Comedy and Romance: On Diff’rent Strokes and Webster

  • Jared SextonEmail author


This chapter looks at earlier imagery of black youth in US visual culture, discussing the post-civil rights era television situation comedy as a commentary on the racial politics of kinship. It takes Bernie Kukoff and Jeff Harris’s Diff’rent Strokes (1978–1986) and Stu Silver’s Webster (1983–1989) as prime examples. It traces black man-child characters of 1970s and 1980s primetime programming to Buckwheat of the Our Gang film series (1922–1944) and to Topsy of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852). These characters betray forms of indiscernible difference linked to a general crisis of categories. The ongoing struggle to politicize black family preservation against attempts by state and civil society to shatter bonds between black parents and children returns symptomatically in the sitcom’s performance and reception.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of African American StudiesUniversity of California, IrvineIrvineUSA

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