African Americans role of Television

Powerful Essays
African Americans role of Television

The roles African Americans play on television are not satisfactory. Though the roles have changed during the development of television, the current relationship is not representative of true African American people or their lifestyles. The question is how do the past roles African Americans play in television sitcoms compare to the current roles? How does this affect society’s perception of the African American in American culture? Throughout the history of television the roles and the representation of African Americans has developed with the changing cultural conditions. However, the representation of African American’s has not fully simulated into today’s society. What the average citizen views on his or her television does not accurately portray the African American’s influence on America.

The early days of television held great optimism and hope for this new form of media as an avenue for African Americans to assimilate into white American culture. However, a pattern became evident, a pattern of type casting African Americans in roles which did not accurately and wholly portray the individual. A misrepresentation of African Americans became the common image on television. Variety shows initially promoted the new media as an opportunity for equal representation and communication between the races. However, a trend developed with African Americans often being “portrayed as custodians, maids, servants, clowns, or buffoons” (Crenshaw). The negative image, which was developed by these stereotypes, was perpetuated in the Amos and Andy Show. This television show began as a radio show featuring two white men

portraying two comedic black men. When the show was transferred to television, two African American men were cast in the roles, acting as buffoons. The popularity of the show was overwhelming. This was the initial image of African Americans in television, which reached mainstreams Caucasian America and was the foundation for which future stereotypes were created. A new image of African American families was presented in the eighty’s with the Cosby Show. The Huxtable’s were a successful African American family with a life similar to the accepted and established Caucasian mainstream. This show was not accepted fully because it failed to represent the full cultural scope of African Americans. The current...

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...After giving the presentation there were many different views coming from the audience which were not expected. The audience did not hold the same views presented to them. The point addressed was about how Will Smith was the buffoon on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. They did not feel Will Smith was acting buffoonish, they thought he just brought comedy to the show. The audience seemed to focus on black people acting white rather than black people acting ignorant. They brought up the character Carlton, and how he acted white. When asked the question how they knew he was acting white they said he went to an all white school and was influenced by the way they acted. The audience also said Will criticized Carlton for acting white. They excused Will's buffoonish actions by saying white people were also made fun of through Carlton's character. This brings up the question how do we know what is characterized as acting "black" or acting "white", and what makes a show a "black" show or a "white" show. Again these questions revert back to the fact television shows have embedded stereotypes in our society. This makes people believe there must be a typical "black" person and "white" person.
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