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UMass Amherst COMM 226 - Theory Comm226 Paper

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THEORY SECTION The Huxtable family, of African American descent, was depicted differently than the ideology associated with their culture. Cliff Huxtable was a respectable man with principles that structured his family to become successful. Alongside him was Claire Huxtable, an attractive women that held down the household and cared for the children. In which, all of the children seemed to be smart and educated, even attending prestigious colleges after secondary education. America’s drainage system anticipates that African Americans tend to graduate high school and then are incarcerated shortly after. Framing the Huxtable’s as a family with ‘white culture’, effectively allowed the producers to alter the perception of African Americans capabilities in society. The ability to obtain a job, family, and wealth was always viewed as the American dream, and seemed incapable of achieving for minorities. Frame effects “at their most powerful, invite people to think about an issue in a particular way” insists Dietram Scheufele. The powerful assessment of Cliff Huxtable being a well regarded African American doctor allowed society to view African Americans differently. A professor of African American Studies at Duke University in North Carolina, Mark Anthony Neal stated, “It was a regular opportunity to see black life portrayed in a 'responsible' manner.” The show helped shift prejudices and predetermined thoughts from criminality and drugs to morals and a valued education. A father figure endures the role he plays in a child's life, being supportive of their needs, a hardworking example, and a source of wisdom and knowledge. Cliff gave America a man to model their goals and ethics around. In particular, young African American males were drawn toCliff Huxtable, often growing a parasocial relationship with the fictional character. According to Cynthia Vinney, “the media user imagines a long-term bond with a media figure that extends outside the viewing or listening situation.” The connection shifted from an interaction to a relationship as society depicted Cliff Huxtable as the model father figure, considering him “America’s Dad.” Actors of African American descent were not framed in the presence of Cliff Huxtable. The fictional character was always making those around him laugh but all the while delivering an impactful message. Despite current circumstances surrounding cliff Huxtable's actor Bill Cosby, viewers still seemed to have a connection with the fictional character. According to the popular blogger network, The Medium, viewers “had to learn and accept who Bill Cosby was because, on the set of ‘The Cosby Show’, he was our dad, Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable.” All the memories built up in one character allowed the relationship to stay intact despite the actors legal matters. This is due to the relationship viewers had with Cliff Huxtiable, rather than Bill Cosby. The structure of commitment to work, family, and ethics allowed morals to be taught from self consciously


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