Socially Constructed Stereotypes in All in the Family, The Jefferson’s and The Cosby Show.

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Eye witness accounts of events are not always accurate. The accounts depicted by depend on how witnesses read the situation. The same is true when interpreting the depiction of race and/or ethnicity in media productions. Because situations gain meaning through the process of social construction (the interpretation of a situation based on one’s knowledge), the same event can be viewed and internalized by witnesses who render opposing viewpoints. This analysis will compare the depiction and rejection of socially constructed stereotypes relative to race and ethnicity in three situation comedies: All in the Family, The Jefferson’s and The Cosby Show.

Norman Lear, a political and social activist, teamed up with Bud Yorkin and formed Tandem Productions which developed and produced the sitcoms All in the Family and The Jefferson’s, among others. All in the Family (1971 to 1979) and The Jefferson’s (1975-1985), a spin-off and ‘black cast’ version of the predominately ‘white cast’ All in the Family, aired on CBS television network after being declined by ABC network. Lear’s bigoted father provided the basis for script dialog. (Winzenburg 2004)(NormanLear.com). The Cosby Show (1984 – 1992), created by Bill Cosby, based on his life-story, aired on NBC after being rejected from ABC. Though the main cast of The Jefferson’s and The Cosby Show are ‘black’, critics claim these shows instill ‘white’ elements and are not representative of black struggles (Class Dismissed, film).

Both Archie Bunker (All in the Family) and George Jefferson (The Jefferson’s) are opinionated bigots incapable of substantiating their arguments. In Archie’s case, his bumbling buffoon antics support the stereotypical working-class intell...

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