Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Blogging Cosby (2 of 5)

On "The Cosby Show," Bill Cosby played Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, a loving and involved, if somewhat bumbling, husband and father. In Come on People, Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint make the fascinating claim that people who don't like Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable "don't like -- or don't know -- their own fathers."

They make this claim in the course of an important opening chapter about the estrangement of most black Americans from their fathers. I agree with them on the main point. I am still chewing on this secondary "Cosby Show" illustration.

I did like and watch the "Cosby Show" when it was on because it showed a happy, functional family. I did not like Cliff Huxtable, though, because he was so often incompetent. The family worked well because Claire Huxtable was wise and all-knowing, and corrected her husband's mistakes with the children. I have noticed the trend that there are almost no competent married fathers on television. It seems as if the current generation of television writers take it as a fixed point of TV writing that father never knows best.

Cosby and Poussaint, who both also worked on the "Cosby Show," are quite right that Cliff Huxtable was very much better than the absent father, or the inconsistent father, or the domineering father, or, worse, the baby daddy that so many families, know -- including most black families. But Dr. Huxtable is still not the wise, firm, demanding-but-responsive father that all fathers should aspire to be.

I can see why Bill Cosby would not cast himself as Father Knows Best. But it is important to bear in mind that the media images that he deplores in Come on People also limit even his best efforts to set a higher standard for family life.


toric13 said...

The only prominent example of a competent father on television (that I can think of) would be Danny Tanner from Full House. He was eccentric, but he or the other men in the house always found a way to step in and save the day in the young girls' crises.

Gruntled said...

And he wasn't married, was he?

Flash Gordon said...

You're a birkenstock Democrat "intellectual?" This post could have been written by a conservative, like me.

It's not conservatives who are writing these TV shows that depict not only fathers but men generally as incompetent boobs. It's liberal Democrats, and we know that because no other type is tolerated where they work.

Relief is on the way. They're going on strike. Hope it lasts forever.

Anonymous said...

Hm... it strikes me that the main reason we see so many incompetent dads on television may be because many shows are written to showcase the comedic talents of their lead male actors - which typically means writing them into situations in which they are in over their heads (or are causing complete mayhem - think Homer Simpson). I think the rule of irresponsbility = funny tends to be true regardless of martial/family circumstances - or even whose name is on the marquee. The show may have been called "Seinfeld", but Jerry was just the intelligent straight man - it was the idiocy of George and Kramer that made it funny.

That having been said, I nominate Hank Hill for Best T.V. dad. While he usually fails to appreciate his son's talents, is seldom affectionate, and is less than generous to his niece, but he is undoubtedly the leader of the Hill family and does his best to instill the values of hard work, honesty and common sense in Bobby (and Dale, Bill and Boomhauer).

Runner-up would be the dad from "Everybody Hates Chris". He, too, is imperfect, but he is a great example of a caring, hard-working dad who is only occasionally the buffoon.

Anonymous said...

I also agree that Hank Hill, ironically, is the best dad on t.v. He is one of the most moral people to be found in sitcoms, even if he comes across as a bit self-righteous at times.