Leave it to Fox’s “The Cleveland Show” to Pick Up Where BET’s “We Got to Do Better” Left Off

ClevelandIt could be because for the first time America has a Black president and the First Lady is a sista, and together with their two beautiful Black daughters overnight improved the international image of Black people, let alone Americans. But leave it to the diabolical minds at Fox Networks to pick up where BET left off with the debut of their newest show “The Cleveland Show,” where in just 22 minutes they managed to portray Black mothers as unmarried promiscuous sexual objects, Black teenage girls as headed down the same path as their mothers, young Black boys as sexual deviants, and Black people period as being unable to speak anything other than Ebonics—all in the name of comedy.

Just like with the character Shirley Q. Liquor, a Black unmarried welfare mother who guzzles malt liquor, drives a Caddy, and has nineteen “chirrun” some of who are named Cheeto, Orangello, Chlamydia, and Kmartina, who is routinely performed by a white man in blackface, there’s nothing funny about an animated television series that seeks to legitimize and reinforce every negative stereotype about Black people during prime time to the delight of white audiences from coast to coast.

When President Barack Obama was sworn into office, it signaled a new beginning for American politics and the end of mainstream media news reporting as we knew it because everyday for the next four years, at least, a Black man was going to be the lead story on the evening newscast, and not for committing a crime, dunking a ball, or singing a song. In return, the news media sought to find balance by quietly, yet intentionally, removing Black anchors and reporters from newscasts around the country. I guess they figured one Negro making news on a daily basis was enough without having to hear about from one as well.

All or majority Black casts on television are a rare commodity. Blacks almost all but disappeared from broadcast television years ago, putting Black actors and actresses on the endangered species list with their news media counterparts.

So given today’s economy and the status of Blacks on television be it entertainment or news, I’m not sure which is worse. The fact that there’s a new “Black” television series that doesn’t feature any Black actors, or Fox’s willingness—no, make that ability—to capitalize off the continued objectification of Black women by using animation to oversexualize their physical characteristics. I mean, at least if the show weren’t animated, a Black woman would be getting paid cash money for being objectified on screen, and a lot more than she would for just doing a voiceover, if you know what I’m saying.

Just like BET knew they were pushing the envelope when they tried to go there with “We Got to Do Better,” trust me when I tell you that Fox knows it’s pushing something too with “The Cleveland Show,” and it isn’t an envelope. Fox is making an attempt to capitalize off of the negative stereotypes of Blacks and laughing all the way to the bank.

Don’t think so? How much do you think companies paid to advertise during a show that features an overweight recently divorced Black man and his overweight developmentally challenged Black son, who go down South where the father hooks up with his Black overly voluptuous yet promiscuous high school crush only to play father to her delinquent Black children—all while speaking white people’s version of Black’s Ebonics? I’m just saying.

It never ceases to amaze me what’s not off limits when it comes to Black people. I say that because I know had “The Cleveland Show” been pitched as the “The Weismans” or “The Hernandez’s”—with the same characters—we’d probably have been watching re-runs of “The Family Guy,” “The Simpsons,” or “American Dad” from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday night.

I wonder about the Black people who did bother to tune into “The Cleveland Show” debut. Were we so busy laughing we failed to realize the joke was on us. It’s happened before. Just look at the misogynistic lyrics in rap music recited by Black men, financed by white men, and bought by both races that continue to portray Black women as nothing more than sexual objects to the point where some of us are so confused that we’ve gladly taken on the roll.

After the election of a president who is Black but neither divorced nor overweight and a First Lady who is Black but married and raising her two children—children who aren’t having sex prematurely or showing signs of early criminal activity, Fox’s debut of the “The Cleveland Show” is nothing more than a desperate and stealth attempt to work against the improved international image of Black people. Fox says it’s animation domination but it’s more like animation demonization—of Black people.

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Oh, and before you ask, what about “The Family Guy?” Consider this. While “The Family Guy’s” father, son, and daughter may be on the chubby side, remember that the parents are married, the kids attend school regularly, are fully and properly dressed, and they all speak English pretty well.

Jasmyne Cannick

Reprinted with permission from JasmyneCannick.com

Published by the LA Progressive on September 29, 2009
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About Jasmyne Cannick

Jasmyne is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the intersection of pop culture, race, class, and politics as played out in the African-American community. An award-winning journalist who previously worked in the U.S. House of Representatives as a press secretary, Jasmyne was selected as one of ESSENCE Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World and is a regular contributor to National Public Radio’s “News and Notes.” She is currently working as a political consultant in California on local and state campaigns.