Response to Welcome to the City by Murray Forman

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My response paper speaks directly to Murray Forman’s “Welcome to the City” essay, pecifically, the complex relationship the ghetto has with its inhabitants as well as outsiders. In the essay Forman says, “Youth continues to be framed against the American middle-class ideals of a liberated consumer culture” (47). Since our course is focused on black popular culture, I thought it would be interesting to examine the portrayal of domestic space occupied by black families on television sitcoms, a genre defined heavily by shows from the 1950s. Additionally, Forman specifically mentions Chicago’s Cabrini Green housing projects as an example of urban housing development, and that seemed like an invitation to analyze episodes of Good Times. Understanding the ghetto as both a real and imagined place needs to be contextaulized in the larger concept of homeownership and the American Dream. Television and the housing boom are both products of post-war American prosperity. Both developments are linked not only temporally, but culturally as well. Their significance is often times interdependent. The introduction of network television programming into American homes began in the late 1940s, as did the housing, and post-War baby boom. Suburbs became the new melting pot as migration from ethnic working class neighborhoods created enclaves of whiteness. At the same time, families on television were reflecting this change in social hierarchy. Early television sitcom families were happy and safe, with a professional father, a loving, nurturing mother, and two or three well-adjusted children. And they were always white and money was never an issue. The suburban home was an oasis of domesticity, free from communism and atomic threat. The house an... ... middle of paper ... ...based solely on the setting of each family’s home. Of course, that difference in setting speaks to race and social class, but those issues are not examined further in either sitcom. Where a family lives is dependent on what type of life they lead; their level of education, their economic prosperity, their happiness and quality of life. Of course, the same could be theorized about rich white families and poor white families, but the complication of racism and its perpetuation gets removed if that argument is made. White homogeneity was part of the attraction in selling the American Dream to potential residents. Good Times illustrates that living in the ghetto is tolerable by “black folks”, they are simply better suited for the hardship; while The Cosby Show is an example of an exceptional black family with family situations similar to those of white families.

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