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

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Comments

  1. Camille says

    Honestly, I am sick and tired of people blaming rap music for their woes. You and FOX can join hands and protest rap music all you want, but really, it’s getting old. There is a TON of great rap/hip-hop artists out there who rap about being smart, being open-minded, making the right choices, their personal lives, the stupidity of mainstream artists, and just make good music! Rap/Hip-Hop gives anyone the freedom to talk about anything with and (especially) without the platinum album (i.e. underground).

    All sorts of people like rap/hip-hop because you really can’t create it in a white-coated lab. I mean, the real underground stuff. I’m a little Filipina and you’d never guess that I like rap/hip-hop if you saw me, but I can tell you that there are lots of rappers with whom I can relate emotionally and whose music I admire. If FOX decides to rant about how rap is destroying their good girls and good boys, they’re really the ones promoting that type of music. Why not portray intellectual rappers on their news and say “If you’re gonna listen to rap, listen to this because this guy knows what he’s talking about.”

    It’s really a perpetuating cycle, supply & demand–simple. Support mainstream music, it will stay mainstream. Don’t support it, people will move on. You find women on those offensive music videos, but they’re not there forcefully. They CHOSE to be on that video because it’s a job. They CHOSE to disrespect themselves and stain the reputation of the female body. They DON’T represent me and if you’re a good parent, you’d have a greater influence on your kids than those half-naked women. And, no,

    I’m not blaming either sex, I’m blaming the individual. Each individual has the freedom to decide how they want to portray themselves to others, how they want to live, their friends, their environments, and the freedom to decide who to take after. And if parents say that their children are easily misguided, then take a look at yourself and your private life, not the “average American household.” Your home, not mine, not Bill O’Reilly’s.

    My attitude applies to The Cleveland Show as well.

    Thank you.

  2. Johnson says

    I am sympathetic to your argument. Certainly “The Cleveland Show” does not offer a cheery depiction of Black people anymore than “Family Guy” presents a positive depiction of the white people or people from Rhode Island…or anybody really. Indeed, much of the mainstream comedy out there pokes fun at cultural stereotypes. The American people love to laugh at themselves, even if they are exaggerated selves.

    On the other hand, these types of cartoons are designed to do just that. Take obviously overblown cultural stereotypes and laugh at them. Of course there will be ignorant people who internalize these stereotypes and see them as truths, but let’s be honest, those people would do so with or without “The Cleveland Show.” In fact, one could argue that depicting stereotypes as jokes does a service in that it encourages people to think of these things not as truths, but as something so crazy and absurd that it deserves to be laughed at. Certainly, no one would claim that the “Cleveland Show” is attempting to be serious programming aimed at educating Americans about Black culture.

    We can contrast this with some rap music which insists that it is depicting true life in the ghetto and at the same time glorifying violence and presenting a grossly negative images of Black women. When, in fact, one can create great rap music that represents true life in the ghetto and does not degrade women or glorify violence. The difference is that rap artists want to be taken seriously, whereas “The Cleveland Show” expects exactly the opposite.

    As I said at the beginning, the argument made in this article is apt and well-presented. Though the “The Cleveland Show” is perhaps not the best example.

    P.S. Maybe your depiction of the show was based on a cursory viewing, but some specific aspects you point to that separate this show from “Family Guy” are inaccurate.

  3. says

    Amen. I did watch the show and felt bile rise throughout. You are the first person outside of my multiculti family who nailed my feeling perfectly. Thankfully, all of the family members with whom I discussed the unfortunate Cleveland Show agreed with me. So it’s not just you and me. FOX and Seth McFarlane (who is smart enough to know exactly what he is doing) should be ashamed, but yes, they’re too busy laughing themselves to the bank. We weren’t laughing, and we won’t be watching again.

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