Clair Huxtable is Dead: On Slaying the Cosbys and Making Space for Liv, Analise, and Mary Jane

That Bill Cosby drugged and raped women for sport for many years is not new news. Apparently, the story has floated for years, and several months ago I read the testimony of two new women who had come forward, after the statute of limitations had run out, simply because they wanted to tell their story. Now that a Black male comedian Hannibal Burress has had the courage to take Cosby to task for his conservative, anti-poor, misogynist respectability rants, people are listening again. It sucks that folks only believe women were really raped when another man says he believes them, but this demonstrates the importance of male allies. Just last week my intro women’s and gender studies students and I talked about what it means for men to participate in ending rape.

 

But between the reports about Bill Cosby, rapist, and Stephen Collins, the actor from Seventh Heaven who admitted to being a pedophile, the lovable portraits of family that anchored my childhood in the 1990s are going up in smoke.

 

Perhaps that’s a good thing. For far too long, Black women in particular, have been saddled with the representational baggage of the Cosby Show. Even though Raven Symoné’s comments about her being “American” not “African” strike me as short-sighted and misguided, I understand her desire to move out from the shadow of the Cosbys.

 

I say that as an avid lover of the Cosby Show. Cliff Huxtable’s progressive gender politics and the show’s overt rhetoric of anti-sexism has struck me in my adult years as decidedly progressive for the time. But it’s a sham. How can a man who is a vicious hater of women get all the rhetoric right, offering up an idealistic view of what a “good, feminist family man,” might look like? It turns out that dudes, or their carefully crafted representatives, can sound right, and seem right, and still be all the way wrong. It turns out that you can have progressive feminist politics on the outside and still be deeply emotionally damaged and fucked up on the inside.

 

And since Bill Cosby is a rapist, his avatar Cliff Huxtable is a representational terrorist, holding us hostage to a Black family that never was. But let him die. Stockholm Syndrome be damned.

 

I’m reminded of a couple of moments that always struck me as creepy – after Denise got married, Cliff’s character felt compelled to have a conversation with Martin about whether she had been a virgin on their wedding night. Martin assured Cliff that she was “inexperienced.” And on another episode when Vanessa got caught sneaking out with her boyfriend, he used the infamous apple demonstration to ascertain whether or not they had had sex. I understand the parent of a teenager wanting to know for a variety of reasons about the level of sexual activity of their 16 year old, but he coulda kept the ocular demonstration. And the inquiry into his married daughter’s sex life was hella inappropriate, and perhaps offers us a clue into the mind of a sexual predator.

 

That obsession with Denise’s sexual practices was not unlike his row with Lisa Bonet in public after she, a grown woman, married Lenny Kravitz. It makes me think again about whether Bonet was the problem child she was made out to be, and makes me reconsider her choice not to participate back in 2002, in the 10 year Cosby Reunion special.

 

It has long been time to slay the Huxtable patriarch. So Cliff Huxtable, you’re dead to me! And perhaps now representations of Black families, and in particular, Black women can live and breathe on television.

 

The exposure of the utter fictiveness of the portrayal of Cliff Huxtable strikes me as really necessary in a moment, where because of Shonda Rhimes, Black women dominate the Cosby Show’s (and later A Different World’s) old primetime Thursday night slot. Rhimes brought Black Thursdays back.

 

But these new representations of Black women labor under the old expectations. That’s a problem for a lot of folks, one that won’t be solved because neither Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) nor Analise Keating (Viola Davis) aspires to Clair Huxtable status.  That’s a good thing. A thing that those of us with all of our respectability feminism would do well to really grapple with.

 

After last week’s explosive two episodes in which Olivia (and Smelly Mellie) managed to rescue the President’s daughter from a sexisode (#EiffelTower) without slut-shaming her, and Viola Davis took off her wig and dark, dark, beautiful, earth toned make-up on screen, everybody should be clear that Clair Huxtable is dead, too.

RIP RIP

 

(Can I just digress and say, “Aren’t y’all glad Liv is back to fixing shit? Stay doing that, Liv. Stay doing that and get you some homegirls and maybe a therapist, so you can get free of Fitz’s whack ass, and we’ll be alright. But keep the hot sex though. My Lorde, keep that.)

 

How meta does Shonda Rhimes have to get for us to see that she’s peeling back layers, forcing us to look in the mirror, offering Black women opportunities every week to deal with our own racial and sexual traumas at the hands of white patriarchs and white patriarchy? Black men have traditionally dealt with that trauma by aspiring to the level of power white men have. Black women have experienced so much of the trauma of white patriarchy in intimate space –though not only there–and it’s time we had an opportunity to work out that trauma in (representational) intimate space. For once it’s about us and our pain, and what “the man” has done to us, specifically. Would I have chosen Rhimes as my midwife through this moment? No. But she’s proving to be a far more savvy one that I initially thought.

 

That she weaved that scene through a grammar and a vocabulary (the taking off of wigs, smoothing back of hair, lotioning of skin, removal of foundation – before a fight) utterly familiar to Black women suggests that she does in fact see us, does know us, even if it is not how we want to be known.

 

 

We need new representations. And we are getting them. But somehow, our feminist analyses can’t seem to wholly catch up. Far too many folk with otherwise good politics and insightful thinking, circumscribe Olivia Pope to a mammy-jezebel-sapphire nexus that is both laughable (in its lack of rigor) and infuriating (in its prescriptiveness). Can a sister get it in on tv without y’all calling her a Jezebel?  Did y’all know Mammies are utterly asexualized? And if a Black woman runs shit, but don’t take care of other people’s kids, why does that make her a mammy? If she was totally unloving and uncaring, we’d call her a bitch. But wait…ol girl at the New York Times was saying some shit about all Shonda’s angry women. So…

 

Where the hell does that leave us? 

I mean on one hand Liv and Analise might be cautionary tales in what it means to fellate and romanticize white supremacist capitalist patriarchy on the regular .  I know that’s what so many feminists want me to say. There I said it. On the other hand, they might be complicated, powerful women in love with complicated, powerful men. On this we probably gone have to fuck with the greys just a little bit.

 

Perhaps we needed to slay Clair Huxtable to find out.  (I ain’t even into slaying the mother like that but Cliff Huxtable has got to die, and unless we can imagine some new possibilities for widowed Clair, I suspect she’ll just not be the same without him.)

 

Look, as someone who on some days aspires to have a partner and maybe a kid, I too wish for more opportunities to see bad-ass (cis and trans) Black women in both hetero and same-sex partnerships, that aren’t emotionally abusive and fucked up.

 

But I know far more professional sisters in “creative” configurations of relationships than ones in traditional hetero and homo-normative partnerships. It’s real in these streets.

 

Shit even our inability to cut Liv some slack for loving somebody toxic long after they have outlived their usefulness strikes me as deeply emotionally dishonest. I know I have been there in that place where the person I loved the most, knew the best, wasn’t good for my soul. I know what it’s like to try to imagine possibilities of relationships beyond the person that has moved you deepest. But maybe that’s my shit.

 

I own it. But I also maintain that it seems mad difficult for us to really grapple with what emotionally vulnerable Black womanhood looks like on television.

 

Liv, Analise, and Mary Jane are gonna force us to do it though. And it will take all three of them and then some to move us away from our finely cultivated worship of Clair Huxtable, the sister who had the man, the kids, the beautiful home, the bangin career, fun friends, and hot sex.

 

Part of the reason pop culture is so important is because it refuses in so many ways to give us characters that conform to the shape of our deepest political desires. In so doing, it forces us to grapple with what it means to want the things we want. It makes us imagine that we could (and perhaps should) want other, better things.

 

What I see when I look at Liv, when I look at Analise, when I look at Mary Jane — they have cultivated options for themselves. I don’t agree with all their choices, and I prolly would not run my relationships in the ways they do. But in the ways they seem to exist always adjacent to marriage, almost as the sandpaper rubbing away the façade, they teach us something.

 

Nah, I ain’t saying Black women are only the sandpaper smoothing the walls of other people’s marriages. I’m saying that just as sandpaper’s rawness and roughness is used to smooth surfaces, these sisters rub our romantic and intimate desires right up against the rough hewn nature of our most revered social and family structures, allowing us to see them more clearly. Meanwhile, they walk away with the bruises and scars to prove that those institutions are not as smooth and innocuous as they look from a distance.

 

So we could continue to read these sisters as failures of certain kinds of respectable representation, or we could take a different feminist move and imagine what kind of possibilities they open up. And maybe those possibilities are about what they break, and not what they build.  Maybe those possibilities are about the graves they allow us to dig, the bodies they allows us to bury, the fertilizer for soil that those buried bodies become.

 

Perhaps their purpose is not so macabre as that. Like chocolate truffles, broken open, the goodness, the substance runs out of the center. But like good sex, it’s all impossible to enjoy without getting messy.

 

Maybe they simply inhabit every representation that we have been taught to fear, from the mammy to the Jezebel, to the overachieving black lady. And perhaps once we have confronted our ghosts, dealt with the things that haunt us about who we might get to be in America’s popular imagination, we can ease up and let these sisters live.

crunktastic

82 thoughts on “Clair Huxtable is Dead: On Slaying the Cosbys and Making Space for Liv, Analise, and Mary Jane

  1. My mouth is open. I do wonder, however, if black people are really destined for the bottom… Advocating for the “Crooked Room”? LAWD… I’m going to reread… I’m thinking I must have something wrong. Liv is a fool, Analise is annoying as hell (she took off her wig… so what.) and Mary Jane, is okay as a character, more normal (still cannot forgive her for stealing sperm – if that was indeed the outcome), but I have no interest in her stories.

    Claire Huxtable, is MY MOTHER. When she was CREATED FOR TELEVISION, she was based on REAL WOMANHOOD. Cliff Huxtable character WAS MY FATHER (I used to tell them this all of the time – they even favored each other). The heads of the Huxtable household were recognizable TO ME, because they were not figment’s of salacious fiction or a function of disease which I was blessed enough to not have experienced growing up, sheltered.

    Just because it is not your experience, does not warrant it dismissible.

    For Liv to exist, in her current SICKLY form, she had to have grown up in a dysfunctional household beyond any average person’s experience (her mother, of course, was a heartless terrorist). I’m sorry, are we supposed to identify with her?

    We don’t know much about Analise Keating yet, but as much as I identify with her physically, she and I share complexion, tone and full lips, she and I are clearly from separate worlds and our mores as a lawyer, are quite different from mine…which mirror Claire’s. Claire’s law firm, btw, was much more realistic.

    I don’t have the energy to discuss Mary Jane… don’t care enough.

    All that said, they are free to exist, but so should CLAIRE.

    If we start advocating for FICTITIOUS pathological renderings of black women (who are at the mercy of anyone who holds the “pen”) because it’s easier than having a bar set too high for who black women are today, we’re done-zo. We’re fucked as women and as people. Lowering the bar, should never be the answer.

    If you’re Mary Jane, cool… I’m Claire and that’s okay.

    • If Cliff is exposed to be a representational sham, then Clair goes, too. The mark of success on that show, Bill Cosby’s project in Cliff Huxtable, was to present a successful Black family, to make us believe in the possibilities of these people. And we love Cliff because we loved Bill Cosby who made him believable. Bill Cosby’s actions implicate Cliff Huxtable’s character, and expose it as a faulty representation. I mean Bill Cosby pimps tht character to give him the moral high ground to go around judging other Black families. So if Bill goes, Cliff goes, and if Cliff goes, Clair goes, because in Cosby Land, Clair Huxtable can’t be a divorcee or a single mama.

      Your experiences are valid on their own merits. And that those experiences are validated by this show is all fine and good. I loved the Cosby Show and it served a significant purpose not only in its time but in the 22 years since it went off the air. But I will not stay stuck in the 20th century as representation goes, and the romantic landscape for professional Black women is wholly different than it was for the women of Clair Huxtable’s generation. So I’m just saying, we can think about what a widowed Clair might look like, but your comments attest to the fact that folks either want her more than they want to grapple with what it might mean to relate in some way to the other women. I don’t want to be Liv, MJ, or Analise either, though I think I”m parts of all of them, but I do recognize that representation can’t stay stuck in 1992.

      That’s all.

      • Oh. This is about putting Cosby in his place… I see. So many artists who have altered the world for the better…. who have filled needs… illuminated what was hidden… encouraged growth… changed societies, were some of the most dastardly people in their private lives. From JFK and FDR to ancient philosophers, the product of whatever gifts they had, could have been overshadowed by their personal weaknesses, of which we are all subject. Thankfully, overshadowed, they were not.

        I mean… William H. Cosby, appears to be a flawed human being, I get that, but I’m not using his hysteria and behaviors as an excuse to throw away his vital works. The thing is, I spend a lot of my energy and spirit, through my personal work, trying to remind black people of how BEAUTIFUL they are in every way and how GIFTED they are, as well. Cosby did that. I will not throw away CLAIRE to make ANALISE feel better about herself, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone do that either.

        I am less than HALF Cosby’s age, and I am almost tired of Black folk. I could imagine… I should say, I UNDERSTAND (if we are to simply isolate his comments), how age, a possible stroke (which can alter your personality) and just watching all of the progress you so invested in being turned back could make one “lose their mind”. It would make me lose mine. It WILL make me lose mine, because apparently… we are destined to stay in a barrel. I could not have imagined this article from a group of thoughtful black women, which I know CFC are.

        I have to say, though. I’m just so disappointed that I have to write this. So disappointed.

        You’re basically saying Claire is no modern woman… but was Denise? I am knockin’ on CLAIRE STATUS NOW, but my arse was a combination of Sandra, Denise, Vanessa and Rudy. They were VERY REALISTIC and Claire’s modern dating habits, would have been revealed, more in the late 70s/early 80s, not as a mature mother of 5 married, living in Brooklyn in the late 80s/early 90s.

        You know who else is kind of like Claire? The inspiration for Olivia Pope… Judy Smith. Olivia Pope and Smith now have NOTHING but their job in common as fiction changed the homage to Judy Smith, to a severely flawed anti-heroine, who also happened to be the first black woman character to lead a show in 37 years on network television. There are degrees to progress. Two steps forward and one step back, seems to be the Olivia Pope way.

        Also, your other argument is essentially about TIME, right… TIME…”stuck in 20th century representation” and this is a new era yet COSBY was not the only show out there as I was blessed to grow up with Living Single, Fresh Prince, Love Jones, The Best Man, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Golden Age of Hip Hop, Electric Relaxation… Are those so foreign to modern women? Are not what some major BWE site asking for not what was provided to the community in the 90s?

        Everyone deserves their space, and CLAIRE will always have a space in my heart and the hearts of others. She’s not dead, but it would be a shame for black empowerment, to kill her.

      • this article uses “hip” rhetorical flourishes/strategies to mask a lot of bs. first two responses in the comment section slayed her bad.

        i will add that we can, as adults, separate the gift from the bearer. history is proof. we have a constitution celebrated and exported abroad, but its architects were frauds, rapists and morally bankrupt.

        this race to embrace the lowest common denominator is not a good look. the type of dysfunction and drama of these shonda rhimes shows make for decent entertainment, but lack anything substantively aspirational. we can have a diverse landscape of NUANCED black representation without this “realness” that consistently moves towards the pathological and bankrupt.

        everybody in the cosby home was flawed, but they enjoyed their life. true, it was a bit idyllic with the lawyer mom and doctor father, but if a majority of the other images of blackness pander to those that readily embrace reckless & negative pathologies, why not the cosby’s and their respectability? there are blacks that live like that too.

        beyond the litany of “lowest common denominator” offerings on “authentic” black living, can we have programming with wholly flawed, but loveable black characters that we can be inspired, touched by and possibly even aspire to emulate in some way?

        btw, that move to “kill” a beloved archetype/character that you’re so proud of has been played since nietzsche first tried it.

      • Your rhetoric is more out of control than your typos.

        Bill Cosby cemented ONE PATH to acceptability for black people…and milked it to shame us, not uplift us. His behaviors with women make perfect sense in that context: he never raped Claire or Camile: he raped women who failed to live up to the image he created of what a woman should be. He was a controlling, overbearing, and ultimately sick man whose smile hid the sinister…and so many capitulating black men do well. Think of the charming pastors, the “oreos” who had to Sambo their way to acceptance…think of Clarence Thomas. Is THAT what we want black men to teach us to be?

        The Huxtables’ upper-class black dream life was shared by few, save the people who wanted to believe that their success exempted them from the suffering that comes with racism. How is that “positive” I ask you? Minorities and women do this SO often — they see something vaguely positive and defend it to DEATH while whites still get represented to the fullest of what they are. Bill Cosby’s sham was harmful. It is the narrowest representation of black culture that was possible.

      • @teachbygoofyaccent – What’s out of control, is your low self-esteem, kid.

        Your post is pure foolishness.. . ONE PATH?

        What kind of WHINY Bitchassed POV is that? Are you a fool? Or were you just not raised and the rest of the world is supposed to pick up your pieces?

        Stay crying VICTIM to ONE PIECE OF WORK, one television, that resonated with human beings, ’cause BILL COSBY didn’t tell me to do NUTTIN’.. his imagery was simply recognizable, that’s all. I had parents and a moral compass that led me down a certain path. I’m certainly not going to blame Cosby for any FAILING in my OWN life.

        Are ya’ mad that we’re not talking about Boyz in tha Hood, or Sugar Hill? You act like all the shit that is supposed to come out of black creative works should be about a certain group within a certain class of poverty. How the fuck are people supposed to know what is possible when we continue to focus on what the fuck SOME don’t have, not to mention the pathological behaviors that often manifest themselves out of a life without access. Is that being BLACK or is that a function of SOCIOECONOMICS which may touch some groups more than others.

        Was The Cosby Show the only nigro show on television, like good gosh…?

        APPARENTLY, IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD IF WE FOCUS ONE SHOW ON MIDDLE CLASS BLACKS. (They were middle class, not upper-middle class). It’s not like Bill Cosby didn’t create FAT ALBERT or ANYTHING, O_O.

        Keep the few words you learned in your pocket or focus it on someone else’s post who has patience for incivility. I’m not here for fools who are having personal struggles with accepting CLASS while fighting for a race-based caste system; that shit’s just stupid. Stupid.

        The fact that you exist… lawd… You are a MALIGNANCY if you think your fucked up life is worthy enough to be the only representation of the Black Diaspora… no seriously. You’re the definition of a crab. Your fucking low-self esteem is supposed to hinder generation after generation? …the fuck out of here…

        … and you clearly know nothing of Clarence Thomas (aka America’s Blackest Child) if you are tossing him about in this conversation. You don’t know… what you don’t know… and it is a lot.

        This victim-shit, to “The Cosby Show” is something else to behold…

        You’re fighting against Cosby-styled representation, yet complain that whites get full representation. You need to decide if you want to censor black imagery, or not.

        The Cosby Show was harmful, ya’ll – not the commercialization of Hip Hop, Tyler Perry/Lee Daniels, and sweating white people. Cosby was our downfall. Right.

    • The fact that you see Liv, Analise and Mary Jane as lowering the bar is the reason Claire needs to go. We have created this black woman hierarchy that doesn’t allow us the fullness of our humanity without downgrading some of us. If you are as perfect as Claire, so be it. Most of us are imperfect and struggling to have value even when we fail.

      “So we could continue to read these sisters as failures of certain kinds of respectable representation, or we could take a different feminist move and imagine what kind of possibilities they open up. And maybe those possibilities are about what they break, and not what they build.”

      Part of the reason we valued Claire so much was because of what SHE broke. She broke the welfare mom, drug addict, minimum wage job working image of black women in the 80’s. Great. Now can we move on? Can we break the world on her shoulders, never a hair out of place, always perfect and proper image that is killing us?

      • I knew someone would grab onto that metaphor and I questioned using it as it could be misinterpreted through the lens of victimization. I should have said… MOVING THE GOAL POST to whatever is most convenient to your view of life, wherever and whatever that may be, is not the answer.

        I’m sorry Claire is such a burden to some of us. I don’t think of Claire in my day-to-day life as I’m making my way through this society, but please know… CLAIRE, is real. Just because some don’t know her, doesn’t mean she doesn’t exist. She’s LESS likely to exist today, but was the norm decades ago – a function of what black communities created when they chose to not be beholden to white expectations and integration.

        Some choose the “CLAIRE PATH”, others don’t… doesn’t mean we need to shut down those who do… and honestly, this convo is too important for HYPERBOLE. CLAIRE IS NOT KILLING US. The complicit submission to a white supremacist society, lack of knowledge of our history, a broken community, gender wars and lack of spirituality is killing us… not Claire Huxtable.

        Disclaimer: I was addicted to SCANDAL the first 2 seasons. I was never judgmental of her (still aren’t) and where I used to identify with her and that world, DC, strategic management, post-McKinensie & Co., life, her character veered off into a different direction and that was fine. I continued to watch and support, but what was clear to me was that the writers were less careful with OLIVIA POPE’S character than they typically are with the leads of other shows. That is a major problem with SCANDAL. I’m all about having flaws… I LOVED THAT ABOUT SCANDAL. Everyone had flaws, but then they played around and couldn’t quite allow one of their white female characters, Mellie Grant, to be equal to Olivia Pope, They absolved Mellie and ONLY MELLIE of all her wrongdoing and she became the moral compass of the show. OLIVIA POPE, is not what she was meant to be, but is now a corruption of black representation to soothe white supremacy. Who Olivia Pope now, is not what she was meant to be without white supremacy. That could also be true to life, but it I wouldn’t celebrate it.

        … and I don’t know what people think has been going on with the images of black women since the 90s, but with the help of our men, Tyler Perry, Lee Daniels, etc… we are not SHORT on the representation of FLAWED black women, so I will continue to ask… why kill CLAIRE?

        Why must CLAIRE be CLIFF, or even WILLIAM H COSBY’S, MULE? I mean… why didn’t we “kill CLIFF” instead of taking the misfortune of others to move a very specific, self-esteem-related (sorry), agenda on black women. I

        We can do better than this.

      • ” never a hair out of place, always perfect and proper image that is killing us?” How is this killing us? I don’t get it. Personally I agree with Emily Spring. It is lowering the bar. Just because you can’t be perfect does not mean that you have to either hate yourself for not reaching perfection or simply stop trying. I appreciate the dialogue CFC provides in realm of feminism and ethnicity. But I was lost on this post. Just as Bill Cosby is part and influence to Cliff Huxtable isn’t Phylicia Rashad part and influence to Claire??? Yet we are removing her skill in delivering this role and chalking it up to Bill Cosby’s imagination. But Denise had her own agency – because she was seen as flawed somehow?

        I also don’t get the representational terrorist thing. Probably way to deep for me. But I understand that people are complex and can act in ways that appear to be contradictory. In my experience I’ve come to understand that people occupy not one morale compass, but dozens. Their political views may be progressive, but their sexual preferences may be medieval. Their attitudes about financial ethics maybe sketchy but their attitudes about environmental awareness is enlightened. This is how and why “good” people do bad things and “bad” people do good things. If we discounted people for their bad deeds and subsequently erased all of their work as representationally terroristic (?) how many medical advances would we be without??? And that’s just one field.

        I’m not saying we should excuse the actions of Bill Cosby the man, but if we are going to judge him, lets do so based on the actual allegations against him, not everything else. Killing a single female character (since all of the daughters, especially Denise, were left out of the massacre) of the show makes it sound like the real issue is with Claire, not Bill.

        I don’t claim to know what the average black woman takes away from these modern shows. To me the message isn’t modern at all. It’s the same old “you can’t have a successful career and a successful relationship.” The question has been asked critically ever since Lucille Ball and the answer is still no apparently.

    • I love this comment! I feel the same way. My mother is Claire. My father is Cliff. They are my reality.

    • Hi Emily, I really like your comments on this post, and would like to solicit your views as a writer. Please DM on twitter (@toldson) and we’ll go from there.

      • Hi @Ivory Toldson. I am not on Twitter and thank you, but… I have no self-control, as evidenced by my last profanity-laden post (lol), and I am also working on a number of projects within the vein of this article. This community is not short of wonderful writers (see: all over this comments section and CFC, in general), all of which I pale in comparison. However, I can recommend a scholar to you with similar points of view, but a better handle of the English language :). I believe he’s on Twitter. He would be a perfect match for you. Best.

    • Black feminism appears to be a lie built on the destruction of the black family. It’s also might be the mating call of women who are determined to be bitter and lonely.

      • Oh,’cmon—feminism is not to blame for everything that’s wrong with black people—that’s a flat-out lie—it’s way more complicated than that. Just so you know, a woman’s whole damn life isn’t defined by whether she should have a man in it or not, and having a man is not the answer to any one woman’s problem. So you need to step off with that stupid, sexist outdated idea,please.

  2. If Cliff is exposed to be a representational sham, then Clair goes, too. The mark of success on that show, Bill Cosby’s project in Cliff Huxtable, was to present a successful Black family, to make us believe in the possibilities of these people.

    I agree with Emily on this one. Bill Cosby created a new myth about what black families could be – not a myth in the sense that it was false, but a myth in that it’s a foundational narrative that helps us make meaning in the world and represents what we aspire to be. It’s terrible that he was who he was behind the scenes, but it doesn’t invalidate the power of the myth. I believe no less in the Myth he shared with us and got us to believe because of the man not living up to the character he played.

    Which also means that we can maintain the rest of the myth, including Clair. It’s not about what is or was, but who we aspire to be.

    That’s also why Liv triggers some folks. At times, she is merely what black women see themselves being; at other times, she’s what black women aspire to be. And that’s what makes Shonda such a brilliant writer and producer; her characters always vacillate between the ideal and the real and we stay gripped to them because we care about them, find them to be believable, and root for them to be who they could be. (We’re rooting for ourselves.)

    So, yes, let’s condemn and shame Bill. He, the man, deserves it. Let’s also look at Cliff’s actions that are less than what they should be, as you rightly point out. But Cliff – as a myth, an archetype – he lives on. (Same with Nelson, MLK, X, Oprah, Liv, etc.)

    • The myth is at base level a patriarchal myth. It’s a corrective to Moynihan among other things. If the “benevolent” patriarch turns out to be monstrous and a rapist, the rest of the myth is exposed too. And the desire for a traditional, heteronormative, nuclear, respectable Black family is a myth (in the sense in which you mean it) that should be problematized anyway, precisely because it pathologizes every family that doesn’t look like that. That’s the point, folk hate Liv and MJ and the rest, not just because we disagree with their choices, but because we lament that they aren’t more like the perfection that was Clair.

      Also, I don’t aspire to be any of these people (not Clair, not Liv, not Analise, not Mary Jane.)

      And the difference between Cliff and MLK, Mandela, Oprah, et cetera is that they were real people.

      • Oh, I agree Brittney Cooper. But, though I agree that Cosby’s comments display the ugly side of a misguided pathology concerning black youth and black people, I refuse to allow that to demonize his artistic works, be it I Spy, Fat Albert, The Cosby Show or A Different World. The number of misguided and/or violent people (Cosby is as much as a glorified rapist as he is a creative genius) who have contributed (in a good way) to society (be it through the arts or other means) would fill an entire library. So, as far as I am concerned, we’re past the conversation of the ability of bad people to make great art or to do great things. Hell, Pablo Picasso was a misogynist sociopath but here we are, however many years later, still reveling at his works. Of course, good art does nothing to exonerate horrific behavior, and some people’s behavior is so atrocious that it’s hard to separate their work from their actions (insert Robert Kelly). So, I get the disgruntled view of Cosby and therefore of his fictitious family, The Huxtables. They were supposed to represent something “more.” They were supposed to be art imitating life. Yet, I have to pause and ask who put them on THAT pedestal? Bill Cosby? Did he have that much clout to force thousands of viewers to say, “This is your mark. This is what you NEED to aspire to?” Or, did the viewers do that themselves? I believe the latter. That is the power of myths. They speak to the possibility. Bill just came along (on the back end) and used that couch view inspiration to do as Brittney Cooper said in a previous post, “took the currency he gained from the success of the Cosby Show as some sort of moral high ground to go around preaching about how other Black families ain’t right.” To which he was and is wrong. VERY WRONG.
        Yet, because he did not make me love Cliff and Claire, I will not and cannot kill The Huxtables. I was not under a spell. No one hypnotized me and said, “watch this, love this, be this.” I did all of the above because I wanted to. I have no problem putting Bill Cosby on the flogging post. However, my earnestness to hold onto the show as a representation of family has nothing to do with my inability to see him as an inmate butt bait nor does it stop me from envisioning other family structures just as real just as powerful. Hell, I am a product of one very different than the Huxtables. I know the single mother story utterly. I am a product of it. Lived it. Done it. And, did it well. Damn well. My mother is a champ and a soldier who has the battle scars of post traumatic love-syndrome stress to prove it. Yet, that does not change the fact that growing up I understood (and I can only speak for me) that our situation, at the time, was “hella” dysfunctional and extremely flawed. I believed it then and I know it as fact now. As a wife and a mother, I see my husband spend time with my daughter. I see my daughter’s face light up when he comes into the room and it brings tears to my eyes. It is beautiful. It is amazing. I love it. She is only 8 months but she knows her father. He provides something wholly different to her than me. This is evident in her greetings for each of us. Different and distinct. She knows me and she knows him. And,I do not need a sociological analysis or a cultural critique dissertation by some specialist or expert to see it. My eyes are clear and my understanding is sharp. My daughter NEEDS her father. Period. I needed mine too. He was not there. So, I made it do what it do. My mom and I made it. She worked it and I worked it too. We did the damn thing. And, I am proud of it! I succeeded. But, my testimony does not change the fact that the absence of my dad in my youthful years did something that the presence of my mother could never mend.
        With that being said, the Huxtable family, provided me with a narrative different than the one I saw every day. You see that is my family story. Women. Strong women with broken compasses as it pertains to men. I know that story. I know Liv. Maybe not the powerful career with the cellular rolodex of a goddess. But, I know her love life. My family is full of that side of Liv. What I did not know was a man who loved his woman enough to marry her and have kids and raise them in the home as a collective partnership. Nah, I had not seen that. A family, in a home that they owned, living, loving, thriving, being, doing. So, I embraced that truth as a possibility. This is the beauty of myths. A story based on possibilities. Sacred tales that explain the world and experiences. Reflecting universal concerns rooted in verbal illustrations of universal themes. The success of the Huxtables had nothing to do with Bill Cosby probing people to believe. It had everything to do with so many people wanting to believe They saw, with staunch spirit of optimism, that black “family” could be something other than what maybe they saw day in and day out.
        Now, does this take away from these amazing women gracing the screen today (Liv, Analise, Mary Jane, Fish Mooney and Abbie Mills). No, it does not. There is room as the table for all of these cultural norms to sit and break bread. To be honest, they need to break bread. Claire and Liv and Mary Jane and Fish Mooney and Abbie Mills need to have dinner. That conversation is long overdue. This war between what is and who is and the image that should be visible on screen, in the homes, and in our social encounters is exhausting. True to nature, myths are stories based on traditions. All of these women exist, in the black community. We need to make space for them all. But, here is the other thing about myths. Unlike fairy tales, myths are not always hopeful. They do not always have a happy ending. Because of this they are often warnings and lessons just as much as they are possibilities and truths. So, as much as I love Scandal and HTGAWM and Being Mary Jane and Gotham and Sleepy Hollow, it does not mean I have to see these women as my reality. I have the right to celebrate their stories while at the same time say that rabbit hole is NOT for me.
        The generational divide in black America is real. But, the Huxtable family is a story that is just as much powerful as it is controversial. Actually most stories are. And, like most stories, it will continue to resonate in our society, because it goes to the heart of the struggle for many people’s identity and culture.
        Bill should be in jail. Cliff, however, can stay in my 55 inch telecommunication monitor.

      • this post is straight comedy.

        as a culture, are we at a place where the representation of two black individuals, who have achieved a certain amount of career success & planned a family, achieves myth status? really?

        this aspiration of fulfilling a certain personal path, coupling/marrying a kindred spirit and planning a way forward together, maybe with children, predates moynihan. it is one of many directions. it may be an ideal, but it is a path many have chosen. it is a hard path, not necessarily the chosen path.

        as opposed to thirstin for blood, how about accountability? novel? i don’t think so. leave the victimizing and claim some productive agency. we can, as adults, hold folks accountable without some frenzied mob activity. kill bill? how does that move us forward?

        maybe you didn’t grow up in a two parent home. i did. it wasn’t the healthiest. much of the blame rests with my patriarchal father and his embrace of those elements in our black, american etc culture. but i refuse to let the failure of that project cloud and define my experience of life and my aspirations.

        i remember an episode of the cosby show where theo lies, by omission, about his acceptance to columbia. the obsession with the ivies is not a healthy one and this episode helped communicate a healthy message to my results obsessed dad & eased my anxiety surrounding the college admissions process. this episode helped communicate a nuanced truth. its truth is not limited to the subject of college admissions, but any lofty goal. it was one of many well written episodes. now i must kill claire? kill cosby? not aspire to good living? get a grip.

        we live in a moment where we are aware of dominant and peripheral narratives. we have options. explore them and grow so you may not be so easily triggered.

        patriarchy is the enemy not “the” nuclear family; not a “modern” family; not a single parent home. patriarchy. stay focused and chill wit the grad school theorizing, your “corrective” impulse to “problematize” this subject have “run amok.”

      • @sayed, I think maybe this is a fundamental disagreement/misunderstaning among feminists. go with me here, IF the nuclear family is bound up in patriarchy, is a limb or more accurately the heart of patriarchy, then the destruction of the nuclear family is a concern of feminists.

        if we could admit that this new inclusion of horrific abuse into the story of the idyllic nuclear family is a more complete truth (it comes from actual unscripted reality afterall)— poof– i think it does kill the myth. the function of stories about the nuclear family is actually undermined by having to stare into the eyes and penises of our patriarchs. the perfectly functioning nuclear family is a lie OR put another way, the perfectly functioning nuclear family includes sexual abuse. We really really need to face up to this. These “broken compasses” of so many strong women are because of sexual abuse, or sexualized abuse under patriarchy.

        the saddest thing to me is that so many are jumping to say “my parents were cliff and clair” without seeing how deeply saddening that is. without seeing what was lost there. If your mom was clair and you “never saw this coming”, you were raised by a mother who didnt pass down the feminist message in its entirety. you are a child who was once vulnerable to sexual abuse by your clif/bill and was raised through a cultural grooming process to be abused by cliffs/husbands. The cycle of abuse wasnt broken by the cosbys and never will be. Claire, like so many mothers without feminism and communities of women, could not protect you. The stories that women need to be telling each other, the feminist narratives that will allow us to find a new way that is antithetical to the nuclear family’s abuse are not being told in cosby land. no one is suggesting we outlaw the re-runs, but fuck, the assertion that the cosbys are good enough and that the gaping wound created by the nuclear family/patriarchy will ever be salved by the likes of claire makes me wanna vomit.

  3. sorry she gone may her soul rest in peace i love to watch the cosby show she had a beautiful smile i love the cosby family, dear god i thank you for the life of CLAIR HUXTABLE she was a sister in christ to the hole world her natural beauty of love,she is always ready to please and to respect and make you smile on her show, she lovingly builds a cozy nest but , in times of trouble, is a pillar of strenght and when problems arise she always tries to iron out differences. she fills our pot from our garden of gratitude and is happy to welcome others to our home of peace, love and joy, dear god, we love each other dearly, i pray that her beautiful relationship will continue to flourish, and that her name will live on for the sake of jesus christ our lord and saviour AMEN RIP CLAIR HUXTABLE

    • She’s not dead in real life; this article was speaking metaphorically. As an example to prove a point.

      Btw, I loved the Cosby Show and Claire and all the characters. I can still relate to it today and without regret allow my children to watch it with me. A Classic!

  4. I’m a black man so I’m not sure how this will come across.. However I believe that Claire, MJ,Liv and Analise have a voice in this world. The problem with this trend is the same thing Dave Chappelle walked way from 50 million dollars for. He said that once he knew that the white power brokers believed his satirical jokes validated our true identity that’s when his social conscience kicked in. Sure Shonda is laughing all the way to the bank but who else will hollywood allow to do their thing and also give us alternative images that explains who we are as a people. The creator of Blackish is also a sister. Kenya Barris. Her show has more substance though it can still be quite dangerous to the psyche of what some black people and white people really think of us.

    In good conscience I can’t say that Olivia or MJ’s character is an empowering for force to sisters. Sure it puts some black actresses to work but at what cost. I know its a damned if you do damned if you don’t affect with being black. That comes with the territory however that has to be a balance. Shonda didn’t have to make the president white that she slept with. WE have a black sitting president. The show could be good without Liv being that reckless with her love life. Network Television wouldn’t allow Denzel Washington or Dennis Haysbert to have an affair with white women. Black women wouldn’t watch that either. MJ’s character is deterimental in respects because it speaks to the stereotype of black women though successful aren’t capable or deserving of real love.

    There are enough shows for white people to watch that will keep us thinking that anything dysfunctional on television isn’t a requisite or representation of being or explaining whiteness. That’s the peril of this show. In conscience I can’t watch scandal. MJ I can tolerate more because she’s vulnerable but the character really wants true love and her affair started because she was lied to. Balance is what we need and unfortunately Hollywood or the entertainment business never gives us the autonomy to explore both extremes of who we are as a people… Great article and thought provoking. MEN want to marry Claire Huxtable. We will just screw MJ and Liv… Analese is ball headed… Not sexy…LOL

    • Why must women or representations of black womanhood be validated by whether or not men will “marry” or “just screw” them? Why is that the measuring stick? This argument subscribes to the virgin/whore saint/slut dichotomy that is patriarchal not to mention the heteronormativity behind the “unsexiness” of a BALD-headed black woman. Is it really so much to ask people to engage black woman for their humanity and not the “candidacy” as wives or sex-partners of men.

      P.S some women only want to screw anyway. And that’s okay.

      • And I am referring to this part of the comment “MEN want to marry Claire Huxtable. We will just screw MJ and Liv… Analese is ball headed… Not sexy…LOL”

  5. Pingback: Daily Feminist Cheat Sheet

  6. I was just going to say that whenever I see these think pieces about current portrayals of black women on TV, I’m always disappointed that they tend to leave out Sleepy Hollow. Granted it is a genre and therefore ‘niche’ show (unlike H2GAWM, Scandal and BMJ) but I feel like Abbie Mills doesn’t get nearly enough attention relative to Analise, Liv and Mary Jane, which is unfortunate. Of the group, she is actually the one I find most engaging and who I most consistently root for.

    Also, her slow-burn romantic tension with her partner Ichabod Crane makes for an interesting counter-point to a lot of these other shows where the lead’s romantic entanglements are a big ole mess. I mean, sometimes that stuff gets messy, and it’s worthwhile not to shy away from that. But I especially find Sleepy Hollow refreshing because the way in which the forbiddeness of Abbie and Ichabod’s unrequited feelings (due to him being still married at this point) leads to a platonic devotion between them that is actually really beautiful. I have no doubt they’ll consumate sooner or later; it is a classic TV set up after all. But it is nice to see the black woman being portrayed as BOTH the desirable lead/love-interest, but also a person with whom a white man can maintain a platonic friendship, while still thinking the sun, moon and stars of her. A fact which he frequently expresses in very flowery prose, in addition to being ever-ready to throw himself into harms way to protect her. (And granted, white men’s approval shouldn’t always be the end-goal, but white men have historically been the group most likely to deny the value of black women, and the way in which this show seems to play directly against that is gratifying).

    Also, she IS one of the two prophesied “Witness” destined to save the world from the pending apocalypse, along with Ichabod. Which, like, how often do black women ever get to be one of the “chosen ones”? Sleepy Hollow’s not perfect by any means, but a lot of the things people seem to find dissatisfying about Scandal and BMJ and H2GAWM – particularly the frustrating romantic faux-paus of the leads – doesn’t seem to be an issue there (at least not so far). Plus, aside from all that, it’s very entertaining if you at all like genre TV.

  7. There are two major and solid points I see being made in one essay. And honestly, I think this would have worked better as two. In terms of the Cosby point, the critique of Denise the character/Lisa Bonet relation to the show in real life was on point. And I wanted to read more of that – as well as more analysis of the other characters and show in general, but then it stopped and kind of went into another direction with the comparing and contrasting of Claire to more modern depictions of black womanhood, which is another great topic.

    There are lots to be written and said about both topics. But combining them into one essay, kind of leaves out vital transitions and forces readers to make leaps, which they might not be clued into all.

    Personally I would love to see CFC do a longer, focused piece on the Cosby show.

  8. You…wove…a provocative thesis.
    I still love the crazy campiness and crossover of Claire Huxtable appearing as the angelic everyMom on the ‘first menstruation’ episode of Blossom. I’m not sure what is supposed to be allowed in your world as far as a man discussing such matters, but it was loopy, sweet, forward-thinking, affirmative, wickedly satirical, and one of the top 10 television moments I know of.
    I get all of your critiques of the Cosby show, I feel like the iconography is a trap, and the extremely narrow bandwidth of Black experience represented, is not progressive…but I wonder if maybe killing the show’s characters is more of a personal need for your own recovery, rather than a moral imperative for all people of Conscience. Or of Color.

  9. I think you’re reading waaaaay to much into all of this..

    1. calling Bill Cosby a rapist on hearsay is slander and libel

    2. Saying that him being a flawed human being is reason enough to besmirch his legacy of the Cosy Show is ridiculous. Its the same reasoning racists used to oppose the federal holiday for MLK or discount the civil rights movement because King may have cheated on his wife.

    Your criticisms of the sitcom and its portrayals should be legitimate and stand on their own without relying on unsubstantiated rumors. You do a disservice to your point by going that route.

  10. Rather than Cosby’s progressive feminist attitudes being a sham and him being a “representational terrorist”, maybe he’s, you know, like innocent of being a rapist. There was no upside to him portraying Claire in a progressive frame. I think he did it because it represented his views.

  11. I know who Analise and Mary Jane are, but who is Liv? Sorry, couldn’t find a last name anywhere to look it up myself…

  12. I tend to agree with commenters who promote separating the icon’s personal transgressions (shameful and disappointing as they may be) from the icon’s social message. Here’s why: Once the message is out and reaches enough truly like-minded people, people passionate about change, it becomes a social movement, it becomes the public’s–at least the portion of the public who wants and works for the change–and then the larger public who finally starts to listen. Social movements take time and a whole, whole lot of people. The icon is a rallying point, an initial spark, a charismatic leader. And despite their horrendous personal lives (what I wouldn’t do to unlearn that MLK Jr was a philanderer and that John Lennon was a wife-beater), we still owe a debt of gratitude for their time on Earth and the social changes they brought to bear. It seems, sadly, that NO ONE is above reproach. (Shit, the Dalai Lama even signed a deal with Lululemon, a super sexist and size-ist corporation this week. Sigh.) Neither Olivia Pope nor Annalise Keating are above reproach at all–just characters without a helpful social message–yet they get a pass? (The powerful message there comes from the fact that they are African-American actresses in powerful roles on mainstream roles–which is AWESOME.)

    But: to turn your thesis on it’s head: what if these actresses are assholes in real life? Also this: Do we want African-American girls (or all American girls) to grow up looking at these characters as models to be emulated? To be cynical and conniving like Annalise or assuredly professional but personally kind of a wreck (a somewhat unbelievable dichotomy) Olivia Pope? It’s all just part of the new wave of bad guy/sociopath-as-hero television a la Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones. It’s a distressing trend mirroring a distressing tone in our country today. I would much rather have out kids learn from who I was TV-raised by: Clair Huxtable, The Golden Girls and Designing Women. Tough, loving, principled, independent hard-working women, all of them.

  13. Don’t kill Clair.

    You write: “Part of the reason pop culture is so important is because it refuses in so many ways to give us characters that conform to the shape of our deepest political desires. In so doing, it forces us to grapple with what it means to want the things we want. It makes us imagine that we could (and perhaps should) want other, better things.”

    Yes yes yes!

    And yes you also write, “… in Cosby Land, Clair Huxtable can’t be a divorcee or a single mama.”

    Wait, why not?

    I get that this essay is about how black women view the representation of black women in pop culture and how that representation prescribes and proscribes the sense of their own possibilities. I am not trying to hijack the discussion away from that perspective. But let me just reflect back to you what I saw in Clair, growing up a white kid in a white household in the South, loving the Cosby show.

    I saw the family as similar to my own, not in a false “colorblind” way, but in the sense that their differences didn’t nearly eclipse the things that were the same, and their differences were cool and interesting. In Clair, I saw much that was familiar. The capital-R Respectability you are grappling with here was to me a given. I didn’t know any moms who were not Respectable. But Clair possessed a quality that was exciting and unfamiliar that I at a tender age took to believing was a distinctive trait of black women: fierce love, intolerance of disrespect, defiance in the face of bullshit. She knew how to call people out, stand her ground. I didn’t know any moms like that. I secretly resolved to be more like Clair, less like my own mother.

    And if this fierce, professional, capable, seemingly flawless woman, was, it comes to light, married not a supportive and saintly patriarch but to a serial rapist … well, that’s not so foreign to my world either. I’ve known a lot of women my mother’s age, and some my own, who seemed so perfect on the outside, invulnerable and proud, whose domestic fictions were exposed for all the neighborhood and the world to see. Hidden alcoholism, abuse, embezzlement, infidelity, suicide. The gynecologist who was a pillar of the community turned out to be a sexual predator? Yeah, I know that one.

    I submit to you that it’s far more interesting to think about how Clair Huxtable would survive this than it is to kill her off because her existence as a divorced single mom seems unfathomable. It was pretty unfathomable to my mom’s friends, too, but they’re still standing (most of them).

    How would Clair handle this unraveling? How would she repair her relationship with Denise? How would she bear the humiliation and the vulnerability of being a victim, possibly even an accessory? Probably not with the same weariness that the WASP moms I knew bore it. With a different weariness, maybe. In any case, she’d handle it like a flawed and complex human being, capable of reinvention even after devastation.

    I would watch the hell out of that show.

  14. Despite her obvious power, Clair wielded it surreptitiously, even deceptively, to ensure that Cliff retained his status as patriarch. His ego was always being preserved. He was gently redirected or even tricked into the proper response by the wise, all-knowing Clair. It was never lost on me that Cliff, even when he bumbled, was the head of the house, even though Clair was always the one who knew best. The good woman (the one who directs the outcome but always lets her man be a man) paradigm was the one I aspired to. I wanted Clair for my mother, I wanted to be Clair for my husband. However, being a paragon of virtue and strength is tiring and soul-killing. Now, I much prefer the imperfection of today’s TV heroines, even though I do not always agree with their choices.

    • This is interesting to me because my 11 year old daughter is currently watching the cosby show. I watched it as a teenager and had forgotten most of its content. Now that I am watching it as an adult, it’s a very different experience. We have been watching it for the last year and are down to the last season. I feel compelled to comment because my viewing is pretty fresh.

      I was surprised at how progressive claire and cliff’s relationship is. The dynamic you are describing exist in virtually all sitcoms, from the 80’s to present- the smart mom who has to subvert her knowledge so that the dad can appear wise. I hate it too, its tedious and uninteresting. I had forgotten that this is not what happens on the cosby show. Really the only time we see that dynamic is when cliff eats unhealthily or tries to fix things around the house.

      When it comes to childcare and cooking, he was very much involved while she had her briefcase and was off working late hours. Also, just so the viewers didn’t take this for granted, there was the sondra and alvin relationship dynamic wherein alvin had great difficulty with claire’s work/home balance. It was clear that alvin’s opinions were problematic and his character grew throughout the series thanks to the senior huxtables example.

      Claire and cliff’s work/home life is so unusual for a hetero nuclear family set-up. So many women in similar set-ups dream of this kind of partnership and it is shocking to see it depicted on a mainstream tv show from the 80’s. Why it’s so elusive on tv or in real life, I can’t understand. I can’t think of any current show that has thus dynamic 30+ years later. The fact that it occurred in a show about a black family is even more spectacular. I love that my daughter is seeing a normalized depiction of this with a great comedic element.

      As for Cosby and the reports of rape, its truly awful and it is terrible that he is not held accountable because of his wealth and fame. Still, I am grateful that we had this type of show and the characters of Claire and Cliff.

      Finally, I have to agree, having recently seen the Denise/sex/marriage episode-yuk, it was gross- but I don’t expect perfection and many of the other episodes make up for it.

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  16. When was Bill Cosby convicted of these crimes? I’m not denying the stories of the women who have come forward, but in the name of fairness, Cosby’s rights have to be taken into account just as much as anyone else’s. Until he’s convicted, he is presumed innocent in our system of justice.

  17. I don’t agree that she should kill Clair Huxtable, i mean why throw the baby with the bathwater? She was a hero, not just for black women, but for women everywhere. I may not be black, but i never identified myself as white, either. I identified with the Huxtables – the parent’s challenge of raising good kids and catching them when they were trying to pull off stunts, their mannerisms, humor, close-knit family ties, etc. were very familiar in my Arab household. These were values i grew up with, and I am not so sure what Clair Huxtable ever did to black women to cause such an aggressive backlash. Can you explain the beef some people have with her character because i don’t get it. Thanks:)

  18. Wow.

    I’ve read most the comments here, and just WOW.

    We, I mean Black women, so fucked up we can’t even decide who we are by our own lonesome and integrity to ourselves. All of these women in the media share a certain truth and relationship with Black women.

    Saying the Claire Huxtable is killing us is dumbest shit I’ve ever heard/read.

    We are killing ourselves by thinking these women are the only ones can be of representation. And that because of Bill Cosby’s rape assault she’s no longer a valid character for modern day Black women. At least that’s what I got from reading the article and the comments.

    Clair Huxtable still exists. Ya’ll are some fucking dummies if you think she doesn’t.

    And women like Liv, Ana and Mary Jane all exists. Modern day Black aren’t all fucked up and struggling. We share many stories and experiences, but life paths.

    That’s just common sense. A person’s past just don’t go away because of current life and day-to-day changes and drama. Clair Huxtable doesn’t just go away. Surely, the Black women of today are more relatable… Duh.

    Just stop it. Some of ya’ll…are stupid. Yea I said it.

  19. The flaw of this article is the nullification of Clair’s character due to her association with Cliff’s..

    I am continuously confused by modern feminism and what it truly stands for.. When all some seem to care about is validating the right of women to willfully parade their own destructive implosions as a justification for equality. What we project as wholesome has a direct correlation to what our culture collectively becomes, so to suggest that any of these modern characters are more aspirational than the character of Clair Huxtable goes directly to the heart of our issues as a community i.e. Our lack of value for a wholesome nuclear family.

    We make it cool to be a baby-mama, not that there is anything inherently wrong with mothering a child out of wed-lock but the glorification of it takes away from the daily realities of the problems that single-parenthood is causing in our communities. I don’t know, maybe I’m misunderstanding the article but if we are discounting the relevance of a woman solely because of her association to a man, isn’t that definitively anti-feminist? Understanding gender and playing to these strengths to keep a successful marriage is by no means a flaw, rather, taking a stoic position of what a woman should not do is counter-feminist. Respect, should be given to all people, not based on gender but for the simple fact that they are human. We keep isolating and categorizing respect and what we do not realize is, any time you isolate any basic human right by category, you create a counter movement or resistance from those who feel sidelined by the categorization.

  20. Wow! Tell us how you really feel Karima. Name calling just to get a point across let’s us see how far some of us have evolved intellectually. None of the other replies resorted to name calling and all had great responses.

  21. Why does the ultimate goal of black feminism always seem to settle for you f****** whoever you want whenever you want and not being called out for it? We still have unequal pay for women, women all over the world being kept from an education. Missing black girls who get no media coverage. And yet all I seem to see are these manifestos demanding sisters be given the psychic space to f*** whoever’s man when the mood strikes. #philosophicalthottistry

  22. Too one sided and had already drawn a conclusion before it started.

    Also belittled the work of the other characters (Clair in particular) and participants in The Cosby Show which as far as I am concerned in terms of ethnic television is still yet to be bettered. Surely the very fact that Clairs existence, success and truth is linked to Cliffs just because they were married on a television show goes against the very essence of feminism.

    Altogether, this article read poorly and wasted 10 minutes of my life….

    Ps; I don’t think that Bill Cosby vilifies the poor. He vilifies the mentally poor. There’s a very stark difference.

  23. In the past few years, I’ve seen Black America show utter disdain for Bill Cosby. This saddens me to no end…I’ll explain why in a few. But first let’s deal with the rape issues that seem to be at the root of this article. 13 women accused Cosby of Rape. Cosby came to a financial settlement with all of them. All of them took the money and walked. Now, I recently read one of the stories from a woman that said bill “drugged and raped her” but that she continued to work with him for two years. I’ll just leave that right there….

    As for Claire…I can’t understand why to many of you, being a feminist means everything but being a working mother and wife. I don’t know where you are, but MOST of the Black women I know live in that reality. My mother was Claire Huxtable. No, she wasn’t a Lawyer, she was a social worker. No my father wasn’t a doctor, he was a plant foreman. But they worked to give my siblings and I the closest thing to the Cosby show as they could. Like the Huxtables, they sent all their kids to college. They have three educated children..one with a doctorate, one a masters, and the other a bachelors. That narrative exists and should be the one we aspire towards instead of the one we rebel against and try to destroy.

    I often sit with my kids and think of the silly fun had on the Cosby show. I loved the spirit of the show. I love how he wove African reality subtly into a middle class existence. I love how he promoted HBCU’s in a way that had never been done nationally. Until Cosby, how was the Black family represented? Lets take a look:

    Good Times: I loved the show, but ever notice how angry and verbally abusive they made James Evans’ character? When he rebelled, what was the result? They killed him off.

    Jeffersons: Barely focused on the family….and once again a boisterous angry Black man running around calling folks honkey.

    Sanford and Son: Another angry Black man calling his son a Dummy every 5 minutes.

    Cosby birthed a new paradigm in television where a Black family unit was seen in a positive light. Shows like Family Guy were a result of Cosby’s influence. I’m not sure how many of you have children or how many are married, but for those who are, I challenge you to find another show that shows the Black family in unity. I pray the show Blackish (despite the name) can hold up to the standard set by Bill.

    Now, as for my initial statement addressing the disdain for Bill, it shows 0 appreciation for what the man has done. I’ve heard the same people who hate on Bill show love for Richard Pryer. How many Black kids has Pryer put through college? How many Blacks has he hired? How has he uplifted Black America? Pryer has done nothing but do drugs and date white women. Where is your article critiquing him? Not gonna find it. Why? Because Black Americans only attack those trying to be positive. That was and always is the grand plan laid by our oppressors and too many of us are more than willing to play the part.

    So go ahead and bury the Cosby family in your word, but they are alive and well in mine.

  24. I read some of the comments on this article. Ugh it’s too much. First of all, Cliff was a character and it was a show, not real life, no matter how closely it mirrored it for some. If he did these things then that’s saddening and despicable but that doesn’t erase the point made, values taught or good that show did for those watching it. It gave a new look to not only black family life but family life in general…a breath of fresh air. I loved that family of characters despite what their REAL lives may have been.

    As for the comments that speak of these new shows as being more representative of us now or worthy of some type of respect, I think not. I can only speak on the two I have seen before, Scandal and Mary Jane. Neither of them should be representative of or an example to anyone…at least not to all the people I see fill up my newsfeed with praises to God…considering the main characters of these shows that should somehow be an example to us are both adulterers. Their life centers around sleeping with someone’s husband. If this is what the picture of a successful woman, modern day family or new age example is then I want no part of it.

    Tho all of the images can reflect so many of us at any given time because we range from strength to struggling and virtuous to flawed we need not set the latter as the image we prefer to relate to or find representation in. How pointless it would be to say because you didn’t meet my expectation in real life I thus will cancel out all good you may have done elsewhere. You criticize in disgust the real person who is flawed and sinful yet attempts to portray a virtuous tv image to the masses but you adore and revere the flawed, sinful, immoral characters and you prefer these to be the image and example to you and your children. Either your values are severely flawed or your real life mimics these characters more closely than you would have us believe.

    As for the death of Claire Huxtable…REALLY! I guess in your mind she must die because she was an oppressive image born from the controlling mind of the sinister person we know as Bill Cosby. So let’s run to the other side and instead lift up the Liv’s and Mary Jane’s of the world. But let’s really look at this…Liv and MaryJane or Claire…Liv and MaryJane or Claire…hummm. I think Claire for 200 Alex.

    Why? Because Claire was a well dressed, well mannered, successful, educated wife and mother of 5 children with one “baby daddy”, polite, well spoken, well spoken of, cultured and well rounded. She worked hard to help Cliff raise their kids and materially provide for them. She taught them to be mannerable, respectful, to see the need for education, to be self assured and independent.

    And while she herself was independent and successful in her own right she was always respectful, supportive and submissive to her husband…never removing the “teeth” from his authority as head. She did and was all these things while being virtuous, moral and spiritual in action and not just word. Claire Huxtable was truly the epitome of class, a woman I would have loved to have as my mother and to have been myself as a woman.

    • “never removing the “teeth” from his authority as head.” Am I too young? What does this mean??

  25. This article gives me a lot to think over. My basic wondering: is it right to destroy the woman because of the failings of the man?

  26. I think there has to be room in our imaginaries for all of these characters. It is a logical fallacy to suggest that existence of one character precludes the existence of others. We can have multiple loves. Moreover, I’m struggling to figure out how a black feminist site feels it is ok to totally erase the work of Phylicia Rashad, as someone we should continue to value, despite what Bill Cosby has (given the mounds of evidence) apparently done.

    • I have no problem with all these characters existing. I have a problem with the fact that Clair’s representation feels as though it is becoming hegemonic. The professional Black women characters on tv today are held up to her and found wanting. This comments section in large measure reflects exactly this kind of thinking. So acknowledging the work of Phylicia Rashad is entirely possible, while still advocating for a world in which 22 years after a show has gone off the air, we aren’t going hard in the paint to keep that singular representation of a Black female character as a shining example of what is possible and what is most desired for Black female representation *today*. I mean, What other Black woman on TV 20 years or 10 years ago even are we fighting to keep? So for me this is also a question of investments.

  27. But I think it is important to acknowledge that when you frame the argument in relationship to Bill Cosby’s behavior, framing Claire Huxtable as defined entirely by him, you erase Rashad’s contributions and you are allowing him to determine her legacy. We have quite enough black women devalued in TV history. And I quite simply don’t understand the “fight to keep” argument. She was an important representation to many of us. Nobody has to “fight to keep” Lucille Ball or white people who made important contributions to television. They just keep them. We should just keep them in our memories and expose them to others because they matter and history matters. I think it is important not encourage a multiplicity of representations. I value Olivia Pope on the landscape quite a bit, although the jury is still out on HTGAWM for me. I have no interest in buying into an argument where we have to kill a representation so others can live. Let’s not buy into binaries that make black women singular. We can embrace flawed women and the impossible ideal that was Claire Huxtable as doing different work (and let us not forget genre specificity here–she was in a family sitcom, which is an entirely different genre than the characters who are necessarily more complicated because of genre differences).

  28. Whether we like Bill Cosby and company today or not really does not matter; the Cosby Show served a purpose; showing that black people could be successful, articulate, educated and just like normal white folk. And we are normal people with normal problems and a few extra ones. For me it does not change the power of that initial representation and how it positively impacted American society. The immense good of that show during that time cannot be calculated or diminished. So Cosby and company are not perfect…and you are?

  29. Pingback: The Black Woman on TV: Making Room for Imperfection (Cinema in Noir) - Reelsistas

  30. Instead of attacking iconic shows , take on the real person. The Cosby show and different world were POSATIVE programs let them s tand on their own. Peace and blessings.

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  32. So great dad Dr Cliff Huxtable was played by a serial rapist predator. Ah well, we have a real great dad with a great family in the White House. With an accomplished empowered wife, really nice kids, and even a live in grandmother thrown in for good measure. I think we will be just fine.
    But the loss of innocence and heroes continues. The other great dad in 7th Heaven was played by a pedophile. What shoe will drop next?

  33. People need healing
    We need fathers
    and people who may not have it together who are still willing to raise fathers and hold them accountable without hurting anyone to achieving

    Every human needs healing in their soul, I know I do and that is why I go to church every Sunday to meet with God
    A lot of time I have to cut through the BS and still do my best to serve God because I love Him
    Bill Cosby needs healing and so do the women and he also needs to pay for his crimes if it will make the women feel better.
    I could suggest they forgave him and let him go but if he is still raping more women, he needs to shut up and go seat in jail for some time and maybe, just maybe he would listen to what he needs to get him to God.

    From the other article, he lived that whole double life because as people a lot of us are used to wearing masks and pretending that everything is okay even when we have shifted from God’s kingdom into the devil’s playground and are dancing to his tune, all the while pretending to be in tune with God.

    Only God can save such people and so the rest of us, we pray for their spirit, souls and bodies that they would come under the dominion of God once again

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  34. The Cosby Show is one of the best TV shows ever. I can watch it with my kids, and they take a positive message from it. His works on television are separate issues from is private life. Was he convicted for these crimes? In my life i have seen bad men do good things, and good men do bad things. The Cosby Show is a good thing.

  35. Kudos to this site. Some of the best comments I have ever read. What I wouldn’t give to be at a dinner party with 80sGriot, Sheneta or Rebecca? Excellent points made by all.

    Wondering if you deliberately threw Claire under the bus to get buzz for your piece….it seems silly to have to say but here goes anyway…..you do understand that these characters were speaking the words of writers? If a person can convince you of the words that have been written for them they have done their job. Cliff and Claire are beloved not because they shared the same magical brain, they were compliments of each other without being boring or predictable in key ways. That Bill Cosby convinced you says he’s a great actor. That you seem incapable of separating a character from the real person is sad.

    Beyoncé seems to be this generation’s Claire. I have issues with Beyoncé but one thing I try to never do is pretend I really know any of these people. For the most part they let you see what they want you to see and powerful interests will hide the things they don’t want you to know or expose them whenever they feel like it.
    That younger women flock to emulate Beyoncé says a lot. No show in the last twenty years has reached the level of writing about a black family in a sitcom since the Cosby Show. That’s sad. Claire seems to be dead already because so few young women remember what a class act she was. Blackish is great writing but the chemistry between the mom and dad isn’t as delicious as Claire and Bill’s.

    Can we grow up and acknowledge that writers crafters these stories are doing so to help us humanize and empathize with others, as well as ourselves. That Bill failed to live up to what the writers of his show sought to emphasize is sad but it is also life. Some of us will be who we need to be to get what we want, bringing our demons along with us and until they are exorcised we will continue to operate in darkness. Claire’s character is as valid as Bill’s and that goes to the success of the writers and the performers. The personal lives of these characters is their own business (unless and until they are harming others).

    As a writer, I am surprised that you did not acknowledge the success of the shoe being the quality of the writers and performers. Great writers tell the truth. Poor writing is just propaganda when it’s written to spark controversy and stir up contention.

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  38. What if its not true!!!!! what if its not true!!!!! Why are we so ready to say its true!!!!!! this is scary because I feel like Blacks are so quick to demonize him because he critizied us! This sounds presonal and sexist (yes i said sexist) Its the “look see who is he to talk he is a rapest” its the “see we found the preacher with his pants down”. We got mad when people say that all blacks are… but this sounds like we are saying all men if accused are rapest!!!! this is wrong and someone has to be responsible and mature about this. assasitantion of someones charecter is the worst thing you can do to them because you cant come back from that. If he did it that yes everything you are saying should happen. If not what you say “oops my bad” his name is destroyed!!!! this is so irrisponsible from who i thought was a level minded thinker! If the majoriity says something does that make it true? No, proof makes it true. Facts make it true. lets see that before we hand out the death penalty becaue if it was you… well lets just be thankful its not.

  39. I love Claire Huxtable.

    She did set a high bar. She didn’t compromise on HER belief in a high bar. She lived that example to her husband, her children, and her friends. You can say that she isn’t realistic… but she wasn’t “just” an example to black women and children. She wasn’t “just” Cliff’s fantasy… Claire was an example to white women as well. She was someone desirable to all men. She was someone that could mother many children.

    Olive Pope makes me watch her in excitement, not as a role-model. Most people want to know Olivia or have her drive or her smarts. They don’t want her life or to BE her. People watch Analise and think, Wow… a black lady with her own business and she’s tough. They don’t want her life though. Her life is messy and she is to blame for quite a bit of it. Claire was tough. And she did it with humanity and she did it 30 years early.

    What?? Is it the fact that Claire was somewhat “conservative” and didn’t seem like she wasn’t in complete control of herself… is THAT the issue? That Claire took control, and accountability for herself and her actions? She ruled her house. She rocked her job. She maintained her sense of self and she kept a man interested and her children cared for… is that the issue? That she did TOO good? It made the comparison feel awkward to people? Pshaw… whatever.

    People wanted to BE Claire, not just watch her.

    **** I realize reading this back that I write with passion, like I know these people or that they are real. The success of BOTH is that I do feel like I know the characters and that I know their lives through watching them. The difference though, is that people are equating Cliff=Bill. Using that logic, Phylicia, then, too, equals Claire. And Phylicia Rashad is a formidable and respectable woman. She is a celebrated and talented woman. She is a bar-raising woman. She is a woman that has done it all, too, and she did it at a time when women were even further away from equality and the ability to express such ideals.

    ****** On a second, non-related point – People make notes that perhaps Bill Cosby is innocent. Our judicial system would agree with that either through the loopholes of statutes of limitations, or previous settlements. However, it is not ONE man’s word against ONE woman’s word. It is ONE man’s word against FIFTEEN women’s words. And even after that, it took another man defending the women before people took it seriously. I hope the author realizes that in praising one lawyer and demonizing another that Analise would take his case and defend Bill Cosby. Her specialty isn’t caring about the guilt or innocence. Her specialty is winning. Claire Huxtable would have none of that foolishness and would be the first to defend the women.

  40. Pingback: bill cosby-Articles: Bill Cosby: Why Now?- Stupid Liberals -Conservative, Truthful, Unvarnished News and Commentary - TheUnvarnished.com

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  45. Consider Cosby’s hit-persona name: Heathcliff (“Cliff”) Huxtable … that choice speaks volumes.

  46. Pingback: OUR SUNDAY LINKS : GUTS Canadian Feminist Magazine

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