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In Jacqueline Bobo’s article, “The Color Purple: Black Women as Cultural Readers”, it is
discussed how black women create meaning out of the mainstream text of the film “The
Color Purple”. In Leslie B Innis and Joe R. Feagin’s article, “The Cosby Show: The
View from the Black Middle Class”, they are explaining black middle-classed responses
to the portrayal of Black family life on “The Cosby Show”. In their articles, Bobo, Innis
and Feagin are investigating the representation of race, particularly African American
race, in the mass media. However, these two shows are better portrayed than what was
seen in the first article. This article “Midnight Ramble” portrays a much earlier media
perception of African Americans. The information shows the first blacks in films, as well
as the white actors who were painted up to portray the black characters. “Midnight
Ramble” occurred between WWI and the 1950’s. This, while not an excuse, does at least
The chief concerns of the investigations of the articles, lie in how African Americans deal
with the way these representations portray them individually and their social group as a
whole. This paper’s purpose is to compare the issues in each article and analyze the
larger sociopolitical implications of these media representations.

In Bobo’s article, the chief concerns of the author are “the savage and brutal depiction of
black men in the film”, “black family instability”, and the way that black women embrace
the film and use their own reconstructed meaning of it to “empower themselves and their
social group”(Bobo, 90-92). Film, as a medium, starts out with many potential limitations
and problems when it comes to representing a whole race of people. No two people are
exactly alike no matter what race they come from, so there is no one film that can
represent all people. Unfortunately, many people believe that this is possible. Some
believe that a certain depiction of black people characterizes all black people, which is
certainly not the case. This is dangerous because it involves stereotyping and
The viewing public pays for movies, therefore, movie producers have to tailor their
product so that the majority of viewers will enjoy, and agree with their product, so that the
majority of viewers will enjoy, and agree with the ideas behind the film. The majority
still, almost always means white America. Even African American based movies are
made for white audiences. The representation of blacks in this type of environment does
not always portray the real African American person. The film “The Color Purple” has
been the center of controversy since it was made in 1985.many feel that the film is a bad
portrayal of black family life, and that it is stereotypically portraying black men as evil
and brutal who imprison and abuse women. The main purpose of Bobo’s article was to
find out why black women loved the movie so much and if they saw the film as helping or
hindering their cause. Bobo did find that while many black women loved the movie, they
found things inherently wrong with the way black men were portrayed. They did find the
film positive, though, because it did portray black women in a more positive way than
most other films. The women found power in the film and were able to identify with this
search of power and their own identity.
“The Color Purple” presented a new type of feminism to black women who were used to
seeing black women characters portrayed as slaves, maids, or nannies. “The women saw
the film as a little bit of truth wrapped in a blanket of stereotypes” (Bobo,102). They did
believe that it was a story that needed to be told. The larger implications of “The Color
Purple” are very serious. Black family life is presented as dysfunctional. Women are
seen as fragile and easily abused by their men. And, even though it is suppose to be a
middle classed family, it is portrayed as a lower classed family.

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In Innis and Feagin’s article, the chief concerns of the authors are how black middle
classed people are viewed on television, particularly, on “The Cosby Show”.
Unfortunately, television presents many potential problems. This occur because it is
watched by such a wide variety of people, there has to be some identifying characteristics
to tell people who is being presented and what they stand for. Usually this type of
identifying information consists of stereotypes for comic relief. Also, due to the nature of
television sponsors, writers are unable to tackle pressing issues, and challenge the
majority. Instead, it uses stock characters and scenes to tell the same stories over and
over. This leaves little room for showing reality.
The authors conducted a study. They gathered 100 people and recorded their views on
the show “The Cosby Show”. The responses varied from harshly negative to extremely
positive, depending on who that person related themselves to on the show. People who
said the show was negative had no similar experiences to compare themselves to the
Huxtable family. These people felt the show was too “white” and did not portray the
living experiences of a black middle classed American family. Others felt “The Cosby
Show” made respondents feel that real problems suffered by black families such as
racism, classism, and lack of opportunity, were irrelevant because they were not even
According to the article, the shows popularity has set back race relations because its view
of black assimilation fails to take into account the context of the world outside of the four
walls of the Huxtable household. (Innis, 692). “The Cosby Show” shows easy upward
mobility with no signs of discrimination at all. This is hardly what people consider to be
the typical black experience. If after watching “The Cosby Show”, “white America” takes
the previous idea as true, black people will have an even harder time gaining equality
because whites have a false vision of what blacks have been through, and may just
believe that they are lazy and don’t want to better themselves. In reality, it is a great
challenge for black Americans to overcome all of these preconceived notions and are able
In analyzing these articles, the studies of how black people respond to how they are
represented on television and movies, we see that a lot more ground needs to be covered.
This especially is true in the areas of equality and political correctness when it comes to
the media. We can see, however, that people are not just sitting blindly in front of the
televisions. People are thinking about images presented to them and analyzing them once
they are presented on the screen. This idea shows that people can be good media
consumers and can make good choices as to what is and is not good media. Television
may never be a rainbow colored nation that represents us all, however, it is hoped that
what is portrayed will at least one day be close to true, and will not harm how society
Works Cited Page
Bobo, Jacqueline.”The Color Purple: Black Women as Cultural Readers”. E.D. Pribram (Ed.) Female Spectators: Looking at film and Television. London: Verso, 1988.

Innis, L. and J. Feagin. “Views from the Black Middle Class”. Journal of Black Studies, 1995, Vol 25, pp. 692-711.
Stewart, Neil.”Midnight Ramble.” Modern Times.1998.Online.Internet. 28 Apr. 2000


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