Comedy and Romance: On Diff’rent Strokes and Webster
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.
- Acham, Christine. 2004. Revolution Televised: Prime Time and the Struggle for Black Power. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
- Bernstein, Robin. 2011. Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
- Child Welfare Information Gateway. 2017. Foster Care Statistics 2015. Children’s Bureau, Numbers and Trends, March. Accessed May 28, 2017. https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/foster/.
- Dalton, Mary, and Laura Linder (eds.). 2005. The Sitcom Reader: American Viewed and Skewed. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
- Fanon, Frantz. 2006. Black Skin, White Masks, trans. Richard Philcox. New York: Grove Press.Google Scholar
- Fearn-Banks, Kathleen. 2006. The A to Z of African-American Television. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.Google Scholar
- Gupta, Prachi. 2017. GOP Rep. Steve King Would Like to See an America That’s ‘So Homogenous That We Look a Lot the Same’. The Slot, March 13. Accessed May 28, 2017. http://theslot.jezebel.com/gop-rep-steve-king-would-like-to-see-an-america-thats-1793212880.
- Hamamoto, Darrell. 1991. Nervous Laughter: Television Situation Comedy and Liberal Democratic Ideology. New York: Praeger Publishers.Google Scholar
- Hartman, Saidiya. 2007. Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
- Heffernan, Virginia. 2006. Revealing the Wages of Young Sitcom Fame. New York Times, September 4. Accessed May 28, 2017. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/04/arts/television/04stro.html.
- Hoberman, James. 2007. The Slums of Park Slope. Village Voice, September 11. Accessed May 28, 2017. https://www.villagevoice.com/2007/09/11/the-slums-of-park-slope/.
- Ibelema, Minabere. 1990. Identity Crisis: The African Connection in African American Sitcom Characters. In Sexual Politics & Popular Culture, edited by Diane Raymond, 121–130. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press.Google Scholar
- Jewison, Norman. 1970. The Landlord. DVD. Directed by Hal Foster. Santa Monica, CA: MGM/United Artists.Google Scholar
- Marrati, Paula. 2005. Genesis and Trace: Derrida Reading Husserl and Heidegger. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
- Miller, James Andrew, and Tom Shales. 2014. Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers, and Guests. New York: Little, Brown and Company.Google Scholar
- Moore, Barbara, Marvin Bensman, and Jim Van Dyke. 2006. Prime-Time Television: A Concise History. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.Google Scholar
- Moran, Rachel. 2001. Interracial Intimacy: The Regulation of Race and Romance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Morreale, Joanne (ed.). 2003. Critiquing the Sitcom: A Reader. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
- Muhummad, Khalil Gibran. 2010. The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- National Association of Black Social Workers. 2003. Preserving Families of African Ancestry. Accessed May 28, 2017. http://nabsw.org/?page=PositionPapers.
- Nyong’o, Tavia. 2002. Racial Kitsch and Black Performance. Yale Journal of Criticism 15: 371–391.Google Scholar
- Ozersky, Josh. 2003. Archie Bunker’s America: TV in an Era of Change, 1968–1978. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. Google Scholar
- Roberts, Dorothy. 2002. Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- Rothman, Barbara Katz. 2004. Transracial Adoption: Refocusing Upstream. In The Politics of Multiracialism: Challenging Racial Thinking, ed. Heather Dalmage, 193–202. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
- Saletan, William. 2005. Natural Unborn Killers: The Bigotry of Bill Bennett’s Low Expectations. Slate, October 4. Accessed May 28, 2017. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/human_nature/2005/10/natural_unborn_killers.html.
- Seifter, Andrew. 2005. “Media Matters Exposes Bennett.” Media Matters For America, September 28. Accessed May 28, 2017. https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2005/09/28/media-matters-exposes-bennett-you-could-aborte/133904.
- Spillers, Hortense. 2003. Black, White, and In Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Squires, Catherine. 2009. African Americans and the Media. Malden, MA: Polity.Google Scholar
- Stowe, Harriett Beecher. 1852. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Or Life Among the Lowly. Salt Lake City, UT: Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation. Accessed May 28, 2017. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/203/203-h/203-h.htm.
- Taylor, Ella. 1989. Prime Time Families: Television Culture in Postwar America. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar