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The Cosby Show

The Cosby Show was an NBC sitcom that ran from 1984-1992. Centering on the Huxtable family, it was praised for breaking traditional racial stereotypes, portraying African Americans who were educated and successful. In this clip, the Huxtables’ daughter Vanessa is distraught because her friends at school think she is a rich girl.


Based on this clip, what makes the Cosby Show stand apart from other portrayals of African Americans in that time period? How do these representations compare to contemporary representations of African American life?

How does the show portray the relationship between class and race? What are some of the direct (explicit) cues in this regard? What are some of the more indirect (implicit) ones?

How do the formal elements of production (set design, lighting, costumes, etc) help shape the visual depiction of the Huxtables’ socioeconomic status?

The Cosby Show was a huge hit for NBC, and arguably historically important for its time and representation of African Americans. Given accusations, charges, and the ultimate conviction of Bill Cosby on three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault in 2018, how might our perspective on the show change? Should we continue to discuss historically significant media when we learn that the creator has committed a crime? Why? Why not?

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