On September 20, 1984 a show aired that changed the way we view gender roles on television. Television still perpetuates traditional gender stereotypes and in reflecting them TV reinforces them by presenting them as the norm (Chandler, 1). The Cosby Show, challenged the typical gender stereotyping of television, daring to go against the dominant social values of its time period. In its challenge of the dominant social view, the show redefined the portrayal of male and female roles in television. It redefined the gender role in the work place, in social expectations, and in household responsibilities. The Cosby Show supported Freidan in her view of “castigating the phony happy housewife heroine of the women’s magazines” (Douglas 136).
The Cosby Show is a wonderful sitcom about Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, commonly known as Cliff, and his family. The show revolved around the day-to-day situations faced by Cliff and Clair Huxtable and their five children. The show goes away from the one-liners that most sitcoms boasted and focused on the humor of real life situations that often occur in an average middle class family.
Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable was a successful OB/GYN (obstetrician/gynecologist), who was equally as involved in domestic tasks as his wife Clair. Cliff had a great part in raising his five children and dealing with their emotional and physical problems. Cliff’s wife Clair Huxtable was a successful partner in a large law firm, who balanced her busy career with her family. She filled the role as the head of the household and always made sure to keep not only her kids but also her husband Cliff in line. The eldest daughter, Sondra Huxtable was a very serious, intelligent, and hard working young woman who had a plan for her life. Her hard studies in high school and goal-oriented mind landed her at the prestigious Princeton University.
The second oldest daughter Denise Huxtable had the gift of a good sense of humor. She liked to test her parents with her rather eccentric dress and viewpoints on life. The only son Theo Huxtable was an extroverted and witty young man. He played out the typical teenage boy role of putting friends, cars, and girls before school. Vanessa Huxtable, the second youngest daughter was an intelligent girl, who often came off very air-headed in the show. Her focus during the show was to give off a b...
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... for your life. If a woman wants to be a housewife who focuses on raising her children or a career woman, it is her choice ultimately. If a man wants to be equally involved in his career and family, it should be his choice too. It should not matter what the gender stereotype is and this show helps women and men believe that the individual feeling is often more important than the typical societal belief.
I think the show does this to make a statement to the society that gender stereotypes are often wrong and only based on tradition. The Cosby Show went against the norm to show that the opposite side of the societal gender roles were also perfectly acceptable practices. The Cosby Show might have made a leap into uncharted territory with sitcoms of its time period, but in doing so it gave us a glimpse of the gender roles of today.
Bordo, Susan "Gender Matters: Gentleman or Beast? The Double Blind of Masculinity" Keller 163-174.
Chandler, Daniel. Television and Gender Roles. 4 Jan. 2004. 31 Jan. 2005 .
Douglas, Susan "Gender Matters: Genies and Witches." Keller 135-148.
Keller, Michael, ed. Reading Popular Culture: An Anthology for Writers. Iowa: Dubuque, 2002.
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