or why some older people clutch tight to their belongings when walking past an African American male? The idea that Black men are aggressive and more likely to attack someone, has to have come from somewhere. Coltrane looks at where some of these
stereotypes emerge and why they emerge. Coltrane touches on the terms blatant and subtle prejudice which he believes can come from media imagery. The examples provided about African Americans being aggressive and a direct action against them would be considered a blatant prejudice. Society reacts to what they have seen and associates the action on television to the real world example. Subtle prejudice would be when one feels the same way, but holds in their emotions and does not react to what they feel at that time.
Both blatant and subtle prejudice drives the research that was conducted by Coltrane. The idea is to show that society eats up what is seen on television and uses those images to objectify their reality. Coltrane touches briefly on the old objectification of the African American as Aunt Jemima or Amos and Andy (Coltrane, 368) does not exist anymore, but at the same time states that only 10% of human appearances on television are from the non-White population (Lichter, Lichter & Rothman 1994).
With less time on the air it would be hard to understand why the roles and stereotypes would still be just as prevalent as they were 60 years ago. In Coltranes study, the following stereotypes were found in television sitcoms and shows: (1) Non-Whites were shown more in advertisements that show things not readily excepted in society such as fast food, beer and automobiles (2) shown in the background versus being the main point of attention in the show, and (3) as subservient to White authority figures (Humphrey & Schuman, 1984). The fact
that the same findings in 1984 are still true in media today shows that little to no progress has been made.
Within the research, Coltrane finds that Whites are portrayed more frequently, African American men and women are more likely to be shown as aggressive rather than passive characters; African Americans are less likely to be shown as parents and more likely depicted as sex objects and emotional (Coltrane, 375). The literature shows that although the Mammy and the Worker Slave are no longer around for the African American population, there are newer roles that have taken the place of the old stereotypes. African Americans in television sitcoms are now portrayed as dead-beat parents, aggressive criminals and sex objects.
The literature by Coltrane shows that society has not come far from just sugar-coating the terminology used to show that the African American population has come minimally far from what it was 60 years ago. The stereotypes still exist and are more prevalent than ever. Being that social change is eminent, it is important that television submerge the stereotypes and remove negative connotation from the genre all together, otherwise media continues to feed society false truths.
The research presented was done with the goal that the experiment can prove that people have racial prejudices, yet some feel badly about the way they judge and feel about a group of people. In the article the research stems from a
public service announcement about the capture of a criminal by a police officer. The first image is an African American male and words pop up about the extent of the crime, when the criminal was captured and the crimes which he/she committed. The next verbiage that comes up is about the officer who captured the criminal, and a photo of a White male pops up. Being that the majority of our prejudices are hidden, the ad was designed to see who we would assume to be the criminal and who would be the officer. The majority of the viewers thought the African American male was the criminal and the White male was the officer, when in actuality, the African American male was the officer and the White male was the criminal. The extent of the research stems from our hidden prejudices and beliefs and points them out to us through data and analysis of in different connotations.
The research then goes on to study race-related behaviors and judgments that people in society have in their lives. The participants in the study were selected and paid for their participation, which is not a good way to get valid information out of a person. The participants consisted of 94 Undergraduates Indiana University students who were paid $10 for their involvement. There were 2 sections that were done, 3 months apart to analyze the reactions of the students. The first session was done to look at whether certain words and phrases would be seen as good or bad based on common knowledge (Fazio, 542). The participants looked at 12 positive terms and 12 negative and were asked to
respond to how they thought the terms should be considered, good or bad. They were then showed 10 color photos of college students that ranged in race from African American, Hispanic, Asian and White. The students were asked to comment yes or no as
to whether they had seen the faces before or not. Ten of the photos were of college students in their yearbook and 10 were from a novel. Finally the students were shown words and faces of people and asked to respond quickly as to what words/tasks the individual shown would perform (Fazio, 542).
In the second section of the phase of research, the students were asked to respond emotionally to the television ads they were shown. The ads were shown in 45 second increments. The scenarios were done based off stereotypical viewpoints that people have about certain groups of individuals. For example, a man apologizes for playing his stereo too loud. In another ad, two men steal a camera from an older female; three other ads were shown with stereotypical views based on race and certain scenarios.
The results of the research were what was expected of the author.
Although the majority of the participants thought the Black man was the criminal and they thought that all the criminal acts were performed by African American males, they did feel somewhat guilty for thinking this way (Fazio, 543). The photos that were shown of people and adjectives used to describe them, were mostly negative when it was an African American face and positive if it was a
White face. The responses were not far from what society stereotypes have shown to be true, society thinks that criminals are African American males and positive role models are White males. When it came to the commercial emotional reactions, most were not surprised when the criminals that stole a car stereo were African American and most felt guilty when asked how they felt about their reaction (Fazio, 544).
Racial prejudice has been an issue within television and the way in which people feel about a certain race for years. The participants racial background was not disclosed; however, would have been valuable, especially when looking at how certain ethnic backgrounds felt about certain stereotypes of their race and of others at the same time. The fact that the participants were able to admit to their feelings and emotions about racial relations on television shows that there may be some progress in the stereotypical restraints that have emerged in the media world, but it still does not excuse it. The racial backgrounds would have shown the difference and have allowed for the breakdowns of feelings and emotions to be evaluated more in depth. The limitations that exist in this study show only that feelings of race relations exist, but not how prevalent they are from one group to the next. It is very important that in order to establish change, the root of the problem must be found across the color-line. In the study, this is impossible to do because once again one would have to make assumptions about race to draw a conclusion.
The study conducted by Thomas E. Ford was done to analyze how stereotypical television portrayals increase the likelihood that negative judgments will be placed in society based on what is viewed on television (Ford, 266). In the study Ford finds that over half of the White children sampled, use television as their prime source for
information about the African American community (Ford, 266) and with that exposure, this is the only way in which the children see anyone who is African American on a daily basis.
African Americans were placed on prime-time television more frequently than they had been n the past beginning in the 1970s with sitcoms such as The Jeffersons, but at the same time, most of the appearances were as limited characters. Most African Americans were placed on television in roles that portrayed a comedic personality (Ford, 267). The African American role in television was seen more for the purpose of entertainment and comedy than for accurate representation of the race on thee shows. The African American was given roles that were either comedic or disparaging. Some African Americans were butlers and some were placed in roles that in some way showed that they still were not considered equal in society; whether that be as an assistant to a White employer or a waitress in a restaurant, the roles that showed dominance and class were given to White actors/actresses unless the show was strictly an African American sitcom (Ford, 267).
The idea that African Americans were on prime-time shows was a great idea to some, but when looking at the actual message being shown with the characters, that positive thought soon went away. African Americans began to think that the way in which characters portrayed the entire race was inaccurate. Television was seen as a powerful agent in society and when people needed to access information about anything that is where they went to get the information they needed. The stereotypes that were
shown in the shows began to be the way that African Americans were treated in society; comedic and inferior. The African American community did not approve of the messages being sent out about them, whether it be that they are funny and entertaining, loud or sexual and promiscuous; the community was outraged at how society thought they should be treated.
In the research provided, Ford wanted to prove that television was a major contributing factor to how people viewed the African American community. In his study Ford had subjects watch television which contained blatant, continuous stereotypes about African Americans. The subjects were then asked after watching the shows to rate the level of guilt that they felt when they watched an African American or White student being accused of assaulting someone. The students that watched the comedic shows with African Americans were found to believe that the African American was not guilty of assaulting another student, compared to those who watched negative and violent portrayals of African
Americans in the shows. Those students that had seen the more graphic and vial shows with African Americans were more apt to say that the African American student was guilty of assaulting the students even without proof it had actually been either the White or Black student who made the assault. Without hearing any circumstances or actual details of the assault situation, those who saw African Americans behaving in a violent manner in the shows automatically stated they thought the Black student was the one involved in committing the assault, when in actuality it could have been the White student.
The portrayals that television show to society, may or may not be positive, but they do weigh in heavily on how people view those that represent a certain group. For example, when an African American was seen as comedic, they were less likely to be accused of being violent. The idea that funny people cannot be violent is what has been placed in society, which even today is why people find it hard to believe that a famous person can commit a crime.
The idea that stereotypes can come in a specific context and be used to explain why and how people come to conclusions that a certain group is one way or the other is the basis of the study. For at least 20 years the idea of stereotypes has been dominated by the notion that social stereotypes are those that are about individuals and groups (Alexander, 781). Recent questions on this notion have brought to light that there is a strong relation between Image Theory and stereotypes.
A study conducted by S.T. Fiske concluded that social stereotypes vary along two primary dimensions warmth and competence (Fiske, 2002). The idea that there are two dimensions to stereotypes and within those dimensions there are four levels, made little sense to most, so a simple theory was put into place which was referred to as the Image Theory. The Image Theory explains how social stereotypes can be broken down into traits and attributes that can then be linked to certain groups and behavior patterns (Alexander, 782).
The Image Theory is compiled of five different images of the out-group (Alexander, 782). The five images that make up the theory are ally, enemy, barbarian, dependent and imperialist (Alexander, 782). Each image in the theory has specific characteristics that a person can portray in order to be placed into a specific category. The ally is a person or a group hat is positive, cooperative, trustworthy, and democratic (Alexander, 782). The ally image is used for those that can be seen as role models and friends to many in society. An example of this type of person would be those of a counselor or mentor in a television show. People that are placed in this image category are those tat receive positive feedback and treatment from those in and out of the primary group.
The enemy image possesses characteristics of a hostile, manipulative, opportunistic, untrustworthy, and one that operates to attack others outside of the group (Alexander, 782). These characters are easily seen in television shows such as New York Undercover, Bemie Mack Show, The Steve Harvey Show
and other African American television sitcoms. The abrasive African American
male character in these shows provides a detailed character that has the enemy in mind when looking at image. The men in the shows are portrayed as those who do not follow rules, do not cooperate well with others outside of their immediate group and can at times be hostile.
The barbarian image portrays one in a violent, ruthless, irrational and destructive manner. These types of characters in television can be seen on reality shows such as Cops, The First 48, and other shows that show us the violent side of America. In shows like this, all people are seen as violent because they are criminals. The barbarian image is rarely portrayed in sitcoms and prime-time television due to FCC constraints, but images such as this are placed on television after hours as well as times when people are still up to see that this side of our society does exist. Due to the fact that the barbarian image is seen mostly on reality television, this image makes the common person very afraid of anyone who displays these characteristics, because on television, they have seen them at their worse.
The dependent image give way to those that are viewed as naive, lazy, incompetent, and vulnerable (Alexander, 783). This particular image can be used when analyzing how the women are portrayed in television. For years, women of all ethnicities have been portrayed as inferior to men. More recently, the African American woman image has been in question because there is not an accurate
representation for what the African American woman is and what they represent. In many different sitcoms about African American women have been defined as loud, abrasive, and uneducated. The image is in question because at the same time, these loud, abrasive women are still placed in subservient roles on television shows. They are still naive when it comes to the business world and being in managerial positions, yet they are still able to possess that hard attitude that they have, but only in the home. The question of how this dependent image relates to African American women has been asked many times, but in shows such as Girlfriends, this image is being down-played and will eventually disappear.
The final image that is defined in the Image Theory is the imperialist image. The imperialist is the person that acts in rebellion and revolt to any instruction that is given (Alexander, 783). These characters on television are shown through teenage kids on television. Those characters are those that will always find a way to rebel against the parents in shows. The show Family Matters provides a perfect example of the rebellious son, Eddie, who will find some way to get out of the house even when encouraged to obey the rules. These characters are not necessarily seen as bad, but more one that refuses to follow rules. This imperialist can be defined through all teenagers, regardless of race, there are however more examples on television of minority teens rebelling than those not of the minority ethnicity.
The article uses the Image Theory to show different examples of how ethnicity is more closely related to African Americans in television images, versus those of other ethnicities. When looking at the positive role model image, the study found that more people related the White people to roles that are positive and those that were seen as disruptive and disobedient, were related more the African Americans. The Black-White relations were then put into place when explaining why Black-White relations are in more turmoil than in the past (Alexander, 784).
The Cosby Show has for many years, been seen as the major success for African American sitcoms. The show was able to break many color lines and stereotypes about
African Americans in the United States and around the world. Timothy Havens looks at the success that the show had on society and namely, the African American community.
Before the show first aired in 1984, there were mixed feelings among people in the world about how African Americans were really being portrayed on television. Certainly there were shows on the air prior to The Cosby Show, but the representation of the African American individual was not accurately accomplished. Shows such as The Jeffersons, Diffrent Strokes and Good Times were all shows that had a comedic perspective about it, but at the same time still showed African Americans as those living in poverty and uneducated.
The Cosby Show was the first of its kind to eliminate all the negative stereotypes that had fallen into society both from the Civil Rights era to television from the 1970s as well. The Cosby Show was an international star, and ran in the United States as well as the Philippines, Australia, Lebanon, Norway and the Caribbean. All of which were a success, the Caribbean proved to be the most successful because the population in the area in predominantly those of African decent.
Not only was the Cosby Show a success on popularity level, but also financially. The major media corporation Viacom saw how much money the show brought in on a domestic level, $100 million in total revenue, so they purchased the rights to the show (Havens, 377) so that they too could profit from the domestic and international revenue. Viacom was able to fill gaps for the show that would not have been done by only airing on regular television. Viacom gave the show the opportunity to air on cable networks that were owned by the company as well as exclusivity on CBS networks.
The Cosby Show was able to recreate what it meant to be Black in America. The article demonstrated that the international circulation as well as the revenue growth for the show, was the beginning of a new era for African American television. Television programmers and viewers alike were able to see the benefit and value of the Cosby Show for African Americans in society. The fact that a rich African American family could draw audiences across racial
lines (Havens, 388) showed that television sitcoms were going to change for the African American community.
THE SOCIAL MOVEMENT
The 1970s would be the beginning of a new racism. After the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, African Americans were moving from all Black neighborhoods and attending predominantly White school as well as appearing on Prime Time television. In 1977 the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights took a deeper look into what and if African Americans were on television and if so, making sure that the portrayal was as close to accurate as possible (Mastro, 690). The Civil Rights of African Americans had been violated for years and it was now time to analyze how they were being portrayed in a public manner. Television in the 1970s used the Social Movement as a leeway to getting African Americans on sitcoms in America.
In 1974, Norman Laer pt a sitcom on television that could have been seen as controversial from both African American and the Caucasian perspective; Good Times was placed on the air as one of the first African American sitcoms since the Civil Rights movement. The sitcom portrayed African American families as those that are existent but still struggle on a day to day basis in society both economically and socially. Good Times inteijected relevancy and realism into prime-time television by dealing with the pressing issues of the day. The issues of financial welfare, unemployment and social inequality were all
addressed during the show. The Mother of the House, Florida, had a husband who seemingly was always unemployed, yet always looking for work. The children, J.J., Thelma and Michael went through a series of unfortunate events that most normal children go through on a day to day basis; not wanting to attend school, struggling with their academics and grades and trying to figure out where they belong in society. Yet still the comedy was controversial based off the appearance of the African American family. Yet we still wonder why and how could this series be considered racial and stereotypical? In the beginning the idea of having the African American family on sitcom television was terrific, yet when the focus came off the importance of family and integration; it then went left and began to focus on the J.J. character, which metamorphosed into a coon-stereotype reminiscent of early American film. His undignified antics raised the concern in the Black community. With his toothy grin, clumsy walk and bug-eyed buffoonery, J.J. became a featured character with his trademark saying, "DY-NO-MITE!" J.J. lied, stole, and was barely literate. More and more episodes were centered on his exploits. Forgotten were Michael's scholastic success, James' search for a job and anything resembling family values. The clear focus in the beginning may not have been to portray African Americans as illiterate and goofy but in the end that is what happened. The idea of having the first African American sitcom on television without the Civil Rights era directly affecting it, was ideal, but in the end turned into the beginning of the end for positive ideas of
African Americans on television. Airing a total of 120 episodes in its short time, the show ended in 1979 just five years after the start of the show. The image of the goofy, uneducated African American male had been advertised on television by the very people who wanted to be free and treated equally. Was this just the beginning of a social movement that back-fired on African Americans for the remainder of the century? The show aired for a short five years but was only placed on the air between 8:30pm-9:00pm Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and some Saturdays towards the end of the program. Some still question why for the first three years of the show it was only aired after prime-time and only on select night. Friday nights were only utilized for the first eight months of the show, it then went onto to air mostly Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Although a small feet to even air on television during a time of controversy and racial hatred, people still were limited to what they saw of the show.
Figure 3.1: Good Times
120 Episodes CBS
February 1974-September 1974 Friday 8:30-9:00
September 1974-March 1976 Tuesday 8:00-8:30
March 1976-August 1976 Tuesday 8:30-9:00
September 1976-January 1978 Wednesday 8:00-8:30 January 1978-May 1978 Monday 8:00-8:30
June 1978-September 1978 Monday 8:30-9:00 September 1978-December 1978 Saturday 8:30-9:00 May 1979-August 1979 Wednesday 8:30-9:00
Image & Programming History provided by:
http://www. museum. tv/archives/etv/G/htmlG/goodtimes/goodtimes. htm
Figure 3.2: uThe Jeffersons
PROGRAMMING HISTORY CBS
January 1975-August 1975 Saturday 8:30-9:30
September 1975-October 1976 Saturday 8:00-8:30
November 1976-January 1977 September 1977-March 1978 April 1978-May 1978 June 1978-September 1978
Wednesday 8:00-8:30 Monday 8:00-8:30 Saturday 8:00-8:30 Monday 8:00-8:30
September 1978-January 1979 Wednesday 8:00-8:30
January 1979-March 1979 March 1979-June 1979
January 1985-March 1985 April 1985 June 1985
June 1985-July 1985
Wednesday 9:30-10:00 Wednesday 8:00-8:30 Sunday 9:30-10:00 Sunday 9:00-9:30 Tuesday 8:00-8:30 Tuesday 8:30-9:00 Tuesday 8:30-9:00 Tuesday 8:00-8:30
June 1979-September 1982 September 1982-December 1984
Image & Programming History Provided by:
http://www. museum. tv/archives/etv/J/htmlJ/jeffersonst/jeffersonst. htm
In 1975, Norman Laer decided to begin a new form of television after the start of his first show Good Times. Laer produced a show called The Jeffersons, the idea behind this show was to emphasize how African Americans had moved up from a bad part of the neighborhood to a more sufficient style of living, hence the introductory song Movin on Up, to the East Side. The main characters, George and Louise Jefferson were
viewed as wealthy when referring to that time period. They had money and success, their home was filled with pricey items such as furniture, art and other expensive luxury items that were not in the homes of other African American characters in the show or other shows. The Jeffersons had their own African American housekeeper named Florence who was often standoffish towards her employer, but at the same time maintained a good relationship with them. The show was also the first to combine both African American and Caucasian families getting along. There was an English couple, the Willies, who would frequently visit and spend time with the Jeffersons. The Willies were a couple that were of mixed race with two adult children, one African American and one Caucasian.
The families were good friends and frequently would go out together; not ever heard of in society at that time.
However, with all the great attributes that both families had shown, there were flaws that ended up being what message was pushed into society about African American males. George Jefferson was rude, intolerant, stubborn and bigoted when referring to White people as Honkies. His character was short, mean and lacked manners in both public and around family and friends. His wife, Louise spent a great deal of time apologizing for her husbands outlandish behavior and in turn looked as though she was his subservient wife. At the same time, while portraying the Jefferson wife as mild and very well mannered, there was the single African American female maid that was boisterous, loud, insulting
and very dysfunctional. She always had rude comments about her boss George Jefferson and refused to cooperate at times. Although Laer was able to eliminate the poor and illiterate portrayal of African Americans in this sitcom, he did introduce the idea of the African American as loud, rude and unable to take instruction
without confrontation. Once again, the purpose of the show was to show that African Americans are able to be wealthy and successful, but not without certain feats such as rudeness, aggression and a poor demeanor.
Jotri everybody lovobie lOyeor-old, dll his friends and some of Ns enemies m rhe tun
8:00PM Diffrent Strokes
Gary Coleman, Done Pfaro,
Figure 3.3: DiffrentStrokes
Episodes: 189 Color Episodes
First Telecast: November 3,1978 Last Telecast: August 30,1986
Despite the already trying times in African American sitcoms over the past few years, DifFrent Strokes came to television posing different issues and also addressing the family problems with adoption and child abandonment. This show posed little threat to the African American image in a negative connotation; it brought light to the fact that African Americans and Whites were getting along after the Civil Rights Movement and that they a White person can help a Black person in a time of need without prejudice or hidden agendas. The storyline in this sitcom was that of an African American housekeeper, who was on her death bed. The housekeeper had 2 sons and wanted them to be cared for by a responsible and loving family in her parting. Phillip Drummond, a White man, took the children and adopted them after the Mother passed away. During that time, the he raised and loved the boys as if they were his own. Very little controversy was seen in this show. Phillip Drummond dealt with day to day problems such as school grades, lying on occasion and discipline, but outside of that, there were not any major issues brought to light in this show. The show continued to run all the way thru 1986 without incident. The show lasted almost as long as The Jeffersons and was believed to have done so because the issue of interracial affairs were brought to light on a positive note. The show came to an end in 1986, sparking the beginning to the 1980s television sitcom era which seemingly focused on family and uniting the African American community on a positive note.
THE START OF A NEW BEGINNING
The dawn of a new day began in the 1980s for African American sitcoms. There came a different focus on what the ideal African American was about and what they were able to give back to society. African Americans were portrayed on television as people that would now not only contribute to society but also help out with their families, produce valuable income and go to college. This era was marked by the airing of The Cosby Show. As many are familiar, the father in the family, Dr. Huxtible was a very successful doctor in the city that had a wife, Claire who also was successful as an attorney. The children, Rudy, Vanessa, Theo and Denise, all of whom attended school and were successful in childhood activities. The idea around the Cosby Show was to show that African American families can be not only successful but also break the stereotype that African American families unwillingly inherited by being either a broken home or a house that has an unemployed Father figure. Regardless the show was set out to break those stereotypes and show that African Americans too can go to college, graduate and get good jobs afterwards.
Not only were the stereotypes dismissed after this show for a long period of time, but the Cosby Show was the first African American sitcoms that Viacom, a nationally known media entity, required stations to bid for the right and privilege to run the show on air (Havens, 371). The Cosby Show was also the first African American sitcom to make International debut (Havens, 375). During the time the show was on air regularly from 1985 through 1995, the show aired in countries such as Australia, Lebanon, Norway and the Philippines (Havens, 375). This was the first time that African American sitcoms made it across International lines and thankfully was a success. The roadway to the start of a new beginning when it came to African Americans on Prime Time television. The show continued to air new versions until 1995 and is still, today on air as a prime show on daytime television.
With the International publicity of the Cosby Show, blackness in America was looked at in a different perspective (Havens, 381). Images of African Americans changed dramatically due to this show, with the overwhelming success of the characters as well as the show itself, African Americans were seen as capable of being successful in the United States and in other countries based on the Cosby family. With Viacom behind the show 100% and the success rate being so high for such a long period of time, the Cosby Show opened doors for African American sitcoms in the 1980s. The next family
oriented show to follow was entitled Family Matters. Showing that not only were African Americans able to be doctors and lawyers, but they also could find jobs in local law enforcement as well as have a large family that was taken care of at the same time.
Television programmers as well as the television audience learned many valuable lessons from the Cosby Show, one being that a rich African American family could draw audiences across racial lines (Havens, 288). The mere thought that African American television would be considered for international coverage would have not been pursued had the level of interest from Viacom not pushed over the edge. The stereotypes of African Americans began to change due to this sitcom, in not only a positive way but also proved to those that doubted the idea, that the past would not continue to push on into the future.
The Cosby Show.
Figure 4.1: The Cosby Show
200 Episodes NBC
September 1984-June 1992 Thursday 8:00-8:30
July 1992-September 1992 Thursday 8:30-9:00
Figure 4.2:Family Matters
First Telecast: September 22,1989 Last Telecast: July 17,1998 Episodes: 215 Color Episodes Image and History From:
The show Family Matters" came after the start of the Cosby Show and focused on Harriet Winslow (the elevator operator from the Chronicle) and her family. Carl Winslow, her husband, was a cop, and a gruff and lovable father to three kids: Eddie Winslow, the rebel son; Laura Winslow, the smart-aleck daughter; and Judy Winslow. They had opened their home to Harriet's sister, Rachel Crawford and her little baby son Richie. Carl had to open his home to his cool and streetwise mother, Estelle Winslow, in addition to the already existent occupants in the home as well.
The main focus of the show was that family came first. The agreement between Harriet and her husband Carl began and ended with the fact that they would always be open and supportive to all family members regardless of their
current situation. The main focus came after the Cosby Show pushed on the idea that family was most important, especially with the current times. Family was a major focus in society because people
were just exiting the beliefs of the 1970s with the abundance of drug use and lack of family, the now more important support of family came to light.
With every family there would be problems, and the Winslows son,
Eddie, emphasized how much of a trouble-maker children can be at any given age. The fact that the family would be able to get through these tough times, showed how a tight-knit family should and could operate. The other children, Laura and Judy went through day to day issues, with Lauras main one being the unwanted comfort from a neighbor, Steve Urkel.
Steve Urkels character was nothing that African American sitcoms had used before. In the past there were different forms of Black men. ranging from loud-mouthed Fathers, to belligerent and callus husbands, but never a school nerd with high pants and a loud snort when he talked. The idea that an African American could be considered as smart as to be called a nerd was unheard of at the time, but the character played a major role in the sitcoms success. Steve Urkel would continuously come over and try to coax Laura into being his girlfriend. Steve was a good friend to the Winslow family, but Laura would never have Steve as her boyfriend. The idea played on throughout the series, until Steve was able to come up with a machine that made him the stud Laura was looking for.
Steve slowly matured from the annoying nerd that he used to be. This was when Laura started falling in love with Steve. Steve and Laura got engaged, but they never had a wedding because CBS ended the show. Regardless of the sudden end of the show, Family Matters had a great successful run and is one of the longest running African-American comedies ever, next to The Jeffersons and The Cosby Show.
Figure 4.3: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Image & History from:
http://www.tv.com/fresh-prince-of-bel-air/show/475/suxnmarv.html Nielsen Ratings
(Top 20 or better)
Not in Top 20 in the 1990 1991 Season
#18 in the 1991 1992 Season
#14 in the 1992 1993 Season
Not in Top 20 in the 1993 1994 Season
Not in Top 20 in the 1994 1995 Season
Not in Top 20 in the 1995 1996 Season
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air shows a wealthy family living in Bel-Air. California, takes in their nephew, Will Smith, from Philadelphia and shows him the lavish lifestyle that he can potentially lead should he continue to focus on common goals; such as going to college, getting a job and being responsible. Will shatters the sophisticated serenity of Bel-Air with his streetwise common sense, and shows the family that consisted of his uncle, Philip Banks, Aunt Vivian and three cousins, Carlton, Hilar}' and Ashley. As the Banks family opens their home -and their checkbook to their needy relative, Will adapts easily to their indulgent lifestyle. Yet, he reminds everyone that the simplest pleasures of family life can't be bought at any price.
The stereotypes from the show are not clearly defined because the era was the beginning of the end for the rich African American families that utilize their money and keep their values at the same time. Society was shown through the Cosby Show and Family Matters that families can co-exist with money and be happy. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air took a different angle and gave the Banks money well beyond what the other shows had put on air. The Banks family was not only rich, but also very conceited and closed off to the rest of the African American community. There were times when the Banks family would rather socialize with Caucasian families instead of African American families because they were considered ghetto and poor. There were many instances when the stereotypes that the show portrayed were done right from the families mouth.
The Banks thought that they were better off than most African American families and never wanted to intersect with African American families that did not have the same socioeconomic status as they did. The sad part about this whole situation is that not only was the show portraying African Americans with money as conceited and out of touch with their own race, but it also showed that African Americans with money think they are better than others that do not have money. The stereotype within itself was pushed out and may have lead to the start of the 1990 Ghetto TV era.
The emphasis of financial success was crushed with the fact that the Banks could not be around people that were within their own ethnicity. The show did not portray any positive ideas to the African American community about having money and still being accepted by other African Americans. There was an episode where the Banks traveled with Will back to Philadelphia to see his mother in what is known as the hood. The Banks family was petrified when they got into the neighborhood and were labeled sell-outs by those in the neighborhood. This showing that rich African Americans were not accepted by those who were not as financially well-off. The stereotypes were not as strong as some in the past sitcoms, but the under-lying voice in the show of rich people being very separate from the poor, protruded out into society to start up our huge socioeconomic gap that still exists today.
THE TELEVISION GHETTO
The 1980's sparked a time for family, love and wealth in African American sitcoms. The typical African American family on television was portrayed as having a Mother and father present as well as having both the parents and children ending up somewhat successful in society. The age for African Americans truly was on the route for change until the 1990s sparked a mass panic against the African American male. Television shows that had African Americans in them, portrayed them as violent, dangerous and in gangs. The stereotype that had almost been placed on the back burner now came to light again and the shows that contained African Americans lead society to believe that violent, dependent and unsuccessful African American male was back and in full force. Shows portrayed African American males as gang members, thieves, Dead-Beat Fathers, just to name a few stereotypes prevalent in the media at that time.
BET (Black Entertainment Television) was bom in 1991 and was designed to show that African Americans are more than what was being portrayed on American television during Prime-Time hours, but in return, the station not only helped emphasize the stereotypes, but then centralized the shows onto one television network. The birth of an African American Television network would
have been welcomed and today is, but at the time, allowed for viewers to not only centralize the stereotypes by showing that it too had examples of how African Americans are, coming from people who directly opposed the views in the first place.
Figure 5.1: The WayansBrothers
Image Provided By:
The Wayans Brothers show played on the idea of what society thought the single African American male represented in the world during that time period. Shawn and Marlon were two brothers that lived in New York City in a small apartment that was large enough for one person to occupy comfortably. The two brothers worked for their Father, John Witherspoon, in a local area shop. The brothers would manage the main shop while John Witherspoon, also know as Pops would cook in the food area behind the magazine shop. The show, unlike other sitcoms, lacked a plot that showed any real goal or motive, but really just
gave a stereotypical idea of what the average African American comedic lifestyle was like. The show seemingly lost the family orientation that the 1980s had and began to sway more towards the sheer entertainment of sitcoms. There wras not a plot, more of just the emphasis of the stereotypes that already existed in society, and placing them in a comedy role.
The show was successful because it was entertaining, but at the same time the entertainment was also reiterating what society7 already thought about African American males. The lack of focus that the Wayans had during the series showed that African American males, single or not, lack focus and drive to be successful. Marlon and Shawn never had any real aspirations to do anything but go to work and see what cute girl they could meet during the course of the day. The lazy mentality that the brothers had showed that the idea of African American males really had not changed in spite of the shows in the 1980s that showed that African Americans can be focused and successful, but with consequence.
The Wayans Brothers show only lasted for four short years, running from 1995 through 1999. The end of the series was no surprise because the content lacked any plot nor did it show that the stereotypical African American male would be able to do much of anything besides work under their loud-mouthed Father for years to come and still never move out into their own home and start a family.
Figure 5.2: The Steve Harvey Show
Image & History Provided By:
Broadcast History The WB
1996- 1997Sundays 8:30/7:30c
1997- 1998Wednesdays 9:30/8:30c
1998- 1999Thursdays 9/8c
1999- 2000Fridays 9/8c
2000- 2002Sundays 8/7c
The Steve Harvey Show was a different show in its time. The 1990s had a spark of life in a different aspect that other shows did not during its time and even today on sitcoms that air in the 21st century. The show portrays school in the inner-city as a positive experience, versus what society looks at when they see the school ratings and low test scores for inner-city schools.
In the show, former R&B star Steve Hightower gives up his wild times for school ties, becoming an inner-city Chicago music teacher. After Steve's music career ended and he ran out of money, he decides to let go of his carefree lifestyle
and pin down a "real" job. With an assist from his longtime friend and eventual roommate, the gym coach with the insatiable appetite Cedric Robinson, Steve enrolls in a new type of performing and makes a classroom at Washington High School his stage. Initially struggling with the students' style for baggy clothes, bad attitudes and slang, Steve realizes that a compassionate spin will help him tone down his shock and contend with the kids' problems.
Steve's also initially stunned by his boss, no-nonsense Principal Regina Grier. In the end the two actually end up falling for one another, yet keeping the relationship professional at work and romantic outside.
Steve tries reining in a class headed by Romeo, a fast-talking ladies' teen who takes his name seriously; Stanley "Bullethead" Kuznocki, a street-sawy tough guy whose brawn outweighs his brain; the group's honors student Lydia who, despite knowing she's smarter than them all, gets pulled into crazy schemes hoping to cash in on some coolness; and Sophia and Sara who each fall for Romeo's charm.
Although the show seems to have multiple characters in it that lack focus and school manners, the class learns from a different perspective and takes on new ways of learning from a teacher with little experience in dealing with high school aged teens. The show emphasizes the importance of the teacher role in the classroom and being able to maintain a positive attitude in inner-city schooling where resources can sometime be limited.
The show, unlike any other of its time plummets the stereotype the inner-city schools with predominantly African American students cannot be successful in many different ways. In the show, both Steve and his students learn the importance of cooperation, leadership, success, support and knowledge. All lessons that were not forced out of other previous sitcoms based in the African American era of television in the 1970s through the 1990s.
THE 21st CENTURY TELEVISION MANIA
Throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s there were a plethora of
different messages being sent out into society to show how the African American
population should be shown based on what either was going on in that time period
or what had happened in society to push the current attitude the same or different
way. In the past century, television has evolved into a mass media that directs our
families attention to what is going on in society. With the grisly crimes that occur
and the increased numbers of homeless and poor, sitcoms seem to be our safe
haven for what is going on in the world. Our stereotypes both good and bad are
what drives the next sitcom show. The sitcoms are intended to give us a breather
from all the news and give us access to the world in a comedic role beginning in
the 1990s. African Americans had gone through the Civil Rights era, the
Freedom 1970s era and the 1980s and 1990s which had a multitude of different
messages being sent out. Today, we have stereotypes that are combined from all
of the times, put together in one 30-minute show.
Status: Returning Series Premiered: September 22,2005 Show Category: Comedy
Figure 6.1: Everybody Hates Chris
Image & history Provided by:
Motivated by his childhood experiences, comedian Chris Rock narrates his story of a teenager growing up as the oldest of three children in Brooklyn, New York during the early 1980s.
Uprooted to a neighborhood and bused into a primarily white middle school two hours always by his strict, hard-working parents, Chris struggles to find his place in school, at home and in his neighborhood, while keeping his younger brother & sister in line at home and surmounting the tests of junior high school.
The year that Chris turned 13 was in 1982. Filled with dreams that being a teenager would be really cool, Chris entry into adolescence is turning out to be less pleasant. Moved from the projects to the tough "Bed-Stuy" neighborhood of Brooklyn, Chris is still stuck in his big brother role. As the family's "emergency adult," he's accountable for taking care of his younger brother Drew7, and his younger sister Tonya while his parents are working.
Chris' father Julius works multiple jobs in order to properly support his family. Meanwhile, his very strict, sassy mother Rochelle, who works part-time in a small real estate office, runs the household on a very tight budget, while
demanding the best for her children. With his mother strong-minded to see him in a good school, Chris reluctantly faces multiple bus transfers each day to attend Corleone Junior High School which is in a predominantly Italian neighborhood. South Shore.
The idea of family was once again placed back on television, but through a narrative point of view. People are looking at the same stereotypes in this sitcom as they saw in 1980 because the time period is the same. Although the show began in 2001, the
show portrays the objective views of the 1980s. The predominantly Italian Brooklyn neighborhood, where a Black child is bussed in order to receive a better education, turns right back to the views in the past that African American schools are not good enough for African American kids, so their parents send them off to another school to become better educated.
The show, which is still actively running on air has run right back into the old thoughts that African Americans must go outside of their neighborhoods to get a quality education in the world. The thought that African American schools do not have enough money to educate the students properly still exists. Even today sitcoms show that the African American is still considered inferior to other races in the United States, based on education, income and fundamental needs.
Figure 6.2: Girlfriends
Image Provided By:
The show Girlfriends' has been a soaring success for over seven years because it is one of the only African American sitcoms that shows the success of the African American woman. The show is focused on four close friends, Joan, the successful owner
of the J-Spot; Lynn, a musical artist who is pursuing her career and childhood love for music, Maya, the mother and wife who portrays herself as the perfect woman; and Toni, the diva who has moved away from her friends to start a family and married an Italian man. Each of the women have found a way to pursue happiness and still remain friends at the same time. Joan and Lynn have found ways to be happy as single Black women in society and still be able to follow their successful careers without falling victim to societies stereotype that women need a male companion to be strong. Toni and Maya have manage to break outside of the stereotypical Baby Mama roll for many African American
women that have children before marriage, and maintain a healthy relationship with the men they love.
Each woman in the show has managed to be seen in a different and positive light, which is a first when looking at shows that have four childhood friends as the main characters. The roles of the African American woman are defined differently through each success of each character. The positive message that the showr has sent out to push away from the loud, angry Black woman, is shown in this sitcom. Meaningfully, the show was and still is a success among the community because today, unlike 1970-1990, women have a very defined role in life and can be seen as successful with or without a male companion to be their backbone.
Although the show does have some select episodes that fall to the dependent woman stereotype, for the most part, the sitcom is successful in both the eyes of women
and African Americans, because it breaks the chain of the shows that have been shown in the past that have women as subservient and subtle in society.
In 2004, Girlfriends received its first Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Cinematography in a Multi-Camera Series. The series has received NAACP Image Award nominations for four years, including a nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series. Tracee Ellis Ross also earned her fifth consecutive NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy
Series and received the 2005 BET Comedy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress. Golden Brooks won the 2006 BET Comedy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series and co-star Reggie Hayes earned his second NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. In 2006, the show won a BET Comedy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series (tv.com).
The world of television has certainly changed from day to day. African American television sitcoms have both progressed and digressed over time to show that we still have a need for change in the media and how the portrayal of African Americans is displaced in society from television.
Hurricane Katrina provides a different outlook on African Americans in the Southern part of the United States. The main focus of the survivors of this tragedy was the African American male and the thug mentality that they had during this time of need. Millions of American people struggling to survive in a dire situation, but the media chose to show the black males on television that were looting stores to survive. Photos of black males helping one another to the Metrodome to eat, nor black males who died trying to save their families were shown because the African American is considered a common thief in cases in ghettos in America. Pictures and images of people, namely black males, stealing from stores, running from authorities and making off with different items that were not their own property. Maybe it is true, maybe the black male does do more bad than good for society, but does media cover only the bad to extinguish the good? Society still whole-heartedly believes that black males are dangerous and that they are people that should be feared.
Does society have the same beliefs that the media has? Do people clutch their purse when they see a black male with baggy pants walking towards them, do we cross the street when we see a large group of young black people in order to avoid being harassed and does society think twice before going into a store where there are a large group of black people for fear that they will be bothered? When one looks at how they act, there are probably times when society has reacted to something that they saw on television in regards to the African American person.
Now one may say, if a black person acts one way, then the entire race
must be that way...is that how society thinks? Do people fear and stereotype one
another based on what was seen on television? Although society may think that it has come so far from the stereotype of the Black Mammy, the slaved man and family who report to a White family and say Yes sir, what has television really accomplished? Sitcoms began in 1970 and portrayed the African American family as poor, uneducated, underemployed and loathing in debt. In the 1980s the African American was the successful family that had the working doctor and the lawyer that ran the house hold, but still showed the children running out and getting pregnant outside of marriage, lying to get away from their parents and being defiant to get what they wanted. In the 1990s there was still success in the family, but now the families were taking in other family members to prove that they can take care of the poor family that they had outside their immediate family.
The African American family would be able to live in a big house, but still not be accepted by other African Americans who lived the poor ghetto life. In the 21st century, the families grew up and started to show how funny it was to be African American, how the current stereotypes in society can be taken and made into a funny show that plays off what society already thinks.
Based on the Nielsen research for African American television viewer ship, African Americans make up more than 30 percent of the television based on specific dayparts in America (Table 7.1). The continuous dehumanization that each show does to the African American community is not justified. Being that African Americans do make up such a high percentage of viewership, to continue to degrade their abilities and make fun of what goes on in everyday life does not make any sense. During both prime-time and off-peak hours African Americans still make up a higher percentage of those that watch television in the United States. The show which they will continue to see that point out stereotypical viewpoints about them will continue to be seen and will continue to wear on society as well as continue to upset the African American community. The viewership percentages point to the fact that African Americans are the target audience and should be represented in that way, with fair characterization of who and what they are in society and how one contributes equally in society.
Table 7.1: African-American Television Audience: Viewing by Daypart
African-American Television Audience
Viewing bv Davoart
African-Americans have a higher HUT (households using television) and PUT (persons using television) percentage than Total U S. and AN Other based on the following dayparts. The largest difference, of 13.1 rating points, was between African-American and A# Other household viewing In the Sat/Sun 6 am 6 pm daypart. Primetime (Mon-Sat 8 pm -11 pm 1 Sun 7 pm -11 pm) has the smallest HUT/PUT drfference between Total U S, African-American, and Ail Other.
Monday-Friday ToW U.S. 264 136 17.6 16.0 11-8 - 59 '
MM-IMtH AttcnvAmartcan 37.2 20.5 27.6 22.6 19.1 8.2
Al OHwr 24.9 12.5 16.6 15.1 11.0 55
Monday Friday Total U S 26.9 139 21.5 18.6 12 8 6.8
1966am -430pm AticarvAmertcan 36.7 202 33.5 25.2 3.2 SO
Another 27.6 13.1 20.3 17.8 11.9 6.5
Monday Friday ToWU3. 46.9 2331 38.8 29.6 24.1 3.2
430pm -730pm AffleanAmariean 531 28.9 46.4 342 3.9 25.0
AJOther 449 ZU 380 3.9 38 19.4
SalurdayfSunday Total U.S. 34.2 197 22.7 19.3 3.0 13.9
Another 32.6 186 21.7 18.2 19 1 13.0
Monday Saturday MMpm 1130pm ToW U.S. 62.3 42.0 53.6 45.1 41.4 31
Sunday 730pm tllMim AMeanAatadean 67.9 44.7 57.3 47.5 .42.5 , 34.8
Al OMar 61.5 41.6 53.2 44.8 41.3 ' 3.9
aMMpAflMBMrTeaWQWIiMaanr.oiagiaai ratttfeaOBIBaaMmaBf3004tS^iMibg2T-otra.aMr Cqpyyit 2006 Mann MadttaaMam 13
Yet the society still continues to portray the large population of television viewers as negative contributors in society. So it should be no surprise that one of the largest television usage populations does not have half of the African American shows on their list of most watched shows. The only shows which appeared on the list of African American sitcoms that African Americans will watch contains positive African American images (Table 7.2).
Table 7.2: African-American Television Audience: Broadcast Network
African-American Television Audience
Broadcast Network Regular Program Prlmetfme Rank
Ranked on Total U*S. Ratings
m cas .f tar
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES ABC 13.9 Mi
CStfcWA* CBS 1SJ5 M.t
WSTHO'j? A TRACE CBS 13.3 *28
SURVIVOR VANUATU CBS 11.7 8.1
E.R. NBC tU 9.1
EVERYBODY UWES RAYMOND CBS 1li 43
TWO AND A HALF MEN CBS 13.0 5.4
MOST MC 147 Si
iNR. MONDAY NtQKT FOOTBALL ABC 10.7 14.4
Ranked on African-American Ratings
HALF AW) HALF SECONOTWEAROUND NFL MONDAY N3HT FOCTBAU. ONE ON CMS
WITHOUT A TOACE
AMERICAS NXTT^1 MODEL 3 CS
ALL OF US
UPh It 1?* 78%
UP** 2.4 15.8 78%
UPfc 12 14.7 78%
ABC 10.7 *4.4 18%
UP# 13 142 74%
UP* 23 14.2 75%
CBS m 128 12%
UP* 3.4 128 45%
CBS 117 8%
UP* M 12.4 71%
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES CSfcMINB WITHOUT ATRACE BJt-
EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND SURVIVOR VANUATU TWO AND A HALF MEN COLD CASE
ABC 11.7 04
CM fas 87
CBS 102 8.7
NBC u M
CBS 8.3 4.C
css M 02
CBS fij 28
CSS M JA
NBC 8.3 *2
NR. MOMMY MGKT FOOTBALL ABC 49 138 19%
FOX NFL SUNDAY-POST FOX 7.4 94 13%
MR. MONDAY SHOWCASE ABC 48 41 12%
COMMUTES CBS 70 70 11%
coiccAse CBS 42 41 15%
CSI CBS 107 5.9 8%
WITHOUT A TRACE CSS 7.1 43 8%
AMW: AAERCA FiSHTS BACK FOX 12 3.3 18%
0L#WSDS UP* 48 43 74%
HALF ANDHAiF- UP* 0.8 23 73%
Aw Amwcar Tmww auahm. ay MM mw on ocawr 2001 (SwAnwr 27 mnmtr 28.28B*k tqyy* 2028 wwm
The stereotypes that African Americans see of themselves on television everyday, discourages them from watching shows that push negative images out. How does society get rid of the fear of the black male thug? How does society get rid of the loud-mouthed Mammy that still exists on television today? Have these images ever really been accurate portrayals of African Americans or is this something we have created? The theory of how powerful media has been in society and how one views the world can help researchers better understand how powerful impact is
on groups that are seen in a negative connotation. If society follows what the ideal that sitcoms and media place on television, then should society be afraid of black men, why are they so scary and why do we believe in the black male thug? If sitcoms accurately portray African Americans in society, how did one era come so close to getting away from the negative stereotypes? Television sitcoms have been the magnifying glasses that society uses when analyzing a group of people. When it comes to society as a whole, African Americans do not even watch the shows that portray them as negative figures in society (Table 7.3).
Table 7.3: African American Cable Program Viewership Primetime
African-American Television Audience
Cable Networks Regular Program Primetime Rank
Ranked on Total US. Ratings
Ranked on African-American Ratings
LAW S ORDER
THE OREKiY FACTOR
LAW4 ORDER: SVU
OF 14 19
TNT 1.3 1.6
Pome 13 02
USA 1 i 1.5
EKE 11 08
USA 1.1 1.5
HANNfTY 4 COLMES FQXNC 10 OJ
TUCK FX OS 09
ON THE RECORD WK3RETA FOXNC 09 01
mAOWS SPACES___________UC 09 04
STKCNCiMEPKMe UF 14 IS
USSNG UF 1.1 25 29%
aouFooo SET OJ 21 91%
LAW40RDER TNT 13 16 15%
SHfRSBS SET 02 to 88%
MONK USA 11 15 29%
1AW SOBER: SVU UBA 12 18 18%
BETCOMCVEW BET 02 14 08%
C086Y8H0W, THE tm os 14 28%
COMING TO THE STAGE BET 02 14 ei%
8P0NBSBCB MCK %% 42
fCDDECLASSiFCD MCK 3.1 3.7
DtMKEOJOeH MCK 98 4.0
DANNY PHANTOM MCK 28 3.2
INFttWURS MCK 28 27
MCK MCK 2 S> 24 4.5 34
All THAT MCK 24 4.5
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People that see the shows that are portraying African Americans negatively are
those that are not African American. When looking at Table 7.3, it clearly shows that the show The Cosby Show is only is watched in 28% of African American households. This means that the other 82% of the people watching The Cosby Show are not African American. Television is the main source of information for most households in the United States. Not only parents, but people rely on the shows that they watch at home to give them the needed information that they need to know in order to adapt to people and their surroundings. If there continues to be a misrepresentation of the African American culture on television through African American sitcoms and programming, then there will continue to be prejudice and stereotypes that inaccurately portray an entire group of people. Thirteen percent of the United States is of African American decent and over 30% of the television audience is African American, yet television sitcoms continue to stereotype an entire culture negatively. African Americans have been portrayed as such a diverse group of people, both good and bad, that the stereotypes that are most regularly portrayed are those that stick in the minds of people in the world.
Race plays an important role in all of our lives on a day to day basis. The way in which society portrays one race versus another can relay heavily on what they see on television, one of the major communication tools used to transfer information from one person to the next. If African Americans in television sitcoms are portrayed as violent and uneducated, then the media will continue to
push that message into society on a daily basis to show that the stereotype is a reality.
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Coltrane, Scott & Melinda Messineo. (2000) The Perpetuation of Subtle
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Fazio, Russell H. & Laura E. Hilden. (2001) Emotional Reactions to a
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