|The cast in 1989.|
Originally, the show was rejected by ABC (TV station) as they felt that America was not ready to accept the concept of an intact, black middle-class family. This thought process shows American ideology during the 1980's that black people were not thought of as 'normal' when compared to white Americans. Racism was still a very touchy and explosive issue during the 1980's, even after the civil rights movement during the 1960's and 70's.
During this time of racism/black individuals stereotyped or treated unfairly, The Cosby Show altered the perception of Blacks on television and doors were opened for other television shows that wished to concentrate on black families i.e. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The series shows an effort to diminish stereotypes directed toward black people in the 1980's, although the comedic effect of the show, was perhaps the wrong way in which to go about it. A show that was hard-hitting and made people question the black stereotype rather than make them laugh could have had a more significant effect.
During the Reagan administration (81-89) the concept of 'reverse racism' was one in which Reagan was heavily associated with (as described in a previous blog post). The show did nothing to aid in the racial ineqaulity that was present at the time. Having made a platform for himself, Bill Cosby was in prime position to aid the black community in ending racial stereotypes towards blacks, although racism was not mentioned as the producers felt that it would alienate white viewers, which would have impacted the success of the show. This shows the greed and power associated with the 1980's, as popularity and profits were seen as more important than helping educate viewers about equality and race.
The show features a successful black family, something that white people at the time didn't believe existed. The show helped enable black viewers to aspire to be 'like the Cosbys' an american dream of sorts; stable family with financial stability, something which black people, at the time could not count on.
There is an argument to the show stating that although The Cosby Show attempts to break the chokehold of such traditional black stereotypes it does not reflect the typical Black family or life, rather showing how the black population could 'fit in' with 'normal Americans' if they would just live their life like they did, reaffirming the black stereotype.